The Single Speed World Championship bike races are what served as the blueprint for the Ska Brewing Anniversary Party. One of the true social events of the season, the anniversary parties have, since Ska began hosting them at the brewery’s World Headquarters in Bodo Park, become one of the hottest tickets in town, a faster-than-you-can-imagine sell-out event that since 2010 draws 1,000 people to the brewery every September.
Ska had been hosting shows long before it moved to the current location on Girard Street, putting on concerts and celebrating its anniversaries since Year One at long-gone downtown venues like The Loft and San Juan Room.
In 2009, Durango hosted the Single Speed World Championships, a rogue bike race that happens annually at a different location each year; the close-out event of that year’s race happened at the then-new headquarters of Ska Brewing, after it had moved from its original location on Sawyer Drive. The Single Speed World Championship wrap-up event included live music, a full-court basketball game and chaotic revelry.
“When the Single Speed World Championships had that insane party out here, I think that’s when we realized we could do something like that,” said Dave Thibodeau, one of the owners of Ska Brewing. “We weren’t really organizing the single speed stuff. When we saw what they pulled off, then we realized we can get some real bands in here and get the city stage and blow this thing up.”
Blow it up they did, turning their event into a nationally recognized concert and beer tasting that has featured a who’s who from the independent music underground: The Supersuckers, The English Beat, The Skatalites, Fishbone, Reel Big Fish, Big D and The Kids Table, Warsaw, The Pietasters, The Toasters and many more have all graced the city stage in the Ska Brewery parking lot. Even a band covering the music of The Clash – The Nuns of Brixton, playing in full nun habits on sunny and hot September afternoons – have become beloved regulars.
The 24th annual Ska Brewing Anniversary Party, featuring scores of breweries and live music, will be held Saturday at the brewery.
Durango is known as a “last-minute town” when it comes to purchasing tickets for events. “I’ll just get them at the door” doesn’t fly for this show, as this year, like every year, it has been sold out since June. It would sell out even if the organizers kept the band lineup a secret until showtime.
Playing this year are Mustard Plug, The Toasters and The Aggrolites.
Both Mustard Plug and The Toasters are longtime bands in the nation’s ska scene. Mustard Plug has been at it since 1991 after forming in Michigan, and The Toasters will celebrate 40 years as a band in 2020. Led by guitar player and vocalist Robert “Bucket” Hingley, The Toasters even had a beer made for them by Ska when they celebrated 30 years as a band; this is their fourth year playing the party.
The Aggrolites have backed musicians like Prince Buster and Tim Armstrong while also playing their own original music – what they refer to as “dirty reggae,” a mix of classic rock-steady, soul and funk delivered with a punk-rock mindset.
This event has become synonymous with some of the great, annual events on the Durango calendar. It has put Durango on the map as a place loaded with cool people and cool bands that also celebrates American craft beer culture.
It’s also a great party.
“Every time a band has played, they want to come back. I think they get treated really well here, and we always dial in their rider for them, they get their own space to hang out in the brewery,” Thibodeau said. “They’re bands that can draw crowds of around 1,000 people. For a lot of them, it’s a good-size crowd. We’ve always tried to make the music as much a draw as the beer. The music and the beer share the stage together.”
Proceeds from the event are donated to La Plata Open Space Conservancy.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.