From what I can see there seems to have been a distinct lack of skanking going on at the frontline of Über Röck's war on musical mediocrity. That's something I intend on changing right now and what better way to start than with the opening night of the brand new Reel Big Fish European Tour, 2010: A Ska Odyssey. Time to run a chequered flag up the Über Röck flag pole and celebrate the fact that some of us here (well, me at least) are Ska'd For Life.
The last time Reel Big Fish graced a stage here in Plymouth was way back in 2007 so this gig is naturally a "sell out" (sorry). Game plan was to arrive early and secure a decent vantage point and in arriving early we get to meet RBF mainman Aaron Barrett heading out of the stage door back towards the tour bus. Now I've read many things about Aaron, that he can be a moody fucker who's rude to fans and blanks people but I found him nothing short of the perfect host, happy to sign, chat and pose for photos. A local band turned up with a few acoustic guitars and some brass to knock out a few songs to the entertainment of the gathering crowds, turning their hands (somewhat shoddily, and I think they'll agree) to a couple of RBF numbers too during which they tried to coax Aaron to join in with an impromptu busk in Plymouth City Centre, diplomatically declining he carried on with the signing and photos pretty much right up until the doors opened. Top bloke.
Manchester's Sonic Boom Six take the stage at 7:30 to a still only quarter full Main Hall. Having opened many a show for Reel Big Fish over the years they know what it takes to get the place warmed up and waste no time in getting stuck straight into their unique brand of reggae tinged ska punk. Older tunes like 'Sound Of A Revolution' alongside new ones such as 'Through The Eyes Of A Child' and the rather Transplants-esque 'Strange Transformations' from the most recent album 'City Of Thieves' get the growing crowd soon breaking the night's first sweat out. 'Piggy In The Middle' caps off a quality set from tonight's young guns, hard to believe they've been going for nearly 8 years already though.
For any Ska lover Big D and the Kids Table are a band that you NEED in your CD collection. With a set list ultimately culled from their last three studio albums, they deliver a perfectly faultless set. Opening with the one two punch of 'Steady Riot' and the recklessly rowdy 'Noise Complaint' from the 2007 album 'Strictly Rude' they have the crowd grooving from the off. A couple of 'Doped Up Dollies' decked out in figure hugging black dresses provide some 30s style swing with their backing vocals during 'Not Fucking Around'. Steve Foote's 'Lust For Life' soundalike bass line leading the way through with some smooth Jazz brass filling the gaps. If Bertie Wooster had an evil Ska loving twin then Big D and the Kids Table would most certainly be the soundtrack to his exploits. 'Shining On' and 'Describing The Sky' are equally jazzed out before 'Little Bitch' by The Specials wraps up the set. Uber kudos to Suburban Legends legend Brian Klemm for filling in on guitar for this tour. The guy's a natural star, an awesome guitar player and another top bloke. If you haven't heard Suburban Legends then check them out. In the mean time pick up a copy of Big Ds 'Fluent In Stroll' and chill the fuck out.
Most bands would balk at the idea of opening their set with what is arguably their most successful song but following an intro tape of the Superman theme the Fish men spark up the nights Ska-nival with the incediary 'Sell Out'. Igniting fans into the kind of frenzy usually reserved for many bands' encores. The crush down the front is intense and unrelenting as they follow up with the classic 'Trendy'. Big brass hooks from Little Johnny Christmas (trumpet), Dan Regan (trombone) and Scott Klopfenstein (trumpet/guitar) rip into the crowd as Aaron Barret skanks and spins from one side of the stage to the other like a two tone pinball. Ednas Goldfish cover 'Veronica Sawyer' is an early highlight having become quite a fan favourite over the last year since the release of the 'Fame, Fortune And Fornication' covers album. Sonic Boom Six's Laila Kahn comes out to help with the female vocals on 'She Has A Girlfriend Now'. 'The Set Up' and 'Don't Start A Band' lead up to the legendary 'S.R (The Many Versions Of)'. Not content with playing S.R in it's original Ska stylee they proceed to show that they are masters (MASTERS ! MASTERS ! \m/) of every musical stylee and knock it out again in a Punk Rock stylee, a Blues stylee, a Country sylee, Hell even a Death Metal stylee before Brian Klemm appears back on stage dressed as an Eighties Glam Rocker with an alarming pair of crotchless and buttless leather trousers and only a tiny black thong to protect his modesty. Scott looking distressed and asking "What happened to your penis?" 'Good Thing' and 'Your Guts' follow with Brian on guitar leading up to the end of the set with 'Where Have You Been' and a raucous 'Take On Me'.
Lita Ford classic 'Kiss Me Deadly' is the cover of choice for the first song of the encore. Then it's the SURPRISE of 'You Don't Know' before the grand finale of 'Beer' and the parting of ways between the undisputed Kings Of Party Down Ska Music and their loyal but sweaty, tired and extremely bruised subjects.