Arts and Entertainment

The Slackers in Bremerton, is this the Fourth Wave?

Dave Hillyard has been playing ska for nearly two decades. In addition to his work with the Slackers, he also performs with the Rocksteady 7 and has guest starred with artists from Hepcat to Rancid. - Courtesy Photo/The Slackers
Dave Hillyard has been playing ska for nearly two decades. In addition to his work with the Slackers, he also performs with the Rocksteady 7 and has guest starred with artists from Hepcat to Rancid.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo/The Slackers

The Slackers come to the Chuck, dismissing the 'wave theory' altogether.

It’s a commonly held sentiment that ska has come in waves.

It’s said to have started in Jamaica in the 1950s/60s where the genre was the precursor to the iconic rocksteady and reggae music that would come out of the area. Then, the second wave of ska supposedly hit in England at the end of the 1970s with bands like Madness and the Specials, and the third wave came in America a la the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Toasters and The Slackers among many others, peaking in popularity in the early to mid 90s.

Now, there’s a running debate on when and if there will be a fourth wave. Some say it’s due, others say, it’s already upon us, and still others say it will never happen.

“I hate wave theory,” Dave Hillyard, longtime ska musician and saxophonist for The Slackers, talking with What’s Up earlier this week. “It really doesn’t apply to me.”

To Hillyard — who’s been playing ska for nearly two decades — the thought of categorizing the evolution of the genre, from its budding in Jamaica in 1969, through the short-lived wave in England and onto one enormous wave of more than 20 years worth of bands in America is a touch absurd.

“I mean, what are you even talking about,” he went on, speaking to the irrelevance of the wave theory.

Rather than any another wave of ska, he’s bracing for a 90s revival, which he says is “right around the corner.

“Call me in a couple years and I’ll tell you ‘I told you so,’ ” he said.

The Slackers got their start in the early 1990s, swingin' in the bars and clubs of Lower Manhattan. While ska has certainly seen it share of ups and downs since then (not to mention during the decades preceding the band), Hillyard said The Slackers have always operated on the fringe of whatever is popular at the time.

"We're doing our own thing," he said. "We don't have heavy metal solos, we don't play super fast. We play slow- to mid-tempo and we try to keep it groovy."

With that same musical mentality and a certain disregard for critics, cynics and naysayers, the Slackers have survived well into their second decade as a band. And for the last 10 years, Hillyard said, they’ve been playing at least 100 shows a year, in venues across the world.

The band makes first ever appearance in Bremerton July 12 at the Charleston, on the heels of a headlining spot at the 10th Annual Victoria Ska Fest two days prior.

"We're a funny band," Hillyard said. "We have our moments of glory where we're playing for 700 people in Berlin, but then the very next night we could be playing to 100 people in some small club... it's a roller coaster, you know."

While the band has never been enormously popular in any certain area, they're quasi-famous in quite a few circles. And while Hillyard said he sees ska back on the upswing these days, despite the ebb and flow of the greater ska scene, people keep coming out to the shows.

"There was a generation between my generation and the current generation who looked down on ska," Hillyard said. "But I think the kids these days, they just hear ska as just another influence. It's been so long since ska was big that people can now just have it as a general influence and not even label it."

THE SLACKERS join Seattle ska bands The Diablotones, Natalie Wouldn’t, Rude Tuna and Bremerton’s Legends on Heroin at 7 p.m. July 12 at the Charleston, 333 Callow Ave. in Bremerton. All ages, bar w/ ID — $10 tickets adv/$12 at the door. Info:,

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