It’s been more than two decades since Huntington Beach’s Reel Big Fish had their biggest radio hit, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell by the crowd’s reaction at the Philly stop of their latest tour.
Despite a crowd of 20-somethings that were still listening to Raffi and Kidz Pop when “Sell Out” was on constant rotation on MTV, the millennials went nuts once the band started to tease out the intro to the song. It helped that frontman Aaron Barrett teased the song out for a good 10 minutes, clearly enjoying that he was toying with the audience.
“Right now, we’re going to play the big hit song from the 1990s by Reel Big Fish,” he announced before leading into Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. A couple of measures in, they stop, “just kidding. That’s not a Reel Big Fish song; it’s Metallica, duh.” He continues the routine shuffling through a number of one hit wonder from the ‘90s by Lit, The Proclaimers and Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Corny? You bet. But the band managed to play it off perfectly with the crowd hanging on to every single word. Their goofiness and can’t-help-but-smile banter is part of the charm of these ska punks that helped launch the last big boom for the genre.
The venue was about half full, but the band still played to the back of the house. Reel Big Fish has been playing these songs for years and yet still managed to come across like a new group with something to prove. The horn section miming and choreography, Barrett’s rapport with the audience, the inspired set list – comprised of favorites – could all come across as forced for a band that gave up caring long ago. But Reel Big Fish put on a stellar show to a crowd, that also included more than a few tattooed 40-somethings scattered throughout (but all safely away from the circle pit). The band is still loving what they’re doing 20 years later and the audience was loving it even more so.
Reel Big Fish is in the middle of their Beer Run Tour, where they’re taking a slew of bands out with them. The Philly show included sets by Dry Reef, Tunnel Vision, The Queers and The Expendables.
Certain stops of the tour also include tastings and beer games from local craft breweries (hence the name).