Concert Review

Reel Big Fish Skank it up at Altar Bar

Ladies and gentlemen, we have finally come to the end, of possibly the biggest week of ska music in the history of Pittsburgh venues. We started off the week with Streetlight Manifesto, followed by Less Than Jake, only to finish it all up with the one and only Reel Big Fish at Pittsburgh’s own Altar Bar.

This would be the first actual tour without Reel Big Fish’s (RBF) recently retired trombone player Dan Regan, who retired just last month after 20 plus years of service and dedication to the band. It was a hard loss, but nonetheless, RBF continued to go on and recruit their new trombone player Billy Kottage who has some serious talent and can definitely fill Dan Regan’s shoes for the most part. Getting back on track, after showing up to Altar Bar (an hour after the doors opened up), there was still a line of people all the way to the corner of the street, way past the venue. Just to see all of these loyal ska fans trying to cram into this small venue was amazing, on a Sunday night too! Without any surprise, it was another sold-out show for RBF in Pittsburgh and they made the show worth it too.

When RBF finally was about to come on stage, everyone screaming and shouting, ready to skank the night away, I took a quick look around Altar Bar and when I say this, I am not over exaggerating… there was not one spot that was jam packed with people. I didn’t even think Altar Bar could hold so many people at one time it was that unreal. To start things off right, RBF started with an old classic, “Everything Sucks” which couldn’t have started the night off better. After that they just kept on rolling right into “I Want Your Girlfriend to be my Girlfriend Too” and one of their newer songs “Don’t Stop Skankin”. The best part is, they still just kept on going! Next up they played “Trendy” and right before a break in between songs they played “Everyone Else is an Asshole”.

The crowd finally got to settle down for a short bit before RBF jumped back into it. But of course being a ska band and all, they have to joke around with each other. Frontman Aaron Barrett and trumpet player Johnny Christmas had to go back and forth with some funny jokes which got everyone to laugh quite a bit. Then it was time to start playing again and RBF mixed it up the whole night with some old songs, new songs, and even some songs form a side project band that Aaron Barrett started a while ago called The Forces of Evil. Getting the chance to see some songs by The Forces of Evil was probably a onetime thing, and it was exciting to get that chance too.

Getting back to the set, RBF also played some more classics and crowd favorites like: “Thank You for Not Moshing”, “Sell Out”, “Where Have you Been?”, “She Has a Girlfriend Now”, and of course “Beer”. Before I forget though, they also played half of a “Call Me Maybe” cover just to be funny. Leave it to a ska band to do just that. Probably the best part of the night though, was when Aaron Barrett broke a guitar string and still pulled off two more songs before the encore, and the solo to “Beer” while playing his guitar behind his head. Now that’s some talent right there.

When RBF came back on stage for an encore set, they of course had to enter in style with the O-lay O-lay O-lay O-lay chant. Now there were two really big songs that have not been played yet, and that would be “S.R.” and their A-Ha cover “Take on Me”. They did their normal thing with “S.R.” by playing almost every genre they could have by starting off with “This next song, which is the same song!” in RBF fashion of course; they played it: normal, faster, disco, square dance, and metal. Lastly, they finished up with “Take on Me” to end a great show and an amazing night for everyone.

This was one of the best performances I have seen Reel Big Fish play in a while. They have always been awesome but this time it just seemed like they pulled out some stunts. Constantly singing and dancing with each other, getting everyone to join in with their songs, simply just having a good time. It’s a great sign to see that a band that has been around that long still has that much fun playing shows and making music. It’s motivating to say the least, that now not just older generations get to experience it, but younger generations too, so it gets them excited to go experience more music like ska. Reel Big Fish at Altar Bar was two thumbs up, no question. This was the best way to finish off a weekend and a long week of ska concerts. If you missed this show… you missed out on a lot of cool experiences that you can only get at a ska show.

All photos ©2013  Mike Mendlowitz and Pittsburgh Music Magazine

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