Of all the things to say about Goldfinger, the most important is that clearly this is not their first rodeo. 20 years and six studio albums into their career, these guys aren’t going anywhere. Silvery front man John Feldmann has aged gracefully, like Billy Idol if he hadn’t been a psychotic womanizing alcoholic. He still knows how to get a crowd going, if not by starting up some sing-alongs, then surely by calling the audience soft in comparison to the crowd in New Haven. This quickly incited a circle pit. The soundtrack to the riotous ensemble of crowd-surfing, stage diving, moshing, and beer throwing was a time piece of misspent 1990s youth. High speed, rocking guitar riffs matched deep, no-frills bass lines. Drummer Darren Pfeiffer kept on the classic snare-high hat for much of the show, but showed off some more complicated 7:8 and 5:4 beats, as well as technically excellent rolls. In essence, their set was a crash course into the ska-punk movement of the late 90s in an entertaining package. That audience looked away only when borderline-violent physical contact with other concertgoers was imminent. They played the hits: “99 Red Balloons,” “Counting the Days,” and “Superman,” a song I actually knew every word to, due to my obsession with vintage 1999’s Tony Hawk Pro Skater. Other standouts of the set were “Punk in Your Bedroom,” “Open Your Eyes,” and a creative cover of “99 Problems” in an effort to quell the east-west coast punk rivalry. Their intensity wavered not once in the entire set, and neither did the audience’s.
Reel Big Fish emerged after short set break, and the crowd immediately lost its collective shit. The stage became almost as unruly as the pit, with the band dancing at all times. It was nice to see them have great chemistry, given the fact that over 20 years into their career, front man Aaron Barrett is the only founding member of a band most famous for its role in “Baseketball.” They were relaxed on stage, even when they made a very drunk Dan Reagan abandon his trombone and struggle to remember the lyrics to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” as penance for his tomfoolery. Eventually, he just gave up. Barrett even leveled with the audience, and explained how his guitar hangs low to act as a shelf for his ever-expanding gut. They looked more like a gaggle of substitute teachers than experienced musicians.
For all of their leisure on stage, the music was exceptional. Punk offers more room for error in terms of timing than any other genre, in my opinion. But Reel Big Fish was literally spot on all night, making every change with precision, despite being perhaps a bit over-served. Their classic renditions of hits like “Sellout,” “I Want Your Girlfriend,” and “Good Thing” were absurdly catchy and nostalgia-ridden; the kind of music that, god forbid, makes one miss middle school. The horn section, comprised of Matt Appleton on sax, John Christianson on trumpet, and the aforementioned Reagan played infectious, yet simple riffs between supporting vocals, and aim more at harmony than prowess of sound. Meanwhile, Barrett’s buoyant, cheerful guitar lines match some pretty solid lyrics, humorous at times, heartfelt at others. Bassist Derek Gibbs and drummer Ryland Steen supported the group with tight rhythm. Frequently, every member of the band snag at once, showing confidence in the quality of their voices and ability to harmonize. Reel Big Fish even got quiet during the verse sections of “Where Have You Been.” They ended a few songs by yelling “Blues Ending!” by surprise and following suit with the stereotype. It was constant entertainment, their nonchalance completely undermined by well-rehearsed, tour-proven songs played to a lawless audience that knew virtually every word.
I walked out of HoB, ears ringing, covered in sweat and beer, and completely and utterly confused. Everything I had looked for in terms of stage-presence and showmanship had been right under my nose for years, buried in a playlist reserved for the rare occasions I want to channel my awkward adolescence. But I have been converted. This was honestly one of the best shows I have been to in the last few years; the kind where leaving to take a piss and missing the act becomes a decision instead of a necessity. Even if you have no interest in this kind of music whatsoever, go to one and witness the majority your favorite live acts pale in comparison.
Photo Credit: Christopher Coe