FROSTBITE TOUR 2006 @ Spectrum

By Josh Mocle - The Kids Are So-So - 03/30/2006

Arriving at the Spectrum, one of Montreal’s premier rock venues, on the evening of March 30th, I suppose the first thing that occurred to me was the irony of attending a show with the word “frostbite” in its name on one of the warmest days in recent memory. My horrible sense of humor aside, I had been pretty excited for this show for some time and after a particularly hellish week at school, I was ready to kick back and hear some good ska and hardcore with a little straight-up punk rock mixed in for good measure. I can safely say that The Frostbite Tour delivered on most counts.

After mingling amongst the standard 16-to-25 crowd that had assembled -- who at first numbered far fewer than I expected but who grew to a decent size as the night wore on -- the first (and youngest) band on the bill, Toronto’s The Flatliners took the stage. Having seen these guys before, I can safely say their particular brand of “skacore” or “skunk rock” -- depending on who you ask -- continues to deliver with the same medium-level intensity as always; not mind-blowing, but not bad by any means. Despite their so-so performance, they did manage to get the younger members of the crowd moving considerably more than most of the other bands that night, except possibly for the headliners. I suppose a young and small audience is better than no audience at all.

Up next were Southern California’s Death By Stereo, the one act I personally thought were relatively out of place on a tour with a bunch of ska bands on it, but maybe that’s just me. I’m going to be blunt: I really didn’t like Death By Stereo. Their watered-down brand of metal-infused hardcore failed to really get my attention, let alone excite me and draw me in. I felt the same way the first time I heard their newest release Death For Life, but coming in I gave them the benefit of the doubt since a band’s studio recordings don’t necessarily capture the essence of their live show. Sadly though, Death By Stereo is one of the few exceptions to the rule. In fact, the only thing that really redeems the band in my mind is the fact that the singer’s name is Efrem Schulz, which really is an awesome name (you KNOW it too).

The next band up were the one and the only Big D and the Kids Table, the boys from Boston who never fail to deliver -- then again, I am SO biased it really isn’t funny. Whether you love 'em or hate 'em, apparently people still make an effort to catch their shows since almost immediately after they launched into their first song (“Little Bitch" off of their newest release How It Goes), there were just as many middle fingers in the air as fists and devil horns. Like always, Big Dave McWane refused to take it in stride as he spat back on every hater he could see and eventually got one dragged out by security. They are a band that really doesn’t take no jack from nobody. In fact, the last time I saw them, they invited a hater on stage and proceeded to beat on the guy until security could come and drag the band off him. Yes, the band that singlehandedly carries the torch of raw, unfettered Boston ska once again thoroughly rocked my brain, just as expected.

Next up were the veritable ska legends known as Mustard Plug. One of the few bands to survive the disintegration of the ska scene relatively unscathed -- due entirely to their own dedication -- they helped to keep what was left of the scene alive and breathing, to either the immense pleasure or chagrin of many. Straight out of the American heartland of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Mustard Plug delivered, you guessed it, a thoroughly good set chock full of ska goodness. There really isn’t much more to say other than that whereas most bands today take the stage, play their set and then leave (*cough*HawthorneHeights*cough*), Mustard Plug vocalist Dave Kirchgessner gets right down into the crowd and lets their fans sing along, the same fans that have stood by them despite the fact that being a ska fan nowadays can occasionally be viewed as a mental deficiency.

Closing out the night were the tour’s headliners, the New Jersey punks known as Bigwig. Why they were headlining as opposed to Mustard Plug or even Big D is probably due to the fact that they just put out a new album, not necessarily because they’re that great of a band. Their set, much like The Flatliners' set earlier in the evening, was thoroughly okay. Not incredible, but not terrible either. Their traditional punk sound that has been done before by many others still sounded good. I’ve always said that if a band takes a generic genre and actually does it well, then it makes up for the generic sound. In this case, Bigwig do in fact use the sound well, but still don’t provide much to really make me sit up and take notice. It’s really same old same old with them.

So there you have it kids, ska may not be as dead as people say, but doesn’t mean that anyone particularly cares anymore either. For me and the five other ska fans left though, The Frostbite Tour was a thoroughly okay package. More hits than misses in the long run; if you’re a punk/ska fan you could probably benefit from catching these bands the next time they come to town -- except Death By Stereo… sorry Efrem.

[Tune in to The Kids Are So-So Saturdays 10:00pm-Midnight.]