When I saw the announcement for Reel Big Fish (RBF) with Goldfinger and Suburban Legends, I instantly flashed back to the late nineties at The Huntridge, when these and many other ska/punk bands were at their prime. During these few short years, Las Vegas’ music scene developed and emerged strong, offering all age shows every weekend, featuring multi-band punk/metal/ska line-ups for just a few bucks. Due to the pure nostalgia their music holds in my heart, I was anxious to see how the bands and music had stood up over the last decade.
Suburban Legends came onstage bursting with energy, quickly spreading like wildfire through the crowd. I was caught a bit off guard with their preteen pop laced ska, but after seeing everyone dancing and having a great time, I was feeling it too. Their whimsical music also painted a clear picture of the solid decade generation gap in the audience, those just discovering ska and the original veterans. To even further watch the great divide occur, Suburban Legends wrapped their set with a ska cover of 2010’s internet smash, Bed Intruder.
After Suburban Legends had already got the crowd loosened up for Golfinger, lead singer John Feldmann wasted no time blasting the audience, “This is a punk rock show... I want to everyone step up and give it your all!” Wasting no time at all, Goldfinger blasted off with Chris Cayton, even welcoming the real Chris Cayton, (who the song was written about) joining in the first few songs on guitar. Playing through a great well mixed set, Goldfinger also featured Brett Reed from Rancid on drums for the entirety of their set.
The crowd quickly responded and kept up with John’s high demands, keeping a circle pit and skanking in full effect through the duration of their set and encore. In return, they welcomed many people onstage to dance and sing 1996’s Mabel. Songs ranged from new to old, including most fan favorites, plus covers of Just Like Heaven (The Cure), White Christmas, and 99 Luft Balloons (Nena). Taking a moment to thank The Huntridge and all old-school fans, John announced they have been touring with RBF continuously since 1994, and this was Goldfinger’s 58th stop in Las Vegas. Even after all these years, Goildfinger still had the energy and sound I remembered so well.
Reel Big Fish was on after a short break and were greeted by an enthusiastic audience. Just like Goldfinger, RBF were no sorrier for wear over the years, sounding as great as ever, even sprinkling in some goofy synchronized dance moves in the horn section. Playing through a range of old and new songs, skank circles and clap-sessions erupted continuously song after song. The audience’s momentum never dropped, and I even spotted several bartenders moving and singing along.
RBF made many bold cover song decisions, from Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison) right into Enter Sandman (Metallica), and wrapped up with a quick hardcore song into Take On Me (A-ha). Doing these covers worked in two ways for the bands, kept the fans interested and allowed them to show off their musical diversity and talent to adapt their rhythm with ease. Near the end of the show, I found the number of cover songs was rather disappointing, viewing it almost as a death of ska, a last attempt to keep the music alive and relevant.
Each band’s energy and clean performance throughout made this a fun show for all ages. Even though I felt the music’s age wear on me and it wasn’t the same as the 90s, the bands showed no signs of being out of practice and truly put on great shows. Fan of ska or not, the music is jovial, Reel Big Fish and Goldfinger are the best of the genre, and you really have to fight the urge to dance; what more could one want?