In March 2007, Big D and the Kids Table went from being a cool punk-ska band to a must-see band with their release of Strictly Rude. Since then, this Boston-based band has done it all in the world of ska punk and two-tone fusion. Other than ska legend, Prince Buster, only a handful of ska-genre artists are respected and beloved by fans worldwide like David McWane; he’s the frontman of Big D. The truth is, with the number of commercially successful bands that have come out of the Boston area, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Consider some of the talent that has come out of that neck of the woods: Aerosmith, the Cars, Pixies, Breeders, Dropkick Murphys, Godsmack, Powerman 5000 (PM5K), Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Letters to Cleo and everyone‘s favorite Boston boy-band, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch!
What’s remarkable about the band is that they are genuinely humble guys. McWane, specifically, is very polite, honest and direct; almost to a fault. A combination that is hard to find in today’s music world. As a result of all of the above, Vans Warped Tour organizer, Kevin Lyman, asked Big D to join the tour again this year. The thing about this band is they have the dubious distinction of being considered the last of the original Warped Tour Skate BMX bands. You know, the bands who are still together and started Warped Tour way back in the day. Some of the original characters on Warped included NOFX, Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake and Blink-182.
If you’re not too familiar with Big D and the Kids Table, they formed in 1995, and they’re from a little hamlet known as Allston, Mass. Being from the ‘90s, they formed during the 3rd wave of the ska renaissance. Along with countless other projects, Big D has eight studio albums, their ninth, Spirit, is due out sometime in 2018. They’ve toured with just about every big name punk-ska band you can think of; and they have a legion of loyal fans from everywhere on the planet. Unlike some overnight YouTube sensations, Big D has paid their dues and earned earned their place in the pantheon of great punk-ska bands. They were one of those tour bands that came out of the pre-iTunes, pre-Spotify, pre-Pandora, parking lot flyer DIY world. They come from that old school mentality of not playing music to become rich and famous, but to simply be yourself and play good, loud music.
When he was asked what bands impress him these days, McWane has a very candid answer. He said he’s “impressed by bands that aren’t trying to impress anyone.” The secret to success in this new iHeart world is to just play good, loud energetic music, and don’t beg for people to love you. Nobody defines this better than McWane. He was originally in a panic-rock band called Drexel, and he didn’t even want to be a lead singer. Like Billy Shakespeare said, to thine own self be true. Then, people will love your music for the right reasons, or some version of that.
Today, Big D is enjoying success in their role as popular elder statesmen of the ska-punk genre. Over the last few decades, Rancid, Reel Big Fish, the Bosstones, Voodoo Glow Skulls and Mustard Plug have remained relevant, and kept ska communities on both coasts, and throughout the world, afloat. What’s funny when you mention this to McWane, and include Big D in that conversation, he’ll say things like “Being relevant is a relative term.” He’s also been jokingly quoted as mentioning he’s on the younger end of that elder statesmen totem pole. He’s also joked about not being the end-all, be–all of the genre, which circles back to the truthful and humble nature of his character. Maybe Jack Kerouac had it right, the only truth, is music.
In the world of ska, Big D hit the scene with a bang when they collaborated with Drexel in 1996 for a studio album called Shot by Lammi. Big D followed up in 1999 with Good Luck. Then, they hit it uber big-big-big in 2007 with the release of Strictly Rude. Another thing that separates good bands from great bands is something this band is well known for. It’s their DO-IT-YOURSELF (“DIY”) work ethic in all aspects of their music, performance and touring. Let’s add PIONEERS to a description of this band. Big D spearheaded their own tour through Southeast Asia and deep into China riding trains and carrying their guitars. Besides, not every band can play Staples Center, Madison Square Garden or the Hard Rock every night. That’s the thing about punk-ska legends, they’re the ones you can see at underground clubs, or smaller venues in the same light as you see them on bigger stages. Big D and Voodoo get mad props from fans for that. This doesn’t work for everyone, just certain bands who want their music to make a difference. Punk-ska fans worldwide love bands that don’t take themselves too seriously, and put out songs they can relate and skank to.
With all this in mind, McWane’s determined, blue-collar mentality was put to a test in late November 2011 when he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer during a European tour, which was abruptly canceled. Luckily for McWane, his family, friends and his fans supported him emotionally during a time that would be difficult for any person. Anyone who knows him was not surprised to hear the news he beat cancer. Again, an ordeal that is challenging at best for any human being. Perseverance is a trait needed to make it in this new world of music. Truth be told, a true artist will tour for nothing and go into poverty in order to continue to create. It’s sickness that has more merit than the sickness of wanting fame. Despite the challenges, life has been very good these days. David was married this past year, and enjoys touring with Big D and his wife, Brie, who is an accomplished artist in her own right. She’s in the Doped Up Dollies; they can be seen often playing with Big D. They’re a “Stroll” sub-genre band (a combination of hop-scotch-double-dutch-northern soul, ska and reggae). Although, with the addition of the Dollies, we can’t consider Big D a punk-ska boy band any more.
On a lighter note, there are a few different stories out there about how the band got its name. Especially about running over pets named Big D. McWane said that they got their name when a friend mentioned an old AT&T commercial featuring Tom Selleck where he said that phrase. McWane agreed if he ever started a band he would call it Big D and the Kids Table, so he did. He never knew back then that 23 years later they’d still be performing with that name. Interestingly enough, over the years, in addition to being a musician, McWane is also an accomplished writer and filmmaker. What Big D fans love are the band’s music videos.
No article would be complete without mentioning the “Little Bitch” videos (Specials cover) that they do. The kids also love the videos for “L.A.X.” (2004) and Shining On (2007). As for his writing, McWane has published six books, most notably, The Gypsy Mile; and his last work, Kringle, which came out last December. This book is somewhat telling about his life. It’s a story inspired by McWane’s Grandfather; it’s a story about a Toy Maker who delivers toys to children on December 24th, so they can feel fortunate, even if it‘s for just one day. In addition to all band projects, McWane’s services are also in very high demand. Recently, he’s been involved with commercially noteworthy projects that include the New England Revolution soccer team (chant and anthem), and coming soon, a theme song for DOMO. There’s also P. King Duckling (Disney Junior), and a tune called Can’t Stop Building for LEGO. It’s ironic that with all the characters and chuckleheads in the music world, McWane finds himself working in the world of toons.
For music fans, you don’t need to know the band or ska music to appreciate this band. As long as you’re a lively person and appreciate utter mayhem on stage in a full-on party atmosphere, you’ll dig their sound. Sonically speaking, they’ll literally knock your socks off with an explosive show, and they can be best described as a cross between Operation Ivy, Specials and the Beastie’s. The band’s current lineup features David McWane (Vocals / Guitar), Ryan O’Connor (Sax), Ben Basile (Bass), Casey Gruttadauria (Organ), Alex Brander (Drums), Logan La Barbera (Trombone), Jonathan Degen (Sax), and the Dollies which feature backing vocals from Sirae Richardson, Brianne McWane and Erin MacKenzie. There’s also the honorary Dollie, Maddie Ruthless, from the Far East; a cool Brooklyn-based ska band. As for the Dollies, they hit the road on their inaugural tour on May 20th. They’ll also play some of the upcoming west coast dates with Big D.
As for what Big D brings to a show, it’s simple… it’s in your face, brash, unapologetic, insane fun music! When you go to a Big D show, you always get to hear favorites like “Little Bitch”, “L.A.X.”, “Shining On”, “One Day”, “Noise Complaint” and a new tune, “Oi DJ!” Another way to look at any band is to consider what the immortal Louis Armstrong once said. Lou said “There are two types of music, the good kind, and the bad”… Big D definitely plays the GOOD! McWane has said often there are people who want to be in a band, and then, there are musicians. Consequently, this band is nothing less than electric; they have great melodies, and they simply put out a wicked-pissah, kick-ass sound.
As for the west coast tour, Big D is balancing it with their Warped gigs. They haven’t played the west coast in some time; McWane said the band didn’t want to short change their west coast fans with a 20-30 minute set. Even though they’d get paid more money playing Warped through the end dates, it was more important to the band that they jump off the Warped train and give the SoCal fans a set they deserve. It’s a trait that endears certain bands to their fans. With that in mind, McWane also said it’s also important that SoCal gets to see the Dollies. You can catch Big D June 14th at the Roxy in Hollywood with the Doped Up Dollies, Left Alone and local favorites from Greenland by way of the OC and Riverside, the Maxies. For the OC locals, they play the Observatory (Constellation Room) on June 15th. They’ll also be at the Soda Bar, in San Diego on June 16th. What’s cool about these shows, Big D will play tunes off Strictly Rude in its entirety. If you like to dance, skank or mosh at a show, Big D is definitely the band for you.