Ska-punk stalwarts Reel Big Fish conquered The Pageant July 12. They played “Sell Out,” “Beer” and their version of A-Ha’s “Take On Me” while telling corny jokes and encouraging circle pits. Blah, blah, blah.
None of this is news. I started putting together a review, but then I realized that I really had nothing left to talk about that I haven’t covered elsewhere in previous years. Great show, great songs, great schtick. Every freaking time.
So why did I feel a little unfulfilled when I left the show?
Is it because Reel Big Fish is resting on their short-lived third-wave ska laurels from the 1990s? No, they’ve churned out plenty of quality material since then, both on and off major labels. New songs from the upcoming release, Candy Coated Fury, went over well at the show. And 2007’s Monkeys for Nothin’ and the Chimps for Free contains a variety of ska rhythms, while 2009’s Fame, Fortune and Fornication is full of quirky covers. Nope, you certainly can’t say they’ve lost passion.
Is it because Reel Big Fish’s stage show needs some oomph? Not at all. While the band’s shows are feeling a little tired to some of us veterans who have seen the same song selections and dance moves multiple times (Helllllooooooo, “Suburban Rhythm!”), RBF still is insanely entertaining to multiple generations of fans. Seeing Reel Big Fish is like watching your favorite wacky TV variety show in person.
Is it because I just saw Reel Big Fish in April for Webster University’s “Springfest?” Possibly, but I’ve seen multiple shows within a short span of time from RBF and other bands without burning out. Why should I start now?
Is it because I’m getting old and jaded? Maybe. I’ve racked up quite a number of concerts in my 35 years, including about 15 for Reel Big Fish, so perhaps general concert fatigue finally is setting in. Or maybe I’m just tired of being on a floor with increasingly savage teenagers who don’t know proper pit courtesy. Get off my lawn, guys.
But honestly, I think I’ve just reached the point where I have to downgrade my expectations for Reel Big Fish shows from “OMGAMAZEBALLZZZZZ!” to “Yay! I heart RBF!.” During each show, I know that Aaron will play the guitar behind his head, Dan will pretend to sing “Enter Sandman” and Little Johnny Christmas will pantomime lyrics better than than anything Johnny Depp did in Benny & Joon. In other words, I probably shouldn’t expect any real surprises.
And maybe that’s ok. Like that rascal Albert Pujols did back in his St. Louis days, Reel Big Fish delivers high quality consistently. They’re one of the most captivating and charming bands out there, and they’ve set such a high expectation bar that even standout shows now feel like old hat. Concertgoers just take for granted that the show will be outstanding, you know? But bands and athletes both revert to human levels eventually, and I think that RBF has finally hit theirs. I just have to remember that batting .299 instead of .335 is pretty damn good, too.
Greenland’s The Maxies opened the four-band show. Clad in red and white, the group sported silver sunglasses while lead vocalist “Maximum Maxie” donned a freaky white mask. The Maxies were all about power pop punk, super short tunes and unintelligible lyrics. Maximum Maxie also loved saying that word that rhymes with “duck.” A lot. Like, a lot-lot. Also, there was a dude in a polar bear costume. *shrug*
California pop-ska-disco-rock group Suburban Legends (Seriously, they defy categorization) were up next, opening with one of this reviewer’s favorite songs, “Bright Spring Morning.” The audience enjoyed the Suburban Legends’ set, which included covers of “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” from “The Lion King” and the “Bed Intruder Song.” Coordinating both clothing and dance moves, the band never fails to serve up a full stage show. “Gateway to the West? Gateway to my heart,” vocalist Vince Walker said of St. Louis.
Boston-based Big D and the Kids Table took the evening’s third spot and was a hit with the crowd. Vocalist Dave McWane led the ska-punk group through a variety of intense rhythms and pseudo-raps while wearing a floppy hoodie and a shirt featuring his own band that he claimed he found in an area thrift store that day. “You don’t throw this girl away, St. Louis!” he admonished the crowd.