Dozens of kids stormed the floor as the curtains parted to reveal... well an empty stage at the relatively new Paramount Theater. With such acts like Elvis Costello, NOFX, Pixies and other recognizable names having already headlined and over a dozen others scheduled to play the joint it seems like they're really trying to promote this place as the place to see music here on Long Island, N.Y.
Speaking of kids, I didn't really expect to see a bunch of old timers here but I guess I never realized how popular these bands were amongst the kids of today. We’re talking a majority of kids in their high school years to people in their early 20s. Some wouldn't look out of place in the crowd at the latest Warped Tour and it was obvious to tell that it was a first show for a few of them. I guess it's not a huge surprise considering they can both be considered entry-level ska bands but it still came as a bit of a surprise. I highly condone their presence here rather than some crappy, star-of-the-moment metalcore band though. That crap is just hazardous.
Seeing as I arrived early I got to catch all the opening acts, for better or for worse. First up were Indiana natives Rodeo Ruby Love and they were not exactly the type of thing you'd expect at such a horn-filled, skanking spectacular. They played a form of indie pop music that just comes off as really bland, generic and boring. I don't think the guitar amps had mics hooked up as they were completely drowned out by the the drums, bass and almost unintelligible vocals while the keyboard was practically nonexistent in the mix. Another issue is they had their female singer up front swaying along to the music while she seemed to take the position of glorified backup vocalist, barely touching the mic and almost never singing on her own without their guitar-playing, thick-rimmed-glasses-wearing lead singer. Overall a very forgettable performance and I was glad to see them leave so the evening could proceed.
Next up wAS the genre-bending anomaly of Lionize. Both them and Rodeo Ruby Love are signed to Streelight Manifesto's Pentimento Music Group so it's not too hard to see why they're both here gaining exposure from the relatively sizable Streetlight crowd. Now onto Lionize. Imagine Bob Marley, Phish, Rick James and Queens of the Stone Age all thrown into a blender, like a funky desert-reggae jam band. That's the perfect way to sum up Lionize. There were some certified groovy moments from their set which seemed to only consist of four heavily jammed out songs. While they did get a little tedious they certainly weren't bad and I don't regret having experienced them.
As the smoke cleared onstage and the Streetlight banner became visible in the background you could feel the excitement in the air. This is what the people came to see and they were finally gonna get it! You could smell the anticipation... or maybe it was teenage B.O. But Streetlight eventually took the stage and busted into a set that included songs from all across frontman and mastermind Tomas Kalnoky's ska history. An almost equal blend of Catch 22 and all the Streetlight albums, even throwing in "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard" off their covers album. A friend of mine who caught their last show in the city a few months ago was surprised at the range of the set, mostly relying on Somewhere in the Between material last time. But absent from the show was Tom's banter and interaction with the audience, moving at almost a Ramones-like pace jumping from song to song with barely a pause in between. They certainly played solidly and much fun was to be had during the set with the exception of dealing with the audience in the pit. It was impossible to skank or even pit due to the audience just kind of randomly running into each other. And not the fun kind of running into each other either. Some of the audience would try to flow in a circle but were interrupted by kids just standing or dashing into the path of the oncoming stomp. It was still a thrill, just a really messy thrill.
But enough of my rantings on improper mosh behavior (such a thing just sounds dumb now that I think about it), onto the headliner. Reel Big Fish, one of the biggest ska acts from the '90s finally took the stage after some minor delays. Aaron Barrett's latest edition of the gang even includes a saxophonist for the first time in 15 years. The group played a solid set of mostly earlier material, throwing in some covers like "Take on Me" and "Monkey Man" for good measure. The Fish used a a nice portion of their act making up for Streetlight's lack of stage banter and providing plenty of their own for good measure in a delightfully quirky manner, even if it did come off as kinda staged. A highlight was breaking out "Suburban Rhythm" and it's various incarnations, including a death metal and a countrified version. And of course they closed out the evening giving all the fans what they were obviously waiting for, unleashing "Sell Out" as an encore. I don't think this little trick is really convincing anybody they're ever gonna drop the song from their set no matter how much Barrett tries to convince us he can't stand the song. Fish swim, dogs lick their balls and RBF plays "Sell Out." It’s just the way the world works.
All in all a good, solid night of ska punk old and new. Fun was had by all and I'm sure all the little 'uns were picked up satisfied. It wasn't mind blowing but it lived up to my expectations and it was a great time. Newer RBF may not be to my liking but that doesn't mean that they can't still put on a good show. On a side note I highly recommend giving Tom's new solo CD Streetlight Lullabies at least one listen as he does a wonderful job translating his songs into somber, finger picked acoustic renditions of some of Streetlights best songs, even though it does involve having to listen to yet another version of "Hey Sergio."