Between their ska-punk roots, their transition to a more synth-orientated rock sound, and a recent focus on their kids’ TV show, it’s hard to tell what The Aquabats’ core demographic is. The diverse crowd of people at The Opera House was very telling of that. Whatever their target may be, everyone knew there would be no shortage of over-the-top silliness coming from the stage as The Aquabats embarked on their first trip to Toronto in seven years.
CJ Ramone started the night off to a sparsely attended floor with his music serving as a perfect opener. The simplistic, yet playful, two-minute punk rock songs set the mood well, appealing to kids and adults alike. The older folk certainly appreciated all the old-school Ramones covers in CJ’s setlist. Good ol’ CJ somehow managed to break a bass string during his set as well. The E-string no less, so the night was already shaping up to defy all known laws of the universe.
Here’s where things started to get a little weird. Reggie And The Full Effect is probably best described as if that strange man who always hangs out at your bar was given a stage show. James Dewees, who I’d much rather just call Uncle Reggie, played with a backing band of guys about half his age, performing silly songs that he probably wrote in college just as pop-punk was hitting the mainstream. Uncle Reggie and His Dropout Nephews played a 50-minute set filled with gags and stupid lyrics themes. And I freaking loved every minute of it.
Not every moment of his set was a hit, though. A good chunk of his time was spent chatting up the audience about literally anything, sometimes spending up to five minutes just going on random tangents, but musically, they were solid. Uncle Reggie’s lead keyboard contributions gave the music an unexpected easy-core vibe, reminiscent of early Four Year Strong tunes, and is the kind of music I enjoyed.
Even after Uncle Reggie’s set, the floor was still far from full. But hey, that just left each person more room to dance for the headliners. As The Aquabats marched on stage, they quickly jumped into the theme song for their TV show followed by “The Cat With 2 Heads.” Throughout their set, the band were tossing inflatable sharks, burgers, beach balls, and pizza slices into the crowd, who sweat up a storm. The MC Bat Commander kept the audience hydrated all night by throwing water at everyone, including our photographer, Gabby Rivera, because “her camera look[ed] expensive.”
Their set was full of gags and quirky standouts moments, like a few throwbacks to songs from the 80s and 90s, and my personal favourite highlight was the epic clash against Toronto Tim. Oh yes, kids, the truly evil Toronto Tim invaded the stage, trapping the city of Toronto within a four by four portrait, and the band had to defeat him along with his ten-foot tall blow-up henchman. Thankfully, The Aquabats prevailed, and the city was saved. It was all as ridiculous as it sounds, and even the MC Bat Commander was quick to break the 4th wall to the crowd on all their shtick.
These guys are like the Pixar of the music world, creating something that is directed towards children, but adults are equally immersed into it. Despite most of the excitement coming from the adults, the band was sure to make the young ones the focus of their show, letting them go crowd surfing on their pizza rafts, and even inviting all 15 or so kids on stage for their last song, “Pool Party.” The Aquabats are the musical representation of fun, and I hope I don’t have to wait another seven years to catch them in Toronto. I mean, after all the Aquabats can only fend off evil for so long.
Written by Mathieu Perrier
Photography by Gabby Rivera
*edited by Danielle Kenedy