Frontman David Kirchgessner reflects on the Grand Rapids band’s legacy for Local Spins on WYCE, which also debuted new tracks by Cal in Red, Annagail and more. Podcast, video, story.
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David Kirchgessner readily admits that Mustard Plug began as little more than a musical lark, a way “to kill some time and drink beer with some friends.”
It ended up being much more than that.
Not only has Mustard Plug survived and thrived for 30 years, but the Grand Rapids-based group has served as Michigan’s principal purveyor and ambassador of ska music – touring the globe and attracting an international following.
“I had no clue we’d be around this long,” said Kirchgessner, the band’s lead singer, frontman and founder.
“I thought if we were around six months to a year, that would be great. It just started off as kind of a fun thing to do with friends. Somehow, 30 years went by really fast.”
While the band lineup and approach “has changed a ton over the past 30 years,” Mustard Plug’s live-show energy and commitment to spreading the ska gospel hasn’t wavered.
“I think we bring a lot of energy to our live shows and make a lot of people happy,” Kirchgessner insisted, noting that many ska bands didn’t pull through a dip in the genre’s popularity several years ago.
“I’m just really proud that we just kept going that whole time. We never went on hiatus, we’ve always toured every year. Even when ska was down on its luck, we kept pushing it forward.”
For this week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE, Kirchgessner picked out two classics to showcase from the Mustard Plug catalog – “On and On” from 2007’s “In Black and White” (Kirchgessner’s favorite album) and “Suburband Homesick Blues” from 1997’s “Evildoers Beware!” Check out the video of a live version of “On and On” recorded in San Francisco here, and scroll down to listen to the interview and full radio show.
VIDEO: Mustard Plug, “On and On” (Live)
Now 53, Kirchgessner – a Realtor by day – conceded band members take their music and performances “a lot more seriously these days,” something that’s helped them ascend to the upper echelon of the ska scene. Ska’s “unique international fan base,” he said, has “added a lot of momentum” to Mustard Plug’s success.
AN ‘AWESOME’ SKA COMMUNITY CELEBRATING A BIG ANNIVERSARY THIS WEEKEND
“There really aren’t any other genres that have that much reach, with that deep of a history,” Kirchgessner said of the genre that got its start in the early 1960s.
“Overall, ska kids are pretty similar throughout the world. It’s such an awesome community. It’d definitely gratifying to have our music accepted around the world.”
As a veteran ska act, Mustard Plug – Kirchgessner, guitarist-singer Colin Clive, trumpeter Brand Jenison, trombonist James Hofer, drummer Nate Cohn, bassist Greg Witulski and saxophonist Mark Petz – continues to “push the ska scene and nurture it,” often touring with up-and-coming bands to expose them to new audiences.
That’s also true of the band’s annual holiday shows, which are filled with ska and punk emissaries. This weekend’s 30th anniversary celebration ups the ante even more.
The band revs up the Grand Rapids edition of its “30 Years of Mustard Plug” holiday show tonight (Dec. 17) at Elevation inside The Intersection, with Washington D.C.’s Kill Lincoln, Small Foreign Faction and Grand Rapids’ Dance Contraption also on the bill. Tickets for the all-ages show are $18; doors open at 6 p.m. Get details and tickets online here.
“One thing that’s unique about a Mustard Plug show is that there are just good vibes. There’s just a lot of joy and not a lot of attitude,” said Kirchgessner, who also promised some “hijinks and a top secret” Christmastime cover on Friday night.
Mustard Plug follows that with a Saturday show at Chicago’s Subterranean. The band also heads out on a West Coast tour in January, with a swing to the East Coast planned for the spring. And with about 16 new songs written, the band hopes to record its ninth studio album in 2022.
It’s all part of a three-decade-long legacy that just keeps on skanking.
“I’ve gotten to travel the world. Going to places like Japan has been life-changing and really realigned my head,” Kirchgessner said.
“Just the friends I’ve made … a lot of people that I wouldn’t have become friends with had I not had the band. So I really kind of cherish that.”
In addition to spotlighting Mustard Plug, this week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE — which showcases Michigan-bred music at 11 a.m. Fridays on WYCE (88.1 FM) and online at wyce.org — featured new music from Cal in Red, Travis Atkinson, Annagail, The American Hotel System, John Piatek, John Richard Paul and The Go Rounds, as well as tracks from Dance Contraption (this week’s musician’s pick by Kirchgessner) and a holiday cover by Bradley Sinclair (who plays two Listening Room shows Friday night).
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE (12/17/21)
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