By Daniel Pagan, Rock At Night New York City Correspondent
Venue: The Brooklyn Bowl-February 2, 2016
In an age where most mainstream hits are created with computer software and feature zero real instrumentation, it’s hard to fathom a band featuring a saxophone, a trombone, and a trumpet having a couple of hits on their resume. However, this unicorn exits and it’s called Reel Big Fish. The band, best known for their late 90’s hits “Sell Out” and their cover of A-Ha’s “Take on Me”, made their way to The Brooklyn Bowl on February 2nd and injected a heavy dosage of skanktastic music to the rapturous crowd.
The band opened the show with a medley featuring Europe’s “Final Countdown” and “Everything Sucks.” “Alternative Baby” and “Veronica Sawyer” completed their initial salvo and Aaron Barret, loudly dressed as always, addressed the sold out crowd. The only original band member thanked the crowd for coming out and unleashed his daft sense of humor upon the audience. Some of the more hilariously irreverent quips included taking shots at modern bands for not having bass players (“Look, we have a bass player! Bands don’t have them anymore, they use synths and stuff”), making fun of the atrociously bad opening band (“The Maxies sound good right? Especially now that they are not playing!”), providing solutions for society’s more troubling issues (“I think the problem is people are not taking their Flinstones vitamins anymore”), and responding to compliments from fans (“You are cute too. I can’t see you but I bet it’s true!). The witty on-stage banter made for an enjoyable evening for the near sold-out crowd – even when Johnny Christmas wasn’t blowing his horn or Edward Larsen wasn’t pounding his drums.
The gathering of fans, a mix of young punks and old rudeboys, jumped, skanked around, moshed in circle pits, and either dodged the incoming body surfers or helped the seemingly never-ending stream of inebriated dudes streaking above their heads crash the stage. The set, filled with full-tilt classic Reel Big Fish songs as well as newer favorites sprinkled in, made for a ridiculously busy night for the security stewards -made even more hectic due to the Brooklyn Bowl not having a “press pit” or barrier in front of the stage.
After successfully surviving some pretty intense mosh pits and close encounters with crowd surfers during fan-favorite songs like “In the Pit”, “ Another F.U. Song”, and “Trendy,” I quickly realized that the best course of action to ensure my camera’s well being was to put it away and safely move away from my front row spot. This proved to be a wise move as the whole place went mentally ill when they played “She Has a Girlfriend Now”.
I admit putting my camera away and enjoying the vintage skapunk feel of the scene gave me chills. For a brief moment I felt I was back to being a 16 year old kid wth unkept hair, a Supertones shirt, ripped jeans, worn-out Airwalk sneakers, and a chain wallet dangling about. Back in High School, Reel Big Fish gave my friends and I a sense of validation when they hit it big with “Sell Out”. We had been championing the whole Skapunk genre to nonbelievers and finally we could say “Told ya’ so!” when “Sell Out” became a hit song, a popular MTV video, and even a favorite on the “Samba de Amigo” rhythm video-game. Twenty years later Reel Big Fish means so much more to us old fans as now they are forever a part of the soundtrack of our lives – in one of the coolest periods (High School!) to boot!
At the end of their set, the band proceeded to tease the crowd by introducing “our song from the 90’s that everybody knows” and then playing NIRVANA’S “Smells like Teen Spirit”. Ha! After playing about 1/3 of the song Aaron said, “just kidding! They repeated the same routine playing about 4 different songs from the 90’s (everything from Lit to Third Eye Blind) until they FINALLY did play “Sell Out”. The crowd was in ska heaven for about 4 bodacious minutes and then it was over. As the lights dimmed and the band left the stage the chants of “Reel Big Fish, Reel Big Fish” reverberated throughout the hall. The band emerged from the shadows after a minute or two and the crowd went bonkers again. The boys wasted no time playing their tour-de-force of an encore (“Everyone Else is an Asshole”, “Beer”, and “Take on Me”) and thus closing the show with the proverbial bang.
If you are hesitant to go to a Reel Big Fish concert because you think their music is outdated let me tell you, they never sounded so invigorating. In an era where ultra-macho lyrics and tough guys flaunting their wealth and physiques dominate mainstream radio, RBF’s zany lyrics are quite simply a breath of fresh air. It doesn’t matter if you have all their records and follow the band religiously or if the only songs you’ve heard from them are “Sell Out” and “Take on Me” you don’t want to miss out on seeing these guys live. Their music is so infectious you are guaranteed to lose at least 1,000 calories from all the dancing and jumping around you are going to be doing – even if you don’t know the songs.
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