Gig Review: Reel Big Fish / Less Than Jake / Zebrahead / Suburban Legends – O2 Academy, Glasgow (15 November 2018)

The line-up of this tour couldn’t be any more perfect for third wave ska fans.  Two of the biggest names in the genre:  Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish co-headlining is something not to be missed.  Let’s not forget the amazing support performances from Zebrahead and Suburban Legends. Unfortunately, I had missed the last time that Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish and Zebrahead all played together in Glasgow back in 2013 so I was excited that I was able to go and experience it this time around.

I arrived nice and early to make sure I didn’t miss any bands since I was looking forward to seeing every single one on the line-up. Especially Suburban Legends because Iain (also known as Mosh) didn’t want me to miss them on his behalf as he was unable to go that night.  Having seen them support Reel Big Fish in the past, I didn’t pay much attention to them to be honest, but Iain had hyped them up for me and I was looking forward to see them again and give them a chance this time.

Suburban Legends (c) Gary Cooper

Suburban Legends started off the show with a bang.  Have you ever imagined a ska band who have their own dance choreography and sing songs from popular Disney Movies? To be honest, it’s something that’s never crossed my mind but to say the least, I was not disappointed. Once they began to play their first song, the whole band burst out into a rehearsed dance routine and this instantly created a fun, goofy atmosphere. The high energy of the band lit up the room and got the crowd going – even if you didn’t know the words to their songs, you just couldn’t help but dance along and get involved.

The lead singer, Vincent Walker, was extremely energetic and couldn’t keep himself away from interacting with the crowd. During their song, “High Fives”, the whole band were jumping, dancing and Walker kept high-fiving me and other people in the crowd. When they performed a cover of “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” from The Lion King, everyone started to dance and I was filled with strong feelings of nostalgia. You can’t beat a bit of The Lion King, especially when mixed with ska.  I can’t think of a more interestingly wonderful combination. They were hands down one of the most interactive and quirky bands I have got to see live and it was so entertaining to witness.

Zebrahead (c) Gary Cooper

After the crowd were fired up by the energetic opening performance, the stage was ready for Zebrahead. Zee-bra or Zeb-ra? This was an ongoing gag between every band member and the crowd, continuing to shout zebra in an (badly) attempted Scottish accent. The crowd got bigger and you could see a large amount of Zebrahead shirts scattered around. They came on to the stage to “Team America” and everyone was cheering.

Their set kicked off with “Rescue Me” off of my favourite album of theirs MFZB. They introduced us to their friends from Germany and USA who were dressed up as beer bottles and were drinking beer at the side of the stage during the whole set. “Call Your Friends” began to play which is all about drinking and partying and to celebrate this, Zebrahead held a drinking contest on stage with their beer bottle friends and two guys from the crowd. They wanted to see if us Scots could drink them under the table, spoiler alert: we did. This was their last show of the tour, so they asked if we could make it one to remember and our response to that was by going crazy in the crowd with circle pits and crowd surfers.

Matty and Ali’s combination of rap and clean vocals always fit perfectly together, and their chemistry is so strong which is evident when they play live. It makes it so much more heartwarming to see how much they are enjoying themselves. Not to forget to mention the fact that Dan, the lead guitarist, has definitely kept up with his impressive exquisite moustache and it didn’t even budge for the full night, which is even more impressive. The three brass players from Reel Big Fish were on stage at the end of their set to play “Anthem” which made the song sound so much better in my opinion, it made it come to life and added something extra that I didn’t know I needed until now. Their set concluded by Matty lip syncing to “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston whilst throwing plectrums into the crowd. This resulted in a lot of laughs and left us on a high for the co-headliners to begin.

Less Than Jake (c) Gary Cooper

It was time for Less Than Jake, the band that I was most looking forward to seeing out of the whole line-up. The stage lit up with strobe lights and their brightly coloured Losing Streak inspired flag hanging up behind them. The loud sound of trombone and saxophone filled up the room as the band got straight into “Gainsville Rock City”. The high energy from the crowd did not stop from before as the crowd surfing continued and a pit opened up during every single song.

With the first note that Less Than Jake played, the crowd erupted and everyone was moving and jumping around. The whole band were overwhelmed and kept thanking us for supporting them: “We love playing Scotland, they don’t like us as much in the States.” They joked around for the full night and continued to shower us with compliments and praise. It wasn’t long before they got a fan wearing a funky bandana up on stage during “History of A Boring town” and they handed him a beer, got him to dance and sing into the microphones.

Less Than Jake love nothing more than getting their fans involved by asking anyone who stands out of them in the crowd up to dance. Two other lucky shirtless guys were asked up and started off slow dancing, having the time of their lives.

One thing that never lets me down every time I see Less Than Jake perform is their novelty use of toilet paper and confetti. However, there was no confetti this time around but there was plenty of toilet paper being launched into the crowd. They are all so charismatic and therefore their stage presence is always goofy, entertaining and everything in between. When Chris DeMakes, lead vocalist and guitarist, sang “Rest of My Life” it slowed the pace down and allowed the crowd to catch their breath after the chaos that was happening in the pits. This is my favourite of theirs as I love the rawness of his voice every time he sings it live.

Their mascot made lots of appearances by throwing toilet paper, dancing and even crowd surfing during their ending number “All My Best Friends Are Metalheads.” Speaking of their final song, the full venue sang at the top of their lungs throughout it and everyone continued to mosh and crowd surf, bringing the energy right back up after it slowed down. Overall, this was my favourite performance of the night as the mixture of hilarity and talent that this band has always made for a high-quality show full of laughter and good music.

Reel Big Fish (c) Gary Cooper

Last but not least was Reel Big Fish, another amazing performance, in fact, probably the best I have ever seen them perform. Of course they came out dressed in bright colours and their staple Hawaiian shirts (and it most certainly isn’t a Reel Big Fish gig without some Hawaiian shirts). They promoted their new album (Life Sucks… Let’s Dance!) all night by teasing their new single. Aaron Barret, the lead singer, kept on making jokes that they were going to play a new song… later.

“You Can’t Have All Of Me” was the new single that they played and it was incredible! It had the same Reel Big Fish feel to it as all the tracks did from their last album Candy Coated Fury. They had a special guest, Julie Stoyer, who featured on their track “I Know You Too Well To Like You Anymore” on Candy Coated Fury and they sang it live together, followed by “She’s Got A Girlfriend Now” – both of which were fantastically played.

Now, I say that no Reel Big Fish concert is complete without Hawaiian shirts but there is one other thing that it isn’t complete without which is cover songs. As always, they had plenty of those on the setlist including their classics “Take On Me”, “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Monkey Man”. As well as these, they had a hilarious sketch at the end of the show right before they played their “big hit song from the 90’s”… where they played other peoples big hits such as, “All Star” by Smash Mouth, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers and “The Impression That I Get” by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

Finally, after the crowd were laughing hard at the full sketch, they led their way into “Sell Out”, their most popular hit. They had invited the brass players from Less Than Jake and Suburban Legends to join them for their final song before the encore. After leaving the stage, the crowd chanted “one more song!” until they finally came back on again. Instantly they got right into “Olé”, their go-to encore song, and followed it with “Monkey Man” which got the crowd dancing, throwing their hands in the air in time to the catchy beat. After the song ended, the band thanked the crowd and walked off, which was strange as they hadn’t played one of their classics, “Beer” yet. The crowd were extremely confused but before we could chant for another song, they came running straight back out and played it, causing the crowd to go wild for one more, final time.

November has been a busy month for me already with gigs but this night has exceeded the scale so far! What a tour this was to experience. I had so much fun from start to finish and would gladly experience that one a hundred times over. Each band was phenomenal and not a single one disappointed me, they were all on top form.

Photos by Gary Cooper Photography

Reel Big Fish: official | facebook | twitter | youtube

Less Than Jake: official | facebook | twitter | instagram | soundcloud | myspace

Zebrahead: official | facebook | twitter | youtube

Suburban Legends: official | facebook | twitter | youtube | instagram | spotify

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