Opening Bands: the Planet Smashers, Mustard Plug, Catch 22, Big D and the Kids Table
Date: February 15th 2005
Venue: Crowbar, State College, PA
I’m a big fan of the Ska is Dead concert series. For ten bucks you get the chance to check out some pretty good bands in the punk/ska scene in a great venue. The last Ska is Dead tour featured Mustard Plug, Catch 22, Big D and the Kids Table, and the Planet Smashers (alas ye olde border patrol who wouldn’t allow them in the country). I was pretty excited when I heard that this lineup was coming to western PA.
State College is about an hour drive from where I currently live. The show was supposed to start at 9 PM. I found some prime parking right outside of the local Hooters, which is only about a block away from Crowbar, and arrived at the club at about 8:30. Once inside, my initial thoughts were that there wasn’t going to be much of a turnout. There were only about 15 people on the floor and half a dozen by the bar. I know that the ska scene had been dwindling, but that was ridiculous. As the clock ticked closer to 9, more and more people began to roll in. It is a college town, so I guess that they were just waking up. 9 o’clock came and went. Followed by ten after…then twenty after…and then nine thirty. By now the place was pretty crowded and we were starting to get antsy. It’s a good thing that my friend, who I was supposed to meet there, showed up at nine thirty, since he didn’t miss much. By the way, he only lives two miles from the club. The time was now 9:37, and finally…our first band of the night…MU330 was ready to play. We learned during the course of the show that Gerry from MU330 had a case of the drips, thus causing the delay. As expected, MU330 played their trademark power punk/ska loud and fast. They didn’t get to play their full set though. I think they were only on until 10, but they played one song after another, only pausing to chat with the audience briefly. They played a handful of songs from their newest album, Ultra Panic such as Raw Fish, Lied To, and KKK Highway, but did manage to squeeze in some older stuff like Vow Vow, and Rok. I was disappointed that they were rushed off the stage, but I enjoyed getting to see them play again. They always play with such intensity and energy and put on a fun, entertaining show.
There wasn’t much of a wait for the second act, the Voodoo Glow Skulls. People in the crowd popped out of the woodwork to see the Glow Skulls. They were the band that I wanted to see the most. I love the Voodoo Glow Skulls unique style that mixes one part hardcore, one part ska, and one part salsa for one hell of a good time. As always, Frank the lead vocalist starts off the show wearing a luchador mask for the first couple of songs. The band ripped through their set sending the crowd into a frenzy. Skanking to moshing then back to skanking, the Glow Skulls mixed up their set in great fashion. A couple of songs were from their latest album such as Smile Now, Cry Later and DD Don’t Like Ska, which I think is one of their best songs ever. They also played some old school favorites like Fat Randy, The Band Geek Mafia, Left For Dead, Shoot The Moon, and Charlie Brown. Missing from their set though were some usual staples of their show like The Delinquent Song and Love Letter. To top off a full set, the Glow Skulls played a four-song encore that left everyone on the floor sweating their asses off. Once again, the Voodoo Glow Skulls made it worth my wild. But the night wasn’t over yet.
The headlining act was Streetlight Manifesto. I really didn’t know much about this band except that some of the members were once in Catch 22. I wasn’t quite sure if this was true or not, but I was anxious to see them nonetheless. They had to be pretty good if they were headlining the show, right? My initial answer to this question was a big fat NO. When they first arrived on stage, I seemed to recognize a few of the band members. The crowd really seemed to like this band, but I wasn’t too thrilled with them at first. Their first song seemed long and drawn out and I just didn’t feel the vibe. It was mostly instrumental, and I hate instrumental. I really felt that I wouldn’t enjoy this band. My thoughts began to change during the second song. When the lead singer finally sang a few lines, I immediately recognized his voice. His name is Tomas Kalnoky and he was the lead singer/songwriter/guitarist for Catch 22 on their Keasbey Nights album. Keasbey Nights is the only Catch 22 album that I like to date. I thought to myself…wouldn’t it be cool if they played some old Catch 22 stuff. Well two songs later I got my wish as they broke into the song 9MM and a Three Piece Suit. The crowd went nuts during that song. The songs just seemed to get better from that point on. They played some Streetlight songs, a song called Here’s To Life by one of Tomas’ side projects The Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution, and some Keasbey Nights era Catch 22. It was non-stop mayhem up until about 1 in the AM. Streetlight Manifesto did the usual “we left the stage, here we are again” encore thing and they ripped through one of their own songs, a cover of the Suicide Machines-Hey, and closed the night out with Dear Sergio, another old Catch 22 song off of Keasbey Nights.
On this night, I got to see two of my favorite bands, and one band that sounds like one of my old favorite bands all at one of my favorite venues all for ten bucks. If you have ever wondered what Weezer would sound like if they went psycho ska, then check out MU330. If you’re looking for one of the hardest and fastest ska/punk bands out there, then go and see the Voodoo Glow Skulls the next time they roll into your town. And if you like Keasbey Nights era Catch 22 with a little bit more speed, then you should head out to your nearest club to see Streetlight Manifesto. What a great show! Rock on!