Reel Big Fish and The Aquabats | 11.14.10

Jacobs invited several youngsters up on stage and informed them that “with permission” they would be launched into the crowd to experience their first “punk rock moment.”

Photos: Bruce Matlock
The Pageant, St. Louis
Going to a ska show is kind of like having fun rammed down your throat, whether you want it or not. If you come in with the right attitude it can be a mind-altering experience, if not you could leave with the feeling that you pissed away a few bucks and hours of your life. For the majority of those at the mostly-full Pageant on Sunday night, the former was the case. The all-star lineup included 46 years of skanking history as well as newcomers Koo Koo Kanga Roo, who describe themselves as “hyper-active dance pop.”
From the minute KKKR hit the stage with their opening song about the coolest letters in the alphabet “LMNOP,” it was fairly obvious this was going to be another night as usual with Reel Big Fish and friends. The band led the crowd through several dances inspired by being your favorite dinosaur, cutting the edges off of PB&J’s and a “hokey-pokey from the future.” Remember those giant, brightly colored parachutes they had in kindergarten that everyone would run under? Yeah, KKKR had one of those too. Talk about a trip back to your most innocent state.
Suburban Legends hit the stage like an America’s Got Talent dance crew with horns. The California based band have apparently gotten over any hard feelings caused by a terrible theft and arson incident that caused the band to lose all of their touring money and van in St. Louis in 2006. Or if not, they didn’t take it out on the crowd, at least.
The real draw of the night however, was the battle between two epic ska bands, The Aquabats and Reel Big Fish. Though in recent years The Aquabats have drifted towards a more keyboard-oriented sound, there is no doubt that in spirit they are as ska as it gets. Songs about pizza, nerds and just generally being rad filled the pit with as much manic energy as the band was giving off from the stage. The band looked as if someone had hit the fast-forward button for nearly the entire set.
As the end of the set neared and words were exchanged between the MC Bat Commander (Christian Jacobs) and a Staind shirt-clad fan in the front row of the balcony who had been shouting for Reel Big Fish all night, the crowd’s mood swiftly shifted to one of disdain. However, as soon as the band kicked back into “Pool Party” things quickly swung back in favor of the superheroes. Jacobs invited several youngsters up on stage and informed them that “with permission” they would be launched into the crowd to experience their first “punk rock moment.” With the children ranging anywhere between ages 5-12, this certainly induced quite a few gasps, but Jacobs did his best to calm fretters explaining, “don’t worry I throw my kid all the time!” In the end everything turned out well; the kids seemed truly thrilled to ride the sea of very gentle hands.
It should be noted that this was simply not a show to be seen from the balcony without the army of carefree people dancing, moshing, jumping and sharing sweat. As Jacobs himself noted, “If you have to sit, you’re too old!”
Reel Big Fish certainly had a tough act to follow, but their passionate fan base tied the score as the band opened with their biggest song, “Sell Out.” Though it wasn’t the crowd’s favorite on the night, perhaps the band felt it best to get it out of the way. When the set started to feel slightly stale, an appearance by Julie Stoyer of the local band Dick & Jane lit up the atmosphere in the room. Filling the shoes of Monique Powell of Save Ferris, Stoyer hit all the right notes on “She Has a Girlfriend Now” and fit right in messing around with Aaron Barrett and co. You almost felt as though the band knew they were going through the motions, but the crowd was so incredibly into it that they pushed right through—still an incredibly skilled group doing what they do best.
Unlike The Aquabats, who are too incredibly busy to tour on a consistent basis while running the children’s juggernaut Yo Gabba Gabba,Reel Big Fish have hardly taken a moment to breathe in the 18 years since Barrett formed the band. By now the real benefits of a Reel Big Fish show lie more in the people you’re surrounded by than the people on stage, but maybe that’s the point of all concerts. | Bruce Matlock

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Photos: Bruce Matlock

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