Ah, it’s good to have them back. The Greatest Show On Earth rolled back into town tonight as the Get Happy tour was resurrected. Founding members Bowling For Soup and Army of Freshmen partnering up with The Aquabats for a night of laughs, energy, bouncing, beer and – as it turned out – boobies.
Openers Army of Freshmen had done us the kindness of an interview on the run-up, and kicked off their 20-year celebrations live in fine style. With six members crammed into a tiny space on the stage, it was a wonder there were no accidents as they performed with an insane level of energy.
The venue slowly filled during their performance (the slow queue resulting in our photographer missing their set, unfortunately), but they definitely had some fans out there – I spotted more than a handful jumping, waving their arms and boogying away in little pockets. The band’s energy is infectious and they’re very much on my “to check out” list as a result of the show. This despite cramming only a half dozen tracks into a frantic thirty minute set. It’s all about quality not quantity and AoF didn’t fall into the trap that many opening bands fall into, that of cramming songs into their limited time at the expense of audience interaction.
For those heading to later dates on the tour, get there early enough to get in and see them!
Hopes were high for the return to these shores of The Aquabats after an absence of some seven or eight years. This was the band that one of our writers, Aiden, was here to see… and he wasn’t disappointed. Neither, I feel, were the rest of the crowd.
Dressed in scarily revealing spandex and flinging out ska-tinged pop-punk packaged into songs, all of which have titles ending in exclamation marks, this fivesome didn’t seem to expend energy so much as create it. With an image that screams of “low budget but somehow awesome” in the same way as say Plan 9 From Outer Space, the band were an undefeatable non-stop bundle of madness for 45 minutes.
Inflatables were launched into the audience, evil supervillains tried – unsuccessfully – to end things prematurely (one being dealt with “Scottish style” by being beaten to a pulp, that’s how they deal with terrorists up here), audience members convinced to bounce, silly movies played on the big screen… this was one huge performance from a superb bunch of entertainers. The Aquabats encapsulate the word “fun”.
Slightly more than five minutes late, and after a false start where the “Here Comes…” video seemed to need a kickstart, Bowling For Soup ambled on stage and the first chords of “The Last Rock Show” were belted out. One of the most energetic tracks on Drunk Enough to Dance rattled through its under-two-minute length. The album was to be played almost in order, the start track being the only one I recall being misplaced, with a couple of other tracks slotted in to break it up.
Boobies, as mentioned, were already on show as one audience member decided to “pop out the puppies” for all to see (and, in the case of the boys in front of me, photograph). This particular lady wasn’t shy as they made several re-appearances. Indeed, I don’t think they were safely tucked away for the duration of the last four or five songs of the evening. Anyway…
Drunk… contains three of the band’s biggest hits, and playing it in order meant that “Emily” and “Girl All The Bad Boys Want” were unusually early in the set. Jaret’s favourite, as we discovered in our interview (up soon) put in an appearance as the band slowed things down for “Where To Begin”. Not a song I would usually pick myself, but as Jaret had mentioned it I gave it a good listen and… hell, it is a damn fine ballad!
In between the Drunk… tracks we got the likes of “Today Is Gonna Be A Great Day” (the Phineas and Ferb theme), “The Bitch Song”, “Almost” and “High School Never Ends”. As ever, the live show features a bar from where the band were served “refreshments” and where road crew and those who had bought VIP passes supped on various beverages. Definitely an unusual way to experience a gig!
There were six songs (if my research is correct, though Jaret reckoned “maybe five” in our interview) that the band had never played live before, at least as a full band, and it was a treat to be the audience who got to hear them first. Of course BFS nailed each and every one without a single mistake (you owe me a beer, guys) and should therefore get a 5K Kerrang review, especially as Jaret managed to jam a brief bit of Iron Maiden’s “Wasted Years”.
The rest of the band were on form as well. Chris with his usual downbeat humour and guitar pick stunts, Erik’s smiling face and dry humour, and Gary belting out the beats on what is a very basic kit. I’d honestly never realised that he was such a minimalist with a (if I counted correctly) 10-piece kit, more than half of which is cymbals. Audience participation was – as ever – mandatory. Boobs, as mentioned before, were not but appeared regardless.
Oh, those previously unplayed songs:
- She’s Got a Boyfriend
- Greatest Day
- Scaring Myself
- The Hard Way
- Where To Begin
“Punk Rock 101” was on the re-release and obviously got let loose, and the show finished with the band’s most famous cover, “1985”. If I’m completely honest, some of the less well known material was a little flat for me but that was down to unfamiliarity on my part. The songs are still good, and it was apparent that large numbers in the audience were laying into them as much as any of the more well known tracks. If anything, it makes me was to go back and dig the album out again.
Looking around the emptying venue as the lights came back up, there were smiles all over the place. Proof if any were needed that BFS are still at the top of their game, and ensuring that everyone who sees a show Gets Happy.
Photos by Gavin Lowrey