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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

[whitespace] Eric Gil-Contreras Star Search: Young Eric Gil-Contreras busts a move onstage with Smash mouth.

Trisha Leeper

Dancing Days:
Meet 'that dancing kid,' Eric Gil-Contreras

BY DAY, 9-year-old Eric Gil-Contreras is an ordinary fourth-grader at St. Elizabeth's Catholic school in Palo Alto. He likes playing drums, ice hockey and Sony Playstation. When the sun goes down, however, he turns into Eric the Skanking Machine. At big ska and punk-pop shows around the Bay Area, you can see Eric, nattily dressed in vest, white shirt and straw hat, busting moves from the side of the stage.

Eric has skanked and swung along with New Morty Show, Buck-O-Nine, Smash mouth, Dance Hall Crashers, Goldfinger, Reel Big Fish, Blink 182, the Aquabats, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Less Than Jake, the Offspring and many more. Beat Street caught up with Eric between shows for a quick quiz.

Hey, Eric, you ever get nervous?

"Nope. Never."

Who was super nice?

"Save Ferris. They were really nice."

What do you want to do with this?

"I don't know. I'm going to stick to ska forever."

That's the spirit. So how does a Palo Alto pixie get through the barricades and security? His first taste of fame came on May 30 last year, when No Doubt played at Shoreline. "I threw flowers up there, and my dad picked me up and yelled out [lead singer] Gwen's name," Eric remembers, fidgeting in a swivel chair. "She looked back and pulled me up onstage and gave me a piggyback ride." After the No Doubt experience, the plan was to go early to shows. After taking a peek at Eric's technique, bands allowed him onstage, and he's since become a regular sight at gigs around the bay.

I know what the moms and dads out there are thinking. How could a parent allow his kid to be up so late, dancing away with rowdy rock & rollers? Eric's dad, Jesse Contreras, who grew up on second-wave ska bands like Madness and the Specials, feels he's sharing a musical bond with his son. He also admits it's part of reliving his own childhood.

"When I was growing up, my parents didn't do a lot for me, and it made for real rebellion," Jesse says. "The way I see it, I'm growing up with my son and appreciating him onstage. I grew up without a father. I'm not going to let him be the same way. If this is what he enjoys, I'm going to support him 110 percent."

If all this sounds a bit worrisome, I understand. But when I look at Eric, a fireball of youthful energy, looking so free and happy, I start to think that life is too short to have regrets. Eric is friendly with Green Day and Dickey Barrett. He dove off the stage with the Offspring. He's amassing a killer collection of drumsticks and memories. And he's a great dancer and a steadily improving drummer.

"The thing I didn't know was that the drummers from MxPx and Social Distortion have these huge sticks from Texas," says Eric with an authoritative air.

Surf and Dirt

KFJC (89.7FM) presents "El Niño Break," an afternoon of live surf bands hosted by the ebullient DJ Phil Dirt. Bands performing include Los Mel-tones, Splashback and Planet Seven. The show happens on the Foothill College campus on March 21, at the Appreciation Hall Room (Room A-61). Doors open at 2pm. ... Hip-hop alert: the venerable Rakim makes up his postponed show at the Maritime on March 15. The Hieroglyphics and Mystik Journeymen perform at the Maritime on March 19. ... Other upcoming shows of interest: Hepcat performs at Palookaville on Friday (March 14), with the Slackers and the Gadjits.

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From the March 12-18, 1998 issue of Metro.

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