Since May 2020, Santa Clarita resident Dave Brown has kept up his own concert schedule.
While via Zoom, these concerts (of sorts) happen every other Sunday, usually at 11 a.m., for a group of ukulele players and punk rock enthusiasts to learn different punk, ska and heavy metal songs through tutorial videos. The group is known as S.C.U.M., or Santa Clarita Ukulele Monopoly.
“When the pandemic hit, I had been kind of playing around with this idea of doing play-along ska videos, but I couldn’t quite figure out how they’d get used,” Brown said. “I’m an editor by trade, so I had made all these videos where it plays the music – the actual song – and then it’s got the chords that come up and the lyrics underneath. It was one of those things where I was doing it mostly because it was something that I knew how to do, so I did it. With the pandemic, all the ukulele groups kind of went to the Zoom format, and all of a sudden, having a video play becomes a realistic thing.”
Brown learned to play ukulele four years ago from his brother, Doug, who runs a group in Colorado known as the Denver Uke Community. Brown started playing punk and ska on the ukulele, an unconventional and unique instrument for heavier music.
“[Ukulele is] the instrument that my brother plays, and the instrument that I play, and it’s fun. I don’t play any other instruments, and [S.C.U.M.] just made it a lot more accessible for me,” Brown said. “I’ve been going to punk and ska shows for years and years, and was never really very interested in becoming a musician per say. [Ukulele] is kind of the in-between.”
The name S.C.U.M. comes from Brown’s search for a punk-based acronym that could capture the group’s objective. The inclusion of the word “Monopoly” was a more spur-of-the-moment decision.
“To make S.C.U.M., it would need to have an ‘M,’ and I couldn’t think of anything other than Monopoly,” Brown said. “Plus, you put a ukulele in the Monopoly guy’s hands, that’s pretty awesome.”
Brown currently plans to remain on the online Zoom format for S.C.U.M. meetings due to the group’s tech-heavy environment. Every meeting, Brown screen-shares tutorial videos for a variety of punk rock songs while members play along at home. For right now he’s playing with a small group, with 19 followers on Facebook.
“One of the benefits is that since the song is playing, nobody hears you play. So, as bad as you play, you’re fine because nobody is listening to you,” Brown said. “It’s pretty amazing though because everybody’s playing the same songs and listening to the tunes together.”
The latest S.C.U.M. show was held Sunday, July 18, with the next one coming Aug. 1. For those looking for a welcoming environment to learn more punk rock music on the ukulele, Santa Clarita Ukulele Monopoly meets every other Sunday at 11 a.m. through Zoom links found through their Facebook page.
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