Jack Firneno, the Wire
Summer may be coming to a close, but it’s always warm and sunny at a Mango Men show.
This summer marks 20 years for the Bucks County-based band, which has played everywhere from small bars in the suburbs to 70,000-seat arenas — not to mention community festivals, wineries and pretty much anywhere else people want to hear live music and have a good time.
“Our show is a show, not just guys standing in a room going back and forth playing leads,” explained frontman John Creidler. “It’s excitement, energy, lighting people up. We’re creating a memory so they walk out saying, ‘What a night.’ ”
For the Mango Men, that means not only playing the right songs for the right crowds, but also getting them involved as much as possible. The band’s repertoire includes songs from their 2009 release Everyday’s a Saturday, a lighthearted country-rock offering steeped firmly in the likes of Jimmy Buffett and Kenny Chesney.
One of the songs in particular, “Just Another Drunken Tourist in Key West,” is a perennial favorite. “It’s one of our most popular songs, and explains the typical person having too much fun their first night,” laughed Creidler.
Elsewhere, there’s plenty of like-minded tunes accompanied by modern and classic hit songs. But what really makes the shows take off, Creidler explained, is the Mango Men’s attention to the crowd — and getting them involved in the show, too.
That could mean getting a limbo contest going for kids when a show at a place like Peddler’s Village attracts a family crowd. They’ll also invite them up to play tambourine, or play a few songs geared toward them — as long as it’s not “Let it Go” from the movie Frozen. “The moms are sick of it, so we promised we won’t do it any more,” Creidler laughed.
And when it comes to adults, the Mango Men go even further. A popular move is to invite someone on stage with the impression they’ll play some small percussion or dance. Instead, they’ll teach them how to play bass for the song, and even let them take a solo if it’s working out especially well.
“It’s our job to always interact and entertain, not just play music,” he explained.
And, it’s that attitude that scored them what was arguably the biggest shows of their careers: two nights opening for Kenny Chesney at the PNC Bank Arena in Holmdel, New Jersey and at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia in 2008.
“It was quite the experience, standing on those big stages,” Creidler recalled, all these years later.
They got the gigs thanks to a video they quickly made of the band playing “Everyday’s a Saturday,” one of their more popular original songs at the time. It was shot at one of their gigs, where their energy — and the audience’s excitement — came through crystal-clear.
After a second round of auditions, they scored the two shows opening for Chesney on bills that also contained names like LeAnn Rimes, Sammy Hagar and Keith Urban. And, they got to meet Chesney after the second show.
The experience inspired the band to write more songs and record them all for their CD, which they named after the song that got them the gig which they released the next year. And, while they’ve all been too busy playing full-time to get another one together, Everyday’s a Saturday is still popular and selling well on iTunes, said Creidler.
It also keeps the Mango Men on stage all year. Summer’s their busiest time — they once again played the prestigious Bethlehem MusikFest, and wound down their summer locally with a show at Crossing Vineyards in Newtown last week — but the band will still have plenty of gigs between now and next Memorial Day.
“We’re non-stop from June through August, then we’ll do smaller configurations through the rest of the year,” Creidler explained.
That could mean fewer people on stage for different gigs, or smaller shows at bars rather than large events. The situations may vary, but the approach — and hopefully the result — is always the same.
“You can get a whole lot of energy going with a 5,000-person crowd, or 100 people,” said Creidler. “If they’re into it, and having a good time, that’s the rush you get as a musician. It’s about making it a great experience for everyone.”
For information, visit www.themangomen.com.