Monday, September 28, 2009

Jackmove: Gender and Race in Ska Music

Caitlin Reed

This past weekend, I went home to Virginia Beach, where the annual Neptune Festival was taking place. A local 7-piece ska band named Jackmove performed a free public show on the 31st street stage (an outside venue). I have been to many Jackmove concerts and know several of the band members personally, so I know the general demographic of the audience of their shows: the crowd usually consists of mostly Caucasian males between eighteen to thirty years of age. I think this trend is a result of the kind of music they play (ska and punk), as well as the fact they themselves fall under this demographic. Their usual venues also explain this demographic, as they usually play at bars or other local venues near the beach and in predominately “white” areas with predominately white customers.

At this particular show, however, I immediately noticed a much greater amount of diversity in the crowd than I expected. There were higher numbers of African Americans and Filipinos, as well as more variety in the age groups represented by the audience. There was a general positive reaction to Jackmove when they started to play, but the people who were more familiar with the music (singing along, “skanking” or dancing, etc.) were more energetic and passionate about the performance. They were also mostly male, white young adults. I think the fact that this show was held in a public venue, outside, and during a popular festival explains the diversity of this audience.

I still think it is interesting that there is not more diversity in their general audiences since many of their songs are about and refer to reggae and hip hop influences. The inspiration of these genres and artists are also evident in the music Jackmove plays, as they incorporate reggae themes and sounds in some songs, as well as hip hop rhymes and beats. Rap, hip hop, and reggae (genres of the African American community) are clearly represented in Jackmove’s music, yet African Americans make up only a small part of their fan base.

My favorite part of every Jackmove performance is the brass section. They tend to be the more energetic and bold aspect of the band. Sean Patrick, the trombonist, tends to be responsible for hyping up the crowd and connects with the audience more than any other member of the band. One way of doing this that I noticed in particular is the way in which he moves from one side of the stage to the other, and varies the way he plays the song on his trombone. He also used his trombone to excite the audience members by playing towards certain people in the front (pointing at them with the trombone while playing). For the songs that he was singing instead of playing, he held the microphone out to fans who were singing along to the lyrics of their songs near the front of the stage.

Sean Patrick’s interaction with the crowd definitely lied in a balance between his interactions with males and females. He constantly and blatantly flirted strongly with females, extracting many enamored smiles and shout outs from the females in the audience. He also directed a lot of his attention to the males in the crowd, touching on topics that generally appeal to men and playing trombone towards enthusiastic males in the crowd. In this way, he was able to interact with everyone in the show, including his own band mates.

The audience called for an encore, and Jackmove, usually willing to oblige, could not because another band was scheduled for the next for the next time slot on the public stage. I enjoyed the show, though not as much as I enjoy Jackmove’s shows at their usual venues. I tend to feel more accepted and have more in common with their usual audience in that I enjoy the same kind of music as other members of the audience.

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