Back in August, the Gods of Ska (Skods for short) rained flaming arrows down upon our country, and like a series of darts whipped randomly at a map, chose the touring route for their prophets on Earth, Reel Big Fish and The Aquabats.
Our great state was lucky enough to be graced with the presence of these divine Skallectives (Ska collectives) earlier this month, the first time The Aquabats have been to New Jersey in years, and put on a spectacle that Starland Ballroom audience will not soon forget.
“Thanks ladies and gentleman! We’re the Reel Big Fish! Goodnight!” said front-man Aaron Barrett as he led RBF off the stage at after the band’s opening salvo “Sell Out.”
The audience played along with a collaborative chant of “One more song,” eventually causing the headliner to emerge from the dressing room. Aaron then checked with the bewildered sound guy, he didn’t get the joke, to make sure the six-piece had enough time for an “encore,” and proceeded to complete its 21-song salute to us.
Pleasantly surprising was how The Fish dug deep into its bag of tricks and pulled out a setlist full of oldies rather than tracks from the band’s latest efforts Monkeys For Nothing And The Chimps For Free and the covers album Fame, Fortune, and Fornication. It isn’t that these albums are bad by any means, but, nothing can touch the Reel Big Fish’s earlier records, the records I and so many other fell in love with.
The band tore through classics like “I Want Your Girlfriend To Be My Girlfriend,” and “Thank You For Not Moshing,” as well as a pair of covers, “Monkey Man” (Toots & The Maytals) and “Brown Eyed Girl,” and an elongated instrumental jam on “241,” to name a few.
The highest light of the show, at least for the girl involved, Kelsey Buesing, was when Barrett lifted her from the first row to assist on the female vocal portions of “She Has A Girlfriend Now.” To the playful surprise of Barrett Buesing nailed every high note and harmony backing up her pre-song proclamation “I won’t mess this up, I’ve done it many times before.”
The Fish closed with the fan-favorite “Beer” turning the dance floor into a churning sea of skank pits. The perfect way to end an evening.
Prior to the RBF performance, led by its squadron leader MC Bat Commander, The Aquabats made their triumphant return to the Garden State on the back of a 10-track set with more production value than any Ska-Punk show has ever had in the history of Ska-Punk shows.
Not only did the band perform my personal wish list of songs in its entirety, but they saved my life from a pair of psychotic scientists and an evil gremlin grown in a test tube by the aforementioned evil geniuses.
A devastating strike with his boot heal, the use of his brute strength for a vicious body slam, and an earth shattering flying elbow drop by The Commander sent the scientists running out the back door and into Sayreville evening, or at least into the dressing room.
“I thought they’d be harder beat,” said MC Bat Commander to his crew. “It must have been my power to have immense back fat. I know that monster was like ‘Wo, back fat, I’m out. You see that ladies? Don’t be so down on back fat. It could save your life.”
The victorious skirmish called for a celebration and a pool party ensued, well, the song “Pool Party” anyway, which is just as good because I know thing or two about back fat. Anyway, the crowd surfers were out in force for this number, crushing the unsuspecting under their bulbous asses. About halfway through the track The Commander stopped and spoke.
“The thing I love about Jersey is that you’re all like one big family. You could be oversees and the Jersey people will still find each other. So to all you crowd surfers out there, take it easy, it’s not cool to crush your family. And all of you being crushed, don’t be afraid to steal articles of clothing from them. It’s totally cool because we’re all family here. Just grab a shoe, or steal his Hot Topic belt. You gotta pay the toll to Rock N’ Roll.”
Oh, and I forgot to mention, Suburban Legends were the opening act!!! This was truly a star-studded lineup.
The legends played a mixed bag of a set reach back in time for tracks like “Bright Spring Morning” and the band’s closing number and hit track “High Fives.”
The legends also made that fucking “Bed Intruder Song” tolerable to listen to and ripped into “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King.”
And the choreographed dancing the band is privy too is always an nice piece of stage presence for the whole family to enjoy. Unfortunately, Suburban Legends reside from the same California Bay Area Third Wave Ska hot bed that’s produced the likes of Rancid, Sublime, RBF, The Aquabats, No Doubt, etc. and have been overlooked for years, unable to break through into that upper echelon of acts. But this band is one of my favorites and played a great set to open an even greater show.
Reel Big Fish Set List:
- Another F.U. Song
- I Want Your Girlfriend To Be My Girlfriend
- Kiss Me Deadly
- Ban The Tube Top
- Monkey Man (Toots & The Maytals)
- Everything Sucks
- The Bad Guy
- Thank You For Not Moshing
- Snoop Dog Baby
- Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison)
- Good Thing
- Your Guts (I Hate Em)
- She Has A Girlfriend Now
- The Set Up
- Take On Me
- S.R. (Punk, Disco, Country, Death Metal)
The Aquabats Set List:
- Fashion Zombies
- Nerd Alert
- Look At Me I’m A Winner
- Super Rad
- Lovers Of Loving Love
- Martian Girl
- Pool Party
- Red Sweater
- Captain Hampton & The Midget Pirates
- Pizza Day
Suburban Legends Set List:
- Hey DJ
- Bright Spring Morning
- Getting Down To Business
- My Friend
- Bed Intruder Song (Antoine Dodson)
- Open Up Your Eyes
- Just Can’t Wait To Be King (Lion King)
- High Fives