There are bands that are just pure joy. That joy can come to an audience through the lyrics they write, the way they perform, or just in how they treat their fans. For me, the Aquabats bring all of those kind of joys. Not only that, they were the second ska band I got into after discovering the genre. The song that first grabbed my attention was the one about school lunch and a celebrated food, “Pizza Day.” I have been attending their performances for the past fifteen years, not missing a Phoenix stop. Of course, that includes their latest visit to the Valley of the Sun with their tourmates Jacob Turnbloom and PPL MVR.
Jacob Turnbloom was the delightful opener this tour. He was the first of two musicians performing this night that going in I was unfamiliar. He performed solo while dressed in a vampire aesthetic. In addition to that, he took on the crowd solo with a blend of folk and indie rock sounding tunes.
Behind him he had clips from a few familiar shows to those of us that grew up in the 1990’s, such as Saved by the Bell, Full House, and Family Matters. He was friendly and engaged with the audience. Jacob Turnbloom stood out as one third of why this entire night was amazing.
Second up was another set of musicians that I didn’t know what I was in store for, PPL MVR. This band includes three creatures that their website describes as “an ancient, original species.” They are known as SNWBLL, on vocals and lead guitar, K-PO, on bass, and Q, hammering the drums behind them. They are accompanied by their human handler, Dave Pino, on guitar. When they spoke between songs, it would be the broken English that commonly is associated with primitive caveman.
Their set starts with Dave guiding them to their positions leading into a performance of a rock and heavy metal style of music. It is a sound that further reinforces their motif. At one point before the song “The Chosen,” SNWBLL went out to the audience and painted blue marks onto a select few faces. He returned to the stage with the one they ordained the chosen one. This chosen one had the honor to lead them and the crowd through the song, pumping fists to the music. In a strangely appropriate song, they treated us to a singalong cover of the Pixie’s “Where Is My Mind?” too. I went into PPL MVR without any details and came out smiling by what I had just watched.
Last up were the average, ordinary, punishers of evil, rock ‘n roll band known as The Aquabats. They came out strong, beginning on “Shark Fighter.” With the song, a barrage of shark inflatables bounced around the Marquee crowd. Though one thing was amiss, Crash McLarson wasn’t the man on bass. Nevertheless, he wore a beard like him. MC Bat Commander during an early song break put our concerns to ease asking the question on, at least, my mind. It turns out that it was Crash’s cousin Smash filling in because Crash had to get a job.
In usual Aquabat show fashion, we did see them confronted by a villain on stage. It was interrupted by a commercial break, like on the Aquabats Super Show, with a Gloopy commercial for Scabs. When we came back, he had to take a cell phone call from his mom and left the stage. However, he would return with more family members a few songs later. Further reinforcing how complimentary PPL MVR is to the Aquabats, they emerged to help fight off these evildoers leading into the song “Look At Me (I’m A Winner).”
The rest of the set of songs included staples like “Pizza Day” with inflatable slices and their latest single, “Skeleton Inside!” For the last song of their encore, they brought up all the kids in the Marquee and Bat Commander solicited what would be the perfect song to close on. First, “Party Milkman” was stated and Jimmy the Robot and the rest of the Aquabats followed into the attempted hybrid of the two songs that make the title. Though about thirty seconds in, Bat Commander would dismiss it and say they will think about making it a real song. He went on with his quest for the perfect closing song and another kid would heed the call saying, “Pool Party.” With that high energy cap on the night, the Aquabats put the lid on another fantastic show.