So, what was the HMV Institute (and then briefly just The Institute) is now the O2 Institute, HMV having apparently thrown the baby out with the bathwater with this whole “fuck music” thing. The venue remains the same, perfectly fine apart from the obnoxious placement of merch stands.
Tonight’s support band walk out like they’re the main act. This is, of course, the ska band Suburban Legends, the band known for their funky Disney covers, and not the similarly named Suburban Rhythm to whom Reel Big Fish claim influence. A support band playing Disney covers is a bit of a stroke of genius. As Reel Big Fish later sing and support bands often find out “no-one’s gonna sing along with you”, but a drunk crowd will more than happily sing along to a ska-punk cover of ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’. Their original songs are also pretty catchy, ‘Forever in the Friendzone’ is insanely fun and the crowd loves it, just make sure you don’t play any feminist rallies, lads.
Reel Big Fish’s live set has a lot to live up to; in 2006 they broke from their label and released Our Live Album Is Better than Your Live Album, known for its insane length and a really good necrophilia joke. It is an unrealistically high standard to judge Reel Big Fish sets against, but what’s interesting is how they’ve adapted their set in the nine years since.
For one, we’re three albums later, so the set is almost wall to wall singles. The only omission that is of note is ‘Everything Sucks’, but everything you’ll expect is here. ‘Sell Out’ (their biggest hit) is thrown out unexpectedly mid-set and they even play the often-forgotten ‘Ban the Tube Top’. The contrast between bitter lyrics, absurd imagery and cheerful melodies is a winning formula. It becomes almost therapeutic to scream along to the bands cynical sweary songs like ‘Everyone Else Is An Asshole’ and ‘Your Guts.’
The encore is easily the highlight of the night. Aaron Barrett ‘trolls’ the audience, “This is a song about my favourite drink” he shouts as the crowd chants for ‘Beer’, before the band go into covers of ‘Tequila’ and ‘Red, Red Wine’. It’s very funny. When they do eventually play ‘Beer’, it includes a surprise cover of The Offspring’s ‘Self Esteem’, a song whose misanthropic lyrics fit perfectly within a Reel Big Fish set. The night closes with their cover of ‘Take On Me’, once again proving tonight that there is nothing wrong with a cover, especially if that cover is ska-punk.
Photos by Ashley Robak.