Commercial radio has finally gotten hip to ska music, as proven by the success of bands like No Doubt and the Mighty Mighty Boss-tones, but one local act isn't sticking around to cash in on the trend.
Stretch Armstrong is calling it quits after four self-produced and promoted albums (which sold more than 20,000 copies) and seven years of almost nonstop touring. The band, along with Salt Lake's Insatiable and the defunct Swim Herschel Swim, helped popularize ska music in Utah,"We've had great a time, and we're proud of what we've done. We just want to end things on a high note and not wind up playing (the local radio hit) `Drool' in bars when we're 40," explained vocalist Scott Van Wagenen, the band's only remaining original member.
Guitarist Mike South admitted that the breakup would seem to be ill-timed, especially when Stretch Armstrong has played with most of the bands - Buck-O-Nine, Reel Big Fish, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and No Doubt included - that are filling the nation's cravings for ska.
But band members say Stretch Armstrong (also known as Stretch, Stretsch Armstronng and Stretch Magnifico) has never been a "traditional" ska act, blending power-pop and other odd stylings into its musical gumbo.
"Musically speaking, Stretch doesn't bear much resemblance to (the current crop of ska artists)," drummer Dave Thomas said. "We've always been a stylistic fringe-dweller in the ska world, with all our weird swing and carnival music elements. So I don't think we'd ever cash in on the popularity of those groups."
To celebrate the band's passing, Stretch Armstrong is headlining its own farewell concert on Monday, Dec. 8, at Club Omni, 143 W. Center, Provo. Joining the group for the all-ages show are My Man Friday, Swamp Cooler and the Knockouts.
However, the band's demise doesn't mean an early retirement for its members, who are all in their 20s. Van Wagenen is already rehearsing with a new band, the Moxie Tonic Medicine Show, which also includes South and members of Stretch's horn section. And bass guitarist Darren Hutchison is continuing his work in the local bands Scrotum Poles and the Unlucky Boys.
Tickets for the concert are $8 in advance from X-Mart and Modified Music in Salt Lake City, Crandall Audio in Orem and CD Warehouse in Provo.