• James Hewlett

Reel Big Fish

Updated: Nov 17, 2019

There’s nothing quite like a ska show, the fun, energy, enthusiasm, enjoyment and general good nature of everyone there both on stage and in the crowd is both completely unique and something you can constantly rely on.

I’ve been going to see Reel Big Fish live for about twenty years and have seen them in every possible sized venue; from the main stage at a festival with tens of thousands of people in front of them to a small little club with just a couple of hundred. They bring the same type of show to every performance and somehow get the crowd singing, dancing and partying the whole set no matter the size of the audience.

That band were my gateway into ska punk, the third wave of ska music as it is now generally considered. I grew up listening to Madness, The Specials, The Beat, Bad Manners and all the rest as that’s what my brother and his friends would always have playing. Every summer we would always be at whatever pub in the New Forest had a stage in the garden that weekend with more local bands like Loonee Tunes or Orange Street playing so I’ve been going to ska shows for as long as I can remember.

When I started listening to Reel Big Fish and their late nineties/early two thousands contemporaries there was a lot of the same vibe but with more energy and the live shows reflect that.

We’ve all got older and some may have seemingly boring lives most of the time but once those first notes are played everyone is transported back to the age they were when they first started going to these gigs. For me and most of the crowd, that was my early teenage years and I’m always happy to be able to dance around like a crazy person, enjoying myself, not going in the pit anymore but still knowing that the inevitable bumps and shoves from dancing are all because we’re just having fun. Once that energy is felt people don’t stop having going until the show is long done. Between bands people are almost always still dancing around and enjoying themselves to the backing music even when they’re in line for the bar or toilet. That always makes it more of a complete night, not just two or three band sets with downtime in between.

I love people watching at these shows, you see friendships blossom out of no where. We were stood in the middle of the crowd, pretty close the edge of the pit so had a good view of all that. Fair played to those guys, I’m in good shape but I don’t have the energy for that anymore! a lot of those guys were going nuts all night long though.

It’s always fun when you see someone lose a shoe and everyone helps him or her find it and keeps them safe while they slip it back on. I saw someone find a set of keys, so without any hesitation the unspoken rule of give them to the biggest guy in there so he can try and locate their owner just took over and the person got them back almost immediately.

It’s shit like that that warms the heart is such a weird way.

We were waiting to get our jackets from the cloakroom at the end of the night and it was taking forever, but no one was agro about it. We were all just chatting and cracking jokes and keeping each others spirits up. Any other time, any other gig, the negativity would have been prevalent and hostility would have taken over. But not at a ska show.

I had a great time. Every time I see Reel Big Fish come to a town near me I think to myself, “Do I really need to go see them again?”

But I inevitable say yes and do go and I always have an absolute blast!

#ska #skapunk #livemusic #rockshow #music #nightlife #social #dancing #party #fridaynight #reelbigfish #atmosphere #friends


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