5 minute pitch: San Jose’s emo ska band Voluntary Hazing

San Jose’s premiere ska/emo group Voluntary Hazing discusses their favorite things to do in San Jose, the best venues, and where to find their favorite tacos.

Voluntary Hazing, a Ska Band, does various poses with their instruments in a San Jose garage.

Most members of Voluntary Hazing met while they performed for San Jose State’s marching band.

Photo courtesy Voluntary Hazing

San Jose’s population is currently ~980,000 people, which means that there’s nearly 980,000 different perspectives on what makes San Jo such a fantastic city.

In our new series, 5 minute pitch, we’ll spend five minutes with random San Joseans — from local bands, organizations, and other movers + shakers, to every day residents like yourself — to get an on-the-ground take on the best our city has to offer.

Seeing massive national acts like Taylor Swift at Levi’s Stadium, New Kids on the Block at Shoreline, or P!nk at the SAP Center, definitely has its charm. They’re life-changing concert experiences you’ll never forget.

But there’s just something about intimate performance spaces. Patrons packed in like sardines, drinks in-hand, the too-loud speakers blaring the ear-splitting, brain-thumping music of a band performing mere feet away from you. It’s electrifying.

And on the performing side of things, it’s just as electric. We’re asking some up-and-coming bands in San Jose what it’s like to do what they do. Why is (or isn’t) San Jose a great place for live music? How do they define success? Where are the best places in SJ to perform?

We’re starting things off on a brisk night outside the Caravan Lounge, where City Editor Gregg caught up with San Jose emo ska band Voluntary Hazing. Specifically, Kayla (singer, guitarist), Thomas (saxophone), and Alex (drums).

Q: Where’s your go-to for birria tacos in San Jose?
Kayla: I really love Cajeta at Camino Brewing; we’ve played there a few times, and they are so good. We get so excited for those shows… one, they’re fun to play, but also the tacos.
Thomas: I gotta double-down on that one. Those tacos are pretty fire.
Alex: Yeah, they’re so good. Goes well with their beer.

Q: Where’s your favorite place to perform in San Jose?
Kayla: Each place has it’s own thing going on. For just the sound quality, I’d say Art Boutiki is my favorite in San Jose. Camino’s great for the vibes. Caravan’s great for the party —like, let’s all gather around and be really close — it doesn’t get more personal than that.
Thomas: Yeah that’s kinda my vibe. I like the sets we play in a really small venue where everyone is pushed up to the front. It really builds up the energy, and it’s super fun.
Alex: I’m not going to lie, playing The Ritz was really cool. They have a big stage, and it feels like ‘yeah, I made it!’ but Caravan’s where family and friends are.

A band plays on the small stage of Art Boutiki.

Voluntary Hazing performs at Art Boutiki music hall to a packed crowd.

Photo by SJtoday Staff

Q: So, for the local guys, where would you go?
Kayla: Art Boutiki, Caravan.
Thomas: Yeah, you want to find those smaller, local venues. There’s so many, right? So many local bands play in small little bars.
Alex: Mama Kin has some really good shows.

Q: Is there anything you’d recommend to someone visiting the city to get the vibe?
Kayla: There’s something we’re really proud of in this band. It’s called the ‘San Jose Light Tower,’ and if you go to History Park, they have a replica. But we want to bring back the light tower, the full-size one.
Thomas: Eat as much Mexican food as you can while you’re here. It’s so good. It slaps.
Alex: Japantown for the food, or pho in Vietnamtown. Just food. Go everywhere. It’s all good. Get lost. Have fun.

Know an interesting San Josean that we can interview next? Send us tips.

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