Driving long distances just for a concert is the best. Blasting music down the highway, singing at the top of your lungs in anticipation that, later that night, you’re going to be experiencing one of your favourite bands live in concert in a completely new town, is the start of memories that you’ll remember for a lifetime. This was the case for Reel Big Fish on their 25th anniversary tour stop at the Town Ballroom in Buffalo, NY, with Suburban Legends, and The Maxies. It was sure to be an incredible night, but unfortunately, the night didn’t start off as smoothly as we had hoped.
Upon arriving at the venue, my girlfriend, fellow Buckethead, and one of our editors, Danielle Kenedy and I were informed by security that we weren’t on the press list. To make matters worse, the security working the event wouldn’t even let us talk anybody running the show’s press, leaving us to stand in the freezing cold for forty-five minutes calling people and frantically trying to fix the matter. Since we couldn’t immediately get into the venue, we missed The Maxies’ set. Which is a real bummer, because judging by their Facebook page, and what people at the show were saying about them, it was one hell of a set.
Thankfully, the night’s horrible start made a complete one-eighty the second that Suburban Legends hit the stage. The crowd’s reaction was perfect, instantly forming a small skank pit when the rhythm was introduced under the blaring horns. Their stage presence was insane and unlike any band I’ve seen before. Since their horn players were using wireless, clip-on microphones, they weren’t rooted to one spot and were free to move however they liked while playing. It made for some theatrical dance moves and a lot of choreographed movement, including a ‘horn-fight’ (which is exactly as it sounds). They played a diverse setlist of originals as well as covers (which included a number of Disney songs, of all things) that appealed to those who weren’t familiar with the band’s material. Never would I thought I’d see hundreds of people skanking to “You Got A Friend In Me” by Randy Newman, or “Under The Sea” from The Little Mermaid, or the theme to the Golden Girls.
It was their hilarious banter between songs made the set feel like it was part comedy show, and they did an incredible job of incorporating the audience into their routine. The audience was engaged constantly. We chanted the guitarist, Brian Klemm’s name over and over at the urging of the lead vocalist, Vince Walker, before the band began playing their cover of “Kiss the Girl” again from the Little Mermaid. And we laughed and screamed “Fuck You” over and over in what Walker determined to be the common greeting amongst the people of Buffalo. This became a running joke through the night. Everybody was laughing, dancing, swearing, and having a great time. To call it entertaining would be an understatement.
Reel Big Fish was up next, and you could tell the crowd was excited. The audience erupted when the lights dimmed and the six members walked out to Europe’s “The Final Countdown.” When they kicked into their first song, “Everything Sucks,” the entire floor went ballistic. It was impossible to avoid the chaos unless you were standing along the outer edge of the floor. Reel Big Fish was entertaining right out of the gate and, because we were still working off the adrenaline that Suburban Legends pumped into the crowd, everyone was going crazy. The lengthy setlist was made up of over twenty songs, and included fan favourites from the nineties, equally solid newer material, as well as some more covers with some quirky bits scattered throughout. Before they launched into their song, “Sell Out,” frontman Aaron Barrett introduced it as the song from the nineties they are most known for, but then toyed with the audience. Instead of starting the song right away, they played the start of three other famous nineties songs, including Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy,” and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “The Impression That I Get.” This went over well with the crowd but having seen them do this bit last summer in New York City, I wondered how many times they have done this joke. This nagging thought hardly mattered because their set was so solid.
Similarly to the band before them, they were very active on stage, even with their horn section being grounded to their mic stands. Barrett was surely the most energetic of the bunch by parading around the stage during his impressive guitar solos, even playing behind his head at times. He did his standard run back and forth across the stage and had his beer placed typically in the mic stand cup holder. He was everything you would expect him to be.
There was never a dull moment in their set. With so many standout moments, it is hard to narrow it down, but one was during the band’s encore when they started playing the track, “Drunk Again.” The crowd, who were exhausted by this point, and lazily sang along with Barrett. He made mention of it saying, “I don’t think anyone knows this one,” but the trumpet player, Johnny Christmas, singled out one of the more enthusiastic members of the audience, Bucketlist’s own Danielle Kenedy, and got her to sing along to the chorus with Barrett. Though the song ended up cutting a bit short, the band burst into the forth song of their encore, their iconic single, “Beer” and the energy was instantly reignited. The sold out audience was loving every second of it, and clearly never wanted their set to end even after an encore.
For a band that seems to have been touring nonstop for the past three years, it amazes me that Reel Big Fish is constantly selling out big venues, and is still playing these shows with the energy of the restless twenty year olds they once were. Their fanbase is committed and prove time and time again that ska isn’t dead, and never will be. Now, if only we could pass on that level of love, commitment, and positivity onto bitter security guards who won’t allow press to enter the venue.
Written by Mathieu Perrier
Photography by Danielle Kenedy
*edited by Danielle Kenedy