Reel Big Fish & Anti-Flag Bring Chaotic Fun To Dallas, TX 1-31-17 w/ BALLYHOO! & Pkew Pkew Pkew

Reel Big Fish & Anti-Flag Bring Chaotic Fun To Dallas, TX 1-31-17 w/ BALLYHOO! & Pkew Pkew Pkew

While Ska Punk may not be the most popular offshoot of Punk Rock, that does not take away from its importance to the scene. In fact, all one has to do is go to a Reel Big Fish show to feel energy of the unique sub-genre. That said, the Ska Punk veterans have started the new year with a bang, touring to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of their 1996 breakout album, Turn Off  The Radio. Their only album to attain gold status, to fans, it is an essential piece of Reel Big Fish history.

Exciting within itself, sweetening the pot, the early 2017 tour also features co-headliners Anti-Flag. Having a milestone of their own to celebrate, the modern Punk Rock heroes are out honoring their 1996 debut, full-length album, Die for the Government. If that was not enough, supporting the entire run are Ballyhoo! along with Pkew Pkew Pkew, who joined on as of January 27th. One heck of a bill, all four bands made their way down to Dallas, Texas on Tuesday, January 31st, to host a night at Gas Monkey Live! Anxious to get the music going, not only were long time Reel Big Fish and Anti-Flag fans on hand, but it was clear that both bands have inspired a whole new set of young Punks. 

Pkew Pkew Pkew (pronounced pew pew pew), a 4 piece Pop Punk Canadian powerhouse, were up first. Formed back in 2010 when Mike Warne (vocals, guitar) posted an ad on Craigslist looking for bandmates, he soon joined up with Ryan McKinley (guitar, vocals), Emmett O’Reilly (bass and vocals), and Dave Laino (drums and vocals). Signed on with Toronto based Royal Mountain Records, they dropped their self-titled, sophomore album back in the summer of 2016 and appeared amped up to support for the evening.

Offering up songs whose topics centered mostly about friends, getting drunk, and just having a good time, they brought such a strong wave of good vibes that ignited a pit within the first two songs. Playing tracks that included “Mid 20’s Skateboarder,” Pkew Pkew Pkew proved to be one of the most electric new Punk bands out there today. Be sure to check them out as they continue to tour with Reel Big Fish and Anti-Flag through February 15th. 

Shortly after, Maryland’s Beach-rockers BALLYHOO! were ready to go. Featuring Howie Spangler (guitar and vocals), Donald Spangler (drums), Scott Vandrey (keys, effects), and Nick Lucera (bass), together they bring an intense blend of Punk, Reggae, and Rock-n-Roll all in one package. Having toured with Reel Big Fish in the past, and spending the summer of 2016 on Vans Warped Tour, this time around, their forthcoming album, Girls, is in the wings, ready for release on March 24th. 

Approaching the stage and opening with “Last Night,” from the first chord, the crowd had already begun skanking, while the songs’ great lyrics and reggae sound brought enjoyment to all. From there, they played songs which included “Evil Penguin,” “Run,” and “Battle Cry,” with a Surf Rock riff, before they closed out with “Outta My Mind.” Providing Rock-Reggae grooves throughout, even the old school Punk who usually sits back and criticizes all the “Posers” moved about; BALLYHOO! was a universal hit.  

Speaking of old school Punks, Pittsburgh, PA’s Anti-Flag has been following that tried and true format of their forefathers for over two decades. A modern classic, Anti-Flag bring to mind bands such as Black Flag, Agent Orange, among others popular on the skate set. Releasing nine albums since, including their most recent, 2015’s American Spring, Anti-Flag’s fast tempos, power chords, and anti-government lyrics continue to rock audiences.

Founded by Justin Sane (lead vocals, lead guitar) and Pat Thetic (drums), the seasoned lineup rounded out by Chris Head (guitar) and Chris Barker (bass) headed out onto the stage to a roar of cheers as they began with “You’d Do the Same.” From there, the pit was in full swing as the band charged through classic Die for the Government songs including the title-track,  “Drink, Drank, Punk,” “Rotten Future,” “Summer Squatter Go Home,” and “Your Daddy Was a Rich Man, Your Daddy’s Fucking Dead” to name a few.

A ruckus event from the start, after a generous helping of their debut album, they mixed in newer cuts including 2003’s “Turncoat,” 2006’s “This Is the End (for You My Friend),” as well as 2015’s “All of the Poison, All of the Pain.” Hardcore throughout, they even mixed in a cover of The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” before closing out the set with “Cities Burn” and “Brandenburg Gate.” The best thing about Anti-Flag, and bands like them, is the strong message and open heart they convey to all. In a time where tension is so high, Anti-Flag said it best when stating, we should not let these small, meaningless differences divide us. A clear thinking statement, Anti-Flag and their music will unite us. 

Once Anti-Flag exited the stage, the time had come for the one and only Reel Big Fish. Fans of all shapes, sizes, and ideas of what Punk really is joined together, ready to have an amazing time together. An act that has withstood many lineup changes over the past twenty plus years, Vocalist/Guitarist Aaron Barrett leads the band completed by Trumpeter/Vocalist John Christianson, a.k.a. Johnny Christmas, Bassist/Vocalist Derek Gibbs, Saxist/Vocalist Matt Appleton, a.k.a. Saxel Rose, Trombonist/Vocalist Billy Kottage, and Drummer/Vocalist Edward Larsen. Together, the six men known as Reel Big Fish continue to light up stages everywhere they land, and the city of Dallas would be no exception. 

Beginning with “I Want Your Girlfriend to Be My Girlfriend Too,” everyone was already slamming around the floor. Older and more experienced than their younger years, Reel Big Fish still sounds strong, and amazingly, seem more lively than ever. Moving forward quickly with more music, the definitive moment came when Barrett announced, “We are here to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Turn The Radio Off, from cover to cover!” before launching into their biggest hit, “Sell Out.” From there, it was on to songs like “Trendy,” “Join the Club,” “She Has a Girlfriend Now,” and of course, “Everything Sucks.” 

After the entire album was shuffled around and rocked to the core, they mixed in a cover of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “The Impression That I Get” before closing out with a medley of “Beer” and The Offspring’s “Self-Esteem.” Only a brief break to re-energize, the guys returned for a banging encore, which included “Everyone Else Is an Asshole,” “Where Have You Been,” before ending on a high note with their distinct rendition of a-ha’s “Take on Me.” 

What is crazy about Reel Big Fish is the energy they still give off; you can literally feel their music. In addition, the way they joked and egged on crowd, participation is what makes their shows even better. All night long, they are humble, friendly, and it was easy to see, even twenty years later, they still love playing these songs. Even though the Fish have seen many members come and go, the music remains the same, and these are still the songs fans love today. All this said, it would be foolish not to go out and see Reel Big Fish on this or any future tour they partake in. This 20th anniversary celebration ends on February 15th, so even those who do not dig Ska Punk or Punk Rock in general, give it a chance, you may find your new favorite bands. 


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Jenssen Rivera
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