Supernova International Ska Festival aims to bring bands and fans together in Virginia

Courtesy James Walker/Supernova International Ska Festival. (Courtesy James Walker)

It’s been called an “under the radar” alternative to events like Coachella and Lollapalooza, but music fans and bands from around the world will soon head to Hampton, Virginia, for the Supernova International Ska Festival, Sept. 15 through Sept. 17.

“Ska music is a precursor to reggae,” from Jamaica, said Supernova co-founder Tim Receveur. “In our festival we include everything from ska and rock steady to early reggae.”

Started in 2014 in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the festival has relocated as its become more popular. In 2021, as live music events were battered by the coronavirus pandemic, Supernova International was held at a brewery and included a livestream.

Enmeshed in the punk and new wave music of the late 1970s and early 1980s, overseas bands like The Specials, Madness, The English Beat, and Bad Manners spawned U.S. bands including Fishbone — one of the headliners, Receveur said.

“Fishbone was a really influential L.A. band — they were on MTV a bit, and were even on ‘Back to the Beach’ with Annette Funicello, and those kind of movies,” Receveur said. “They’ve been around almost 40 years and just put out a record.”

Also performing will be The Untouchables, often credited as the first U.S. ska band, and were signed to Stiff Records. Their 1985 video “Free Yourself” was a staple in D.C.-area new wave and punk dance clubs.

Longtime D.C.-area favorites The Pietasters are scheduled to perform at the festival on Sunday, Sept. 17.

On the festival webpage, accommodations range from area hotels to a local campground, which should appeal to the widening age range of attending fans.

“It’s safe to say 35 to 50 is our main audience, and they’re bringing their kids back,” Receveur said. “And now there’s a whole group of younger fans that are getting into the music because of the newer bands that are starting.”

Interested patrons have a variety of ticket options for the multiday festival, as well as clothing and other merchandise. They also have the option to livestream all of the music, which Receveur said is a holdover from the pandemic.

“People that can come now seem to be coming to the festival, but it’s a cheap option,” for those who can’t commit to traveling and staying several days at the event.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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