I don’t think it takes an expert to notice that last week was long, exhausting, and hellish. With the election of a new president there were nonsensical things being said from both sides of the coin. I don’t know about anyone else but I was just ready for the whole thing to be over. Thankfully, Thursday night held a silver lining. Reel Big Fish, a band I had seen between 10-15 times would be playing their second full length record ‘Turn the Radio Off’ in its entirety. This is an album that affected my life the first time I heard it. It opened my eyes to incredible ska bands and eventually the punk rock world as a whole. I could not pass up the chance to go see one of my favorite albums being played from beginning to end. It definitely helped that DC ska legends, The Pietasters were also on the bill! So here we go, an honest review of the show I experienced on Thursday, November 10th.
Leading up to the show I noticed constant posts by Baltimore Soundstage that tickets were going fast, so you could understand the shock on my face when I entered a three quarters empty venue that night. I was honestly bummed out. Most of the RBF shows I’ve attended have been a packed house and tonight they were playing their greatest album. WHERE WAS EVERYONE!? Thankfully by the time the local openers began, the place had filled out.
The first band up was Joint Operation. These guys, from Baltimore, MD, of course, really surprised me. On this side of the coast we have a surprising amount of…”white kid reggae” bands. This includes Bumpin Uglies, Pasadena, Ballyhoo!, etc. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love each of these bands but there’s beginning to be an overabundance of them. Joint Operation took the local “reggae” sound and gave it their own spin. Honestly, Josh Lewis’s vocals reminded me of Todd Fausnacht of Philly reggae band, The Snails. According to the band this was their biggest show to date and I can’t wait to see where they go from here!
Next up was the ska-rock band Stacked Like Pancakes. Much like Joint Operation, these guys are also from Baltimore, however, they’ve established a pretty decent sized following opening up for RBF on the entire tour and a stint on the Vans Warped Tour. It was a decent performance, but I feel like I’m personally growing out of the usual Reel Big Fish-type ska rock sound. It’s not for me much anymore. I like my ska to be a bit punkier much like the legendary Less Than Jake. Do not get me wrong, these guys are very talented musicians, but the sound isn’t for me anymore. I’m not too familiar with their work so I’ll definitely delve a little deeper before I pass on them altogether.
Now at this point I received a text from my girlfriend informing me there was an anti-Trump protest happening right outside. That mixed with the gameday traffic I was sure to face made me incredibly antsy. I’m already tired; as someone who works in education, weekday concerts aren’t as fun as they used to be but I’m still holding my head up!
The following performance was the stand out of the night next to the main event. Legendary DC ska band the Pietasters came and rocked the house. I was a bit disappointed in the crowd as they weren’t ready for that classic ska sound. On other shows true pop punk band Masked Intruder were the direct openers but I believe their upcoming show at Soundstage with the Bouncing Souls prevented them from being able to perform. In my opinion, as much as I love Intruder, it was an excellent replacement. Through all my tiredness and worries I was skankin’ across the dancefloor with the biggest smile on my face. I love the old school ska sound that these guys have always brought to the table and Thursday night was no different. Last time I saw the Pietasters was a surprise show they did with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. They kill it every time and I hope they come back soon.
Alright….this was it! The main event of the evening. As I stated before, I had seen Reel Big Fish well into the double digits but they were about to play my favorite album from beginning to end. The guys come out to a thunderous applause and kick into “I Want Your Girlfriend to Be Mine”…..a song not on “Turn the Radio Off”. I can honestly say that I was disappointed. I thought I had read the flyer wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I love that song and RBF killed it as always but I began to get worried that this wasn’t what I had came to see. From then on they played “The Kids Don’t Like It”, “Thank You For Not Moshing”, and “I Hate Your Guts”. By the time they began their 5th song, “F.U.” I was ready to head to the back and enjoy a normal RBF show away from the crowd…….but then it happened. Aaron got on the mic and said, “I’m sure you guys saw the advertisement for this show…..it’s been 20 years since the release of “Turn the Radio Off”, and we’re going to play the entire thing for you right now. Even the bad songs!”
I was in heaven! My favorite album kicking in with their only radio hit, “Sell Out”. They rocked the house from beginning to end. Of course, they took “Beer” from its position in the album and moved it to the end. This is completely understandable as next to “Sell Out” it’s probably their biggest song. Trying to beat game day I left half way through that last song. The album was over and I was sure that I had heard the encore songs a thousand times live. However, for anyone seeing them for one of the first times, any RBF show is worth getting up front and personal for.
So that’s it. That was my experience at the “Turn the Radio Off” album show. As previously stated, I’ve seen Reel Big Fish almost 15 times. They’re one of my favorite bands of all time and I can pretty much guarantee that I will see them again and again. As a matter of fact, they’ll be back here in January for another round of the “Turn the Radio Off” album. After the end of this current TTRO tour they will be co-headlining with Anti-Flag as they play their 20 year old classic “Die for the Government” as well. It should be a great show and you can catch it all over the country starting in January. Direct support includes Ballyhoo!, Direct Hit, and PkewPkewPkew.
Obsessed with all things horror, video games, comics and vinyl, Dylan has been surrounded by all things geek culture since birth. Along with writing for Icon Versus Icon he’s also the co-host for the year long Christmas podcast, “Christmas 365”.
“No wimps. No False Metal.”