There are shows that change you. Those shows change your life, stay with you, and shape you into a new person just because you experienced them in a way more profound than words can describe. I can say with complete certainty that after Big D and the Kids Table played their set on September 4th, 2015 at the Flashback Lounge, I will never be the same again.
Let’s begin at the start (always the best place): a four-hour journey to a bum-fuck nowhere town in upstate New York, where my boyfriend and I found the cheapest clean motel in the whole state. We got there at 5:00pm, and with doors at 7:30pm, and Watertown an hour away, we had just enough time to grab a quick bite, say hi to a few local compadres, and jet over to the show.
The venue itself was enough to make this night an experience. The outside looked like a greasy biker bar on the side of a semi-residential street (y’know, those downtown streets in small towns that, coming from the city, you laugh at for being considered “downtown”). It looked like a place only locals went to, a place where everyone knew each other; sure enough, they all did. Huddled outside the doors, people chatted away about Mitchell, the bar’s owner, and how his birthday would be celebrated with excitement and Ska that night.
The inside, however, was the selling point.
It was a dirty dive bar alright; there was no doubt about that. It was split into three sections: a stage area, a bar, and a game loft (yes, you heard me, a GAME LOFT) where there were a ton of old arcade games, including Jurassic Park pinball, and a generous pile of classic board games. Simply put: a nerd’s dream. I highly recommend going to this venue, just for the beer and games.
On to more pressing matters. The first band went up and did their job. Dance The Hempen Jig brought people over to the staging area, and sounded exactly like a local band should. This three-piece, loud bar band used a lot of distortion and were not that memorable, and the second band was about the same.
Mind The Gap had some more staying power, but not much. They were another three-piece, local band, who used simple bass lines and guitar riffs layered on top of the drums, which were the highlight of their sound. And even then, the drummer was skilled, but stiff. All in all, they were pretty tight, but not much different from what you would expect at a local show. It was catchy music designed to make you move, and people did move… slightly.
Then there was ‘the change-over.’
There is something almost euphoric about a band commanding a stage with absolute precision. It is an art. The instant Big D and the Kids Table walked out, everyone knew that they owned every square inch of the bar. The area immediately became crowded and, perched up on a ledge, I could see the energy change. Still, there was not much movement, as if the rowdy skankers were afraid to disrupt the herd. This was something Big D himself noticed as well. Halfway through crowd favourite “LAX,” D stopped, right before the song’s infamous rant monologue, and demanded some movement, or else he was done.
And that was ‘the snap.’
The rest of the night was a sweaty barrage of mosh and heat. From up high, the air was dense with the energy, and it was clear that the band earned their right of performance that night. The band members themselves seemed surprised that the atmosphere of the entire crowd changed with nothing but a nudge. After the song was finished, the guitarist, Alex, said, “Whatever you guys did just now, keep doing that.” And so they did. It was a sweaty mix of moshers and skankers, something I’m sure the bar wasn’t really used to, and the movement remained constant throughout the rest of the set, including favourites “Myself,” “Shining On,” and “Breaking the Bottle.”
When they wrapped up with the electrifying “Noise Complaint,” everyone seemed satisfied, but still wanted more. A half-assed encore chant barely made its way through the after-show chatter; just five or six drunks shouting, “One more song!” and the band came back on to play a couple more. Not what you would expect, however.
Their first encore song was “Shit Tattoos,” which, judging by the reception from the crowd, was not a well-known one, despite being an awesomely-fun ska-punk song. They finished the night with a cover of The Specials song “Little Bitch,” which they dedicated to the influential ska band’s trombone player, Rico Rodriguez, who had passed away earlier that day. The tribute was a beautiful homage to a group that had a powerful impact on Big D and the Kids Table.
Musically speaking, there was perfection that night. The set was tight, and only minor errors were noticed (like Alex playing the main riff in “She Knows Her Way” a semitone off on the same part). Though it took two songs to inject energy into the crowd, Big D and the Kids Table fought for, and earned, their place on stage. And even as a long-time fan who has seen them play before, this was a concert that will always be remembered.
I highly recommend getting to their next show, because it was worth everything.
Written and Photographed by Danielle Kenedy
*edited by Kate Erickson