When I was a freshman at American University, I got a job at the University Center as a front desk receptionist in the equivalent of our student center. One of my first coworkers was a guy named Drew Skibitsky. To this day, Drew is one of my all-time favorites, and I think most people that meet him feel the same. He one of the most easy-going people ever, and his singular goal in life seems to be having a good time. I can't undersell how much of a light in the room he is. He always has a stupid joke on hand and effortlessly gives people the benefit of the doubt. It's pretty admirable in a lot of ways.
Drew moved to Baltimore, where I hail from, after he graduated college. He got a job working for Aflac, and he absolutely loves it. I don't know how someone loves working for insurance 'loves' their job, but Drew does. Because he lived in Baltimore we kept up the friendship, arguably becoming better buds after college.
Drew was one of the first guys to get me into ska music. Randomly he invited me to a Reel Big Fish show at Rams Head Live. I'd never heard of these guys at all, and barely understood the concept of ska as a genre of music. But I went to check it out because it was close to home, and fuck it, try something new.
Reel Big Fish was one of the best and funniest concerts I'd been to, and Drew is responsible for getting me to do my first ever crowd surf. I'm a late adopter of loving all things Ska, but damn if I don't love it so.
Drew, who we all call Skibs, always was inviting me to these shows via Facebook invites for some band called Kill Lincoln. My rule of thumb is that most Facebook invites are basically broadcast to everybody in a desperate attempt to get people to pay attention. But after years of these, I finally reached out and asked what the deal was. He said it was a ska band and that he was their "Hype Man."
Hype Man? What the hell is a hype man? I pieced together from context clues what that meant, but I had to see it to understand. Anyway, I agreed to finally see Kill Lincoln with him at the Black Cat last November.
The Black Cat is a really cool venue, but the acoustics there are pretty shitty. And Black Cat has a strict no stage dive policy. This is Skibs' cover photo on Facebook.
I didn't realize at the time of the show that this was a religious event for Skibs. So I get to venue and I start taking in the scene. There were some openers. Various ska bands from up and down the East Coast. Some were good. Some weren't. That's the way it goes. And then Kill Lincoln came on.
I was blown away. Kill Lincoln has a punkier edge than Reel Big Fish, which appealed to me immensely as my favorite genre is punk. The show was wild. There was a pit that opened, and Skibs grabbed me by the shirt and made me run around with all the other sweaty ska kids in their tight jeans. For the finale, Kill Lincoln played my favorite track, "Wake, Wait, Repeat" and Skibs and I were up front singing along. At least I think I was with him. The whole night is a bit of a blur. Not because of intoxication, but because the ride was a bumpy one.
I should probably tell you, this was when I realized what a Hype Man was. Before the show starts, Skibs is shaking hands and saying hi to people in the crowd. He knows everybody. Some of these people have been coming for years. And Skibs knows them all. If you go in knowing Skibs, you go out knowing somebody new. Moments before the band takes the stage, Skibs walks out in his signature way, grabs a mike and asks us all how we're doing. Then he introduces the band. And then proceeds to dance on stage with them. If he's not on stage he's in with the audience and skanking (the dance of Ska shows) with the fans. When he's on stage he proceeds to feed off the energy radiating from lead singer & guitarrist Mike Sosinski. If he's not doing that he'll do he signature four foot jump. When the time is right he grabs Saxophonist Matthew Ellis' mike and leans it to the fans up front so they can belt out their favorite lyrics full volume. The important thing is that for the entire show there is never a moment where Skibs is anything less than fully active and engaged.
I slowly started to put faces and names to the band members after that show. Mike and Alan are the main faces of the band. Mike's pretty funny and good at engaging his audience. Alan is recipient of the "Fuck You Alan!" chants that ring out several times each show (I still don't know what he's done to deserve this, but the hate is lasting and good willed.) Hotez, the shorter guys kills it on the trumpet. Tyler in the back actually gives his drums a voice. Ellis always has this look of smug confidence, and I say that in the nicest way possible. And their bassist Marty was one of the first band members I had a real conversation with after I took a cool photo of him on a skateboard.
I get why Skibs loves this band. I sought out more of their shows. I took photos of the band at one of the coolest shows I've ever been to. They played at Charm City Skate Park, in the middle of the facility while people were drinking Natty Bohs (it was Baltimore, hon) and skateboarding in the background. It doesn't get more pure than that.
A few months back while hanging with Skibs he started to let on that the band might take a break from touring after their latest EP, Good Riddance to Good Advice. I could tell that something was off. Later on I got some news on the DL. The band was going on hiatus after this upcoming tour.
I can't pretend to let on that I was nearly half as bummed as Skibs was. Skibs grew up with some of these guys, and was at every single show he could be. That's not an exaggeration. If he could be at the show, he was. He toured cross country with them several times, living in the back of a van for weeks. But while I know this wouldn't hurt me as hard, it was a bummer to learn that it was coming to an end. For me the ride was over just as it was getting up to speed. I was under the impression these guys were finally starting to break through to that next level.
It wasn't just that the music is good- it's great- it was that they toured frequently. I made it to five shows over the course of a few months. With so many shows it's hard not to make new friends and recognize people, and that's exactly what happened. I also discovered a lot of great new bands who opened for Kill Lincoln, including my new favorite Maryland band, BraceFace (more on those guys and our plans later-buy their album here) And I had the honor of being at their EP Release party at Black Cat last weekend.
The farewell show at Black Cat is agreed upon by most to be their absolute best. Everything about it was perfect, and everybody got to hear the hits they wanted. They gave some props to fellow drummers and bassists from other bands who stepped in for them while they were on tour. They did covers. They played for over and hour, and even though they were all drenched in sweat and exhausted at 12:30AM, they still came back for an encore and the encore rocked.
It was emotional. You could tell in the room people were both ecstatic to be there but also disappointed at a future without one of DC's best ska acts. I refrained from taking any video or photos from that show in an effort to fully be in the moment. The band isn't done for good, but it will be some time before they come back.
The good news is that when one door closes another one opens. I made a lot of good friends at these shows, and the music and friendships will hopefully last long into the future. Even if the band is done, that's a legacy you can't downplay.
Kill Lincoln was an awesome band with awesome band members. At their last show in Baltimore, I took my nephew to his first ever ska show. The kid was eleven but had a blast, and coming home with a signed vinyl didn't hurt. They're class act guys who connected with their fans. I was a late addition to the family, but I could tell they truly loved the community, a word that came up frequently at their finale show.
"Days I Spent Inside" off their latest EP "Good Riddance to Good Advice" is a song all about not wasting time and being fed up with wasted opportunities. Something about Kill Lincoln shows made me keep coming back to them, even when the venues were cramped and shitty. But I made an effort to never miss a show because I knew seeing my friends and the band would always promise a good time. I'm glad I got to see them as much as I did. I'm glad that I was able to make the most of my time with this band live while I did.
So this is it. In a relatively short time Kill Lincoln made quite the impact and I can't deny the fact that I'll miss seeing them live. Good news is the albums and music videos are still out there for endless consumption. So kick back, crank up the tunes, and start a dad fight.
Thanks for everything, Kill Lincoln. It's been one hell of a ride!