Reel Big Fish at The LCR - 13/11/2018
Pop Ska-Punk from across the pond - sold out but not selling out. In the packed LCR I am stood, surrounded by punks, plenty of mohawks, and plenty of people about to get very very sweaty. I am reminded of my hometown club night Discord at Moles in Bath and instantly feel at home - they might look intimidating but I know that these people, who I will share the next four and half hours with are there for the same reason as me - united through music, hooray!
The warm up band is The Suburban Legends - their covers of ‘Just Can’t Wait to be King’ from the The Lion King and ‘You’ve Got a Friend In Me’ from Toy Story get everyone going with their infectious stage presence and promises that this is the “best tour in the world” - who doesn’t like a bit of American enthusiasm to get you going!
After a sound check, the next band, Zebrahead arrive on stage and the LCR explodes into mosh pits and crowd-surfing. Their Avenged Sevenfold - esque, rap-metal sound is fantastic - I cannot help myself but start to pick up the lyrics and shout them along, and at, the rest of the audience - particularly to ‘Hell Yeah’ which as the title suggests, consists of those two words a lot. They end their high energy set with ‘Anthem’ - I have never seen a pit of people bigger - it feels like the whole floor of the LCR has become a sea of mosh - I get pulled in almost by centrifugal force - thank god I left my phone at home - it would have been obliterated!
During a much needed intermission between bands, I realise that this evening is turning out to be a musical marathon - there are four bands and we are only half way through. I am also wondering how Less Than Jake, or Reel Big Fish for that matter, are going to answer up to the likes of the last leg of the concert - surely things can only go up from here right…my stamina is certainly being put to the test.
The stage is re-set, Less Than Jake’s Banner is raised and the show continues apace…
Chris DeMakes, the band’s frontman, sarcastic, edgy sense of humour keeps the febrile atmosphere in the room going. However, the member of the band that gets my attention is the bass player, Roger Lima, who looks like he could be the older brother of Daron Malakian from System of A Down. Less than Jake’s horn section is fantastic also - providing welcome change from the guitar solos to….”another trombone solo!?” This is fantastically put to use in their performance of ‘The Science of Selling Yourself Short’. The band get everyone on-side, moshing continues and security keep having to help people over the barrier after crows surfing. They close with ‘All my Best Friends are Metalheads’ which leaves the crowd making their way to the bar for drinks…namely beer…which is apt given the drinking competition that went on during their set and the next band’s best known song. I wait expectantly.
The MC tells us the ‘main event’ is about to begin - what have I just experienced if what is coming next is the main event!?
Reel Big Fish come on stage playing a ska-cover of A-ha’s hit ‘Take on Me’, everyone is singing along and dancing. Aaron Barrett’s report with his bandmates, particularly the trumpeter Johnny Christmas (great name alert) and the audience is great, as is his green Hawaiian shirt!
Their set is non-stop: mixing original music, back-catalogue favourites and covers of everything from Van Morrison’s ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ to ‘All Star’ by Smashmouth - which gets a fantastic response from everyone. Of their original material, my favourite tracks are: Your Guts (I Hate ‘Em) - an oddly cheerful song despite the lyrics! During the female/male call and response of ‘She Has a Girlfriend Now’ I realise that Pete Harper of cover band Thrill Collins may have met his high-notes vocal match in the saxophone player - the range is incredible and the song upbeat and witty - like the band themselves. By the last song (the second encore) there can only be one song to be played ‘Beer’ who’s intro is reminiscent of ‘The Passenger’ by Iggy Pop - which is not expected at all! A fantastic end to four great bands.
Overall, this collective of US bands that have all been going since the 90’s (thats longevity for you!) have lifted everyone’s spirits and brought Friday night vibes to a cold Tuesday evening, set the tone for the rest of the weeks gigs at the LCR which are Killing Joke and The Damned. A perfect gig for fans of NOFX, Against Me or Flogging Molly or anyone in need of catharsis and emboldening after a break-up - and that really is a compliment!
Night Overall: 4/5 (I didn’t have enough stamina to give this full marks)