Moving from Colorado to Northern Idaho/Southern Washington has put a damper on the number of shows I am able to attend. While I’m admittedly not the hugest fan of ska-punk, I was starved for a live music experience. Some of the posters advertised the evening as a “Reel Big Fish/Streetlight Manifesto” show, while my ticket proclaimed it to be a “Streetlight Manifesto/Reel Big Fish” show. So I walked into Spokane’s Knitting Factory with no idea of the running order of bands playing.
My friends and I arrived just in time to see the second act of the night, Lionize take the stage. The best way I can describe their sound is “Clutch Goes Reggae.” Their sound didn’t exactly appeal to my tastes but they played like a well-oiled machine, and appeared to have a few fans in attendance.
As soon as they exited the stage, I had no idea who I would be seeing next. After a nearly half-hour set change, some introductory horns began playing over the PA, and the Reel Big Fish banner dropped. Frontman Aaron Barret came out looking like a thinner version of the Your Scene Sucks Rude Boy; Hawaiian shirt, checkerboard guitar strap and all. As soon as the band launched into opener “Everything Sucks,” the crowd exploded. Ska kids are crazy, you would have thought it was a Slayer show or something.
If I were to have made a list of all the Reel Big Fish songs I thought I knew before this show, it would went something like “Beer," “Sell Out,” their “Take On Me” cover and… “The Impression That I Get?” That sounds right. However, I was surprised to find that I knew almost half the songs the band played. I’m not sure how exactly, comps or mix CDs probably, but several times throughout their set I found myself saying “Hey, I know this song!”
As I mentioned previously, I’m not much of a ska-punk fan, but it cannot be said Reel Big Fish aren’t good at what they do. They nail their songs exactly like they sound on record, and they know how to work a crowd. They’ve been going so long that naturally they’re professionals at this point. They closed their set with the songs I was most familiar with and left their fans with plenty to smile about.
The night wasn’t over, however. After a surprisingly short set change (Probably about half of what it took for Reel Big Fish to come onstage), New Jersey’s Streetlight Manifesto emerged. I wasn’t as familiar with them as I was with Reel Big Fish (My only real exposure being knowing some Catch 22 songs, and hearing a few songs in the car on the way to the venue). One of the only songs I knew that they played ended up being a cover (“Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard”) The group struck me as better musicians than Reel Big Fish (and about a thousand times better lyrically), but not as great of performers. For the most part, the band simply played their songs, and didn’t do all that much to connect with their audience. From their shorter stage setup time, their shorter set time, their smaller banner and their actual performance, this seemed like a classic case of an opening band closing after a headlining band.
While the night’s performances may not exactly have been my cup of tea musically, I still had a lot of fun at my first outing resembling a punk show in months. I think the running order of the top two bands perhaps should have been reversed, but they both played great sets, and it was interesting to get a firsthand look at one of the subcultures in punk rock that I have mostly avoided over the years. If these bands come to your town, there are a lot of worse ways to spend an evening.