Concert Review by Jamie Nicole Rocha
It’s a freezing Thursday night in Pomona, California and the line at the Fox Theater was slowing growing. There was a blistering wind, but that didn’t detour any of the concertgoers. There was a multi-ethnic and generational feel to the crowd. There was also a good variety of Punk rock high schoolers to ska‘d out rude boys and girls to more mature music fans. With Christmas Winter vacation underway, there was no question that it was going to be a packed house. This night would be a Co-headlined show featuring OC Legends Reel Big Fish as well as New Jersey’s beloved sons, Streetlight Manifesto.
You could tell the kids were ready to dance by the number of them trying to get as close as they could to their idols. First up was Indiana’s Rodeo Ruby Love who are currently under Tomas Kalnoky’s (of Streetlight) label, Pentimento Music Company. Musically speaking, RRL is a departure from the rest of the lineup. However, they were familiar to a lot of fans. That is because they were featured on the first leg of the tour. So it wasn’t a surprise to see quite a few kids singing along with some of their infectious indie pop tunes. RRL provided a high energy set, and it was great to see the band members looking genuinely happy and having fun on stage. It definitely impacts how one enjoys their show. Even though they were the “least” ska band of the night, it definitely reminds you of Kalnoky’s desire to mix up the genre of bands on the bill like they did back in Jersey.
Next up was the bluesy Reggae-inspired Lionize (also on Pentimento). These guys have been creating a well-deserved buzz with a lot of their peers, especially after their stint on the Warped Tour; and from the fact their lead guitarist and vocalist (Tim Sult) hails from his well-known band, Clutch. From the first song, the band packed a punch, thanks to Sult’s powerful voice that you could have probably heard from the way the hell outside from Interstate 10. The thing about this band, unless you’re a music enthusiast, you may find a harder time to get into. Although they feature some great musicians and provide a well-mixed subgenre of Rock, Dub and Reggae flavors. Their set didn’t drag with the fans, who were enjoying the in-your-face musicality that Lionize brought. Bottom line, they are damn good musicians and this fact didn’t escape the crowd. Another great thing about their set was there were no long jams that went on for a million minutes that reminded everyone of a tired-out, drugged out and spliff inspired blues festival. Judging by the screams and reactions of everyone in the house, Lionize did an extremely good job in entertaining the capacity crowd and providing a very solid and energetic set.
As part of their roles of Co-headliners, OC Ska legends Reel Big Fish then took the stage. The kids were ready by chanting and jumping as their third-wave idols took the stage. The Fish kicked things off with their set staple Everything Sucks, which had their fans go crazy with circle pits and crowd surfing. The horn section, comprised of Johnny “Christmas” Christanson (trumpet), Dan Regan (Trombone), and newest member, Sax player Matt Appleton (who has also shared the stage with Goldfinger), provided the most entertainment value with their onstage antics and hilarious vaudeville-like interactions with each other and the crowd. Lead singer Aaron Barrett provided his usual vulgar (but show appropriate and expected ) banter and famous guitar solos. It was also great to see bassist Derek Gibbs having more of a stage presence during the show since he was more known to stay in the background. This was a much needed injection since due to the departure of beloved bandmate Scott Klopfenstein. RBF provided their usual set staples like Ban the Tube Top, She Has a Girlfriend Now (which Matt Appleton did a great job providing vocals to, proving to have a deserving place in the band), The Set Up, Beer, and Trendy. But the guys also added rare gems like the 1963 Toots and the Maytals multi-covered classic Monkey Man as well as Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl, and 241. Those tunes added some freshness to performance. The great thing about RBF’s set is they make sure the kids hear the songs they came to hear. That, and that they have a great time. Their encore greeted the crowd with the punkified classic Santa Clause is Coming to Town with special guest Santa Clause, who looked a lot like drummer Ryland “Rabbit” Steen. The band ended the night with S.R. (with the punk, country, metal, and disco versions that everyone loves), Sell Out, and their beloved cover of the Ah-Ha classic and BASEKETBALL anthem Take On Me. RBF provided a hilarious, entertaining set that the kids had fun with. Another great show by the Reel Big Fish of Orange County.
Topping off the night were subgenre masters, Streetlight Manifesto. Led by the aforementioned Tomas Kalnoky (singer/guitarist), the men of Streetlight proved why they were the headliners of the night. Featuring one of the best horn sections in the music industry, Streetlight brought the kind of mosh and skank pits bands only dream of having at their shows.
Despite a few noticeable hiccups here and there, Streetlight brought the place down with songs like Watch it Crash, Dear Sergio, Failing, Flailing, 1234 1234, Down, Down, Down to Mephisto’s Cafe, Would You Be Impressed?, and Here’s to Life. It was also awesome to see them perform songs like Hell (featured on the first installment of 99 Songs of the Revolution). Streetlight still proves their place of staples to the scene with their high energy performances and the fact that they are excellent musicians.
There was no doubt that the kids went home satisfied (and tired). The night confirmed the rumblings heard throughout the music industry; Ska is very much alive and seems to like to hang out in the OC. Ask anyone at the Fox Theater that night about how they feel about the scene and you’ll hear the same theme… the Forth Wave is on the horizon.