25 years is a long time. And it's an especially long time to be in a band.
But, it's also an anniversary — and landmark — worth celebrating. To mark the decade-plus time together, Reel Big Fish brought its 25th anniversary tour to The Fillmore Monday night to commemorate the band's many years together “doing the fish.”
The So-Cal sassy, ska legends have always been about fun times and catchy tunes, and, as a result, have attracted quite an eclectic crowd. SF Weekly sent this journalist to cover the show and report back with field notes from the evening.
[jump] So, without further ado, here are nine things you're likely to run into whenever Reel Big Fish takes the stage.
Not many bands can open with a song called “Everything Sucks” and not immediately damper the evening. Somehow Reel Big Fish pulls it off, and the band kept things light, airy, and fun throughout the entire evening.
Songs like “Ban the Tube Top,” “Thank You For Not Moshing,” “Don't Start a Band,” (about the realities of being a musician, with lyrics like “you won't get paid/you won't get laid”) and romantic commentary tracks like “I Want Your Girlfriend To Be My Girlfriend Too” and “She Has a Girlfriend Now,” all displayed the band's unique blend of horns and humor.
Like I said, Reel Big Fish keeps it light. At times corny, sure, but always firmly tongue-in-cheek.
2. Crowd surfing during a saxophone solo
It's not often that I get to type that. Well, sure enough, during a sax solo early on in RBF's set, one fan singly-handedly made this an item on the list by doing just that. He was far from the only crowd surfer that night, but it's just a bit more memorable when it's during a sax solo. Jazz band conductors everywhere would be proud.
Well, at least the brass kind. Between all of the bands on the bill, there was actually not one, but two trombones on stage last night. That makes two more than a normal night out, I would wager.
4. Hawaiian tees
Frontman Aaron Barrett always seems to be sporting one. Tonight's Hawaiian shirt of the day was a skull -based ensemble, decorated nicely with flowers and vines. Not to mention the crowd was speckled with fans wearing their own Aloha shirts.
It's fair to call a person who skanks a skank, right? Before you get the mob, let me explain: Ska has long had its own, somewhat unique form of dancing, known as skanking. In The Fillmore's dimly lit crowd, it was hard to make out exactly who was skanking and who was just moshing or dancing, but even way in the back of the audience there were people having their own private little dance parties. Skank on ska fans, skank on.
6. Side burns
Again, courtesy of Barrett. Though they might be more appropriately called mutton chops as this point, Barrett always seems to be sporting some type of facial hair. They aren't quite as iconic as a certain character's star-shaped sideburns on Community, but nonetheless Barrett still wears them proudly after all these years. And they even have their own Facebook group and meme, which is way more than your sideburns can say.
7. '90s Nostalgia
It may seem hard to believe, but there was a time when TV channels played music. It's true! I was there! And Reel Big Fish had their share of MTV success too, back in the day. But, before going into their 1997 hit single “Sell Out,” Reel Big Fish instead played through a medley of other famous '90s songs that they very much did not write, although they jokingly claimed to. This included Lit's “My Own Worst Enemy,” The Proclaimers' “I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles),” and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones' “The Impression That I Get.”
Oh, and I mean, sure, The Proclaimers' track was technically 1988, but I won't hold it against them. And speaking of covers…
Covers are often a ska staple with many a ska band taking an original tune and sprucing it up with some horns. Reel Big Fish is no stranger to this: The band took the stage to Europe's “The Final Countdown,” dabbled with Journey's “Don't Stop Believing” (the band said they couldn't decide if they should do the song reggae all the way through, but instead did the classic punk rock ending). And they even pulled out a cover of Van Morrison's “Brown Eyed Girl.”
The covers weren't limited just to RBF. Main support Suburban Legends did ska covers of Neil Diamond's “Sweet Carolina,” Queen's “We Are the Champions,” and “Thank You for Being a Friend” from The Golden Girls.
Suburban Legends was also on a huge Disney kick, and their set included covers of Toy Story's “You've Got a Friend In Me,” and several tracks from The Little Mermaid, including “Under the Sea.” It's not every day you see people crowd surfing to Ariel, that's for sure.
9. Actual large aquatic creatures
This last one also goes to Suburban Legends. When there's actual aquatic wildlife at a Reel Big Fish concert, it needs to be mentioned. And Suburban Legends brought a whale.
Sure, it was inflatable. But Patrick, as the band named it, was a inflatable whale that sat on the stage during most of their set, before they introduced him (with a few horn sounds to give him a voice, of course).
And that's not all. Patrick went crowd surfing during” Under the Sea,” which means technically there was a real big fish at the Reel Big Fish show. It just happened to be a fake whale named Patrick. Close enough.
-I counted at least nine flannel shirts in the crowd near me. I'm not sure if that's a new ska stereotype or not, but it seemed an excessive amount of plaid within my vicinity.
-I can't believe I totally forgot that a Reel Big Fish song was in the 1998 movie BASEketball.
-I'm still torn on the first opener, The Maxies. The band pushes the envelope into complete “WTF” territory. Topics covered included seal bukkake and actually clubbing baby seals, while seemingly actively working to piss off the crowd.