Ska band brings humor & horns to Northeast Florida

By Cal Colgan |
Photos courtesy of Devin Hughes

With blasting brass and pounding percussion, General Tso’s Fury enjoy a small but dedicated following in the Northeast Florida music scene. But although the six-piece ska band from Fernandina Beach are no strangers to the stage, they are adamant about keeping their performances fun for their fans.

Celebrating the release of their first full-length, self-titled album, GTF played at Jacksonville’s Jack Rabbits on Oct. 16 to a venue packed with dancing and fist-pumping fans. As the crowd began to file out, trombonist and vocalist Brian Ferreira said he couldn’t remember how he came up with the band’s peculiar name.

“The only name I can remember before we decided on that was Chocolate Flavor Doritos,” Ferreira said.

GTF’s songs are just as random, with titles ranging from “Eric the Poodle” — a humorous fantasy tale about a former band member — to “Every Cougar Needs A Pool Boy,” where the lyrics play with sexual innuendo.

“A lot of it comes from stupid ideas we have,” said Devin Hughes, the band’s guitarist and lead vocalist. “Why be serous when you can have as much fun as possible?”

Hughes, a Flagler College graduate, said it was out of that desire for the fun of slapstick humor that prompted the band to reform. Originally formed after Hughes, Ferreira, drummer Brandon McClellan and bassist Bill Sample graduated high school, GTF broke up after being plagued by personal issues amongst the band members.

According to GTF’s Facebook page, a bored Hughes persuaded some of the original members to reform the band, adding trombonist Tyler Odom and saxophonist Wesley Gaddis.

“The line up that we have now is pretty acceptable because even though we annoy the living s— out of each other, we can all take it pretty well,” Hughes said.

Not content with just promoting themselves, General Tso’s Fury books other North Florida bands to play at their shows. Their raucous release show included punk band Poor Richards and Tallahassee ska band Chilled Monkey Brains.

Hughes, who books the shows, said although the Northeast Florida music scene is almost barren when it comes to ska bands, the eclectic lineups at GTF-sponsored shows can invite people who appreciate the genre.

“If you have 7 ska bands playing Jacksonville where there really isn’t too much of a scene here for it, . . . you might only have a few people show up,” Hughes said. “But if you get a rock band, a hip hop guy, an indie band and a ska band, people keep entertained because their ADD kicks in and they go, ‘Wow, something different every time!'”

Sample said that part of the success of these shows has to do with the talent of these bands.

“There’s been a lot of not-so-great bands that have made it big around here, just because there’s nothing better,” he said. “Now, it seems like better bands are starting to get into the spotlight and get bigger shows.”

Although GTF frequently played outside of the Jacksonville area in the past, their experience playing in St. Augustine has made them hesitant to come back to the Oldest City. Last year, the band was scheduled to play for YTrinity, the youth concert event organized by members of the Good News Church. Hughes said that the event’s organizers promoted the band for two months as the headliner, but because of noise ordinance violations and other bands taking up too much time, GTF never got to play.

But Hughes said that the band’s experience with YTrinity does not mean they will never play in St. Augustine again.

“If we can get a guarantee and a better deal, then we’ll probably do it, but there aren’t very many venues down there that we would fit,” he said. “If there’s a place that we can [play] down there that would fit, that would be possible. It would be fun, because . . . being a Flagler graduate, I know a good amount of people down there that would come out.”

Now that they released their first full length, General Tso’s Fury is ending the year by playing more shows. Hughes said the band might possibly come out with an independent music video this winter.

But GTF are most concerned with bringing good ska music to the Jacksonville scene.

“If we can bring more horns to Jacksonville, then maybe we can bring some taste,” Hughes said. “It’s not appreciated, and I feel it’s not understood, so maybe we can make them understand a little bit better.”

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