Squeeze, Ft. Lauderdale • 2.27.98
“The only music that can save the world is polka,” says singer Mike “Trout” Wiltrout, and Johnny Socko delivers. Of course, they deliver it along with a heaping helping of ska, a couple tablespoons of rock-n-roll, and an occasional dabble into rap. Mix well, and you’ve got Indianapolis’s own Johnny Socko. Fresh out of the oven of Indiana, (about which Trout states “some people call it the heartland” I call it a crappy place to live”), these boys brought with them two hours worth of the greatest music you could have possibly asked for, late Friday night at the Squeeze in downtown Ft. Lauderdale. It was the club’s ninth anniversary, and in their blind arrogance they booked one of the greatest live bands ever for a midnight 18+ show. Obviously, most of the crowd was about as into the music as babies enjoy vomiting, but that didn’t stop the band who were joined by their new upright 5-string bass player. Lacking a trombone player (who went off to join an a cappella group back home in Indiana), they still played as energetically as if they were in the Tokyo Dome, while an eager handful of kids in the front skanked until they nearly passed out.
Socko covered their discography, taking most of their set from their newest album Full Trucker Effect. Three songs came from their second release Bovaquarium, while the rest were picks and pulls from their first EP and various compilation additions. Between songs were the usual Socko appeal: random jokes, bizarre dances (two of the members during a song went so far as to go onto the dance floor and give the crowd a taste of some professional wrestling), and the plugging of their “best dancer prize,” a Cyndi Lauper biography that went to the best dancer out of the crowd. Of course, the show wasn’t complete without a break-down into “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” which I managed to provide onstage towards the end of the set.
Strip away the awful crowd and poor management decisions, and this was by far on the most fun and entertaining shows I have ever had the pleasure of attending. Johnny Socko whipped out song after song in stunning fashion, throwing in a funky instrumental every now and then. And how can I forget how fashionable they looked in their leisure suits? This is definitely an addicting band. Two notes into the set, and I was dancing away like never before. I didn’t stop for two hours, until the club cut the band’s set short by more than five songs. When all is said and done, these boys put on one rockin’ great show, and they’re some of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. I must have sweat off a good ten pounds that night.. but hey, if the flies had gotten attracted to me, it’s all right.. Johnny Socko sells flyswatters! ◼