Reel Big Fish, Aquabats, Suburban Legend, Koo Koo Kangaroo Verizon Wireless Theater January 15, 2011
Walking into Verizon Wireless Theater Saturday night, it was easy to spot who was a fan of whom. The Aquabats' fans wore masks, and Reel Big Fish's fans wore witty T-shirts pertaining to the group - Aftermath's personal favorite read, "One fish, two fish, red fish, Reel Big Fish." But preferences aside, everyone there had the same state of mind; they were in the mood to party and enjoy a night of good music.
It's been a while since Aftermath has attended a concert where nothing went wrong, and we're not going to lie; it was a nice change of pace. We didn't even get a whiff of Mary Jane until Reel Big Fish's encore, and were pleasantly surprised with how mild-mannered the fans were while still being lively enough to show their support for the musicians onstage.
The size of the crowd was manageable, the pit was big enough to enjoy but small enough to escape if one so wished, and the evening's pervading mood was that of anticipation with an underlying calm.
At one point, RBF front man Aaron Barrett even began to interact and joke around with his fans. As one member of the horn section began to play, a fan screamed in approval but couldn't remember the name of the song.
"Yeah!" the fan screamed. "Play that one!"
"It's called 'Skatanic,'" Barrett said without missing a beat. "And no, we're not going to play it."
For the remainder of the evening, he parried and jousted with the fans, sometimes coming off as a bit too smug for our taste but never crossing the line of too arrogant for his own good. We'll call that the Kanye line... yeah, that works well. And Barrett never even came close to it.
Before Reel Big Fish, the Aquabats' set (above) both enthralled their fans and enchanted the unfamiliar. Those who had never seen them perform before stopped in their tracks to marvel at - or, at the very least, attempt to fully grasp - the group's elaborate yet simple costumes.
You know those cheap Spider-Man costumes that they sell at Walgreen's for little kids during the Halloween season? That's what these looked like, except they were blue. And now that we think about it, they may have actually been of a worse quality.
On purpose, of course.
Prior to the Aquabats, Suburban Legend and Koo Koo Kangaroo put on solid performances, but in vastly different manners. While Suburban Legend seemed to mix pop-punk vocals with a robust horn section, creating something along the lines of what ska music might have turned into had the genre not more or less died, Koo Koo Kangaroo's set made Aftermath wonder how they even got on the bill.
A hip-hop duo of sorts, Koo Koo Kangaroo rapped about ninjas, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and dinosaurs. We didn't really get it, but as the band asked fans, "Do you want to be a ninja?" A resounding "Yeah!" was chanted by a countless number of crowd members.
Rap and indie music seem to be the genres of the current generation, and Koo Koo Kangaroo created an eclectic mix of the two, for better or worse infusing simple lyricism with a strange kind of individuality.
While the front half of Verizon was a party - smiling, sweaty faces crowd-surfing over a circle pit - most of the venue was empty, and the back half cleared out long before Reel Big Fish's encore. To be fair, the show was originally scheduled for House of Blues, but the increased demand for tickets made the bands transfer venues.
Still, Aftermath can't help but wonder where all the ska fans were. It seems like we can't attend any concert without hearing someone talk about the scene's heyday and how much fans would love to bring it back to Houston. But it seems as though the demand for this type of music isn't what it used to be, and even the genre's strongest current advocates couldn't pack Verizon.
Nevertheless, they did sell out House of Blues, and although we may have expected more, even the smallest victories are just that: Victories.
Personal Bias: We love this stuff. Fun music is good for the soul, and we love seeing a crowd, no matter the size, having a good time. And this crowd was all smiles.
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The Crowd: Younger than we expected. At the peak of Reel Big Fish's popularity in the mid-'90s, these kids couldn't have been more than six or seven years old. To be fair though, we were that age, too.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Fish vaginas." This wasn't overheard in the crowd, per se. As Aftermath was outside smoking, a girl came up to us and asked to bum a smoke. We obliged, and she began to chat with us. From the onset of the conversation, we couldn't quite tell how drunk she was, but she was sweaty and told us she had just left the pit.
Somehow, the conversation veered toward her work as a biologist of sorts, and she began to tell us about fish vaginas, how she spent all day looking at them and how no one cares. We were stunned and, for the sake of avoiding an even more awkward situation, tried to convince her that we did indeed care about fish vaginas.
Random Notebook Dump: The above-mentioned girl also watched a certain type of female fish that live-births (in other words, doesn't lay eggs) give birth only to eat its young before they were even finished being born. We're not forgetting that conversation anytime soon.