Dance Hall Crashers Biography
Dance Hall Crasher history is firmly rooted @ ground zero of the American ska revolution. The band, which took its name from a‘60s Jamaican Ska anthology, formed in Berkeley, California as a side-project of another well-known band. You may recognise the names of the two now-famous '90s punk rockers- guitarist Lint, now known as Rancid's Tim Armstrong and Rancid bassist Matt Freeman. It was these two blokes back in 1989 that started the whole DHC thing! In fact, the first version of the Dance Hall Crashers was started by the Rancid boys when they were still in Operation Ivy, so that they could play more ska-heavy sounds.
"Basically, Tim and Matt started the band in late 1988 as a side project," explained current Dance Hall Crashers vocalist Karina Denike. "They wanted something more ska, so they started it. But then they quit basically right after and never played any shows or recorded anything. I don't even think they had a name. It was just like they started it and they left."
"It's become a big part of our history which is kind of funny because they started it with a male singer," Denike said. "It was just completely different."
Both boys left within weeks of the Crashers’ 1989 formation, but "the band played on!" Now led by vocalist Elyse Rogers and guitarist Jason Hammonn. A series of other line-up changes followed -most notably the addition of second vocalist Karina Denike joining in 1990.
With the new solidified line-up, the band began playing Bay area clubs. They made a quick impression, recorded a self-titled indie debut for Moon Records in 1990, ......but then broke up soon after!
However, in 1992 they bowed to pressure from fans to play a reunion gig in 1992. They scheduled a single performance at Slim’s in San Francisco.
“They just wanted to see us once,” explains guitarist Jason Hammon, “most of our fans had bought the record after we’d already broken up. The response to the show was so insane that we decided to keep playing.”
Due to the response to their performance being so positive, they immediately reformed on a permanent basis. They settled on a line-up of Rogers and Denike on vocals, Jason Hammon on guitar, brother Gavin on drums, guitarist Scott Goodell and bassist Mikey Weiss.
They were the very first group signed to MCA's new 510 division and issued their debut LP Lockjaw in 1995. a compilation of early singles.This took them further off the more traditional ska path they had followed on their first album. They got rid of their horns and made a faster, heavier record which introduced them to their punk rock audience.
Co-lead singer Elyse Rogers jokes, “We’re not really a ska band we’re certainly not a punk band. We’re more like the inbred cousin of both.”
The Old Record, followed in 1996 before they resurfaced a year later with their second studio album, Honey I'm Homely. The Blue Plate Special EP followed in 1998 and in 1999 Dance Hall Crashers returned with Purr.
Now in their mid-20s, the band members are busy graduating from college, making music and reflecting on the changes that have taken place in music over the past decade. "People get a little too worked up I think," mused Denike. "People gave Green Day way too much crap [after they became popular] 'cause they're a great band and if you liked the band seven years ago you should like them now 'cause they're still a great band."
Since the release of Lockjaw, the band have toured with NOFX, Pennywise, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and Bad Religion, among others. “Being on tour is like waking up Christmas morning every day,” Elyse sarcastically states.
DHC are now busy criss-crossing the continents to perform live. Having had things their own way for most of their existence, they don’t anticipate a change any time soon. The band sums it up:
“We still have an indie mentality, and we’re still entirely hands-on in every aspect.”
That should give comfort to anyone who believes it’s still possible to nurture a home-grown musical phenomenon. For that’s exactly what Dance Hall Crashers have become.
-by Louise Moss
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