“They’re exactly what we want – a band that’s an icon of the city, that has made its mark and, beyond that, just puts on a really good show,” says Ozmosis radio host Mike Osegueda, who helped organize the free day-long celebration set for Saturday, March 26, at Tioga-Sequoia’s beer garden.
“We want the FresYes Fest lineup to represent Fresno’s past as well as its present, with music in a variety of styles,” he says. “We’re trying to appeal to everyone in Fresno. Beyond that, we’ve tried to pick a headliner that we view as a pillar of the music scene. In the book on Fresno’s music scene, they’re definitely on the cover.”
Ska originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s, fusing elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues. It was revived in England in the 1970s and in the U.S. the ’80s and ’90s, with bands like Let’s Go Bowling.
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The band, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary, is one of the most famous acts to emerge from the city. During the ska boom of the late ’80s and early ’90s, Let’s Go Bowling played major gigs in close to 200 cities. They were at the sold-out Earth Day Festival at Berkeley’s Greek Theatre in 1990 and The Day on the Hill Festival in Kansas in 1992. That one was in front of a crowd of 20,000, opening for Pearl Jam. When, the band played New Rock 104’s first birthday bash in 1996, the opener was an up-coming ska act named No Doubt.
Let’s Go Bowling released two records on Moon Ska (the de facto label for American ska music at the time) and were tapped by English ska icons such as the Selecter and the Specials to open their U.S. tours. The band even had a music video on MTV.
Osegueda was living in the Bay Area at the time, and he knew about Let’s Go Bowling, demonstrating the band’s reach.
People may not realize just how big their reach was when ska was blowing up again in the late ’80s/early ’90s.
Mike Osegueda, on the legacy of Fresno ska band Let’s Go Bowling
“It’s kind of weird,” says keyboardist Darren Fletcher, one of Let’s Go Bowling’s two original members (the other is bass guitarist Mark Michel). The group started in high school and never intended to do more than play school dances, he says. The members were fans of ska and other up-beat in-your-face music (like Oingo Boingo, for one, Flecther says). When they started writing original songs, those influences came out.
“They just seemed to always have an upbeat,” Fletcher says.
Let’s Go Bowling was one of the few American bands playing ska in the ’80s. By the late ’90s, there were a half-dozen ska bands in Fresno alone. They were seen as hometown heroes.
The band still draws its ska fans, though because it doesn’t get out of Fresno that often anymore, those fans are coming in from the Bay Area or Los Angeles. Sometimes, they’re young and seeing the band for the first time, Fletcher says. You can usually spot them – they’re dressed in bomber jackets and boots.
Osegueda hopes for a large crowd of both longtime fans and first-time listeners for the band’s set at FresYes Fest.
After all, this is a chance to see Let’s Go Bowling on a big festival stage, for free.
“It’s the type of celebration Let’s Go Bowling deserves during its 30th anniversary,” he says.
Let’s Go Bowling at FresYes Fest
- Also performing: AC Myles, 51 Aces and Cloudship
- 1 p.m. Saturday, March 26
- Tioga-Sequoia Beer Garden, 745 Fulton Ave.
- Free, all ages, 21+ to drink
- 559-486-2337, www.tiogasequoia.com