Cargo packed with punks, Reel Big Fish

Tim Parsons
Aaron Barrett, left, and Matt “Saxel Rose” Appleton and Reel Big Fish rocked Reno in their first appearance in Cargo.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Tim Parsons

You might think it’s hard to follow an act reminiscent of deranged red pandas on speed. Or an act that features punk versions of Disney theme songs.

But Reel Big Fish had no problem following The Maxies and Suburban Legends, respectively, Saturday night at the Cargo concert venue in downtown Reno’s Whitney Peak Hotel.

Playing to a sold out crowd, the band that gained fame with “Sell Out” in the 1990s worked concert-goers into a frenzied pit with their ska-punk set plus a short encore.

Johnny Christmas
Johnny Christmas: a rock star with a trumpet.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

It was clear from the start that the band loves music as much as they love making it.

“I just love music so much that it’s not enough just to listen to it,” Reel Big Fish’s lead singer and guitarist Aaron Barrett said in a recent interview. “I need to make music of my own!”

That energy was contagious. And that was what the crowds come for: Lyrics that leave you rolling on the floor and a tempo that makes it hard to stand still.

From the opening riffs of “The Final Countdown,” which accompanied the band’s entrance, to the alt-rock-grunge ’90s montage at the end, Reel Big Fish had the crowd so pumped, a stream of attendees couldn’t be stopped from body-surfing through the pit.

This was only amplified midway through the concert as the band played the popular track “In the Pit,” explaining “When I’m in the pit/I’m going to punch and kick/When I’m in the pit/Don’t you know, I’m going to fuck shit up.”

Despite those lyrics, the pit was not especially violent. It was safe enough for a petite woman — she was maybe 4’10” — to politely leave her purse with security personnel, proceed to cruise past this reviewer several times atop a sea of bodies, and finally pick up said purse and repeat the process five minutes later.

Now in its 25th year, Reel Big Fish’s only remaining original member is frontman Barrett. He’s backed by Billy Kottage on trombone, John “Johnny Christmas” Christianson on trumpet, Matt “Saxel Rose” Appleton on sax, Derek Gibbs on bass and finally, Ed Smokey Beach on the drums.

Reel Big Fish kept the crowd on its feet for an hour and a half, playing all the classics fans know and love and depend on to survive life on a daily basis: “Your Guts (I Hate ‘Em),” “Everything Sucks,” “Everyone Else is an Asshole,” “Beer” and “Another F.U. Song.” The crowd was encouraged to sing along, and loudly and gleefully did so for many of the favorites.

While the band is nearing the end of a 40-stop tour this month celebrating its 25th year in the business, you can probably catch them this summer at venues across the country as part of the annual Vans Warped Tour. They play a kickoff event in late June in Anchorage, Alaska.

It’s a show ska and punk fans won’t want to miss.

  • Reel Big Fish
    Feb. 20, 2016, Cargo in the Whitney Peak Hotel
    The Final Countdown
    Everything Sucks
    Alternative Girl
    The Kids Don’t Like It
    Another F.U. Song
    Cheer Up
    In the Pit
    Party Down
    All I Want is More
    Where Have You Been?
    Ban the Tube Top
    Don’t Stop Believing
    Don’t Start a Band
    Trendy
    Your Guts (I Hate ’em)
    Brown Eyed Girl
    I Want Your Girlfriend to be My Girlfriend, Too
    I Know You Too Well to Like You Anymore
    She Has a Girlfriend Now
    Sell Out
    ENCORE:
    Everyone Else is an Asshole
    Beer
    Take on Me

    Related story: Interview with Johnny Christmas: LINK

    Reel Big Fish 5

    Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
    Chicks dig Reel Big Fish
    Aaron Barrett and Derek Gibbs
    Aaron Barrett and Derek Gibbs
    Reel Big Fish
    Billy Kottage

    Reel Big Fish 3Reel Big Fish 7

    The Suburban Legends from Huntington Beach are a high-energy bunch. Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
    The Suburban Legends from Huntington Beach are a high-energy bunch.
    Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

    Surburban Legends Suburban Legends 1 Suburban Legends 3 Surburban Legends 2 Surburban Legends 5 Surburban Legends 6

    The Maxies
    The Maxies opened the night with congeniality and costumes.
    Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

    Maxies 4 Maxies 2 Maxies 3

ABOUT Tahoe Onstage

Tahoe Onstage
Tahoe Onstage is an online entertainment and sports magazine covering Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Reno, the Carson Valley and June Lake.

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