I believe I heard the word "SKAwesome!" more than once at Jannus Live on Saturday, November 2nd. That one word summed up my experience as I had the opportunity to interview one of the bands that inspired my interest in ska in the first place. On Saturday afternoon I sat down with guitarist and front man, Aaron Barrett, and drummer, Ryland Steen, to discuss a range of topics from new ska, their influences, favorite cartoons, guilty pleasures and even Aaron's failing grade in 10th grade English that led to his picking up the guitar. The conversation was laid back and, shaking off the part of me that saw these guys intangible as rock stars, I felt strangely like I was chatting with some old friends. At the conclusion of the interview, the duo was so kind as to record a station id for the Ska channel on SKY.fm and recorded an opening for the school news at the middle school I work at by day (I teach TV Productions).
Beebs and Her Money Makers kicked off the festivities with a high energy set including some dance-worthy ska, soulful vocals, tight horns, confetti and a giant robot! It's rare that you find a band with so much pizzazz in costume, stage presence and sound but that's what we got with BAHMM! Aaron Barrett even joined the band on stage at one point. With my photo pass, I was able to sneak around in front of the pit as well as the side of the stage to catch some footage and photos but the entire time I felt like dropping my cameras and dancing.
Following Beebs was The Beautiful Bodies, a female fronted punk band with incredible energy and talent. Singer Alicia Solombrino got up close and personal with the crowd, climbing up on the barriers between the stage and pit and serenading the crowd. While Beebs got us dancing, the Beautiful Bodies got our blood pumping. This was the perfect lead in for Goldfinger!
The Breaking Bad theme played as Goldfinger took the stage, foreshadowing the frenzy that would soon ensue. The crowd roared as front man John Feldmann addressed the audience with a proper bow and the set started. Of course the energy of the set was enhanced by MXPX's Mike Herrera on bass. The band played their most popular songs like "Superman," "Here in Your Bedroom," a cover of Nena's "99 Red Balloons" and solicited some crowd participation for "Mable" which brought at least 20 people out of the pit and onto the stage. It doesn't seem that the band has aged a bit since the 90's as they still managed to keep their fast pace on stage from start to finish. By the time Goldfinger concluded their set, the venue was packed and prepped for the grand finale, Reel Big Fish!
The Reel Big Fish set was delicious. Starting with one of the first RBF songs I remember hearing "Everything Sucks" and meandering through their 2 decades of discography, they delivered! I was able to hop up on stage for a few songs and witnessed the energy from their perspective. "Snoop Dog, Baby" had the crowd bouncing and heads bobbing while "In the Pit" created a cascade of furious skanking into a circle pit whirlpool.
As expected, the band played it's classic radio hit, "Sell Out" but mixed in some new with the old. There was a cover of Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" and the band's classic cover of A-Ha's "Take On Me" as well "The Set Up" and "She Has a Girlfriend Now" with Beebs singing the female vocals of the duet. At one point the band teased the audience by introducing their next song which is about their favorite beverage, announcing "Tequila," "Red Wine," "Pina Coladas" and "Margaritas" along with brief covers of classic songs about those drinks (I'm sure you can figure out which songs). Finally, they played their classic fan favorite, "Beer."
Somewhere in the set they played "Don't Stop Skankin" off of 'Candy Coated Fury' which always reminds me of "One Step Beyond" by Madness. On Saturday night the song had new meaning. After meeting the band and reflecting on my own experience of ska music over the last couple of decades, one word that comes to mind is "longevity." Ska has survived to please several generations. Just like the musical genre associated with them, Reel Big Fish is here to stay despite the "ebbs and flows" Aaron and Ryland described in the interview.