Reel Big Fish

support Suburban Legends
author TL date 30/03/13 venue Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

I've been to a few Reel Big Fish shows in my time, and I've enjoyed a fair share of their songs, but to call myself a dedicated fan of theirs would arguably be to make light of the people that are - Which is why I had been non-commital about tonight's show in Lille Vega for a long time. Yet after having been holed up at home with a flue for half a week, I got to Saturday with a pressing need to go out, and so if Reel Big Fish hadn't seemed like a guaranteed good time already, it sure did after four days of stay-at-home sickness. So after some dinner and a beer with a good friend, I do eventually find myself in Vega (sadly without photopass and photographer, the cost of last minute decisions), getting my buzz on and awaiting tonight's support band with curiosity:

Suburban Legends

Warm-up duty tonight has been given to fellow Californian ska-punkers Suburban Legends, and as soon as the last horn of the first song has blown and the sound guy has established singer Vince Walker's presence firmly in the mix, it becomes clearly apparent that these guys not only bring boundless energy to their party-starting set, they also bring a boyband choreography for every situation. Especially trumpeteer Aaron Bertram and trombonist Brian Robertson take on roles as backing dancers when they have no parts to play, swinging their gilded instruments around in sync and joining the full band in occasional sexy slides to the left or right. And yeah, I'm sure plenty of you rock and roll purists out there are sharpening your stakes at the mere explanation of this, but personally I think it makes for an awesome spectacle and adds to the fun-filled atmosphere the band seeks to create, quickly declaring the early bird audience their new 'sexy friends' and keeping the energy at a constant high.

Okay, so the tight routines do inhibit Walker's opportunities for making more spontaneous connections with the crowd, and they clearly take their toll on his breath as well, with notes here and there coming out a bit flat. Yet while such things are indeed to the show's detriment, it's only minorly so, and as people gradually start to fill up the room, more and more of them warm up and join the many opportunities for crowd-participation. Moreover Suburban legends impress me by coating their ska with a variety of different nuances, at one point sounding shamelessly pop, and the next coming out like New Found Glory with horns, only to really get the crowd going with their spirited cover of Disney classic "Under The Sea" (a version I will probably feature on many, many future party playlists). All in all, I think I left the show being as impressed by a ska band as I possibly can be.

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Reel Big Fish

Now, if you sense a hint of skepticism towards ska as a genre on my part, you're not mistaken, and it applies especially to a band like RBF, because when you've been a band like theirs for about 20 years with more changes to your line-up than to your sound, I think somebody needs to question if the automatic quality of their guaranteed good time doesn't make it a little less magical? .. And then the band walks on to the classic Superman theme music, mostly sporting blazers and with main man Aaron Barrett dressed in shiny green and white and wearing ridiculous sun-glasses and a checkered guitar: They launch into their first song - and forgive me, I've already forgotten which it was, but the point here is that the crowd is into it immediately. It's like the dance-party is turned on with the flick of a switch, and it doesn't take long before the venue is ridiculously hot, courtesy of the mass of dancing and skanking bodies.

Reel Big Fish themselves are active enough on stage, even if Barrett's shades make it impossible to see if he's enjoying himself or if he's just going through the motions. But I doubt it matters. You simply get the feeling that the venue could've played the band's songs over the PA and people would've had a great time regardless of what happened on stage. And that's really both the greatness and my gripe with the Reel Big Fish show. Songs like "Everybody's Drunk", "Sell Out", "I Want You Girlfriend To Be My Girlfriend Too" and "Beer" are as irresistably catchy as ever, and for a while, I dance and sing along as happily as the person next to me, enjoying the proven gimmicks of the show and the cheeky cover-bit of Carly Rae Jepsen's infamous "Call Me Maybe". Truthfully though, this is a show that's more for the feet than for the mind, as you should clearly notice if you take a step back from the floor to catch your breath for a while. The content of most of RBF's songs is shamelessly banal and the band makes no attempt to distinguish the delivery of one song from that of the next, having likely contented themselves with their role as a party-band ages ago.

That's probably also why their show works the very best when they employ their little tricks, like playing a song of the encore over and over - these days it's "S.R.", their tribute to the defunct Suburban Rhythm - in different styles, uttering between renditions: "Nevermind that now ladies and gentlemen, because now it's time for this next song WHICH IS THE SAME SONG". For each round, the crowd gets increasingly elated, chanting along and especially blowing up for the square-dance and headbanging versions, and by the end they are of course fully primed to squeeze the last energy out of the night to the always excellent cover of A-ha's "Take On Me". It's a Reel Big Fish show like pretty much every other that they've played the last I don't know how many years then, and while that may sound diminutive - as I do indeed mean it - there's no way I can call a night that has a packed Lille Vega dancing from start to finish a bad time. So long as you're not looking for an experience on a deeper level, Reel Big Fish can still be counted on to deliver one solidly fun time. Simple as that.

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