For the last four years, local ska band The Ruckus has been bringing the noise. The band’s name has become synonymous with Aggieville and the type of good times you struggle to remember the next morning.
For those unfamiliar with the genre, ska originated in Jamaica in the early 60s and achieved mainstream popularity in the U.S. in the early 90s. Ska music is very upbeat. Modern American ska features large brass sections and heavy punk influences. The Ruckus is an eight-piece band with five brass players.
Despite playing a genre that hasn’t been widely popular in 15 years, The Ruckus has arguably become the most popular band in Manhattan in recent memory. The group attributes its success to playing fun and lively music.
“There’s a surprising number of people who will come out to a ska show if they know about it. I think it’s because we play party music,” said trombonist and vocalist Matt Hubble, senior in performance. “I definitely think we’re a lot of fun live.”
Fans of The Ruckus agree that it is the liveliness of the band’s performances that attract them to the shows.
“You can say whatever you want about the music, or the popularity, but it’s fun.” said Jimbo Ivy, senior in Enlish and creative writing.
Ivy said he appreciates that the band doesn’t take itself too seriously and focuses on creating a fun atmosphere for the fans.
The Ruckus formed in spring 2006. In its early stages, the band was not much more than nine college guys taking Aggieville by storm in the name of “free drinks for the band.” Since that time, the band has had over 20 members. But perhaps more notable than the numerous changes in the band’s lineup over the last four years — they’ve had six drummers alone — is their shift from drunken college musicians to a professional-sounding band with a clear purpose.
Bassist Chris “Maxwell Murder” Maxwell, senior in business management, said he feels this change in the band’s direction has been central to the group’s development.
“Lately the big (change) I’ve seen with the group is the unity and maturity towards more of a professional group,” Maxwell said.
He also said the band’s establishing a more permanent lineup has been important in this shift in their music.
The change in The Ruckus’s artistic approach has not gone unnoticed by fans, many of whom have followed the group since its early stages. They are quick to point out the changes the band has made in the quality of their music.
“When I saw them three years ago, they were a little rough,” said Ed Harrison, a soldier stationed at Fort Riley. “But things got better, they’re at the top of their game right now.”
Harrison said he has seen great improvements in the band’s harmonies and he appreciates their dedication to old-school ska.
In recent months The Ruckus has impressed not only music fans in Manhattan, but across the Midwest. In fall 2009, the band began performing regularly in Denver, Colo., Lawrence and Lincoln, Neb. Maxwell said beginning last spring, they felt they had established themselves in the Manhattan music scene as solidly as possible and began establishing themselves as a regional band. Last spring the band purchased a van, enabling them to play out-of-town shows regularly, an event that the band says was a turning point in its progression.
Last semester the group played a show nearly every weekend, the majority of which were out of town, and they have nine out-of-town shows booked for the remainder of the semester. Their success in gaining fans from other states was apparent at a recent show at Auntie Mae’s Parlor in Aggieville. Eric Hammond, an avid fan, said he had driven seven hours from Denver just to see the band, the second time he had done so.
Hammond said it was the caliber of the musicians that motivated him to make the long drive.
“As far as a new ska band, they are far more progressive and far more skilled,” Hammond said. “The musicians are college-educated, they’re really talented and they’re a lot of fun. The shows are impeccable.”
The Ruckus’s plans for the future include continuing to reach fans outside of Manhattan and hopefully to play on the east coast, where there is still an active ska scene, this summer.
“We’ve got a lot of momentum right now, a lot of commitment and a lot of talent, and I feel like if we keep the momentum going we can go somewhere,” Maxwell said of the band’s future.
The Ruckus’s next show in Manhattan is on Fake Pattie’s Day at The Kathouse Lounge at noon. For a complete list of shows and to listen to songs by The Ruckus, visit myspace.com/theruckusska.