By: Juan Barragan
Skunk Records 25th Anniversary Celebration
Belly Up Tavern
23 February 2014
Unknown to many is the origin of the signature Long Beach sound that is so often imitated by today’s bands. The sound flourished in the 90’s with the rise of Sublime. While most Sublime fans know the band as a powerful trio of musicians that caught a break when KROQ began playing “Date Rape,” nonstop on the radio, there is a man that played a large role in the band’s success, and most importantly, their sound. His name is Michael “Miguel” Happoldt, and he is the founder of Skunk Records. Back then, Skunk Records were just words scrawled onto a piece of paper at Kinko’s, according to Happoldt. It was a record label that was completely made up. It had a ring to it, and it also added the necessary legitimacy back then to try and get a band anywhere. The trick worked, and Skunk Records flourished to allow the rise of iconic bands such as Sublime, Slightly Stoopid, The Ziggens, Long Beach Dub Allstars, among others. 25 years later, the co-founder of Skunk Records decided to try and bring back together the talent that played a large role in contributing to the label’s success. With the cause for celebration established, the Belly Up Tavern was taken over by fans eager to see what type of show would play out. The show was sold out about a week prior to the actual date, indicating the eagerness of North County to hear what Happoldt had brought to the table.
The first band that took the stage had no name. Although it had no name, the crowd was exposed to familiar faces. On drums was “Field” Marshall Goodman, who has contributed to a plethora of Sublime recordings, as well as having partaken in the Long Beach Dub Allstars band. On bass was Mike Long, who is the current bassist for Perro Bravo. On vocals was Miguel Happoldt, alongside Opie Ortiz, who was part of Long Beach Dub Allstars as well. One of the first songs the band played was given the name “A Minor 66,” since that was the key and beats per minute of the song. The set featured songs from Sublime’s repertoire, such as the instrumental version of “Get Out!” During this song, the work on the keyboards was definitely the highlight, in addition to a fan in the crowd who yelled “Get Out” in order to add some of the original track’s lyrical elements to this performance. The band also played “Scarlet Begonias,” and played “My Own Life.” The band finished their set by playing Long Beach Dub Allstars’ “Lonely End.” Up next would be Big B.
Big B took the stage next and played a somewhat acoustic set. The band started off with “Out Here In Cali,” off of the album Good Times & Bad Advice. This got the crowd going for the remainder of the set. To keep up the momentum, the band played “Before I Leave This Place.” The set was somewhat short, but Big B managed to get the crowd to sing along to “Just a Friend.” Before they left the stage, Scott Russo from Unwritten Law joined them to sing, “Sinner”. The band ended their set with the infamous song, “Hooligan,” from the album Music for Misfits.
Perro Bravo took the stage next, and tonight Miguel Happoldt felt a bit adventurous based on the intricate setup he had in front of him. Not only was he alongside his beloved Roland RE-20 pedals, but he somehow managed to manipulate the entire band’s effects with the same pedal which was connected to a mixing board that he controlled on stage, while playing and singing at the same time. The band started off with the unreleased classic, “Electrified,” and then went off to play a Sublime song, “Chica Me Tipo.” Which happens to be entirely in Spanish. Happoldt mentioned that it was the first song that him and the late Sublime front man Bradley Nowell sat down with guitars to write some music; a truly unforgettable experience for Happoldt. The band played some hits from their Vinyl-only LP, Smoking Scorpion Tails. They played “Make a Change,” followed by “Girl Song.” The band ended their set by playing some songs the crowd would recognize. They played “Early Man,” which is also known as “We’re Only Gonna Die For Our Own Arrogance.” The last song was, “Falling Idols,” which very few people know was actually a cover of Falling Idols’ self-titled song.
Altogether, the show brought together 25 years of history and music all in one room. Although people don’t know of the impact Miguel Happoldt has had in the history of reggae and ska in California over the last two decades, one can only hope that this man gets the recognition he deserves after putting on a few more shows like this, where fans are exposed to the history behind what shaped Sublime’s signature sound early on. Happoldt and friends will be playing The Observatory in Orange County Thursday, February 27, and will be playing the House of Blues Los Angeles April 5. It is highly recommended for anyone who likes Sublime to consider to going to any of these two shows.