Show Review: Reel Big Fish with Streetlight Manifesto, The Maxies and Rodeo Ruby Love at the Regency Ballroom, 7/15/2011

by Jonathan Pirro on July 16, 2011

Aaron Barrett of Reel Big Fish

Aaron Barrett of Reel Big Fish

There’s a commonly-held mindset that says you cannot take ska music seriously. From a simple outside perspective, this makes sense; it’s generally very bouncy, positive-sounding music, and the horns just accentuate the level of joy, or perhaps the level of unseriousness. For what is entailed in a ska song, however, it’s remarkably rude to call it simple or childish; with 3 or 4 additional players that accompany a full band, one that’s usually churning out rapid-fire punk riffs, and with all of the members running around onstage, it’s definitely not a simple feat. The energy of the music, for those who do listen and follow it, is infectious and riotous in its intensity, and whether the lyrics are heartfelt and yearning, or slovenly and self-deprecating, wildly energetic audiences will still fill large auditoriums to see the spectacle, and chant and stamp to every word. Such was the case on Friday night, when the Regency Ballroom of San Francisco played host to two titans of the genre: the New Jersey septet Streetlight Manifesto, and the Huntington Beach veterans known as Reel Big Fish.

Annie Cheek and Zachary Melton of Rodeo Ruby Love

Annie Cheek and Zachary Melton of Rodeo Ruby Love

How very odd indeed, then, that for a night to be filled with circle pits and bouncing soles, the two opening acts were entirely absent of a horn section. The Bloomington, Indiana sextet of Rodeo Ruby Love presented a much more  straightforward approach, with power-pop songs that took on a slightly more sophisticated level with the addition of backup vocalist Annie Cheek and keyboardist Kurt Friedrich. While their songs were catchy and fun, and the band did their best to kickstart the energy level for the evening, the crowd was clearly hungry for something jumpier and less, well, safe. The musicianship of the players was quite excellent, but the simplicity of their music left a bit to be desired.

Maximum of the Maxies

Maximum of the Maxies

Whatever droll slumber or buzzing annoyance the crowd was beginning to slip into over the opening band, it was absolutely knocked out of the water by the arrival of the Maxies, a Luchador-mask-and-matching-outfit-clad quintet from Greenland — yes, Greenland (if the Internet is to be believed, of course). In addition to a blistering wall of punk rock fury, not to mention a sixth band member in the form of a dancing polar bear, singer Maximum Maxie regaled the crowd with an armload of insults and innuendos about all of the other bands on the bill, as well as San Francisco, California, the USA, and pretty much anything else that he could cleverly take a swipe at. It seemed that there was no moment in the set, except possibly the brief between-song breaks, that the Maxies weren’t pinballing around the stage, staying as airborne as possible in between handclaps and lap dances with “Bi-Polar Bear Tom”, who slipped onstage for a few more memorable numbers throughout the set.

Mike Brown, Jim Conti and Nadav Nirenberg of Steetlight Manifesto

Mike Brown, Jim Conti and Nadav Nirenberg of Steetlight Manifesto

It’s a rare event for the crowd to be more excited for the band that isn’t headlining the show, but such was clearly the case as evidenced by the banshee wail of screams that went up in accordance with the arrival of Streetlight Manifesto. While their larger membership (seven people onstage, and one heavy collection of gear) limited their onstage movement, it did little to deter the energy of the New Jersey fellows, who ran in place and bounced up and down as often as possible, mimicking the living, breathing animal that the surging crowd had become. It seemed that the entire audience knew the word to every single one of the band’s songs, as evidenced by the magnificent swell of singing that took place at every possible chorus, and even moreseo at the bridges that saw the horns drop away briefly. Whether they were going to end the night or not, Streetlight Manifesto definitely took control of the stage, and the crowd loved every second of it.

Matt Appleton and John Christianson of Reel Big Fish

Matt Appleton and John Christianson of Reel Big Fish

Despite a large chunk of the crowd disappearing in accordance with Streetlight Manifesto’s departure from the stage, the Regency Ballroom was still full to near-bursting capacity when Reel Big Fish marched triumphantly into the spotlights. If there was any indication that their predecessors had sapped the energy of the audience or the band onstage, it was gone within the first few notes of “Trendy”, a favorite from the band’s well loved classic sophomore record Turn the Radio Off. Singer Aaron Barrett and the rest of the Fish were a bit slow to start, mostly seeming to get themselves ready to revive a crowd that might have been expended, but a few glances into the crowd and their faces were split with grins, and Barrett and trombone player Dan Regan began riffing off of each other, and the crowd, in a sharp but humorous manner — heightened by the realization that bellowing “Streetlight Manifesto!” into the mic and gloating at the crowd, who responded with zealous joy.

Derek Gibbs of Reel Big Fish

Derek Gibbs of Reel Big Fish

It was difficult to find a point of the band to focus on. Besides their clever jibes, Barrett and Regan were the most animated members of the band, spending nearly a third of the set airborne, and encouraging the crowd to do the same. Trumpet player John Christianson and sax player Matt Appleton, not to be outdone, kicked up the onstage energy another few notches, ricocheting off the frontmen and each other in between their wild solos, which were enthusiastically highlighted by Regan. Bassist Derek Gibbs and drummer Ryland Steen were the last bastions of calm, and though they themselves lent a hand or two to the onstage mayhem, they spent more of the time preserving a solid rhythm section that kept up the backbone of the dynamite performance.

Their live albums are better than your live albums!

Their live albums are better than your live albums!

The band’s set seemed to be the best mix culled from favorites, mash-ups, big hits, and fun covers. Big classics such as “She Has A Girlfriend Now” and “Sell Out” saw the crowd at its most animated, and everyone onstage within spitting distance of a microphone seemed to get as many expletives as possible into “Another F.U. Song”. For “S.R.”, well-known for being played in numerous musical styles, Barrett explained each genre before restarting the song, and the crowd responded accordingly — whether it was with headbanging for the metal version, swaying their hips for the “booty-shaking” version, or square-dancing for the country-western version. There was so little room between songs, it was a very excellent move to nix the habit of departing and returning for an encore, in favor of simply plowing through an hour and a half of music — not that they didn’t say “Goodnight! Okay, we’re back!” at least twice.

Aaron Barrett of Reel Big Fish

Aaron Barrett of Reel Big Fish

Not a seasoned ska veteran myself, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the show, and was pleasantly surprised to see an overjoyed crowd that rocked the foundations of the Regency to the rhythm of every song from both headlining acts tonight. Reel Big Fish’s onstage candor and explosive musicianship are a testament to their staying power; this being their 20-year anniversary tour barely seemed a noticeable fact in the face of their manic acrobatics and frenetic playing. This is not to say that Streetlight Manifesto were lacking in energy — they definitely displayed a magnificent amount of it — but the attitude of the night definitely went to the Fish and openers the Maxies: loud, obnoxious, and having the time of their lives playing with every fiber of their being.

Reel Big Fish's setlist

Reel Big Fish's setlist

All photos by Jonathan Pirro.

Jonathan Pirro

Off-kilter multimedia enthusiast.

More Posts - Twitter - Facebook

Read Also:

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Skafan July 20, 2011 at 12:04 am

Saw the same show in Denver, and pretty much agree with everything except that the maxies were pretty terrible. No one I talked to enjoyed their set, I don’t know why the tour felt the need to have them play.
Rodeo ruby love was an incredible choice- sometimes great music is a bit more subtle. I truly loved their set. Obviously reel big fish rocked their hits, and hearing streetlight manifesto live was heaven on earth

Reply

Austin July 20, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Great review! I saw the show in Tempe and agree with the other comment, the Maxies were awful. It was brutal having to stand there and listen to them play for 30 minutes. Streetlight absolutely tore the roof off the Marquee and wore the crowd out before RBF even came on, but their set was very high energy as well.

Reply

Pam July 20, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Watched the SF show too, don’t agree on the Maxies, I thought they were lame- the attempt to offend the crowd schtick is kind of played out at this point, don’t you think? It’s like they grew up listening to NOFX, and kept the mentality of preteen boys. ManiFISTo, hil-freakin-larious. Oh wait, nope, thats another joke that only appeals to 13 year old boys. At the very least they need to be funnier about it, most of the time I was just kind of bored. Highlight being the polar bear bits- which had basically nothing to do with the band but got me on pure strangeness factor. That part I pulled the camera out for and recorded.

Rodeo Ruby Love was cute, definitely lacking in stage presence. That was the biggest problem I had with the band, the female just sort of danced in one little spot and looked at the floor. Picked up the album anyway and was shocked to hear brass, wished they had it live. I’m a little confused as to why you thought the maxies were better than streetlight, I’d never heard either and I can assure you I won’t go out of my way to see or listen to the maxies again, seriously they are so boring- but I purchased 2 streetlight albums immediately after.

Everyone in the crowd knew all their lyrics. I’m a little pissed at Pandora for not introducing me to streetlight in a timely fashion. And of course, Reel Big Fish took the show-they are just so fun, it’s impossible to be bored or annoyed at RBF which is what has kept me coming back to shows so many times that I’ve lost count, up to 10 hours away from my house.

Reply

Eric July 28, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Been a RBF and Streetlight fan for about 4-5 years now, seeing them when they make their way through Ohio. From the comments, hopefully they get a new opening act by then. To me, ska shows are the best value for the money. Heck, maybe even the best, period. I haven’t been able to catch either band since ’07 so I’m looking forward to it. From what I remember as well as the albums, I think Streetlight’s music is more technically challenging than RBF. They also have a fuller sound due to their setup. Their lyrics aren’t as “catchy” as RBFs, but they also aren’t as immature. Kalnoky’s singing can be insane at times, almost to the point where you can’t keep up. RBF is definitely more “fun-loving,” if you will. At the end of the night, you’ll probably be able to remember the lyrics to more of their songs, but I always seem to be more blown away by the sheer power and energy of Streetlight. Both very talented and awesome, just in different ways.

Reply

Melody Francis August 21, 2011 at 10:22 pm

I was there and this show was absolutely amazing!!! I had been a fan for less than a year and this was my first show. I agree, the stage presence of the Maxies and Reel Big Fish were full of infectious energy! Again, not to say the other were not. Best show I’ve been to yet! 😀

Reply

Adam Wisbrock January 9, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Was at the Chicago show. LOVED the Maxies. Best opening band I’ve ever seen. Rodeo Ruby Love was a good spot to conserve my energy, the were the second band in Chicago. Streetlight and RBF excellent as always.

Reply

leslie January 21, 2013 at 2:02 am

All of these bands are terrible. The maxies, the band that wheres ridiculous costumes are the worst of all. A bizarre joke with no punchline. And the songs are so stupid. haha.

Reply

yb March 8, 2014 at 2:18 am

Thats funny how so many agree bout how awful the maxies are, theyre one of the worst bands goin right now. No talent whatsoever!

Reply

laura June 13, 2014 at 2:46 am

The maxies are the ideal band if you enjoy overweight middle aged mediocre musicians that keep pushing a senseless joke with no punchline… and combine with awful 3rd wave ska then you have the recipe for cacophony.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: