The North Side Weekly

Miller High Life and checkerboard fedoras in Wicker Park

By Rohan Sharma

Super Orgy Porno Party: words I found myself chanting at 10:30 p.m. on a Friday night in a small venue packed full of people (read: sweaty shirtless dudes). To clarify, I was not at a steamy sex party bonanza, but rather at a ska show in Wicker Park. I’ve been all hip-hopped out lately, coming off a string of concerts that most recently included DJ Mustard & YG. I figured it was about time to hit up a show for the pure nostalgia and save any rap juice I have left for MAB’s Summer Breeze. As a result, I dropped something short of two sawbucks for a ska show; you know, ska, the music you used to listen to when you were around 15 to justify your participation in your high school’s brass band and kick your legs vigorously to an upbeat tempo and a trombone solo. I have no idea if its hip now to like ska, or if pop-punk took over the ska crowd, but I like to think of myself as a ska OG, bumping Mustard Plug in the car on summer days while speeding on suburban roads because it’s impossible to go the speed limit when your music is flying by at 135 BPM.

Although my night ended with excessive perspiration, thoroughly stomped toes, and aching knees, it didn’t begin that way. In fact, it began with what is effectively a margherita pizza from Dimo’s Pizza on Damen Avenue and a chocolate malt from Potbelly, because sometimes I want to relive the carefree and sugary days of my childhood digestive system. Dimo’s is pretty solid and a great drunk food choice since they are open late and offer pizza by the slice as well as a variety of beer options. However, I imagine having Flash Taco across the street from you steals a lot of precious drunk dinero. The show was at the Subterranean, an intimate venue just off the Damen Blue Line stop that features two levels of viewing space and charges you $2.50 for a very classy-concert-sipping experience courtesy of Miller High Life.

The first opener, a local band by the name of Run and Punch did about as well as an opening act slated for 8 p.m. can do, which is to say that they provided high-quality music to stand and drink to. Having only been to rap shows for a while, I was ill-prepared for the headwear culture shock that I experienced, by which I mean trading out 5-panel hats for mohawks and checkerboard fedoras.

Following Run and Punch was Los Vicios De Papá, a name that Google insists translates to “Vices of Santa,” which I will choose to believe is accurate. Referring to themselves as LVDP Sound System, the band provided a cool fusion of spacey reggae and Latin ska complete with a conga player and three different woodblocks. LVDP claims to be “born out of a crumbling public education system and failing immigration policy in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood” so there’s probably something serious to discuss and think about there, but I’m gonna avoid that because this is about a fun ska concert and not structural inequalities on the South Side.

At around 10 p.m., as Planet Smashers began to take the stage, the pit was packed and even the balcony level was at shoulder-to-shoulder capacity. Planet Smashers is a bread-and-butter ska band in terms of sound, but their energy, stage presence, and crowd-work made them a highlight of the evening for me. With songs such as “You Guys Are Assholes, Let’s Party,” “Pee In The Elevator,” and the earlier alluded to “Super Orgy Porno Party,” there was plenty of moshing to be had and skanking to be done. It is to be noted that this crowd was one of the best in terms of moshing etiquette and general awareness of other concert attendees, which was very refreshing. Also, why did we as a society limit skanking to only ska? It’s a fantastic and fun dance that even I, someone with two left feet, can do; it should be a staple of every genre, we could skank to everything from “Wagon Wheel” to “Get Low”!

Mustard Plug, the headliner for the evening, finally came out to a very sweaty crowd and opened with classics like “Box” and “You” off their 1997 album Evildoers Beware before transitioning into more recent songs that I haven’t really kept up with. The highlights of the set included a guy getting launched face first onto the stage via crowd surfing, me getting pinballed around by people much larger than myself, and a triple-encore from Mustard Plug. Overall, it was a great show, and it’s nice to know that Wicker Park can be a destination for those who aren’t interested in thrifting or Big Star, not that there’s anything wrong with old clothes and fancy tacos.

But to end on a serious note, please make skanking mainstream, guys.