Reel Big Fish / Anti-Flag / Ballyhoo - Live in Philadelphia (Cover Artwork)

Reel Big Fish / Anti-Flag / Ballyhoo

Live in Philadelphia (2017)

live show

It was a particularly sullen day as that evening was going to be the last night Donald Trump did not have access to the nuclear codes. Unrelated, it was also the night Reel Big Fish, Anti-Flag, Ballyhoo, and Direct Hit! were playing The Fillmore in Philadelphia. As I got ready to for the show, the news was on in the background with various self-important titled people somewhat openly mumbling in disbelief about what was to transpire the next day. It was all very much in the forefront of my mind as I hoped to find a sense of escape at the concert.

The show was billed as a 20 year anniversary tour for Reel Big Fish and Anti-Flag respectively celebrating Turn The Radio Off and Die For Your Government. I have very fond memories of seeing both bands live throughout my formative years, Reel Big Fish being a favorite amongst my group of friends and Anti-Flag being one of the first punk shows I’d been too. These were records I grew up seeing played live.

I arrived a bit late to the venue hoping to miss Ballyhoo’s set. They were advertised first on the bill and having given them a spin after seeing the tour announcement, decided they weren’t my thing. However, I made my way to the stage just in time to see the Direct Hit! banner dropping revealing a Ballyhoo one. The Fillmore website was wrong. I imagine Ballyhoo sound like what Pepper mixed with Mest sounds like. I imagine that because I’ve never actually heard Pepper. To their credit, they didn’t let the uninterested audience deter them, but their last interaction with the audience about punk, reggae, love, and sex was as cringeworthy as they’re neon shirts for sale. As I said, not my thing.

I continued to feel generally unnerved as Anti-Flag set up and a large American flag in distress rose still hoping to find that sense of optimism. It felt apropros to see them on the eve of Trump. As they came to the stage, Chris #2 immediately called for a circle pit opening up the crowd for the first time in the evening. They launched into the 1-2-3 punch of “You’d Do The Same, “Die For Your Government,” and “Drink Drank Punk.” Justin Sane, Chris #2, and Chris Head all traded vocals for Andy Flag’s parts throughout the night. About half their set were deep cuts from the Die For Your Government era.

The second half of their set was from later era material and contained some of their most well known songs including “The Press Corpse,” “Turncoat,” and “This Is The End.” Towards the end of the set, a young kid was sitting on his dad’s shoulders when Chris #2 was leading the crowd in some call and response chants when he stopped and realized he had just pointed at the child and called him a “motherfucker.” He stopped and acknowledged to his bandmates and audience what he did breaking stage character and sharing a knowing moment before he went back to his spiel. It was light hearted moment with everyone sharing a laugh at the expense of somewhat scripted banter during songs. They finished off their set in usual fashion with a cover from The Clash and bringing Pat Thetic and Chris #2 into the audience for closer “Brandenburg Gates.”

Reel Big Fish came out playing a handful of songs from different albums including “Another F.U. Song” and “I Want Your Girlfriend to Be My Girlfriend” before launching into Turn The Radio Off. They played the album front to back and had everyone in the audience skanking along. It wasn’t until now that I realized how the crowd spanned a large spectrum of ages from the very young to my 30 year old crowd to even older. The previously mentioned kid even found himself crowd surfing during “Snoop Dogg” to which you could see the obvious enjoyment of the band as the crowd came together to safely guard his experience. His dad’s parenting skills were acknowledge and celebrated by singer Aaron Barrett post-song. The whole scene reminded me of why I felt so attached to the punk rock community.

Reel Big Fish finished off the album announcing to the crowd they left off one song. As a few people began yelling “Beer” leading the crowd to break out, they immediately launched into The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “The Impression That I Get.” The crowd didn’t even seem to realize until they stopped mid-song, myself included. I think the band even caught this as they informed the audience they were confusing breakout ska hits of the 90s. They closed out the set with “Beer” and a few other songs including “Self Esteem” by The Offspring and “Take On Me.”

As I left the concert searching for a cab, the events of tomorrow felt distant in my mind for the first time all day. Thank you punk rock community. Also, thank you $10 whiskey.