California Ska punk band Reel Big Fish stopped in Houston a few nights ago to celebrate the 20th anniversary of album Turn the Radio Off. I arrived at White Oak Music Hall just as support band BALLYHOO! was finishing up their set, kicking myself for not getting there earlier because singer Howi Spangler had an attention getting voice and he and the rest of the band looked to be having a ball on stage. First time shooting downstairs at WOMH, I noticed the lack of a photo pit and started to worry a bit, given the punk lineup and the rowdy look of the crowd.
As BALLYHOO! exited the stage and the crowd began to spread out a bit, I took a deep breath and made may way to the front of the stage to claim my spot for punk band Anti-Flag wondering when and where the mosh pit would start. Being short sucks but the fear of being trampled to death was not my worry – It was the expensive camera gear I had in my hand! With a backdrop of the American Flag hung upside down as a sign of distress, perfectly fitting the political atmosphere at present, Anti-Flag broke into their own 20 year anniversary playing songs from their 1996 album Die For the Government and one awesome cover of “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash. These guys were awesome – a lot of fun to watch. I was impressed by their passion for the music that showed in the performance as well as their passion for the causes that they hold dear and talked about in between songs.
Having made it through an amazing performance by Anti-Flag with a rather tame crowd – only one crowd surfer attempted to make it to the front and safely did so. It was time for Reel Big Fish to take the stage. Bringing their quirky stage presence and ska-punk vibe, RBF started with “I Want Your Girlfriend to be My Girlfriend Too”. Singer Aaron Barrett and trombonist Billy Kottage were full of energy as they jumped, spun and danced around the stage. It was amazing to watch the horn section, especially trumpeter John Christianson. The energy from the stage hit the crowd and fans young and old were dancing, jumping and singing along.
Once they started singing their biggest hit, “Sell Out” there wasn’t a face in the crowd without a smile and it was so much fun to watch and hear it live. Aaron interacted with the crowd, pointing and joking many times before breaking out into the next song. I could tell these guys were having just as much fun on the stage performing as the crowd was having while watching and listening.
Photos and words by Christi Vest