Arts
Features

Victoria band to perform among local and international acts at Ska Fest

The band hopes to get people dancing when they perform at the iconic Inner Harbour festival this week

Sarah Madsen
June 20, 2023
Arts
Features

Victoria band to perform among local and international acts at Ska Fest

The band hopes to get people dancing when they perform at the iconic Inner Harbour festival this week

Sarah Madsen
Jun 20, 2023
Apex Breaks. Photo by Rocktographers / Courtesy of Apex Breaks
Apex Breaks. Photo by Rocktographers / Courtesy of Apex Breaks
Arts
Features

Victoria band to perform among local and international acts at Ska Fest

The band hopes to get people dancing when they perform at the iconic Inner Harbour festival this week

Sarah Madsen
June 20, 2023
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Victoria band to perform among local and international acts at Ska Fest
Apex Breaks. Photo by Rocktographers / Courtesy of Apex Breaks

Victoria’s 24th annual Ska & Reggae Festival runs Wednesday to Sunday this week, with an exciting lineup of local and international artists. North America’s longest running ska festival includes music from a range of genres that stem from ska and reggae, including dancehall, funk, and hip-hop. 

Bands scheduled to perform hail from as far away as Jamaica and Colombia, but one of several local acts slated to take the stage is Apex Breaks. The Victoria band will perform for free Thursday at Ship Point Harbour, alongside Exco Levi, Out of Control Army, Raincity, and DJ Abelee. It's part of free music at Ship Point for three of the festival's five days this year.

Apex Breaks describes their music as psychedelic jungle funk. Lead vocalist Drew Murgatroyd breaks it down as “psychedelic ’‘60s rock sound, jungle drum and bass feel, and then the pure, honest funk driven by hornline and powerful vocals.”

Apex Breaks, who is also this month’s Zone Band of the Month on Victoria radio station The Zone 91.3, engages its fans with dancing and crowd interaction. Guitarist Jesse Horwood describes the performance as a balance between hype and hypnotic.

“Sometimes we’ll go into these longer, groovier sections and let the audience catch their breath and then come back with a big 10-piece punch in the face,” he says.

Horwood is also president of the Victoria BC Ska and Reggae Society. He has worked a number of roles at the festival - from volunteer and organizer to board member and performing musician.

“We’re just so deeply in the community, it feels like home to us,” says Horwood.  

The Victoria BC Ska and Reggae Society aims to educate and unite people through the festival and through the artistic development of ska and reggae on an international scale. 

This will be the ninth Victoria Ska Fest at which Horwood and Murgatroyd will perform. They first played the festival 14 years ago with a former band.

“Ska Fest is just a big family,” says Murgatroyd. “The people that we’ve grown up with and all these musical influences from the Island, and international artists that we admire and look up to, and all of a sudden, they’re a part of the community.” 

Five Alarm Funk headlining Victoria Skafest in 2022. Photo: Ryan Hook / Capital Daily

Chali 2NA, The Aggrolites, Brother Ali, and Victoria’s Blackwood Kings are among the performers Horwood and Murgatroyd are most excited to see this week.

“I actually am going to try to get to everything. This year’s lineup is absolutely stacked with talent and there’s no show I am willing to miss,” says Murgatroyd. 

“A big reason our band still exists in a post-COVID world is because when the festival was cancelled over summer 2020 and 2021 they did an online-streaming Ska Fest and they still wanted us to play and be a part of it,” says Murgatroyd. 

“We’re one of the few lucky bands that had something to keep motivated, keep practising, keep writing music through that time, and play a show together for an audience of a camera guy.” 

Apex Breaks will be joined by local bands Blase Blase and The Random Collective to celebrate the release of their first album July 22 at Hermann’s Upstairs.

Wednesday's first free concert features Perfect Giddimani, La Real Del Sonido, Stop the Presses, Blackwood Kings, and Judah Rootss.

This year's festival headliners are seasoned veterans: Maxi Priest and Sister Carol have each been recording reggae for 40 years, while Jurassic 5 founding member Chali 2na and Minnesota rapper Brother Ali have each been rocking stages for 30.

See the full SkaFest schedule here.

Get a taste of an Apex Breaks show below:

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Sarah Madsen
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