Reel Big Fish Preview

  • Post Author
    by Web manager
  • Post Date
    Thu Feb 20 2014


“It's not so bad bein' trendy/ Everyone who looks like me is my friend.” – Trendy

Being trendy might not be so bad, but Reel Big Fish (RBF) hasn't been trendy since the late 90's. Of course, singer/bandleader Aaron Barrett wouldn't have it any other way. For over two decades, he and a rotating cast of characters have stuck to the same winning formula: upbeat ska-punk, sardonic lyrics, and shtick (mostly shtick).

At this point in a show preview, an author might give you a rundown of the band's history (album releases, member turnover, media appearances, etc), but to do so for RBF would be to miss the point. Knowing that Everything Sucks was released in 1995, that longtime trumpeter Scott Klopfenstein left the band in 2011, or that I saw the video for “Sell Out” almost 100 times while standing in ride lines at Paramount's Kings Island during the summer of 1996 (“The Summer of Ska”, per Barrett) is unimportant.

What is important is the live experience. RBF, if this humble writer may be so bold, is the Phish of third wave ska. As with Phish, fans of RBF will be the first to tell potential converts that the studio work pales in comparison to the live experience. The live experience for both bands is marked by extensive improvisation; but where Phish explores riffs musically, RBF riffs comedic.

Shtick permeates RBF concerts. Interludes between songs, normally used to tune instruments and make small-talk with the crowd, are instead treated as short stand-up showcases. Crowd work, intra-band insult comedy, and career-spanning running gags are all fair game. At times the jokes spill into the music. The most notable example is their song “S.R.” The original, from 1996's Turn the Radio Off, is an offbeat ode to one of the many defunct SoCal ska bands from the 90's. Live, the song is expanded into a medley, each version played with a different genre (including sweet and tender emo, death metal, and indie rock!) and its own goofy commentary.

In short, live shows are a blast and highly recommended for fans of ska, comedy, or good times. For those who want to get a taste of the band before committing their hard-earned money and Saturday nights to the cause, you are in luck. RBF's essence has been perfectly distilled on their live album, Our Live Album is Better than Your Live Album (which is not an overstatement). It includes all their classic songs and all of their demented comedy.

If my ramblings have piqued your interest and converted you to the cause, you can witness Reel Big Fish in all their goofy glory Saturday March 22nd at the Majestic Theater; doors open at 8PM and the show is at 9PM. Reel Big Fish will be joined by fellow ska acts Suburban Legends and Beebs & Her Money Makers. Be prepared to skank like its 1996.

Here's the aforementioned video to “Sell Out”:

Reel Big Fish will be preforming at the Majestic Madison on February 23, 2014 doors open at 8 p.m. and the show starts at 9 p.m.

-Matt Cortner