Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Live Shows: The Slackers, Mustard Plug, The Freecoasters, & Stop the Presses, The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA 12/18/23

A four band ska bill on a Sunday night? Sometimes when it's this good, you have to suck it up and go out on a work night, pretending you still have the energy you used to. The Slackers and Mustard Plug have bands I've been meaning to see for a while now, and The Freecoasters and Stop the Presses ended up being happy discoveries! 

Stop the Presses opened up the show with an upbeat blend of horn free ska. They were cheery and upbeat, since this is ska and all, but the band had a bit of a hidden edge to them. They might not have been the most punk band of the night in their sound, but they were in their attitude. They even busted out a ska cover of Bikini Kill's "Rebel Girl." (Ska covers ended up being a theme of the evening.) Unfortunately, I missed some of their set as they started before the advertised start time. Hopefully next time...

Up next were The Freecoasters out of southern Florida. They included a trombone player, and my first thought when I saw them was that they looked a little more southern rock than ska, and turns out their sound was a southern rock-ified version of ska. I also thought that they sounded like a ska version of Janis Joplin once Claire Liparulo started singing, so their cover song was naturally "Mercedes Benz." I certainly didn't have discovering a southern rock ska band on my 2023 bingo card, and I definitely didn't have enjoying it as much as I did on there!

Mustard Plug came next, and they definitely brought the ska punk to the show. They inspired the biggest pit of the night (more people dancing around into each other than leaping and punching), and with good reason. They doubled the number of horns to two, and played an energetic set heavy on songs from the just released (and great!) album Where Did All My Friends Go? A new song like "Vampire" fit in perfectly with a classic like "Beer (Song)." They also play some of the darker songs in the ska punk universe, such as "Mr. Smiley" about a murderer. Still a fun time! Their ska cover was of Fugazi's "Waiting Room," which was shockingly faithful to the original as far as ska covers go.

The Slackers closed the night with their blend of ska and reggae. They played together in a way that only a band can when they've been together over three decades. It was a laid back set, with The Slackers playing loosely and clearly having a great time doing it. Their stage banter was a blast, and you get the true sense that they'd be doing this if only five people were showing up every night. "Married Girl" may have come second in their setlist, but somehow the evening just kept getting better and better from then on. The Slackers are definitely one of those bands everyone needs to see at least once. I may have missed their cover of the night during a bathroom break, so please feel free to fill me in if you were there!

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