Live: Reel Big Fish – O2 Academy Birmingham, 25/1/10

Monday night’s alright for skanking, or so they say, so I headed on down to Birmingham to catch me some Reel Big Fish and ditch those January blues. I must admit, I was pretty damn excited about going to this show. First of all, the mere prospect of Reel Big Fish gets me more excited than fat Twihards watching Robert Pattinson documentaries. Despite Matt Wong’s departure last year, I knew that I was most likely in for some fun. Secondly, it was in the new Academy, which I had never visited before; this particularly reveals a lot about my current taste in music, I believe, as well as my favourite bands’ sucky touring schedules. Thirdly, it was my first ‘big’ gig of the year. And finally, it meant getting off campus, which believe me, can be a real joy.

I think it’s important that I start with my views on the new Academy building. It’s just as close to the train station, if not closer, and brings me past the comic book shop on the way. That’s pretty awesome. We didn’t encounter priority entrance as such, but having our tickets already got us in there pretty swiftly and up until this point, I was pretty psyched. However, upon stepping inside, I was disappointed. It’s bigger, it’s cleaner, it’s brighter, but those aren’t necessarily good things. Perhaps I’m just lost in the memories I have of the old Academy building – I went to my first show there, I’ve seen all my favourite bands there, I’ve generally spent some of the best nights of my life there – and I’m old and bitter and therefore unable to adapt to the new. No matter what though, the drinks are still way too fucking expensive. One thing I can’t fathom about the venue though is that the balcony is now all seated. I suppose it lets them get more people in there, but personally, it seems utterly pointless when many gigs only have the stalls open. Anyway, I’m pretty sure I’ll learn to love the new building, but right now… not feeling it.

So, bands! Sonic Boom Six opened up and I arrived about a third of the way through their set. I’ve never really been a massive SBS fan, but then again, I’ve never listened to many of their songs. I was reasonably impressed. Admittedly, their best songs were the ones where they brought in the horn section from Big D And The Kids Table to come and help out, and I found it really quite strange that they didn’t have a horn section. However, this wasn’t entirely a problem. Their sound has echoes of second wave ska (they even partly covered Ghost Town) and was a little bit more punk than the rest of the offerings that evening. The dual guy/girl vocals were pretty interesting (and she had killer hair!) and overall, they were quite good to watch.

However, SBS could not compare to Big D And The Kids Table at all. Big D are one of those bands that I really like, but I don’t have any of their material and end up listening to the same three or four songs that happen to be on their Myspace at the time. But there are two things I know about Big D. First of all, their saxophone player is hot. Secondly, they are awesome. Live, they’re pretty impressive. No bands suffered from sound problems at all that night, but Big D just sounded so much better than SBS. They have backing singers who dance by the screen, which is the epitome of cool, especially in their matching hounds tooth dresses. And you do not need the words to have a good time. Big D have some real easy going songs and then some pretty upbeat ones that are hella easy to skank to. They played a very varied set, accommodating the best from all of their albums (as far as I could tell), and promoted the new one well. If these guys roll into your town, go and check them out because you’ll have a hell of a lot of fun.

And holy shit, Reel Big Fish were so good! My expectations were fully realised that night. As soon as they opened with Sell Out, I knew that it was going to be a killer set. Everyone was dancing, everyone was having fun and quite rightfully! The little bromance between Aaron and Scott is always amusing, and they were on fine form. They played all the classics – Beer, Take On Me, Where Have You Been?, Don’t Start A Band, She Has A Girlfriend Now, etc etc – and absolutely owned the venue. It’s true, it was kind of lame that Matt wasn’t there, and as fightclubsandwich has said, “No Wong, no deal!” but to be honest, Reel Big Fish have always been just as energetic, just as fun, just as great no matter what the lineup. The encore was potentially one of the best I’ve ever witnessed in my life as they rattled through various different musical styles whilst playing S.R. (even death metal!) and whilst RBF might not be “MASTERS!” of all the musical styles in the world, they certainly are masters of their craft. Which is hella awesome ska.