Subscribe to Fourth Estate Watch our YouTube Channel Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Facebook

The Crunchy Frog offers ‘90s throwback

Dylan Dobson, 4Play Editor/Commentary
April 24, 2013
Filed under Entertainment

Despite what the TV series “Portlandia” depicts, the dream of the ‘90s is far from dying. Nostalgia for the bygone era of flannel and Nickelodeon cartoons was alive and well when Mustard Plug brought their signature blend of upbeat ska to The Crunchy Frog April 11.

Ska is a musical genre with roots in punk and reggae. It typically features upbeat rock music marked by brass. Although the genre was originally formed in Jamaica in the 1950s, it was the third-wave ska bands of the late 80s and early 90s that popularized it.

Ska-punk outfits such as The Specials paved the way for bigger groups like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and No Doubt, to bring ska to the mainstream.

Fans of ska music will oftentimes engage in a dance called skanking, which, although violent-looking, contrasts with the dangerous crowd habits of moshing prevalent at other punk shows.

As the opening band, Orange Iguanas took  the stage, the members seemed just as bored as the patrons. Orange Iguanas, comprised of Appleton natives, are appropriately named as a reference to one of the most seminal game shows of the 1990s, “Legends of the Hidden Temple.”

The band took a moment to plug their new album, which is available on its Bandcamp page, before breaking into a thick surfer-rock song. The crowd livened up, heading to the stage to catch a glimpse. Despite typically reserving themselves to garage rock, the band was savvy enough to toss in some ska-styled songs with its female member, Renee Miller, taking over the trumpet.

A lone figure stood at the front of the stage­—a guy wearing a Kermit-the-Frog-green suit with a red beret.

The Orange Iguanas proved themselves to be quite promising and versatile. Their entire set was exceptionally refreshing and got the crowd hyped for what was to come.

A greasy looking man with long dark hair took the stage. He held the microphone close to his mouth and glanced wide-eyed at the crowd.

“We will be the Dirty Rotten So & So’s,” announced the greasy man Christopher Gold, the lead singer of the second opener. “And we are not a ska band. And we apologize for that.”

The crowd groaned at Gold’s attempt at a humorous remark.

The Dirty Rotten So & So’s offer up a heavy blend of bar rock and alternative. To sum them up, they’re a couple of Manchester Orchestra rejected by way of Gallows rejected, and their music, while fun live, sounds accordingly bad.

After a half-hour of uninspired alternative-punk songs, punctuated by Gold trying hard to be edgy by insulting organized religion and throwing his straw fedora on the ground, the crowd received a reprieve from him and his rotten So & So’s.

Finally, Mustard Plug took the stage, and the otherwise docile crowd erupted.  Now, the seemingly unexcitable people who had reserved themselves to the bar all night were hopping around and screaming to the band’s hits.

The band’s lead singer, Dave Kirchgessner, donning a pink suit, immediately led the band into song. Brass and guitar complimented chill bass lines in the classic style of ska.

After two decades of touring, the band still has die-hard fans, such as Mike Christian. Christian and his friends drove up from Appleton to see the show.

“I like how upbeat ska music is,” Christian said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re drinking or just hanging out, it always brings up the mood in a room.”

Mustard Plug, which touts itself as the original Michigan ska act, played songs spanning its entire catalogue, which formed in 1991, was a major player in ska’s golden age, and was a staple in the lineups of Van’s Warped Tour’s early years.

The crowd skanked its way through hits like “Lolita” and “Skank By Numbers,” as well as newer tracks from the band’s 2007 release “Black and White.” Energy remained high as Kirchgessner entered the crowd with a cardboard sword, flailing the fake blade at a restless crowd as he growled his songs.

The crowd didn’t let up until the band left the stage, bouncing around and flailing their arms until the very last chord.

This show was a testament to the longevity of ska as a genre and the ability of Mustard Plug to meet the demands of fans hungry for the genre’s music.