The Scene: If you are a member of the Generation Y, you probably remember Reel Big Fish. When you mention their name people will laugh lightheartedly, reminiscing on a time past, and often conversations about Pogs and Airwalks and other things long-expired will ensue, as if these relics of our past were items that had been buried in the closet and forgotten for two decades to now be rediscovered. Though there might not be much of a buzz circulating about Reel Big Fish in Denver anymore, it is somewhat startling to realize the large fan base they’ve retained here over the years; there are a whole lot of people who share in this nostalgia, and they all came out to the Gothic Theatre on Friday in salute to the band’s “Don’t Stop Skanking” tour. Many were shocked to discover the tickets sold out well before the doors opened that evening. Upon approach to the venue, no one would believe that beyond the quiet and sparsely filled smoker’s area lied a mass of fans–all ready to take a trip down memory lane. The crowd was distinctly 30-ish, and fairly conservative for a Ska show, but in great spirits nonetheless.
Opener: The Maxies. The venue was sparsely filled when The Maxies, the first of four opening acts, took the stage. The Power Pop Punk Rock transplanted band from Greenland, now hailing from SoCal, got the evening off to pleasant start.
Opener: Mighty Mongo. By the time Mighty Mongo took the stage, the venue was starting to seem less empty, with a buzz of chatter rising from the attendees. Lindsay Vitola, the female lead-singer of the Punk/Rock/Ska band out of Florida, ignited excitement with her impressive pipes–and foreshadowed certain duet opportunities later in the show. Fans were pleased with the performance, and by the time their bit was finished the venue was comfortably full–still a little room to move, but not for long.
Opener: Suburban Legends. Third-Wave Ska band Suburban Legends popped the evening’s energy level up a notch with their whimsical brand of the Ska genre. The Huntington Beach, CA band has been playing since 1998 and seems to have found their niche in covering Disney songs–the crowd ate up their swinging versions of The Lion King‘s “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” and The Little Mermaid‘s “A Whole New World.” They fitting for Ska lovers, who seem to have an obsession for whimsy and novelty, following bands that play songs about Johnny Quest and lobsters in buckets and wear bizarrely amusing costumes–there is always an air of silly at a Ska show, and these guys clearly know how to tap into that.
Reel Big Fish: At 10:10 the headlining act came onstage to be greeted by a packed house shuttering with anticipation for the show. Ironically attendees of this installment of the Don’t Stop Skanking tour didn’t have much opportunity to start skanking–the Gothic was so full there was no room for throwing elbows and kicking up your legs in the regular rude-boy fashion, but the 30-something crowd didn’t seem to mind. The band, also out of Huttington Beach, has been around since 1991 and has seen a lot of changes over the years–to make a long story short, the only remaining original member is front man Aaron Barrett. Sarcastic comments were made on the subject, references to “The Big Fish,” sans the “Reel,” but in fairness, the new recruits to the crew are talented, polished, have great stage presence and delivered a hell of a show.
They kicked off their set with “Everything Sucks,” a certain crowd pleaser from Turn the Radio Off, the album that put Reel Big Fish on the map. The night continued with more fan favorites from this album we all owned in middle school, including “Sell Out” (their most famous song) and the ever-catchy “Trendy.” They threw down a few others from other albums as well–“Sayanora Seniorita” was well received, and everyone held their middle finger high for “Another F.U. Song.” Of course, they played a few off their newest album Candy Coated Fury, released in 2012–the songs are decent, but seem to have a generally slower tempo and a more mainstream feel than their older material. They also covered Sublime, which somehow seemed cliché; even though we all loved it at some point, I think it’s safe to say the majority of us are now over it.
Highlights of the evening? At one point they served up a “Beer”>”Self-Esteem”>”Beer” sandwich–the mash-up of the beats seemed to sneak up on the crowd, the hilarious lyrics and exciting beat of “Beer” always inspires a certain level rowdiness, but the surprise cover from The Offspring in the middle was a great throw-back for the crowd at hand. The menu also offered a duet of the ever-amusing tune “She Has a Girlfriend Now” with the previously predicted assistance of Lindsay Vitola. The encore du jour featured a cover of “Take On Me” by A-Ha–an old-school tradition of Reel Big Fish shows past–which appended a nice exclamation point on the evening. All in all the performance was great–only complaint: there wasn’t enough of it. In all, Reel Big Fish played for a total of one hour and 15 minutes, and while the supporting acts also delivered note-worthy performances, the short headlining set was a bit of a disappointment. C’est la vie. A short trip down memory lane is better than no trip at all.
Stage Presence: B+
Set/Light Show: C