With Christmas over, the tree firmly packed away and a whole new bunch of tours ready to be unleashed, January rears its ugly head once more and a new year begins. For many people this means it is back to work again, trying to make their bank balance look slightly healthier after the Christmas period. A depressing and mundane time for many people, but for the people crammed into the 02 Academy tonight, they were about to experience a night that would make them smile for quite a while after and provide them with one of those great memories you sometimes use in times of utter boredom. For a Reel Big Fish gig you would expect nothing less, especially as they are without a doubt one of the finest Ska Punk bands around and have maintained that since they began all those 20 years ago.
Before the Californian headliners can grace us with their presence however, we are joined by the first support act of the night: Sonic Boom Six. Hailing from the UK, Manchester to be precise, Sonic Boom Six have gained a good-sized following in the recent years and their opening slot on the Main Stage at Reading/Leeds festival in 2009 is certainly an indication of how well they have done, since forming in 2002.
With their reggae/ska punk style and a natural performer in the form of lead singer Laila Khan, Sonic Boom Six do a good job of warming up the crowd and it’s clear that they are here to enjoy themselves just as much as the beaming faces below them are. Mass sing-alongs there may not be, but it is obvious they do have a fair few fans in the audience tonight and when closing number ‘Piggy In the Middle’ starts up, these “fair few” seem to grow and the amount of people expressing themselves vocally begins to rise too.
When the music stops, Laila and co leave the stage to all around applause, with smiles on their faces, having impressed the majority of the crowd and gaining a few more fans for the band in the process.
Next up are Big D and The Kids Table. Formed in 1995, Big D and The Kids Table have toured with both the acts before and after them this evening, as well as other Ska Punk greats such as Less Than Jake, Rancid and Goldfinger. Tonight, they do seem to have a job on their hands, as some people look to be either perplexed as to who they are or just merely waiting for Reel Big Fish to take the stage. Big D and The Kids Table however manage to win over these portions of the crowd and it doesn’t take them long to do so.
Their brand of Ska Punk is infectious and the audience seem to catch the bug quite quickly. Upbeat and vibrant, Big D and The Kids Table’s music overpowers the waves of uncertainty in the crowd and replaces them with positive vibes that suggest many people will be checking out their music when they return home. The on stage banter between the crowd and band works well too and when lead singer Dave McWane announces that its one of “The Dollies” birthdays today; the crowd treat her to the loudest cheer of the night.
Bouncing around the stage, McWane is a charismatic leader and his enthusiasm for the band and what he is doing is undeniable and as a band Big D and the Kids Table work very well, showing off their extensive back catalogue from albums such as “Strictly Rude”, “How It Goes” and more recently “Fluent In Stroll”. ‘Bender’ comes out on top in highlights of their set and not before long its time for Big D and The Kids Table to say goodbye to the audience and the people who looked pessimistic before no longer have the same expression on their faces. Instead it has been replaced with a look of enjoyment and respect for Big D and The Kids Table, who can leave knowing they have put on an altogether brilliant show.
Finally then its time for the headliners to take to the stage and the moment everyone has been waiting for arrives. Reel Big Fish storm the stage and opener ‘Sell Out’ attacks the waiting crowd and sends everyone in the Academy into what can only be described as skanking frenzy. No one is still, no one is silent and if they are it’s because they have passed out. On stage Reel Big Fish look relaxed and at ease with the amount of admiration that is so evidently pouring out of the fans below them, who sing to every line and dance to every note, throughout the entire show.
‘Trendy’, ‘Everything Sucks’ and ‘Hate You’ are just a few of the opening tracks and they are definitely just a small selection of the many crowd pleaser’s on offer tonight. However, the beauty of Reel Big Fish’s set list is that nearly (if not every) song on the bill, is a crowd pleaser and with such an extensive back catalogue to choose from and some truly fantastic Ska Punk anthems in their arsenal, its hardly surprising that they should have such a great selection of songs to play for us.
Van Morrison cover ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ then sounds all around and as it so often seems to be the case tonight, lead singer Aaron Barrett may as well put down his microphone and let the audience do the rest. Reel Big Fish then invite a guest to come on stage and Miss Laiila Khan from Sonic Boom Six joins the band for a excellent rendition of ‘She Has A Girlfriend Now’ but not before Reel Big Fish decide to tackle Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ to much approval from the vast amount of onlookers who genuinely look like they are having the time of their lives.
On stage Barrett and the rest of Reel Big Fish, break up the set well with some band/audience interaction. It works nicely and there are times during the show where Barrett himself shows his ability to not only be quite funny but also his ability to mock himself and not take himself too seriously. As a band, Reel Big Fish have always been about that: enjoying the music and not engaging in silly disputes about music but simply just enjoying it instead.
This takes nothing away from their performance however because for the many jokes they may make, they do not joke when it comes to performing and although they have been playing most of these songs for 20 to 15 years now, they never get old and Reel Big Fish never get sloppy. ‘I Want Your Girlfriend To be My Girlfriend’, ‘Don’t Start A Band’ and ‘Snoop Dog, Baby’ show just how timeless these Reel Big Fish songs are and though some members of the crowd may have been a little young when several of Reel Big Fish‘s albums were released, it doesn’t stop them from chanting along to each word of every song.
The encore is inevitable and for a short while Reel Big Fish leave the stage. Sure enough five minutes later they bound back on, to thunderous screams and beaming faces, beginning with another brilliant cover, ‘Take On Me’. More reciting, more shouts and even more dancing ensues and when closing number ‘Beer’ begins to sound its lasts notes, everyone in the audience looks sweaty and tired but elated and very pleased that they have had the opportunity to witness such a fine spectacle of a show. With not one disappointed face in the crowd and quite a few hoarse voices cheering them off, Reel Big Fish leave the stage and sadly it seems the time has come to go home.
Amazing, brilliant and an overall unashamedly fun night, Reel Big Fish once again prove why they are the Ska Punk kings and why everyone who loves the genre or just wants a care-free, thoroughly enjoyable night out with some brilliant live music, should go and see Reel Big Fish at least once in their lifetime.
Original article first appeared on Altsounds website on 09/03/10