SHOW REVIEW: REEL BIG FISH/Mr. T Experience/Pilfers
March 19, 1998--Portland, Oregon (La Luna)
By: Alex Steininger
With the immense popularity of Reel Big Fish, it's no surprise that after the first show (the evening show) went on sale, it quickly sold out. To make it up to their fans that didn't get tickets, a matinee show was added. Starting at 4:45pm, Reel Big Fish and New York's Pilfers put on an early show to a small amount of fans.
The Pilfers took the stage right at 4:45pm. With about fifty people in the crowd, they quickly jumped into their tight set of material off their debut, self-released CD (see review in this issue.) Coolie Ranx, lead singer of the Pilfers, took advantage of the small crowd. Playing to, and with the crowd, he got their feedback and involved them in everything he did. About two songs into their half hour set, he even jumped into the crowd, had them form a circle around him, and had them jumping on his command, as well as yelling things on his command. A true master at gaining peoples attention and taking control of the crowd, he worked every little piece into his live set, and took advantage of everything that came his way. Three songs later, he was back on stage, jumping and bouncing around. For him, this matinee show was a good idea. He has way too much energy to just do one show a night. Pausing to see how much time was left in their set, I quickly shouted out "Play 'Generation' and 'Saga.'" Amazed that anybody would know their material, they decided to play "Saga" with Vinny Nobile on leading vocals (the trombone player.) Doing one more number after that, they closed out the set. Next up was Reel Big Fish.
After the Pilfers exited the stage, more people started to pour into the show. A damn shame too, because they missed the show. The Pilfers "pilfered" the show from Reel Big Fish. By the time RBF took the stage, the crowd had tripled to about 150. But what they got to see was a loose, non-energetic Reel Big Fish that played very sloppy. It was more of a sound check for them than an actual show. Jumping through songs off of TURN THE RADIO OFF, they fumbled through everyone one of them. Stopping after each song to take a request, or to talk to the crowd, they were just using up their time. At one point they even picked a female out of the crowd to sing the female part on "She Has a Girlfriend Now." You could hardly even hear her, even with the crowd now at only 200. Scott could have done a much better job on the vocals, which a few members of the audience were expecting. Then a few songs later, they burnt up a lot of time by asking members of the audience if they could play the guitar, bass, or drums, and if so to come up on stage. A few people jumped up on stage, but none of them could actually play a RBF song on stage, they could just play the instrument. Finally telling everyone to get off the stage, they took a few more requests including "In the Pit" off of their seven inch split with Goldfinger. Finally a song that was done nicely. They pulled this one off perfectly, and it really made the energy rise in the club (even though most of the crowd was already moving to whatever RBF threw at them.) They also played a new song off their forth coming album. Another nice song. Obviously the crowd had warmed up RBF, and they were ready to play. Too bad it was nearing the end of their set. Now RBF had a surprise for everyone. Since they had to pay full price, yet didn't get to see the Mr. T Experience, the band called them up and let them do one song. After their one song, RBF came right back on stage and did "Hungry Like the Wolf," their Duran Duran cover song, and ended their set. Once again, this cover was done nicely and not sloppy, but too bad it was their final set.
After a few hours, the evening show was to begin. This time it felt more like a show, because the club was actually dark and the stage lights were actually used to enhance the show, rather than to just be there for no purpose. Pilfers once again hit the stage first, and once again put on one damn good show! This time with a sold out crowd's energy to feed off of, Coolie was his energetic self. Jumping, bouncing, and flying through the air he led the band through more of their amazing songs. Although he didn't jump into the crowd for this show, he still got them to jump and yell on his command. Playing basically the same set as before, they really put brought to life such tracks as "Yakuza," "Jolly Jolly," "Show No Fear," Hypnotized," and "Up In The Air." It's a damn shame they only got a 1/2 hour. The crowd felt the same was as I did. They were really getting into the music when they had to stop. Talking about the upcoming tour with the Specials, they then exited the stage.
Next up was the Mr. T Experience. I missed them, however, as the party I was with decided they were Hungary and thirsty, so we opted to skip their show and go to La Luna's cafe for some food.
From the cafe we could tell when Reel Big Fish hit the stage. Everyone, and their mothers (literally), started to run out the door and crowd the floor. After the initial rush calmed down, and the local radio station had finished announcing RBF, my party made their way onto the floor. Right from the beginning RBF feed off the energy of the crowd, and quickly jumped into their energetic ska-pop blends. It was nice to see a happy, well charged Reel Big Fish, rather than the lazy counterpart we had see earlier that day. They actually put time and precision into their songs, pulling them off perfectly. Such songs as "Trendy," "Alternative, Baby," "Snoop Doggy Dog," and "Why Do All Girls Think They're Fat" sounded full and catchy, giving off enough energy to allow the crowd to dance and bop around with the music. And their new song, off their next album, sounded twice as good as when they did it earlier. If the reaction it got from the crowd was any indication, I think they're next album will easily go gold. Of course no RBF concert would be complete without "In The Pit." The humor and sarcasm ridden song was accepted, and the point well received, from the crowd as they opted to dance and jump with the song, rather than crowd surf and mosh with it. The band even took the time out to remind people why crowd surfing isn't accepted at their shows, and the crowd applauded their decision to keep their shows harm and violence free. A few more songs, and the show was over. Or was it? The crowd stomped and pleaded for Reel Big Fish to take the stage again, and they did. Bouncing through three numbers, including "Sell Out" to close the show, the crowd left very satisfied and happy. And with good reason. RBF played this show on the dot. They nailed their songs with precision, and gave the crowd a lot to have fun with.