Aussie ska band the Funaddicts hits Manila before historic UK tour

Rick Olivares

Posted at Nov 09 2018 11:04 PM

The Funaddicts from Australia seem to have found a kindred spirit in the domestic ska scene. Handout

The Funaddicts from Australia seem to have found a kindred spirit in the domestic ska scene. Handout

The Funaddicts from Australia seem to have found a kindred spirit in the domestic ska scene. Handout

It was close to 2 in the morning when Australian ska band the Funaddicts took the 70s Bistro stage in Quezon City last Monday, November 5, closing out a long night that spanned nine bands and six hours. 

For the visiting band from Down Under, it was worth it. 

“When I was here last April and I saw this show that launched Todo Pasa, I told myself that we as the Funaddicts have to be a part of this scene,” said keyboardist Neil Roche-Kelly, one of the three remaining original members of the band -- the others are vocalist Chris McKenzie and guitarist Tom Wilson -- that first came up during the late 1980s.

So the Funaddicts were in town for a one-night show -- “for the music and brotherhood,” as McKenzie put it – along with some of the best ska bands in town including Skebeche, Nieghbours, the Dandimites, and Todo Pasa to name a few. 

“It is good to see that ska is alive and well in Manila,” pointed out Roche-Kelly. 

During his earlier trip to the Philippines, Roche-Kelly connected with Wang Fernando, vocalist for local ska outfit, Rocketpunch, and himself an independent show producer. And making the show slowly became a reality. 

“We believe it is good to connect with bands from all over the world,” noted Fernando. “The Funaddicts were around back then and recorded a memorable song in “Mandela” and it is a great opportunity for Filipinos to perform alongside them.”

The Australians pronounced themselves impressed with dub band, Goodleaf, and the rest of the Filipino ska band lineup. Ska supergroup Todo Pasa, of course, brought the house down with their infectious energy. 

The Funaddicts first came up in the late 1980s and released a seven-inch single with the song, “Mandela,” which is different from the song, “Free Nelson Mandela,” that was written and performed by British ska band the Specials in 1984.

“It was a different time and we really were pushing for racial tolerance,” underscored McKenzie. “Coming back now, the scene cannot get any smaller now. It can only get bigger.”

“We know about the ska scene here in Manila from Put3ska in the 1990s and to what it is today. And I have to say, the local scene is brilliant,” enthused Roche-Kelly. “We are happy to be a part of it even if a teeny-tiny bit.”

Like the Two-Tone scene in Britain that began in 1979 but petered out by the mid-1980s, the one in Australia also eventually faded. That is until legendary British band, Bad Manners toured Down Under several years ago with Roche-Kelly being invited by no less than Buster Bloodvessel to play with the band. 

“We all had this reunion at the Bad Manners show and that how we all got back together,” described Roche-Kelly of the fortuitous reuniting of the Funaddicts.

Since they reunited after that show, the Funaddicts wasted no times in releasing two albums. The Turn Out features “Mandela” and other tracks and demos recorded during their formative years. What’s the Rush, released in 2017, featured entirely new songs.

Now, the band is in Manila, as its tour opener before they hit England for at least six shows where they will perform with the Specials’ Roddy Radiation as they guest guitarist (Wilson couldn’t make it to the tour) in some huge and popular ska and reggae festivals. Radiation (born Roderick James Byers) wrote the Specials’ classics “Concrete Jungle,” “Rat Race,” and “Hey, Little Rich Girl” to name a few helping out main tunesmith Jerry Dammers. 

“You bet this is all part of our Bucket List,” said Roche-Kelly. “Manila and then England. And with Roddy Radiation performing several shows with us.”

“We’re having a bigger blast than we ever did the first time around,” summed up McKenzie the night before the big Manila show (that saw a packed 70s Bistro) when the band rehearsed at Rockman Studios in Pasig. “This whole tour is something on our Bucket List. We will get to meet a lot of new people. Network. See what opportunities may arise. If we can do something with the Manila bands, that would be fabulous. We plan to do some recording after this. Everything is about living the dream.”