Chase Long Beach, Starpool, Suburban Legends, Reel Big Fish
September 18, 2010
Grove of Anaheim
Third-wave ska, that unapologetically goofy genre, was born and raised in Orange County. Turn on the radio in the mid-1990s, and there was no way to avoid a tune from local acts, such as No Doubt, Sublime, Save Ferris, The Aquabats or Reel Big Fish.
Any mainstream interest in ska died off around the time boy bands and other slick acts of the new millennium started getting popular, so was a treat to witness, last Saturday night, that big ska shows haven't disappeared yet: The fans are still there, and ska is not dead.
The Show: It really was all about the local love; even the lesser-known local ska bands had a warm reception. Of course, the frantic upbeat rhythm and bold brass of third-wave ska kept the crowd moving, no matter which band was bringing it.
Openers Chase Long Beach had no standout songs, but their stage presence was strong and their sound was catchy. Their trombone and trumpet players thrashed while Karen Roberts, their lead vocalist, belted with a Gwen Stefani style tremolo. The following band, Starpool, was even more infectious-although their brass section didn't blast as hard, they quickly won over the audience with rocksteady rhythms and sexy vocals.
Suburban Legends made quite an impression with their bizarre blend of ska-punk and disco-funk. Fast beats and squealing guitars fueled synchronized dance moves and badass poses. It's so dorky that it's cool, especially with the rockstar swagger of lead vocalist Vince Walker.
For many of these bands, a lot of time has passed since their last album, let alone their last hit. The fact that they're still playing, and still met with such enthusiasm by their fans, is endearing. Occasionally, they'll even come up with some new stuff. Or, as Vince said, "You know how sometimes you go into a pizza place, and you end up waiting like, 45, 55 minutes for a pizza, and you're like, goddamn, where the fuck is my pizza? And then, when you finally get it, you just wanna, like, dive into it, 'cause it's so amazing. Well, with this next album, we're giving you a deep dish pizza."
After Suburban Legends' bombastic set, a banner unfurled for Reel Big Fish. Rude boys got ready. Delicious appetizers were set aside, and it was time for the deep dish pizza.
From the opening bars of "Sell Out," my heart skipped a beat-here was the Reel Big Fish I knew (and loved) as a teenager. They're as solid as ever, and their songs from '95 sounded as fresh as those from '05. Even a cover like "Brown-Eyed Girl" was infused with their trademark ebullience. Frontman Aaron Barrett added, "You may have noticed that one's not as good as the other ones we've been playing. That's 'cause we didn't write it."
Aaron Barrett is the core of the band, the charismatic Peter Pan to his band of Lost Boys. With his muttonchops, checkered sunglasses, cargo shorts and bright flowered shirt, he looks the part of the eternal goofball; perhaps belying his genuine chops for songwriting, singing and guitar-playing. Equally talented is his partner-in-crime, trumpeter and vocalist Scott Klopfenstein.
"You guys smell good!" Scott told the kids in the front pit. "You guys smell like lilacs, like a fresh-baked apple pie--" (this was a blatant lie, as it smelled like sweat dripping from underneath porkpie hats and checkered tweed coats) "--you smell like...lesbian porn!" The crowd cheered.
"You see where we're going with this," Aaron said with a grin, and the band started up "She Has a Girlfriend Now," with their friend Katrina Kinzler taking over the female vocals (previously done by Monique Powell of Save Ferris). Never has love scorned by lesbianism sounded so sweet.
The energy in the room was electric. Reel Big Fish played encore after encore. It seemed like they were going to end it with their thrilling cover of A-Ha's "Take On Me," but we demanded more. They came back out, played "Trendy," then tried to leave, but still, we demanded more.
"We've been playing a long time," Aaron reminded us. "You guys aren't bored yet?" He was answered with a roar, and he laughed a little and said, "Well, since you're not bored, you guys should jump around."
With that, they broke into an insane extended edition of "S.R. (Suburban Rhythm)," appended with a punk version, a disco version, a country version, and a metal version of the chorus.
This musical game of "chicken" (seeing who would drop from exhaustion first) ended as the audience, sore from jumping, thrashing and skanking, could only muster waves of head-bobbing to the final encore: "Beer." It was as if both parties signaled to each other: OK, we're finished...for tonight.
Critic's Bias: In my early adolescence, I was a ska kid stranded in the Inland Empire. I wore the checkers, I worshiped the horns-those of brass sections, not those of the Devil-and I only dreamed of one day seeing a ska show. Although I'll admit that I came into this show with a little skepticism, soon I was skanking with the rest of them. I could see my 14-year-old self in the corner, like the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi, giving me a thumbs-up.
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The Crowd: These are my people. Nerdy adults reminiscing about their youth, nerdy teenagers transforming from wallflowers into skanking queens, nerdy punk kids controlling the mass of bodies by crying "circle up!" Like Reel Big Fish suggests, who needs to be trendy? Who needs needs name brands when you can just use a Sharpie to put checkers on everything?
Overheard in the Crowd: After the furious dancing inspired by Starpool's cover of "Shout," one sweaty teenager turned to another and said, "It's tough being a rude boy, huh?" His friend adjusted his suspenders and confirmed: "It is."
Random notebook dump: The appeal of ska can be summed up by the Reel Big Fish lyrics scrawled on a t-shirt in front of me: "I know everything sucks...ya." Yeah, life sucks, especially in high school. But the eager, silly "so what?" attitude of ska can offer solace to any outcast - and you can take your horn from the marching band bleachers to the local band garage.
Another F. U. Song
In the Pit
I Want Your Girlfriend to Be My Girlfriend
Ban the Tube Top
Your Guts (I Hate 'Em)
She Has a Girlfriend Now
You Don't Know
You Need This
Snoop Dogg, Baby
New Version of You
Take On Me
Suburban Rhythm (Ext. Edition)