Mustard Plug band makes triumphant return to Flint for an intimate ska gig

FLINT, Michigan — For the first time in over 10 years, Mustard Plug is making a return to their home state for an intimate gig at Flint City Hard Cider. The group, formed in Grand Rapids, has been writing and performing ska music in North America, Europe, and Japan for 30 years. Sat., March 26, the group will play in Flint at one of the smaller venues they’ve played at in years. Music lovers and fans of the band, expect an epic, intimate, feel-good show.

Mustard Plug was started by lead vocalist David Kirchgessner in 1991. The band has been able to weather the storm for some three decades, making and playing music. It’s a feat that’s not lost on Kirchgessner, especially with a genre like ska that has seen a lot of bands disappear. He credits the band’s longevity to the community of fans. 

“I think the fact that ska does have its own unique and close-knit community has helped bands persevere,” he says. “There is generally not a lot of competition in ska. We are friends with a lot of bands, and try to help out and cooperate with other ska bands when we can. Plus, no one joins a ska band to be cool. Maybe they did for a year or two in the late ‘90s, but before and since then, people only join ska bands because they love ska, and that doesn’t go away.”

Kirchgessner says for him, ska has all the high-energy and excitement of DIY punk rock basement scene, but is more inclusive, and danceable. It’s that excitement that shows on stage, something this veteran performer enjoys even after all this time, some 1800 shows later.

"It feels way more intimate to play in front of 150 people than to play in front of 2000 or whatever." - David Kirchgessner

“I’ve always loved playing shows,” he says. “It really is what made me want to be in a band and what has kept it fun for me. It’s still an incredible experience to play live. I receive so much love and positive energy from the crowd and feel a deep sense of camaraderie with my bandmates. Not much has changed over the years except now my ears are always ringing and my knees hurt.”
 
Being forced to stop playing shows during the height of the pandemic was very foreign for the band but made the musicians appreciate playing live more than ever, says Kirchgessner. “Our first show back, I was more nervous to take the stage than I’ve ever been,” he says. 
 
Despite not performing locally in Flint in over ten years, Kirchgessner recalls fond memories of playing at Flint Local 432 regularly back in the ‘90s. “It was such a great venue and we had so many great shows there,” he says. “The most legendary was one where it was so packed, and everyone was dancing so hard, that the floor literally caved in! Luckily there was only a 2-3 foot drop down to a concrete subfloor and no one got seriously hurt. It was so strange watching the crowd and then, all of sudden everyone was 2-3 feet shorter!”
 
Having traveled all over the world to play music, Mustard Plug still appreciates their mitten-made fans. “We’ve always had lots of love for our home state and nothing has changed that,” Kirchgessner says. “It really is a special place for live music. I think we have the best crowds in the world. People here just really love live music in a really sincere and unpretentious way. They are not worried about looking cool or pretending that you have to win them over. Michigan fans rock out from the first note! I think our fans are especially awesome too. When we play, everyone is just really glad to be there, both the band and the fans.”
Flyer for the intimate gig at Flint City Hard Cider on March 26.
The band’s upcoming March 26 gig makes for not only a triumphant return but also a ‘first’ of sorts. This is the smallest venue they’ve played in quite some time, and first time at Flint City Hard Cider. Longtime Flint fans can thank concert promoter and tour manager, Dallas McCulloch, for adding the show. A year ago, McCulloch moved from Honolulu to Flint and began booking events, everything from drag shows, roller derby recruitment mixers, LGBTQ dance parties, death metal, blues, hip hop, to techno shows at Flint City Hard Cider. 
 
Some of the bartenders and owners are touring musicians in their own right. “It’s really just a bunch of punks, metalheads, and weirdos that just happened to own and operate their own space,” McCulloch said. “They can throw the kind of stuff they want without having to drive to Detroit or Grand Rapids to go catch a show.”
 
McCulloch is excited to host the band at Flint City Hard Cider the night after the band plays Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, a much larger venue. “We’re honored just to be there the same weekend as them. It’s a much smaller operation that we have [at Flint City], but it’s cool just to be in the same sentence,” he says. He hopes to bring more established regional touring bands to the venue in the future. 
 
The smaller stages are some of Kirchgessner’s favorite venues. “It feels way more intimate to play in front of 150 people than to play in front of 2000 or whatever,” he says. “When shows get too big, you lose a little bit of connection with the crowd. When it’s small, it feels more like a party with your friends.”
 
“I’m really curious how many people in Flint who used to see us 20 years ago will come out to the show. I think it will be a little like a family reunion for a lot of people. We can’t wait to come back to Flint,” Kirchgessner says. 
 
Tickets are available for $15 on Flint City Hard Cider’s website. A negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours before or proof of full vaccination is required.

Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.