Reel Big Fish: The Wiltern, Los Angeles, CA 8.2.07
Much like punk (real, original, good punk. Not the pop variety that has gained popularity in the last decade), ska has fallen to the background of the musical crowd. There are few bands that have stuck around still making great ska. Reel Big Fish are definitely one of the front runners of that group. Known to most for their breakout 1997 hit “Sell Out” and great ska covers such as “Take On Me” and “Hungry Like A Wolf”, Reel Big Fish packed The Wiltern for what would be a huge party.
Warmed up by openers Against All Authority, Streetlight Manifesto, and co-headliners Less Than Jake (who put on amazing set with a Price is Right theme, music, games, et all), the crowd was more than ready for Reel Big Fish who burst on to stage with their breakout hit “Sell Out” to kick off the set.
Let me take this quick moment to say that The Wiltern is one of my favorite venues. The floor area is on a down slope with 3 or 4 tiers separated by barriers, making practically any area on the floor a great, unblocked view. From the first note they played, each tier of the floor had a circle pit going wild. Not a mosh pit with ridiculous “hardcore dancers” with their ridiculous kicks, wheelbarrows, and windmills. But people crazily running around, jumping, dancing, and having a good time, occasionally losing a shoe here and there. The crowd was a unique mix of true ska fans, punks, emo scenesters, indie hipsters, and regular ol’ music lovers, making it interesting to see the variety of fans Reel Big Fish has attracted.
It was a high energy set all night long as fans jumped and danced all night to tunes like “Ban the Tube Top”, “F*** Off”, and “Live Your Dream”. Lead singer Aaron Barrett looking snazzy in a white suit covered in patches and zippers commanded the crowd, leading the songs that the crowd sang along with word for word. A big part of Reel Big Fish is their horn section comprised of Dan Regan and John Christianson. The heart of any ska band, their horns brought the life to every song, hooking in the crowd to tunes like “She Has a Girlfriend Now” “The Set Up”, and their energetic dancing pumped even more energy into the act. The ultra versatile Scott Klopfenstein doing duties on guitar, backup vocals, and trumpet did a great job interacting with the audience in between songs, including an amusing introduction to “She Has a Girlfriend Now” with matching sign language.
The front line of Reel Big Fish definitely make the show. Sadly, drummer Ryland Steen and new bassist Derek Gibbs kind of fell into the background at times, which is an issue other bands tend to have. Not to take away from their talent, as Steen’s drum lines were strong and fast and Gibbs, who I understand recently joined the band, fit in perfectly. It was just a shame we didn’t get to see more of their personalities.
Reel Big Fish gave the crowd a treat at one point, letting them choose the next song. Without hesitation, almost everyone in The Wiltern in unison called for “Beer”. The band teased the crowd saying the song was old and too easy for them and they were better than that now. Of course they gave in and played the hit off 1995’s Everything Sucks.
One of the highlights of the show was Reel Big Fish’s performance of the tune “S.R.”. After the initial performance, Reel Big Fish wanted to show us that they are masters (“MASTERS! MASTERS!” as the rest of the band would chant along after every mention of the word) of many musical genres. They performed the song again in the styles of punk, old school hip-hop, country, death metal, and blues. The crowd was into it every step of the way, proving that they are definitely masters (“MASTERS! MASTERS!”) of many musical styles.
The band did not leave us without their other trademark, their knack for doing awesome covers. Before going into “The Set Up”, they gave us a verse and chorus of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and even a rendition of the Imperial March from Star Wars before segueing into “Where Have You Been?” The band even played their latest cover of Phil Collins’ “Another Day in Paradise” from their new album Monkeys for Nothing and The Chimps For Free. Of course they capped off their set with the cover that started it all, “Take On Me” which got the place moving even louder and harder than I thought it could get. To no one’s surprise, the crowd demanded for an encore, which brought the band out to play “Trendy”, one of their other early hits.
Overall, it was one of the most energetic shows I’ve been to. Reel Big Fish’s energy seems limitless. They picked a great set of songs that not only gave treats to fans of all of their 6 LPs, but a great sample of covers, and tunes from their new album (“Another F.U. Song”, “Another Day in Paradise” and the lead single “Party Down”), which gave a little something for everybody to enjoy. The energy the band brings to the stage really radiates into the crowd and vice versa, really. Whether you’re a fan of all their songs, or only know them for “Sell Out” and “Take On Me”, Reel Big Fish will get you moving, jumping, dancing to every song guaranteed.
As “the scene” dies more and more every day it moves deeper into the mainstream, music fans are looking for something else to turn to that isn’t getting watered down. If ska is getting ready for another great boom, it’s a good thing veterans like Reel Big Fish are still leading the way and have preserved the music for what it is.
Another F.U. Song
Ban the Tube Top
Another Day in Paradise
She Has a Girlfriend Now
Live Your Dream
Enter Sandman/The Set Up (You Need This)
Imperial March/Where Have You Been?
Take On Me