Third wave ska was born out of the punk scene in the late eighties, combining the sound of old school ska with the upbeat and fast paced nature of punk. Of those within the genre, there is only a pair I have watched in double digit. One of those tattooed on my arm, Less than Jake, and the other is Reel Big Fish. I used to joke they were a band that I couldn’t miss. That I always ended up at their Phoenix stops regardless of remembering they were playing. It was true, but I don’t think it was a subconscious effort. When I heard they were coming back to town, co-headlining with Bowling for Soup with Mest in tow, there was no doubt I would be in attendance.
Mest opening was an experience in its own. This is a band I haven’t watched live to my memory. However, their albums “Wasting Time” and “Destination Unknown” were a regular listening my junior and senior years of high school. “What’s the Dillio?” and “Cadillac” lyrics engrained in my brain to this day. The set was a mix of songs less familiar to me from later albums and a few from those early albums stirring old memories. Near the end of the set we saw Matt Appleton and Johnny Christmas, from Reel Big Fish, perform with them. Plus they closed on a rendition of “Cadillac” that went into a little of Rancid’s “Time Bomb.”
Tony Lovato a solid front man up there through the set. He engaged with the crowd while energy in his performance. Their drummer, Richie, occasionally jumped up on his throne with enthusiasm and passion. Speaking of passion, a cool thing about the current Mest lineup was the surprise of catching Adrian, from Assuming We Survive, playing guitar. If you have watched Assuming We Survive then you already know Adrian brings high flying energy to any performance. This was no different.
In a sentimental point in their set, Tony dedicated a song to a fallen friend and Adrian to a family in attendance. The family was moving to Phoenix, but lost all their belongings in a fire where stored them while moving. In addition, the band collected donations at their booth for the family. Mest left me smiling and fondly remembering the tail end of my high school days.
Then it was our sole third wave ska band of the night, Reel Big Fish. Even carrying my DSLR camera, I found myself moving and singing along. First, skanking a little while I snapped shots from the photo pit from their opener “Everyone Else Is An Asshole” to the end of my three songs there. Then while being a little on guard to not destroy the camera, their music compelled me to run into that circle pit to dance and skank.
Being this was the first time in Phoenix since Reel Big Fish’s release of their latest album, “Life Sucks… Let’s Dance,” the set included a few off of that including the title track. The set additionally included the familiar, like the many versions of “Suburban Rhythm” and “Your Guts (I Hate ‘Em).” Near the end, they did their familiar joke that they will play their popular track. This night’s rendition started on Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy” then Smash Mouth’s “All Star” and finally closed the joke on Semisonic’s “Closing Time.” They went on to play three more including “Beer” and their cover of “Take On Me.” Additionally, this show marked the first time catching them since Billy Kottage, on trombone, left. Nonetheless, Brian Robertson, of Suburban Legends, a perfect fit of energy and performance to fill that role. While I’ve seen them enough to be familiar with many of their live jokes, I continue to love watching Reel Big Fish.
Last was a band that I’d heard songs before, but never watched live, Bowling for Soup. For one, this band shares a common thread with a band like Nerf Herder in their nerdy and nostalgic lyrics. Although, they have more pop in their punk. Two, they inserted funny and longer than expected breaks at points in their set. The first was a couple songs in. They pulled out their dog and moved around the stage stopping for photo ops while a song played from the speakers. The later was a joke telling contest, where each member told a joke and the winner of this competition would be determined by crowd noise. It was clarified by Jaret that even booing a joke counted as noise for support. It was a less traditional, but entertaining way of integrating humor between stretches of songs.
Those weren’t all the jokes either, as Jaret and Chris were full of them throughout the night. Twice throwing it to Rob Felicetti, on bass, to tell the story of how they created albums that he wasn’t a part of. There were jokes about how they weren’t going to perform that song they didn’t write, “Stacy’s Mom.” For their encore they didn’t leave the stage, they just sat in front of the drum kit as people chanted “Soup, there it is!” Jaret back on the mic a couple minutes later explained they weren’t going off stage knowing full well they’d be back anyways. Bowling for Soup closed on one of those familiar to me songs, “1985,” joined by the Reel Big Fish horn section. From beginning to end, this night was an all-out joy.