On the eve of their debut album release, Lansing’s Hot Mulligan celebrated the start of a new chapter back where it all began.
Blame it on the temperatures rising above thirty-two degrees or the fact the sky revealed several brilliant shades of blue behind quickly dissipating cloud coverage, but something in the air felt different on March 10. The damp warmth of another sold-out show at The Loft in Lansing greeted a crowd skewed towards high school with an embrace familiar to any pop punk show. That was the place to be that Saturday night in the capital of Michigan, as well as anywhere else in a fifty-mile radius. For here, amidst cracked pavement and a sluggish economy, there was hope born from a sense of community that was recognized by everyone in attendance.
The bill featured five bands, including headliners and genre favorites Knuckle Puck. Plenty of kids wore merchandise bearing the band’s logo, as well as the logos of supporting acts Boston Manor, Free Throw, and Jetty Bones. The love for these bands was real, and it was present, but all that support paled in comparison to the devotion showed toward’s the local heroes on the night’s lineup, Lansing’s own Hot Mulligan.
There is nothing like seeing a local band make their hometown proud. It’s at this point in every group’s journey where they cease to be friends working together and become something bigger than themselves, something important. Young people who find a way out of their region through creativity and hard work alone can inspire their peers in a way no adult or lesson plan can match. They make the impossible seem possible, not just for other musicians, but for people of all ages who, like them, grew up in a place where people weren’t known for doing the thing they loved. Hot Mulligan is at that point right now, and fate decided that Saturday night was the time to make that fact clear to the world.
Performing in their hometown for the last time before the release of their No Sleep Records’ debut album, Pilot, Hot Mulligan stormed the stage with excitement and overall sense of joy that quickly filled the room. People cheered as soon as the members began appearing on stage, and their cheers returned no less than two more times before the first song. One time was in reaction to sound checks, but the other was a positive response to the banter between members. If anyone on stage was nervous no one in the crowd could tell, as they all seemed to be high spirits despite a few tired eyes from nursing hangovers in the back of a moving van. As far as anyone in the audience knew the band was as prepared as anyone could be, and their ensuring performance quickly proved that to be true.
It’s impossible to quantify the so-called “it” factor that separates good bands from those who can define a moment. Those with a history of success in the music industry will tell you it’s a feeling, something that you makes sense in your bone marrow. It’s like being reunited with a long lost friend you never knew existed until the moment the music hit your ears, but when it did you felt as though you never knew life prior, as if you are somehow less alone in the universe because you know this music exists. It’s that, but on a scale where everyone feels that way, and as a result, it’s existence brings us all closer to a global community.
No one can predict when these artists will arise or where they will hail from. Countless bands release promising initial works only to fall short on subsequent releases. Listening to Fall Out Boy’s Evening Out With Your Girlfriend it is hard to grasp how those same young men would release “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” just two years later. Likewise, no one could have guessed Taking Back Sunday’s rough first release would lead to the genre-defining Tell All Your Friends. Other bands likely worked just as hard, but for whatever reason the elements required to spark that universal, yet somehow a deeply personal connection with countless millions around the globe did not come together. We will never know why, nor will they.
With Pilot, Hot Mulligan have delivered the impossible. At a time when the last death rattle of 2011’s pop-punk revival was beginning to reach their late career stage, this five-piece from Michigan has delivered the next soundtrack to your life. Not just your life, however, but our lives. Pilot is the sound of growing up and knowing your worth in a world that never seems to agree, of taking that chance because the moment may never come again, of seizing the goddamn moment and squeezing it for all that it’s worth. Things may go awry, and they often do, but that’s just life. Hot Mulligan didn’t make the rules, so why live by them?
The same infectious energy was on full display as Hot Mulligan tore through a setlist of fan favorites and soon to be genre classics in Lansing. The crowd sang along to every word, often drowning out vocalist Tades Sanville, and the band responded by giving fans – many who had supported them from the very beginning – every ounce of energy they could muster. If one seemed to slump even a bit, they would joking poke fun at their brief break from constant motion when the song came to a close. The audience didn’t mind their pauses, of course, but the band wanted to ensure those in attendance that they were receiving the best show the group knew how to deliver. No one doubted them for a second.
When the band’s set reached its sweaty conclusion, there was not a soul in the room standing still. Even those doing their best to hide grey hairs in the darkened corners could be seen tapping their toes and swaying their hips as the music played on. The band dug deep to find a bit more energy, and the crowd responded with a flurry of stage dives amidst a nonstop chorus of voices. That was a moment, not just for the band, but for everyone in the state of Michigan. Their government may have failed them, our infrastructure may be crumbling, but for the better part of thirty minutes, the youth of Michigan remember their boundless potential. As their peers sang songs inspired by the same roads they travel daily, those in the crowd felt a fire ignite within themselves that they carried back out into the midwest winter at the end of the night. What they did with it was up to them, but if nothing else they knew there was once again hope for a better tomorrow and they had Hot Mulligan to thank.
Hot Mulligan did not set out to change lives, but if there is anything to be gained from seeing the band live it is that they are doing just that one anthemic song at a time. This year is their moment, or it’s about to be, and everyone in that Lansing venue was fortunate enough to be a part of it.