Ska Never Died, Long Live Ska

Donnybrook Brawlers to open for The Queers

Words and photos by Sonja O’Steen

Throughout life, we sometimes stumble upon people who we feel like we’ve known forever, perhaps we met in a past life or something.

Sean and Lora Egan are couple of those people.

Sitting in the couple’s back yard, complete with a Zildjian gong repurposed as a coffee table, watching their rescue dog, Sadie, bark at their neighbor’s fence-climbing cat, it’s hard not to feel right at home.

Donnybrook Brawlers perform at Ken’s Korner, January 2023.

The pair is just two members of Donnybrook Brawlers, a Sioux Falls ska punk band, opening for The Queers at Club David this weekend. And it’s a bit of a full-circle moment for Lora.

“Back in the 90s, I ran a radio show called the Lora Palmer Punk Parade and I used to play The Queers all the time, really. I always just thought, ‘Oh, wouldn’t that be fun to see them,’” she said.

But, back then, it was a bit difficult to get bands to come to South Dakota, especially to Brookings where Lora hosted her radio show at KSDJ on the SDSU campus.

“It really was just kind of a dream,” Lora said. “And then when we were reached out to play the show, I just about couldn’t handle it anymore.”

If you’re not familiar, the 90s were a time when you had to talk to people face-to-face to find out what they were listening to and it took a little more effort than going on Google and searching “ska” or “punk.”

“Back in the 90s before the Internet and stuff like that, man, it was hard to find these bands, you know,” Lora said. “You had to go to, like, Ernie November and check out the flyers and figure out where the all-ages shows were, and it took some effort.”

Getting into Music

The Egans, and the rest of the Brawlers, grew up in families that were very musical or who supported the musical arts.

“I grew up in a musical family,” Sean said. “My parents played music. I enjoyed listening to music and started playing the saxophone in fifth grade. I was just always a band kid from that point forward.”

Donnybrook Brawlers perform at Ken’s Korner, January 2023.

After getting his first guitar at 16, Sean started his first band, a cover band, called “I Hate Clowns.”

“Someone in the band was just really ambivalent towards clowns,” he said.

The very first show they played, they rented the Knights of Columbus in Sioux falls and, because they were underage, had to have parental signatures to play, along with six adult chaperones in attendance.

“There may have been more adults than kids at that show,” he joked.

And from there, the musical bug took hold.

Why Ska?

“Why not?” Lora said.

Starting a ska band is something the couple always wanted to do. They knew if they had someone solid on percussion, Lora could fill in on horns, with Sean on guitar and lead singer. Lora, who currently teaches marching band for the Harrisburg School District, even taught two of their band members in Marion, SD, when they were in high school.

“So many touring ska bands are made up of music majors or they are just starting out. Because, you know what? What else do you do with the music major?” Lora said. “Ska is a great genre for band nerds.”

And the Brawlers have members who are into other kinds of music. One member is really into doom metal. Another is a classically trained pianist, and, if you’re looking for an optometrist, they’ve got one of the those in the band too.

Coming up on their 10-year anniversary as a band, the Brawlers were, and likely still are, the only ska punk band in South Dakota.

“Really oftentimes, when ska podcasts do ‘50 Ska Bands of the 50 States’ they have to look pretty hard, and eventually find that there is one, only one, and it’s in Sioux Falls, SD,” Lora said.

And while ska isn’t as mainstream as it was in the 90s, it never really went away.

“It’s always been here, it just kinda went underground,” Sean said.

Donnybrook Brawlers perform at Ken’s Korner, January 2023.

And, ska is just fun. “Like you can’t listen to ska and not be happy or get a smile on your face,” Lora said. “Or like, you know, good luck standing still.”

You can catch Donnybrook Brawlers at Club David on May 27 with The Queers; July 8 at ICON Lounge for “Ska & Friends;” and Aug. 6 at CabinFest at The Log Cabin in Sioux Falls. You can also catch one or both of the Egans playing with Pale Norse and The Cinderblock Sharks on Aug.17 at Levitt at The Falls where they’ll open for Robert Jon and The Wreck.

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