BY JOHN SINKEVICS Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY Mustard Plug first blasted out of the gates with its punk-styled ska music back in 1991. Frontman David Kirchgessner figured it would be a short-lived affair.
“I didn’t think it would last a year even,” the Grand Rapids singer recalls. “It started out as just a hobby. One thing just led to another and we kept on pushing it further and further to see how far it would go. After a certain point, you have momentum behind it, you’ve got fans and records out there. We just enjoy it. But to think a band would last 20 years is just absurd.”
Absurd and downright impressive.
Not only has the West Michigan-based band continued to build its ultra-enthusiastic fan base while crisscrossing the country for concerts (boasting appearances on the Warped Tour and Ska Against Racism), but it recently signed an album deal with Florida’s No Idea Records, a label with an international reputation on the punk scene.
“Can’t Contain It,” Mustard Plug’s eighth album and first studio recording in seven years, officially was released in mid-January and already has drawn rave reviews for its rollicking, horn-spiced party anthems.
“Each album takes longer,” Kirchgessner said, citing “marriages, kids and day jobs” which can make it difficult for the band’s six members to synchronize schedules. “The songwriting, we did that over the course of five years. And we’ve been touring the whole time. We’ve never stopped that.”
The band Kirchgessner, bassist/keyboard player Rick Johnson, guitarist Colin Clive, trumpet player Brandon Jenison, drummer Nathan Cohn and trombone player Jim Hofer will travel to Traverse City this weekend to headline Saturday’s Winter Microbrew & Music Festival in the Sara Hardy Farmers Market lots downtown. (Also on the bill: Frontier Ruckus, Third Coast Kings, Don Julin & Billy Strings, Chardon Polka Band and others. General admission tickets are $40; tickets and a full schedule are available online at microbrewandmusic.com.)
“I’m really excited about it,” Kirchgessner said of playing Saturday’s festival, noting the band has cultivated “a really strong following” in northern Michigan. “Traverse City is such a great town and we all really like beer. It’s a perfect combination.”
The February appearance signals the beginning of another busy year for Mustard Plug, especially as it tours behind the new album with swings to the East and West Coasts.
“We’re focusing on doing a lot more festivals,” he said. “You get more bang for the buck, bigger crowds and more diverse crowds.”
The group’s hard-earned success from humble beginnings – independently releasing its first album on cassette tapes back in 1992 – can be attributed to relentless touring and a true love for the ska punk music that set it apart from other West Michigan bands in the 1990s.
Kirchgessner drew inspiration from England’s ska movement, which spawned bands like The Specials, Madness and The Beat.
“The main thing is just the energy with it. It has a lot of energy and it’s upbeat and it’s just really fun music,” he said. “It’s just kind of a celebration of life.”