Reel Big Fish
City National Grove of Anaheim
Playing in a ska band doesn't pay the bills, nor does it guarantee a quick ticket to stardom (at least, not since the '90s). But if there's one thing that Orange County's ska troupe Reel Big Fish proved last night, it's that playing ska sure as hell guarantees a devoted fan base.
Reel Big Fish and Florida's Less Than Jake performed to a fairly packed venue at the Grove of Anaheim last night with fans that ranged from punk rockers, to the average ska fan and even a group of bros who were taking endless group selfies and instigating mosh pits during the most inappropriate songs.
Either way, for two bands that rely heavily on the same jokes, silly antics and perform the standard setlist each tour, last night wasn't too shabby of a turn out for the bands or the fans.
Less Than Jake opened for the Big Fish and almost immediately utilized their comedic banter, colorful confetti and shtick of calling up dudes with long hair to head bang onstage. A roadie would occasionally run onstage, sporting a caricature head mask akin to vocalist/guitarist Chris DeMakes to shoot toilet paper rolls into the crowd. A couple songs into the band's set, and clouds of marijuana could be seen amongst the musky temperature of the venue– a common thing at Less Than Jake shows.
As the band played more of their softer paced songs, the crowd's energy quickly began to fluctuate, slowing to steady headbobs instead of moshing. This instantly prompted bassist Roger Lima to shout, "This isn't a fucking NSYNC video, it's a live show!"
It didn't take long after that for fans to rev up their energy, especially as the band whizzed through fan favorites like "All My Best Friends Are Metalheads," "Plastic Cup Politics" and "The Brightest Bulb Has Burned Out."
Although many fans trickled out as Reel Big Fish's equipment was being set up, plenty remained loyal to the entire show. For a band like Reel Big Fish who seem to always be on the road, the majority of locals seemed amped to see the group headline.
Frontman Aaron Barrett rocked his neon pink jacket, decked in patches and buttons all while playing his checkered guitar. His energy was on a high all night as he danced from one side of the stage to another, making silly faces and exaggerating his footsteps. Although his energy never wavered, Barrett seemed to lack someone else to bounce jokes off of like their former trombonist Dan Regan. Without Regan, it was mainly Barrett who would joke with the audience.
Aside from the band's typical setlist rundown of "Sell Out," "Beer," "S.R.," "She Has A Girlfriend Now," etc. new songs were incorporated into their setlist like Sublime's "Garden Grove," which instantly set off the crowd into a huge sing along. It was probably the loudest response Reel Big Fish received from the audience overall. Even the bros where singing along, even if they were a few stanzas behind than everyone else.
And just when fans thought the band's antics couldn't get any weirder, Reel Big Fish used Marilyn Manson's "The Beautiful People" as a segue into other tracks and in-between banter. Some fans weren't sure exactly what was happening, and others were dumbfounded to hear a ska version of the eerie track.
As someone who has seen Reel Big Fish a countless number of times without intending to do so, the feeling of being surprised by the band was refreshing, especially when it's a band that typically rehashes the same material over and over on tour.
Reel Big Fish closed out their set with "Beer" and the A-ha's "Take On Me" alongside Regan. Longtime fans cheered at Regan's return and even garnered "I love yous" from fans.
While Reel Big Fish may be one of the longest running ska bands around, DeMakes pointed out a significant trait of the OC ska scene: the fans loyalty to music is unwavering. So, even if Reel Big Fish's tours are predictable down to the T, chances are the same group of kids will be found skanking in the pit because ska fans aren't the type to dismiss a band even if said band is far from trendy on the airwaves.