I didn’t actually go to anything North by Northeast-related last night. Oh, I really wanted to – I love the Wu-Tang Clan, and seeing Raekwon and Ghostface Killah together was something that deeply appealed to me. But I just couldn’t reject the pull of my favourite ska band, and I went to go see Reel Big Fish with Goldfinger and Big D and the Kids Table with a few friends instead.
It was kind of a bad day for me to go to a show, really – Father’s Day dinner will have a way of intruding on your nighttime plans. We ended up missing the opener, Suburban Legends, as well as first headliner Big D and the Kids Table. I didn’t care about the missing the first band, but I would have liked to see Big D – though they can be a tad obnoxious in the long haul, they have some great songs. The surfy beach music of 2007’s Fluent in Stroll was a unique departure development from their earlier ska material, and I was always a little bit bummed out that I had to miss them last time they came around. I didn’t really mind this time though – they released a new album this year that I didn’t even know about until a few weeks ago, and apparently it’s a return to ska music and not particularly good. I mean, I obviously love ska or else I wouldn’t be going to the show, but Fluent in Stroll was such a nice evolution of their sound that to hear them go back to resting on their laurels is a bit disheartening.
The event on Ticketmaster made the point of saying that it was a Reel Big Fish show, which implied to me that they’d be going on last. This was apparently ill-informed, because by the time we got there at 9, they were already on. Luckily, we’d only missed the first ten to fifteen minutes, so we picked up our tickets and quickly ran into the mass of people near the front of the stage – the section where everyone was actually dancing. The band played awesomely – they’re one of those bands that have never stopped touring, and even through constant lineup changes have maintained a consistent level of quality. I mean, their newest albums haven’t been particularly great – 2007’s Monkeys For Nothing and Chimps for Free was a hilariously entertaining nostalgia trip but little else, and 2009’s Fame, Fortune and Fornication was a lame 80s cover album. But they’re still a hell of a band live – ska shows are consistently the ones I have the most outright fun at, and Reel Big Fish are probably the best third-wave ska band around. Their songs are as catchy as ever and they’re probably the funniest band I’ve ever seen short of Tenacious D. Great audience too – no one moshes to relaxed songs like often happens at these kinds of shows and pretty much everyone is just plain happy to be there. Ska music is very community-driven which tends to lead to some generally good crowds. Anyways, it’s totally understandable to not be into ska music, but I feel like anyone should be able to go to an RBF show and have a really good time. Unless you hate dancing, good musicianship, or anything remotely upbeat.
Goldfinger ended up being the last band, and we stuck around for their set. They always seemed like a second-tier band both when they were a ska band and when they evolved into a more basic pop-punk quartet. But we all have a nostalgic connection to the songs that were in the Tony Hawk games and I’ve always liked their cover of “99 Red Balloons” so we agreed that we wanted to see them for those three songs at least. They were pretty good, though I still don’t think they’re incredible. Unlike Reel Big Fish, they actually seem as old as they are, and their banter and stage antics seemed pre-planned. But they were energetic, did a good job pumping up the crowd, and brought Dave Baksh – the member of Sum 41 that made that band cool for a while – onstage for the last couple songs, which was a neat trick. I liked them for the three songs I stayed for at least, and it seemed like everyone else in the crowd was enjoying, so they must have been doing well.
It was a great night overall – if you want a good time, I’d recommend you drink a bunch and go to a ska show. You will not be disappointed.