For 20 years now, California ska outfit the Mad Caddies have been bringing their genre-boundless grooves to the masses. When I caught up with frontman Chuck Robertson to talk about this momentous year for the band he’s called home the last two decades, there was a palpable sense of triumph in his voice. “It’s incredible. I really never thought we’d go for 20 years. I didn’t think we’d go for five when we first started. But here we are, 2015, 20 years since the inception of the Mad Caddies. I don’t want to sound clichéd but it’s been a long, strange trip for sure.” It’s a triumph tempered by the specific humbleness and gratitude that comes from an understanding of and respect for the artist/fan relationship. “We’re so lucky to be able to keep doing this. We’re really thankful and grateful to the fans who still come out to have a good time.”
Victoria, with constant work from the good people at the Victoria Ska Society, has shared a long, storied history with the band and has been home to some memorable nights of music for the group including 2013’s headlining Ska Fest slot at Ship’s Point in the Inner Harbour, and a legendary Cinco De Mayo in 2007. “We got held up at the border because of some criminal issues with our bus driver. And they found out that our bass player was from England and didn’t have a work permit. It was a really big mess. We were stuck at the border for 13 hours,” recalls Robertson of that fateful night. “We had a show in Victoria that night and we ended up having to charter a plane, called Orca Airways, a little twin-engine plane that was used to deliver newspapers to the Island. We got out of Vancouver at like 10 at night in this plane into Victoria. We were supposed to be on stage at about midnight and we pulled up the venue 15 minutes before midnight. Without having eaten anything or had anything to drink we played a show and it still happened.”
The Mad Caddies are proof that the West Coast spirit is a shared state of mind. No matter where he is on the west coast, Robertson says family and home is close by. “We’re pretty much the People’s Republic of the Western States. We would love it if California, Washington, and Oregon would all just join together and become our own sovereign nation. Everyone seems to share a vibe and get along really well. Vancouver, Victoria, down to Portland and down to the central coast — it’s one tribe of people, for sure.”
It’s not just our shared West Coast vibes that makes Victoria such a good fit for the band. Their scope is broad and manages to find appeal in some of the most remote places you could imagine. “14 years ago we did six shows in three days in Tasmania. People were actually singing the songs. That was pretty wild. We were literally at the farthest point of Western civilization on a little island,” Robertson remembered, laughing with a hint of astonishment.
As the Mad Caddies begin their 20th birthday celebration, they are bringing their good friends and fellow West Coast reggae enthusiasts the Aggrolites with them. “I’m really excited. We’ve always tried to do the co-headline thing and it’s never really worked out,” say Robertson of the upcoming mega-show. “We’re super-stoked to play with those guys. The Aggrolites are such a great band. It’s really cool to get two super-solid bands on one bill and the fans are going to get two awesome sets.”