For fans of ska/punk, this was a double-headliner of a show. Disneyland’s squeaky clean Suburban Legends opening for the somewhat more adult-friendly Reel Big Fish. Two sides of the same funky, bouncy, smile-inducing coin. We managed interviews with both bands before the show (thanks to them and their incredibly friendly crew!) and they’ll be online shortly. But on with the show…
Suburban Legends opened to a crowd at least as big as the one they had when they headlined Broadcast back in April. In fact, I’d bet everyone there that night was here in the Garage for their second visit this year.
Wasting no time with their 45-minute slot, they ploughed into the set and ran off quite a few tracks to a great reception. Suburban Legends are different enough from Reel Big Fish but close enough in genre to make them the ideal party-starters and they had the crowd bouncing within minutes. Mixing your favourite Disney Covers (“Kiss The Girl”, “Duck Tales”, “You’ve Got A Friend In Me”) with originals such as the title track from current album Forever in the Friend Zone, the sextet just didn’t let up. If you could bottle their energy we could forego fossil fuels.
One of the biggest crowd reactions was to their version of Neil Diamond classic “Sweet Caroline” which had the enthused audience screaming out the title and “DUM-DUM-DUM!” loud enough to rattle the glitterball overhead.
Suburban Legends are foremost a group, with every member playing a part in the proceedings. As is routine, Vince and Brian Klemm swapped vocal duties at roughly the halfway point for a couple of tracks. Klemm’s a big lad as the crowd discovered when he leapt into them… and they dropped him. Thankfully feet first so he didn’t dent the floor with his head…
The only complaint I had (other than the usual “they should have played longer”) was that Vince’s mic seemed to die or the sound guy slid the wrong slider down for half the set. I could barely hear him by the time they left the stage.
As ever, a band as entertaining to watch as they are to listen to. Suburban Legends are hands down one of the best bands I know of to see live and I can’t wait to see them next time they’ve over here. Likewise my wife and the two fourteen year old girls we had in tow.
A nice, short set change followed and Suburban Legends’ drummer strolled back on stage followed by the five other members of his side project Reel Big Fish (Ed Larsen joined RBF last year and now plays for both bands). Kudos to him for faultlessly pounding through two full sets!
Like Suburban Legends, Reel Big Fish are a band designed to entertain and enthral with each member playing a part in the show visually as well as musically. Reel Big Fish like to goof around, tease the audience and ensure that the smile muscles warmed up by the openers are strained to breaking point by the time the crowd go home.
Opening with a track like “Everyone Else is an Asshole” set the gutter tone perfectly. This is ska/punk rock for Viz fans, preferably those who’ve indulged at the bar before hand and who just want to dance the night away and have a laugh. To this end, Reel Big Fish’s set was perfection. If the audience weren’t singing by the time the band reached “Another F.U. Song” then they never would.
With a nice jostling pit going and crowd surfers shooting forward like smiling BB-gun pellets to keep the bouncers busy, Aaron and the lads ploughed through a packed set barely stopping for breath. Reel Big Fish don’t seem to believe in taking a break, and while most of the band paused now and again to retune, grab a beer or whatever between tracks, one or two would be keeping the audience bouncing, laughing or both. This is a band that’s completely at ease and obviously having as great a time as the packed hall in front of them.
There were a few teases and misleading intros (“Here’s a song from the 90’s” leading into what could have been a great rendition of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”… but wasn’t to be) which are all part of the fun, a handful of covers either played in full or given a chorus or so, and about as packed and value-for-money set as I’ve ever seen from a band with a 90-minute set. Songs stretched back over the band’s entire history right up to date (well, 2012 when their last album came out) and the sheer enjoyment factor convinced our little group at least that this is a band who need to keep on making music and touring.
They closed with the song that first grabbed my attention some years ago – their cover of A-Ha’s “Take On Me”. When the intro to that kicks in, it’s like being at a Europe concert with the crowd singing the melody to “The Final Countdown”. The hairs go up on your neck and you just can’t help bouncing and singing along.
When a gig empties out, there are things you want to see. Smiles. Sweat. Hugs. High fives. Basically, signs that people have had a great time. Between Reel Big Fish and Suburban Legends, I can’t imagine a single person leaving the Garage hadn’t grinned, suffered additional underarm odour or made a new friend tonight. Absolutely brilliant from both acts.