Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, Authority Zero House of Blues February 8, 2015
Maybe it's better that some bands never become uber-famous.
That's the selfish position of a music fan, a sign of our increasingly entitled culture for sure, but that doesn't mean it's wrong either. Consider this: the problem is not that Blink 182 is airing their dirty laundry for the world to see, it's that they're so popular their dirty laundry is news.
Perhaps I'm just mulling this over because Less Than Jake make a crack about who would be Mark and who would be Tom if they were to break up, and I'm selfishly glad that this is a moment I'm experiencing inside the House of Blues rather than a bigger alternative.
Then again, catching a ska show inside a venue as big as House of Blues is a bit wild itself. How many ska bands that formed in the '90s are popular enough not to be exiled to Clear Lake? (How many ska bands that formed in the '90s are still touring at all?) So yeah, to reference Reel Big Fish's "Trendy," not everyone is doing the fish, but enough of people are.
The great thing about Less Than Jake, who took the stage first, is that they play what they want to play.
That's not to say they don't play the songs that the crowd wants to hear. If you're looking to hear "History of a Boring Town" or "Look What Happened" or "Automatic" they've got you covered. But they'll also be the first to tell you, in between their self-deprecating jokes, that they're a band that kept recording music after the year 2000.
What that means is that they play the songs they want to play, no matter when it was recorded. Tracks like "Harvey Wallbanger" or "Overrated (Everything Is)" might only get a handful of the crowd excited when they start, but their belief in their music is strong enough to get those on the fence about some of their more underappreciated tracks into them.
Though they weren't at the top of the bill, their set still felt like a Less Than Jake show. There was still plenty of time to crack jokes in between songs. There were toilet-paper guns and confetti and CO2 blasts. It all added up to a good time.
The great thing about Reel Big Fish is that they play exactly what you want to hear.
Reel Big Fish have being Reel Big Fish down. Their show isn't what one would call flashy, but it doesn't need to be when they have songs that the entire crowd has been waiting to sing back at them.
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"Your Guts (I Hate 'Em)" isn't what one would call a particularly deep song, but it's got a winning formula that the band knows how to execute well: take a situation that people are relatively familiar with and sing about it in a humorous, catchy way. Play those songs while showing off your best rock and roll moves and leave gaps for the crowd to take the lead and the people will show up. Throwing in bits of covers like "Don't Stop Believing" and "The Final Countdown" doesn't hurt either.
Listen, I get it, it's easy to scoff at a band like Reel Big Fish. They're silly, and a lot of folks out there don't believe that funny makes money. And yet, Reel Big Fish were just in town six months ago, in the same venue, and this show was packed.
They may not have ended up as big a band as Blink 182, but they seemed pretty happy onstage, even going through the whole "let's play 'S.R.' nine different ways" shtick. And it works. The people who've heard it before can quote the banter back to them as soon as they go in to it and they people knew to it catch on pretty quick. It all added up to a pretty good time.
A good time arguably made better because we weren't in a massive arena. Maybe I'm wrong and self-depreciating jokes and playing the same song in different genres scale well, but I'm selfish enough to admit that I don't want to find out.
So, How Was the Opener: Authority Zero may not have entered the night with as many fans as the headliners, but they left with quite a few converts. The crowd gave them a lot of love, led by some dedicated faithful screaming out their lyrics and starting circle pits. Their set got the show off to a good start, and gave people something to look up on Spotify when they got home.
Personal Bias: One year, back when I was in high school, Less Than Jake played in Austin on my birthday. My dad surprised me with tickets to the show that morning, which was a big deal because it was a midweek show. Anyways, the important part of this story is that I got pulled up on stage to sing "Shindo", which remains one of the coolest things that's ever happened to me. Plus, I can say I sang at Liberty Lunch, and that's cool. As for Reel Big Fish, "Beer" is somewhere in my Top 40 songs of all time. My dad and I also had to sleep in our truck after seeing them play one time, but that's a Liberty Lunch story for another day.
The Crowd: Eager to slam dance, skank, pogo and circle pit. There's not a stereotypical ska or punk dance they were afraid to do.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Don't eat that shit, they're the cockroaches of the sea," said Chris from Less Than Jake, on the subject of crawfish, clearly not understanding what city he's in.
Random Notebook Dump: Before the show, I spent Friday night through Sunday afternoon playing games at Owlcon. Less Than Jake AND Dungeons & Dragons in the same weekend? 17-year-old Cory would have thought it was the best weekend ever. 32-year-old Cory thought it was just "pretty good."
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