Live Review: Reel Big Fish at Rock City – 18/02/11

Who says ska/pop-punk is outdated? Although a Friday night spent at Rock City watching ska-veterans Reel Big Fish may have been a time warp back to the nineties, it was undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable evenings I’d spent within Nottingham’s most notorious gig venue, and with the help of the support bands, certainly helped me rediscover my love for third-wave ska and its multiple variations.

Jamaican-reggae-influenced East-London support band The Skints were captivating in their performance and a mellow yet effective start to the evening. What really distinguished them from other bands of their genre was the soulfulness and feeling which streamed steadily through their performance. Their track ‘Murderer’ was the best example of this, which had the audience singing their little emphasis-on-the-upbeat hearts out and swaying as if they were completely absorbed within the syncopated rhythm.

Sounds like: The King Blues, Sonic Boom Six, Mad Caddies

Americanised ska-infused pop-punkers Suburban Legends were a completely different take on the genre of the evening. Notably more excitable and lively, the first signs of which showing when the brass players (in matching outfits) ran on stage punching the air enthusiastically,  this band certainly ‘performed’. Admittedly, the synchronised and clearly choreographed dance routines performed by trombonist and trumpeter, teamed with the faux-reckless and over-exaggerated ‘we’re so punk rock’ jumping around by lead singer Vincent Walker was initially slightly wince-inducing…until, of course, you realised that it was also endlessly entertaining and that the crowd were quite frankly, loving it. There was a sense of self-conscious irony about the band, as if they knew they were embarrassing themselves somewhat, making them that bit more endearing. Musically, their performance was tight, vocals were brilliant and brass infiltration was spot on, their talent really shining through in hit track ‘Come Back Home’. And all this from an unsigned band. Their sheer effort and dedication was astonishing, and certainly provided a fantastic performance. Utterly unique, this band is definitely worth seeing twice.

Sounds like: RX Bandits, Streetlight Manifesto, The Aquabats

The headliners of the night, of course, did not disappoint. Trained to perfection on not only how to perform extremely well but also how to captivate and liven up the crowd (not that this was a hard job following on from Suburban Legends), Reel Big Fish were definitely the most effective band of the night.  By playing all their biggest hits including ‘She Has a Girlfriend Now’, ‘Beer’ and ‘Sellout’,  bantering with the crowd and  with their multiple comedy takes on their song ‘Suburban Rhythm’, including a metal/hardcore and a country western version, RBF hit every button. My only criticism for the performance would be that it was slightly contrived; the band essentially played their greatest hits album from cover-to-cover, and they’ve certainly pulled the genre variation stunt of ‘Suburban Rhythm’ before on previous tours. Although fantastic show-men, this set was predictable, and seemed to have lost the raw, rough sound that defines punk. Regardless, the band delivered what the fans wanted; perfected and impeccable music, and a very enjoyable stage-show leaving us all wanting more.

Sounds like: Less Than Jake, Goldfinger, Mad Caddies

This gig was a refreshing change from your usual new-indie-pop taking place at Rescue Rooms or Bodega, and perhaps the most significant difference was the liveliness of the crowd. Tremendous amounts of fun, and always worth the money, the bands of the night truly showed that ska-punk is still alive and kicking (and punching, dancing and jumping around).


Sarah Dawood

Sarah has been listening to: Streetlight Manifesto – ‘We Will Fall Together’…


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