Reel Big Fish w/ The JB Conspiracy and Orange
The night was supported by seven-piece ska band The JB Conpiracy (who have been compared to Ed Sheeran and Rizzle Kicks no less) and began energetically with renditions of their tracks Pipe Down, Drop Your Anchor and others in a short but sweet eight-song set.
Californian pop-punk quartet Orange were up next – these guys have been touring relatively unnoticed after being signed by Rancid’s Tim Armstrong. Kicking off with the catchy Elektron Gun – they worked the crowd well, but felt a bit out of place after touring with the likes of Zebrahead and Misfits.
As for the main act; rarely have I seen musicians more dedicated to their sound than the Hawaiian-shirt-wearing, sunglasses modelling, ska-rockers of Reel Big Fish. Despite being dropped by their label in 2006 they still play a huge 250 shows a year worldwide – these guys love what they do; it comes across in their stage presence and the venues they continue to fill.
Tonight was the third time I have seen frontman Aaron Barrett and his band members on stage at their annual beginning-of-the-year gig at Rock City, and the crowd danced and skanked along immediately to first song, and fan-favourite, Everything Sucks (from their debut 1995 album of the same name).
Next up was a crisp, clear and concise rendition of Don’t Start a Band. Reel Big Fish celebrate their twentieth birthday this year and while some think they are pushing it – their slightly embarrassing dad dancing, beards and wrinkles might justify that – but they seem to live by the lyrics of their third song of the night Good Thing, as Aaron sings: “we have a good thing going on and I don’t want to see it end.”
A crowd of all generations – seriously I saw an elderly gent with a walking stick in the back – sang along together to Your Guts (I Hate ‘Em), Join The Club and Trendy before the Fish played their cover of the Toots and The Maytal’s classic Monkey Man. The best thing about tonight’s act is that they don’t take themselves too seriously and while they may look like they’re stuck in a time warp – if it ain’t broke why fix it?
Bisexuality is touched upon in the comedic She Has A Girlfriend Now but world issues are discussed at these concert, it is feel-good music at best. Over the night, most of the 1998 album Why Do The Rock So Hard? was played including The Set Up (You Need This). Reel Big Fish love giving classic songs a ska-punk makeover – releasing an entire album of covers in 2009 called Fame, Fortune and Fornication – and tonight was no exception, they crooned and blew out their own covers of Van Morrion’s Brown Eyed Girl and A-ha’s Take On Me.
Saturday night gigs at Rock City have an early curfew of 10pm so while most of the crowd were still sober, drinks were thrown around as they ended the set with Beer. Back for an encore of their comedy skit Suburban Rhythm; Reel Big Fish played fast, disco, country and death metal versions ofthe same song – before launching into Another F. U. Song, Sell Out (the first song that got them noticed) and Take On Me – they do it much better than A1 (in case you were wondering).
Undeniably the headliner’s show was very similar to what I have seen in the past three years; probably due to the lack of new material Reel Big Fish have been able to fit in around their annual 250+ shows. They may come a time when they will have to come up with something new, but while they’re still pulling in the crowds, the fish will carry on touring and kicking brass.