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December 14th, 2011 MATTHEW SINGER | Music Stories
 

Primer: Reel Big Fish

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Formed: 1992 in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Sounds like: The soundtrack to a GoGurt commercial.

For fans of: Less Than Jake, Save Ferris, Buck-O-Nine, Goldfinger. 

Latest release: 2010 greatest-hits collection A Best of Us for the Rest of Us.

Why you care: Ska isn’t dead! All right, that’s a lie, but some bands are still valiantly propping its corpse upright, and few have kept the Weekend at Bernie’s-style party going as long as Reel Big Fish. In the mid-’90s, there wasn’t a more quintessential Southern California ska-punk act. With a closet full of Hawaiian shirts, Hypercolor-bright horns and an ironic love of 1980s butt rock and New Wave music, the Fish took advantage of that brief window of time when the cultural pendulum swung from overbearing moroseness to over-the-top zaniness and scored a gold record with 1996’s Turn the Radio Off. After America came to its senses, gave the porkpie hats to Goodwill and canceled the trombone lessons, RBF could have jumped off a bridge and no one would’ve noticed, but it’s actually been a quietly busy decade-and-a-half for the band. It has continued releasing albums, battled Jive Records for control of its catalog, and gone through enough lineup changes to leave singer, guitarist and Ace Ventura look-alike Aaron Barrett the lone original member. Of course, ska isn’t designed to age well—these guys looked silly dressing like overgrown seventh-graders in their 20s; imagine how it looks 15 years later—but RBF might have found a solution. Cartoon characters never get old; thus, neither does cartoon music.


SEE IT: Reel Big Fish plays Wonder Ballroom on Friday, Dec. 16, with Streetlight Manifesto, Lionize and Rodeo Ruby Love. 7 pm. $20 advance, $23 day of show. All ages.

 
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