Reel Big Fish has an infectious live energy that has to be experienced to be understood. Sweaty, skanking (or ska-dancing) fans that have seen them before are sure to return again and again for beer-fueled dance parties featuring the group’s classic hits, silly, vulgar anthems and surprise covers. Friends of mine have seen the group at least 50 times, and each set of each tour is a totally different party.
On their summer 2017 tour, “The Beer Run,” Reel Big Fish, along with their friends friends The Queers and The Expendables, brought along some of their favorite craft beers. After some typical Florida summer afternoon thunderstorms rained the event’s original location out, the show was moved into the St. Augustine Amphitheater. It is one of my favorite venues locally but it was by far the tiniest crowd I have ever seen there. I have never seen such a small Reel Big Fish show, and even the last time I saw The Expendables, they headlined a huge beachfront festival. Whether it happened because of the venue change or weather, I was still surprised by the small turnout. Reel Big Fish has so many loyal fans who will come out to every show and it was a pleasure to see them in such an intimate setting with so much room to skank.
San Clemente surfers, Tunnel Vision opened the show with their good-vibes, ska-punk sound.
They were followed by The Queers, a group who I was deeply surprised to see such an early set from. They brought classic punk with their middle fingers up and an attitude to match. The Queers have been a punk mainstay for longer than Reel Big Fish has been on the ska scene, and it’s cool to see authentic punk and ska.
The night was kind of a sad reminder that the ska and punk scenes have really died down. There were only a few patched-up punks and checkerboarded rude boys in the crowd. The whole thing reminded me of a hole in the wall show more than an amphitheater festival. It was unexpected but completely unforgettable to see these acts in such a close, mellow setting.
The Expendables came along on this tour, diversifying the lineup with a little 420-inspired reggae. Everyone at the show, ranging from the patched-up punks who came for the The Queers to the chilled out and barefoot Expendables fans, everyone could appreciate and relate to Reel Big Fish in a way. They have a real F-U attitude with a sarcastic and less threateningly punk energy. They have a mellow attitude, brightened by enthusiastic brass that makes it easy to dance as the time flies by.
It seems the rain has always just subsided before these St. Augustine Amphitheater shows. When the sun finally went down and Reel Big Fish came to stage, the crowd was well warmed up. RBF pleased fans with expected hits like “Sell Out” and “Beer” and included their signature slew of popular nineties ska and rock covers, including “The Impression That I Get.” These covers are always played with tongue-in-cheek enthusiasm. The band’s outrageously graphic tracks and vulgar chants are always hilarious to see at an all ages show, but the kids were learning to skank right along with us.
Reel Big Fish has an energy that is chill but fun. Their notoriously goofy attitudes are always obvious, despite the lack of onstage gimmicks. They read the crowd’s vibe and gave St. Augustine a more mellow show: Something different for the fans who came out despite the rain. After seeing The Dirty Heads sell the venue out two days earlier, it was weird seeing these huge acts play for us so intimately.
The theme of the day was “beer.” From their BEER-emblazoned gym socks to the crowds dazed but smiling faces, it was a clear success. Even tipsy, you can notice the skill that each musician in Reel Big Fish possesses. The bright brass section takes time for jazzy breakdowns that crescendo into high energy ska explosions. Their shows are not polished but they are a band who has never promised to be polished. What we got was the cool, punk, rude boy attitude and sarcastic brassy beer-fueled fun we love and expect from Reel Big Fish.
Photos by Liz Pena/AltWire
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