Monday night saw the renaissance of punk ska when California boys Reel Big Fish invaded the Joy Theater in New Orleans.
Those in the ska/punk know will definitely recognize Reel Big Fish. The band first came into the mainstream during the ska resurgence of the mid-90s. Best known for their hit “Sell Out,” frontman and last original member Aaron Barrett and his fellow fish may have lost mainstream success, but have a rabid cult following of devoted fans. They haven’t been signed to a major label since 2006 but have remained a successful independent band.
The evening saw the New Orleans debut of Dog Party. Hailing from Sacramento, the sister duo consists of Gwendolyn on guitar and Lucy Giles on drums. While each had phenomenal voices, the way they harmonize and blend their unique vocals together made them really special. Gwendolyn’s voice had a little more innocence to it, while Lucy was great at belting out the hard-hitting notes. Lucy commented how since she had just turned 21 and she was in New Orleans, she decided to celebrate with hand grenades, which then turned into an intimate moment with the toilet. If you’ve ever been to New Orleans, you would understand.Next up, was the superheroes of pop-punk, the one and only The Aquabats. Truthfully, it could be said that a good part of the audience was there for MC Bat Commander, Crash McLarson, Jimmy the Robot, Ricky Fitness, and Eagle “Bones” Falconhawk. Their set was so chaotically fun, it’s hard to collect the thoughts into a cohesive description.
Let’s start with the audience interaction. Pool floats and beach balls were thrown into the crowd at various moments and Bat Commander pulled two kids out of the front row to come onstage. He then directed the audience to hold two giant pizza slice floats over their heads. Both children were tossed onto a float and got their first taste of crowd surfing on top of pizza floats. He then brought them onstage to dance with him for the rest of the song. Then there were the impromptu covers that the band broke into, including “Fight for Your Right (to Party)” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” These guys are more than a comedic gimmick; they are really talented musicians. Their songs are so catchy and their musicianship is so good, the schtick never gets old. The most impressive thing about The Aquabats stage show is what Bat Commander can get the audience to do. He got strangers to hug, hold hands and sing the chorus to Diana Ross’ “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).”
The set culminated with the heroes being joined onstage by Matt Appleton and Johnny Christmas of Reel Big Fish to play “Super Rad” and then by all of the children in the audience to dance and sing “Pool Party.” Floats and beach balls were thrown into the air and Bat Commander lifted a small child onto his shoulders and advised the adults in the audience to take care of “these little dudes. They’re the heroes of the future.”While the audience caught their breath, the set was changed to reveal a huge banner with a hula girl and the words Reel Big Fish written in a font that would make anyone thirsty for a fruity beverage served in a tiki glass with an umbrella. The best part of a Reel Big Fish show is that there is no lull. The vibe is always upbeat and light. Even when playing a song like “Your guts (I Hate ‘Em),” it’s hard not to jump around and dance. They played their classics like “Ska Show” and “She Has a Girlfriend Now” along with covers like Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” with a ska twist.
These guys deserve a lot of credit as musicians. They are tight and don’t miss a beat. Even when a shirtless fan jumped onstage, the guys never blinked. After a brief break, the boys came back for an encore that concluded with their ska take on the A-Ha 80s classic “Take On Me.” It was a great way to end what can only be described as a fun-loving, boisterous show.REEL BIG FISH
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