When booking a ska-punk gig, it would be impossible to beat the combination of Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake. However kicking off the gig was Ryland Steen [4/10], better known for being the drummer of Reel Big Fish, with his acoustic guitar. His slow, emotional songs seemed slightly out of place on a bill with the lighthearted nature of the other bands of the night.
Next up was Zebrahead [6/10] bringing their unique style of pop punk with rapping really went down a mixed bag – especially since some of the audience was still queuing outside in the freezing rain. With a set that included a lot of songs off their new album Call Your Friends, they didn’t go down too well, particularly when they missed out huge songs such as ‘Playmate of the Year’ and ‘Juggernauts’. However their big hit ‘Anthem’ went down fantastically and with the addition of some German dancers dressed in Lederhosen, this really warmed the crowd up, just in time for the next band. Bonus points for the guitarist’s awesome moustache too.
Less Than Jake [8/10] came on stage to Baba O’Riley and thunderous applause – they always put on an energetic live show and it has come to be expected. For some reason, they had swapped their headline slot with Reel Big Fish, leaving the audience a little bemused, although it still turned out well for all involved. Unlike Zebrahead, they proceeded to please the crowd with a good smattering of their greatest hits, including ‘All my Best Friends are Metalheads’, ‘The Rest of My Life’ and ‘History of a Boring Town’ – the joyful mosh pit seemed to swallow the majority of the crowd during these performances. During the middle of their set, the band also invited several audience members onstage and held an impromptu dance contest. However they didn’t completely pander to the fans, still keeping it musically interesting by playing a wide variety of songs from their back catalogue of nine studio albums, as well as a couple from last year’s brilliant ‘See the Light’.
Next up were Reel Big Fish [9/10] – all members bounding triumphantly onto the stage dressed in an assortment of clothes which were either props from Dale Winton’s Supermarket Sweep or picked randomly from charity shop bins. But honest to God, the combination of oversized sunglasses, flying goggles, Hawaiian shirts and lead singer Aaron Barrett’s enormous mutton chops kind of worked. Reel Big Fish are one of the most entertaining bands in the world, and have the highly underappreciated talent of being so listenable that the crowd doesn’t need to know all their music to have a good time. With a bouncy brass section and the classic ska upstroke on guitars, they got the whole audience jumping, skanking, and even square-dancing to most of their songs. They really are masters of all musical styles, as evidenced by their live performance of the song ‘Suburban Rhythm’ played in multiple genres, which is definitely worth a listen:
During the set they played their ever popular songs ‘Sell Out’ and ‘Beer’ as well as their famous cover versions of ‘Monkey Man’ and an amazing version of Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Call Me Maybe’ – definitely much better than the original! After over an hour’s worth of music, Reel Big Fish finally came back for an encore to close with the frenetic cover of a-Ha’s ‘Take on Me’ which sent the already sweaty audience into a skanking frenzy. One of the best gigs I’ve been to in a while. Or at least the most entertaining.
Words by Anna Lim and Sam Taylor, Photos by Jimmie Daly