Friday night brought out all the two-tone kids and ska boys and girls with a night full of skanking and fun. I don’t use the word “fun” lightly; normally at any given punk and/or ska show there will be at least one or two knuckleheads who drunkenly get into a fight, thereby ruining at least part of the show.
This was a rare occurrence where everyone – from the bands to the crowd – was just having fun and enjoying themselves. No negativity, no fights; just people who love great music and dancing.
CHASE LONG BEACH
Kicking off the evening was the very enjoyable Chase Long Beach. The band originally started in 2002 and then subsequently broke up in 2012. After a decade-long hiatus, fans were excited to see the band reunited last year, even releasing a new single. The band kicked off their set with that very song, “Mammoth.” Lead singer, Karen Roberts has a powerhouse voice, and sporting an appropriate black and white polka dot dress, she belted out song after song.
Jose Rodriguez continually impressed with his drumming style, really making his drums felt in “Swing in C.” Joe Cooper took front and center as he began his guitar solo for “This is Not a Fairytale” that could be heard ripping on through the outro of the band’s final song.
Above all else, Matamoska is a ridiculously talented band. And I mean each and every single member. With so many members (it’s kind of a running joke with ska bands), you might think that it’s easy to get lost, and yet every single member had moments where they were spotlighted with a solo, often several times throughout their set.
Bassist Hector Rivera is super active while he plays, moving from behind the drum set, dashing across the stage, and even stopping by to chat with the sound guy, all while shredding. Their guitarist had a solo during “El Jefe De Ska” that really showcased an improved sound system for the Garden Amp.
They played their cover of Voodoo Glow Skulls’ “Band Geek Mafia” that perfectly captured the energy and soul of VGS that would have made Eddie, Jorge, and even Frank Casillas happy. The horns sounded beautiful during “Beer Goggles.” The last song, “Que Pex,” was just a pure jam session, with lead singer Jose Padilla climbing atop the drum riser, with his back to the crowd as he played his guitar behind his head. During Ivan Lopez’s trumpet solo, Padilla handed his guitar pick to a member in the front of the crowd who instructed him to strum his guitar as Padilla continued to play. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that; what a way to close their set.
Big D and the Kids Table have a co-headlining slot with Mustard Plug on this tour which means both bands have equal 60-minute sets.
Their set kicked off with guitarist Alex Stern, drummer Alex Brander, and Ben Basile on bass as they played an instrumental intro until lead singer David McWane ran on stage and the band launched into the aptly titled, scathing review of Los Angeles, “L.A.X.”
After a lovely horn solo on “Souped-Up Vinyl,” they did a cover of ”Wailing Paddle” by The Rudiments before playing “Bender,” which saw the crowd repeating “drunk” back after McWane. McWane said they just found out that afternoon that they would be playing an outdoor venue to their delight; Stern joked, “We can only play outside three days a year in Boston.”
Stern’s guitar solo in “Take Another Look” emitted a large cheer from the crowd. They did the crowd favorite “My Girlfriend’s Drunk,” as well as “Too Much,” and then finished their high-paced set with “Noise Complaint,” which got one of the biggest pits of the night. Then, they left stage the same way they came in with McWane announcing, “It’s true! We are Big D and the Kids Table from Boston, Massachusetts.”
It was just a little over a year ago the last time Mustard Plug graced the Garden Amp as part of the In Defense of Ska tour. The crowd welcomed them back with open arms and they opened with “Skank by Numbers” and “Where Did All My Friends Go?”
Usually the band is all fun and silliness but lead singer Dave Kirchgessnergot serious for a moment saying, “This song is about if you’ve ever been in love with someone struggling with substance abuse, and the power of music to help get you through that,” before playing “Hit Me! Hit Me!”
For “All That’s Left Behind,” Kirchgessner climbed to the extended front lip of the stage, towering over the crowd as he sang the chorus. During “Go,” he stood on the barricade, leaning into the crowd singing the “whoas.”
Guitarist Colin Clive took lead vocals on the classic “You,” as well as the “Mr. Smiley,” about a knife-wielding manic who murders his own family. Kirchgessner began playfully stabbing the audience with a toy machete.
Greg Witulski played a slightly two-toned, but unmistakable bassline for Fugazi’s “Waiting Room” leading the band in a great cover. The scene was just right, two weeks before Halloween setting the perfect mood for the band’s “Vampire.” During “Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?” the crowd started chanting, “Why! Why!” bringing a smile to Kirchgessner’s face. Clive again took lead for the sing-along “On and On.”
Kirchgessner announced that it was actually the band’s 1,973rd show – quite the remarkable achievement – before capping off the night with “Beer.”
It was a perfect evening of skanking and wonderful music under the open sky.