In the heart of Pensacola, Florida, the ska scene was ready to rocksteady once more, with The Handlebar serving as ground zero for a night of pure skankin' pandemonium. As Mustard Plug, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Bite Me Bambi, and the hometown heroes Red and The Revelers hit the stage, the atmosphere crackled with enough energy to power a horn section.
The ska scene in Pensacola may have seen its ups and downs, but this night was a ska-pocalypse of epic proportions, proving that the beat goes on and on. With the venue bursting at the seams, it was clear that ska wasn't just making a comeback – it was staging a full-blown ska-resurgence!
Red and The Revelers
Kicking things off were Red and The Revelers, who brought their soulful swamp ska stylings all the way from Mobile, Alabama. Their grooves were so infectious, they could make even the stiffest of skankers bust a move. As they got the crowd warmed up, it was like a shot of ska straight to the heart, revving everyone up for what was to come.
In case you weren't able to see them or have heard of them, if you step into the sultry embrace of Mobile, Alabama, and you'll find the birthplace of Red and the Revelers, a fiery ensemble forged from the relentless passion of singer-songwriter Red Greg Padilla. Originally hailing from Arkansas, Padilla's migration to Alabama infused the band's sound with a potent blend of Southern grit and soulful fervor, resulting in a musical gumbo that defies easy categorization.
This five-piece juggernaut isn't content to merely tread familiar musical waters; instead, they dive headfirst into a whirlpool of high-energy rock and soul, drawing inspiration from a diverse array of musical legends and genres. With each electrifying performance, Red and the Revelers deliver a visceral punch straight to the core of your being, leaving audiences breathless and yearning for more.
Hailed as one of the most electrifying acts to emerge from the Alabama and Gulf Coast music scenes, Red and the Revelers are poised to conquer stages far beyond their Southern roots. Their debut album, The Wizard and the Witch, unleashed in 2019, served as a powerful showcase of their musical prowess, with three subsequent singles only further solidifying their reputation as a force to be reckoned with.
As they set their sights on captivating audiences across the nation, Red and the Revelers stand as living proof that true musical magic knows no bounds. With their intoxicating blend of swampy soul and relentless energy, this band is poised to leave a mark on the musical landscape for years to come.
Bite Me Bambi
Then came Bite Me Bambi, hitting the stage like a ska-plosion waiting to happen. The crowd surged forward, hungry for that high-energy, punk-infused ska goodness. Bite Me Bambi delivered in spades, turning The Handlebar into a ska-pit. It was mania, pure and simple – with skankers, moshers, and punk rockers young and old all united in one glorious, sweaty mess.
They kicked off their set with Video Games Like That, setting the tone for a night of ska-infused mayhem. As the night went on, they seamlessly transitioned into fan favorites like Sundays and Bad Boyfriend, igniting a frenzy of skanking and moshing that lasted throughout their performance.
With each song, Bite Me Bambi showcased their talent and infectious energy captivating the audience. As the night reached its crescendo, they brought down the house with Hot Lava, leaving the crowd begging for more.
But they weren't done just yet – closing out the evening in style, Bite Me Bambi treated the audience to a ska-tastic cover of The Specials' classic Gangsters, putting their own unique spin on the iconic track. It was the perfect ending to a night filled with unforgettable moments and undeniable ska spirit.
Voodoo Glow Skulls
And that's when the madness ensued. When Voodoo Glow Skulls hit the stage, the atmosphere shifted from ska-mania to ska-pocalypse in the blink of an eye. Their performance was an explosive ska-blitzkrieg, unleashing a torrent of energy at the crowd.
Their set kicked off with crowd favorites like Human Pinata, Misunderstood, Delinquent Song, and Make America Skank Again, setting the stage for an unforgettable night. But they didn't stop there – Voodoo Glow Skulls also treated the audience to gems like The Karen Song and an awesome cover of The Coasters' classic Charlie Brown.
With an impressive 17-song setlist, Voodoo Glow Skulls kept the skankers and moshers on their toes, with the mosh pit conga-line snaking its way through the venue, spilling out into the courtyard, and looping back inside multiple times. By the end of their performance, the crowd was drenched in sweat but exhilarated, having experienced a whirlwind of ska-infused euphoria. It was a good, wholesome, heart-pounding time that left everyone craving more.
If you don't know who Voodoo Glow Skulls are or maybe your parents have kept you living under a rock for the past 20 years, Voodoo Glow Skulls burst onto the ska punk scene from Riverside, California, in the late 1980s, quickly earning acclaim for their electrifying live shows and unique blend of ska, punk, and hardcore influences. The band honed their sound in the local punk and ska circuits before making waves with their debut album, Who Is, This Is? in 1993. This release showcased their signature mix of aggressive punk riffs, horn-driven ska melodies, and socially conscious lyrics, earning them a dedicated following.
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Voodoo Glow Skulls embarked on relentless tours, sharing stages with ska luminaries like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Sublime, and No Doubt. Their wild stage antics and high-octane performances solidified their status as a must-see act in the ska punk scene. Despite lineup changes, the band's sound remained consistent, as demonstrated by albums such as Firme (1995), Baile de Los Locos (1997), and Southern California Street Music (2007), each showcasing their evolution while retaining their trademark energy.
Beyond their music, Voodoo Glow Skulls are known for their humorous and insightful lyrics, touching on social issues and personal anecdotes with wit and depth. Their ability to blend catchy hooks with meaningful messages has resonated with fans across generations. Today, Voodoo Glow Skulls continues to captivate audiences with their infectious energy and unwavering commitment to the ska punk ethos, proving that their vibrant spirit is as alive as ever.
Before we delve into the final headlining act of the evening, I took a stroll around the merchandise tables set up outside after Voodoo Glow Skulls concluded their set. Throughout the night, various bands had been directing well wishes towards a person stationed at one of the merchandise booths, celebrating their birthday. Like many of you, I make it a point to support touring and local bands by purchasing a shirt or two at each show—not only for the sake of supporting the music scene but also for the cherished memories they represent, serving as wearable mementos of great times shared with friends and this was the perfect time to check out the merch!
As I perused the merchandise, I noticed a sign next to the individual managing the Mustard Plug booth. It read, "Meet Dan," accompanied by some information about his candidacy for an electoral office in Michigan. Typically, encounters with political figures or businesspersons tend to exude a sense of detachment from the alternative lifestyles and punk ethos that many of us hold dear. However, this encounter proved to be refreshingly different. Here was a guy, handling merchandise for a ska band, also actively campaigning for political office in his state. How cool is that? What's more shocking is, he was incredibly down-to-earth and humble about the whole endeavor.
Dan Moilanen is a candidate running for Congress in Mid-Michigan, advocating for change and representing the struggles of everyday people. Coming from a background of financial challenges, he understands firsthand the difficulties of living paycheck to paycheck and the stresses of making ends meet. Unlike typical career politicians, Moilanen emphasizes the importance of building bridges rather than perpetuating old divisions, offering community-based solutions to address the region's challenges.
Raised by a single parent who worked tirelessly as a public school social worker and educator, Moilanen experienced the realities of financial strain. He has held various roles, including non-profit executive director, small business owner, and volunteer coordinator, demonstrating his diverse background and commitment to grassroots efforts. Through his campaign, Moilanen aims to tackle pressing issues such as the high cost of living, inaccessible homeownership, and the struggles faced by family farmers and small businesses. He challenges the influence of money in politics, highlighting the disparity between the interests of everyday Americans and powerful outside groups. Moilanen seeks to unite the community and advocate for common-sense solutions, envisioning a Mid-Michigan where all individuals can thrive.
To top it all off, we can tell he's got great taste in music. If anything about Dan speaks to you at all, check out his website and support him however you can!
Now, the time finally comes for Mustard Plug to take the ska scene by storm with their seasoned expertise and undeniable charisma. It felt as though ska royalty had graced The Handlebar, reigniting the passion that drew fans to the genre in the first place. With each blast of the horns and strum of the guitar, Mustard Plug reaffirmed that ska isn't just music – it's a lifestyle.
Mustard Plug kicked off their set with crowd-pleasers like Not Again, Box, Fall Apart, and Aye Aye Aye, strategically saving hits like Mr. Smiley, Brain on Ska, and Beer for the grand finale. While their performance may not have matched the breakneck speed and intensity of Voodoo Glow Skulls, Mustard Plug's infectious enthusiasm, joyous energy, and sheer musical prowess were all it took to capture the essence of the moment.
Mustard Plug is a cornerstone of the ska punk genre, hailed for their infectious energy, catchy melodies, and spirited live performances. Formed in 1991 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Mustard Plug quickly gained recognition for their high-energy blend of ska, punk, and pop influences. The band emerged during the third wave ska revival of the early 1990s.
Their debut album, Skapocalypse Now!, released in 1992, garnered widespread acclaim, establishing Mustard Plug as a force to be reckoned with in the ska punk scene. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Mustard Plug continued to release albums and tour extensively, solidifying their reputation as one of the genre's most beloved acts.
Beyond their studio recordings, Mustard Plug's live shows are legendary for with their infectious enthusiasm and undeniable stage presence, the band has cultivated a devoted following around the world. Today, Mustard Plug remains a vital force in ska punk, continuing to tour and record new music while inspiring audiences with their unwavering commitment to the ska ethos of unity, positivity, and non-stop fun.
As the final notes faded away and the crowd spilled out into the night, it was clear that this wasn't just a concert – it was a ska-tastic celebration of everything that makes the scene so special. And as long as there are skankers willing to keep the beat alive, the ska scene in Pensacola will continue to thrive, one horn riff at a time. Skank on, my friends. Skank on.
Catch the next ska show at The Handlebar featuring The Toasters with local support from Operation Hennessey April 11th at 7pm.
Red and The Revelers: https://www.instagram.com/redandtherevelers/
Bite Me Bambi: https://www.instagram.com/bitemebambi/
Voodoo Glow Skulls: https://www.instagram.com/voodooglowskulls/
Mustard Plug: https://www.instagram.com/mustard_plug/
Dan Moilanen: https://www.instagram.com/danmformichigan/