with the Pilfers and Big Lick

FU-BAR, Ft. Lauderdale • 7.4.98

July fourth is the day the country celebrates the death of so many people in a war a couple hundred years ago by blowing things up, and I can’t think of any better way to spend my evening away from the fireworks that Florida just made illegal than by attending such a promising show as this one. It was held at South Florida’s newest club, FU-BAR, which was a welcome host for such a show. It had a few faults, like the unneeded glitz and an emcee who got up onstage before Mephiskapheles, called for the crowd’s attention, and told us “serious dancers only for the first three songs. No bumping and grinding!” But, for the most part, my complaints were held at a minimum. It did, however, take me a while to figure out where the club was thanks to some bad directions I got from a friend, and so I managed to arrive half-way in the middle of the first song from the first band, Big Lick.

I don’t normally like the mixture of ska and punk, but I really like Big Lick. The 7-piece from Boston put on a very energetic show, showcasing their catchy version of ska/punk with a couple parts of songs that would make the likes of Rage Against the Machine and Earth Crisis proud. Vocalist Kevin Herlin danced and pounced around the stage like a madman, and if you paid attention to drummer Sean Greene you’d catch some of the funniest facial expressions I’ve ever seen. After an impressive and impressively loud set, Big Lick wrapped it up with their anger anthem “Mad at the World” and said goodnight.

Next up were the Pilfers, who I had been hearing great things about since their South Florida debut a while back with Reel Big Fish. Before they even started their first song, I realized why the Pilfers got such great reviews: stage presence. The band has such good stage presence, in fact, because 2/5ths of the band don’t even USE the stage! Lead vocalist Coolie Ranx and trombonist Vinny Nobile spent most of their time on the speaker set right in front of the crowd, getting in their faces at almost every moment. Coolie would march back and forth, stopping occasionally to sing an inch or so away from someone’s face or to dance with one of the female patrons. Before about half the songs, the crowd would be instructed as to how to react to some of the lyrics (“When I say ‘next’ you say ‘next’ “) and trained everyone in attendance to jump up and down at the word “elevation.” I’ve never seen a more unified crowd than I had for this band. Even if you had never heard the group before, by the end of each song you managed to somehow know the lyrics and sang along without even realizing it. About halfway through the show, Coolie spotted one out-of-control slam-dancer that was bothering a few of the girls around him, and actually went into the crowd and confronted the man on it! It was a sight to be seen, and the mosh pit all but disappeared after that! Musically, the Pilfers were fantastic as well, with masterful songs that ranged from anything from reggae to ska to light hardcore. They were definitely the highlight of the night, and even with knowing what band was coming up next, I was disappointed they couldn’t play for another hour or so.

Somehow, the crowd seemed to have doubled itself by the time ska-for-Satan heroes Mephiskapheles took to the stage and jumped into their self-titled song, “Mephiskapheles.” With nearly no breaks throughout the entire set, the band kept whipping out song after song from their two albums in stunning fashion. I was a bit skeptical of seeing them live again, as they didn’t really impress me the last time I saw them nearly a year ago. But something apparently was different this time around, as I really enjoyed almost every note they poured out into the crowd. After an impressive amount of songs, the Mephiskapheles left in traditional fashion as their drummer pounded out a strong five minute drum solo, only to return, play one other song and then their closer, “Doomsday.” Yet not more than two minutes later, the band returned once again for a two-song encore and then, once again, said goodbye and took off. Although I would have put up no complaints if the Pilfers switched for the headlining spot, the show as a whole made for a better time than any fireworks display I could have attended. And with bands like Big Lick and Mephiskapheles, a lot louder, as well.

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