Review by Jason McCoy
Every little girl and boy born in the 90′s knows that ska is dead and has been for almost 12 years. During the second week of April some necromancer must have raised Ska from it’s shallow grave to inspire the kids to skank about to the sounding of horns once more. On the 11th, Mustard Plug and Left Alone started their 12 stop Midwestern tour at the Firebird with local openers Snooty and The Ratfinks, The Basement, and All Things Aquatic. This particular ska concert was opened by high school bands. Many high school students are attracted to Ska because it’s one of the few genres of popular music that involves marching band instruments like the trombone, trumpet, and saxophone. After the local openers, a band known as Left Alone took the stage. Elvis Cortez, easily identified by his big red mohawk, addressed the Midwest crowd with the proper disdain, being from California himself. Elivs’ stage presence was impeccable as was Jimmy Jam’s strumming of his “big violin” upright bass and Jimmy James’ fingers on his keyboard set to organ. Their medley of old punk, third wave ska, and psychobilly was something I’ve never heard before. After a grand entrance onto a small stage, Mustard Plug ripped through classic tunes like Skank by Numbers, Mr. Smiley, and Thigh High Nylons. The energy was high and the mood was positive and inclusive. This inclusive scene has been almost unconsciously created by third wave ska bands like Mustard Plug who draw their roots from second wave ska bands like The Selecter. Mustard Plug even participated in a tour called Ska Against Racism in ’98. Dave Kirchgessner, lead singer of Mustard Plug, had this to say about Ska Against Racism “The whole 2 tone ska music movement in the UK was really prominent with a…anti-racist stance and at the time in England there was a lot of really acute racism…The whole American third wave ska scene was hugely influenced by the two tone, late 70s English era….from what I gather [Ska Against Racism] was a way of reinforcing…ideas of being anti-racist to the…crowd that was discovering 3rd wave ska at the time.” With a last blast of a horn and strum of a guitar, Mustard Plug left the stage.
Ska’s corpus appeared again at Webster University’s Grant Gymnasium with local opener Samariot and international touring machine Reel Big Fish on the 14th. Reel Big Fish has an international tour scheduled for the summer and fall of this year that will make it to exotic locals like Russia and England. Have no fear Fish fans, they intend to make it to St. Louis in either the Summer or Fall leg of the tour according to Ryland Steen: drummer of the band. Reel Big Fish’s last album release was Fame, Fortune and Fornication in 2009. But have no fear, they are not stagnating, they are gearing up for a new album release this summer to promote with their tour. The album will be “a little more aggressive” than their past albums and you will “feel like the ejector seat will pop open any second” yet it will still be “happy, fun ska music” as described by Steen.
After moving through Websters power-tripping Campus Activity staff, I saw the familiar faces of Samariot, who open for almost every big ska band that comes to town. Their habit of throwing Little Debbie cakes into the crowd hasn’t wavered even a bit. The hilarity of seeing cake after cake hit fans in the face was almost too much to take. An active crowd danced about reeking of ska’s stench of teenage angst and chocolaty cakes. After a brief intermission of a faceless DJ playing Streetlight Manifesto songs, Reel Big Fish took the stage. It’s clear to me now what Steen meant by “The band built it’s reputation on it’s live show.” Their stage presence is beyond comprehension as every member rocks with a vicious energy with hardly a note out of place. This is my third Reel Big Fish show yet I know people that have seen them eight times, and come back for more. Sweaty and satisfied, Webster students and the public leave the gymnasium like so many high school students after prom.
Recording of Skank into Spring PPR Show
Interview with Dave Kirchgessner: Lead Singer of Mustard Plug
Interview with Ryland Steen: Drummer of Reel Big Fish
Pictures of the two concerts
Guns of Navarone – The Skatalites
On My Radio – The Selector
Interview with Dave Kirchgessner
Silverlake – All Things Aquatic
Sad Story – Left Alone
Mr. Smiley – Mustard Plug
Raw Revolution – Big D and the Kids Table
All My Best Friends are Metal Heads – Less Than Jake
Talk of Revolution – Car Full of Midgets
Night Train to Moscow – The Toasters
Russian Roulette – Do It With Malace