Review: Reel Big Fish takes Syracuse fans back to the ’90s

Review: Reel Big Fish takes fans back to the '90s

The California ska-punkers play to a huge, frantic audience Wednesday at The Westcott Theater.
Published: March 4, 2020
Reel Big Fish on March 4, 2020 at the Westcott Theater in Syracuse
Reel Big Fish performs songs from their new LP "Life Sucks ... Let's Dance" as well as fan favorites at the Westcott Theater.

The Westcott Theater was filled to the brim on Wednesday with fans clamoring to see ska-punk icons Reel Big Fish, which in turn treated their fanbase to a night of blaring horns, rapid tempos and hilarious stage antics.

Hailing from Orange County, California, Reel Big Fish gained mainstream notoriety for their energetic blend of ska and hardcore punk music. The band made a name for themselves with 1996’s Turn the Radio Off that featured “Sell Out,” a heavy rotation MTV staple at the time.

As of 2020, the band is touring in support of their ninth album, Life Sucks… Let’s Dance, and first since Candy Coated Fury in 2012. The current lineup features founding frontman and guitarist Aaron Barrett, trombonist Dan Regan, trumpeter John Christianson, saxophonist Matt Appleton, bassist Derek Gibbs and drummer Edward Larsen.

Cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon sloshed in the hands of inebriated 30-somethings, all of whom were sporting Hawaiian shirts, banana suits and the occasionally dyed mohawk. Established opening act Big D and the Kid’s Table warmed up the crowd with their more aggressive, politically charged take on the ska-punk genre. Frontman David McWane conversed with the crowd, marveling about the history behind the theater and showcasing his support for Bernie Sanders.

Once Reel Big Fish took the stage, the crowd contorted into a mix of crowd surfing and moshing.  Security guards were overwhelmed at times by overzealous fans as they piled over the guard railing before being “kindly” escorted back into the crowd.

Reel Big Fish on March 4, 2020 at the Westcott Theater in Syracuse
John Christianson blows through Reel Big Fish's set at The Westcott Theater.

What separates Reel Big Fish from many other bands is their unique sense of humor evident at The Wescott Theater by the staged false starts and trumpeter John Christianson’s (aka “Little Johnny Christmas”) crowd directing.

Jokes aside, Reel Big Fish proved that they are more than capable musicians and performers. The setlist was packed with non-stop energy and excitement so songs such as “She Has a Girlfriend Now” and “Everyone Else is an A­–hole” sent the crowd into a frenzy. Also, the band played tasteful covers of Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl,” Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle” and their well-regarded take on the a-ha classic, “Take on Me.”

Overall, Reel Big Fish’s show at The Westcott Theater proved that these ska-punkers have more than enough energy after nearly 30 years of albums, tours, and hysterical music videos.

The band will be playing at the Paramount in Huntington, N.Y., on Friday. Visit the band’s website to keep up with their 2020 North American tour.