People say things that were once in fashion come back eventually. That is true, especially when it comes to music, some for the better, some for the worse; like really bad hairstyles and anything polyester. Then again, to bring something back, someone had to keep that dream alive. There are a few bands that hold the distinction of bands that kept the music going; Mustard Plug is one of those bands. Hailing from Grand Rapids, Michigan, the band formed in ’91 by Dave Kirchgessner, Mike McKendrick, Colin Clive, and Anthony Vilchez. In their early days, the guys saw an opportunity as there was virtually no ska scene in the Grand Rapids area back in the day. The guys formed Mustard Plug and developed a unique sound that enabled them to draw a large following in a relatively short period of time. As for the band members, they are humble and down-to-earth Dudes… it’s that Midwest thing at work.
As for the name of the band, as the story goes… a guy in the early stages of the band was making a sandwich and that crusty stuff that forms on the mustard bottle when you put it in the fridge without wiping it off, first gave him an interesting idea for a name for the band. Names aren’t always what they seem, then sometimes they are… And Mustard Plug was born.
The band’s current lineup features Dave Kirchgessner (vocals), Brandon Jenison (trumpet), Jim Hofer (trombone), Colin Clive (guitar/vocals), Rick Johnson (bass) and Nate Cohn (drums). Sonically, they are cross between Boston’s Mighty Mighty Bosstones & Dropkick Murphy’s and Orange County, California juggernauts Reel Big Fish. Despite the comparisons, they have a sound that is uniquely all their own, and they are electric on stage. The thing about the band is they’ve done it all over the years, playing big venues and smaller ones while popping out seven studio albums Skapocalypse Now!, Big Daddy Multitude, Evildoers Beware!, Pray for Mojo, Yellow No. 5, In Black and White, Can’t Contain It; there’s a compilation entitled Masterpieces: 1991-2002, and a live album, Mustard Plug: Live! All this, and they’ve toured throughout their existence. While other bands count their laurels, Mustard Plug continues to play for their fans and build on what they started. Call them what you want, but visionaries build what dreamers imagined, and this band lives the dreams of all music fans.
After 25 years, their fans still can’t get enough of Mustard Plug. There’s a lot for us to look back on. The guys are Warped Tour vets, and that’s a badge of honor these days. They’ve played countless ska-themed festivals, and they all tour regularly from coast-to-coast and around the world and all points on the planet. In regards to Warped, there is no word just yet if the band will be take part in the last Warped Tour. Trombone player, Jim Hofer once said that they may have some messages in their music, but essentially they just do what they do this because they love it and want people to lighten up and have fun. In today’s social media driven world, there’s no better reason to play live shows. Their live shows are insane, including their insane Mascot, their fans scream for songs like “Mr. Smiley”, “The Beer Song”, “Brain On Ska”, “Skank By Numbers”, “You”, “Lolita”, “Go”, “Miss Michigan”, “Everything Girl” and “Hit Me! Hit Me!” As for releases, the band just recently put out the re-release of Big Daddy Multitude.
As for their music, lyrics have a big part of the draw, but the catchy dance riffs help. Words matter when it comes to creating a following, and words like “They’ve taken my home They’ve taken my wife, They’ve taken my job, And they’ve taken my life, But there’s one thing that they will not take, That I will hold til the end Until my dying day; Cause it’s part of me And it’s time that we say They will not take it all away!” They also say “I remember how it used to be, and all the things you said to me. You always taught me right from wrong.” It’s lyrics like that which endears them to their fans… and that’s as legit as it gets. To their credit, the band has stayed together for the kids, and by doing so, along with a few other bands, they’ve kept that proverbial light burning in the ska community for that next wave of Ska.
There are many things that contributed to the rise of Western Civilization, and music is definitely on that list. There are documentaries that chronicled some of the watershed moments in our musical developed. There was Another State of Mind that launched the punk scene in the late 70’s. There was Dance Craze, which propelled the 2-tone Ska revival of the 80’s to new heights. Then there this little known film called Never Get Out of the Van: The Story of Mustard Plug. It’s definitely a must-see. Truthfully, no movement can afford to be caught in a time warp and exist in a state of suspended animation. That’s the contribution that these bands have made, and Mustard Plug is included in the pantheon of great bands that influenced movers, shakers and everyday music lovers.
After all, visionaries don’t look back, instead, they look forward; that’s because the future is ahead of them. You can get a glimpse at what tomorrow looks like on January 15th. Catch Mustard Plug on their West Coast tour with San Diego, California’s favorite ska-sons, Buck-O-Nine. Tonight they play the SlideBar in Fullerton, followed by the Casbah in San Diego the 16th, Alex’s Bar (Fangtasia) on the 17th; also on the Fangtasia bill, they play with OC ska favorites CodeName: Rocky. They round out their shows at the Viper Room on the 20th. If you want to see a great show, come check out this band!