PHOTOS AND REVIEW BY: ALLEEN HUGHES
A 20th Album Anniversary PARTY is how I can best describe what it was like for Reel Big Fish playing at the new House of Blues in Anaheim, CA on March 31st. Although technically it’s been “21 years” since the release of “Turn The Radio Off,” this night was the celebration of RBF’s second full length that features songs that made people learn their name known on the radio in 1996 and 1997. Bringing in fans of all ages including parents with their children and accompanied by lots of checkered pattern, it was a night for reminiscing with old friends. The band’s reputation of having a fun hearted stage presence with their catchy tunes is what keeps their fan base returning regardless of how many years have passed by.
Opening up the night was a fellow Orange County band called Starpool, which is composed of past original members of Save Ferris and No Doubt. They set the environment with their mix of funk and reggae into their upbeat ska and rock base sound. Following next was Mad Caddies getting everyone ready with their punk/rock/ska twist to the night. With a big fan base as well, Mad Caddies got full support from the crowd and brought strangers standing side by side to dance and have fun together.
Introduced by one of the local radio station hosts, Jimmy Alvarez of KX 93.5 fm, the crowd was getting more excited, loud, and of course it being a RBF concert, the crowd was now more “boozed up.” Once Reel Big Fish took the stage, it was an instant party for everyone. With expectations of ‘Sell Out’ being their first song into their set, everyone was taken by surprise and thrilled over the guys opening up with ‘I Want Your Girlfriend To Be My Girlfriend Too.’ And to add more excitement to the crowd, middle fingers went straight into the air per the request of the band while they played their fast tempo, punk style track ‘Another F.U. Song.’
After one more song (‘Guts’) not featured on “Turn The Radio Off,” the band gave the crowd what they came for and started into the album play through in order beginning with, you guessed it, ‘Sell Out.’ And what a start it was. There wasn’t one unhappy face in that crowd. Quickly flowing into the next song, the band played some of these songs better than when I first heard them live years ago. With a guy dressed in a shark suit dancing in the pit and kids on their parents shoulders, the band kept the energy flowing all night especially with the pure goofy nature that trumpeter Little Johnny Christmas brings to the group.
I’m not sure if it was intentional or not but the band skipped over their classic song ‘Beer.’ But have no worries, fans were not shorted in any way, Barrett mentioned it towards the end and asked “Did anybody notice we forgot the most important song of the night?” With that ‘Beer’ was played while everyone danced with their drinks in the air as tribute to the band. The guys then thanked everyone, said goodnight and made their exit off the stage. Some looked around confused wondering why the remaining 2 songs on the album were not played. But that is what “encores” are for.
It comes as no surprise to me that Reel Big Fish still has a strong fan base this many years later. Although ska isn’t as big as it use to be, there are still those fans that keep this music going and its that appreciation is what keeps bands such as these to keep playing. With adding sax player, Matt Appleton (ex- Goldfinger) back in 2011, their sound has only grown despite all the member change ups that are too many to list. But member rotation isn’t causing any damage to Reel Big Fish, instead it only made them sound more clear, on tempo and entertaining than ever before.