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Concert Review: Reel Big Fish was a fish out of water

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Karla Rendon
Editor in Chief

The once-crowded Shrine Hall Expo was becoming less cramped as headliner Reel Big Fish closed the night Sunday at Skanking Reggae Fest.

Compared to the audience that gathered to see earlier performances from Jamaican The Skatalites and Mexican band Panteón Rococó, the size of the crowd surprisingly decreased at the end of the night.

Other performances included that of El Salvador-based band Adhesivo, skacore group 8 Kalacas, Los Angeles-based band Raskahuele and Riverside-based group Voodoo Glow Skulls.

Considering Reel Big Fish did not play until approximately 10:30 p.m., or that the majority of bands were Spanish-speaking, it may be safe to say that the Orange County ska band was a fish out of water at this event.

The crowd’s intensity and size decreased as the show went on through the night. The mosh pits were scattered throughout the crowded audience for earlier performances and were hectic. Hardly anyone was safe from the beer being thrown and spilled in the mosh pits, and the pits’ high energy carried onto bystanders as they were getting pushed throughout the performances.

Once Inspector crossed the stage and introduced themselves, audience members welcomed the Mexico-based band with a roaring applause and immediate dancing. Small, scattered skank pits formed throughout the crowd as couples danced together, fans pushed each other and other attendants swayed to the trumpets blaring.

The band’s catchy grooves mixed with vocalist Big Javy’s smooth chops made for the perfect harmony to jive to.

Inspector’s songs focus mainly on being in love, being lovelorn and other daily occurrences people experience. Although they are conscience of the political influences affecting the world, they avoid mentioning such issues in their songs, keyboardist Homero said.

“We sing a lot about love and heartbreak,” Big Javy said. “We try not to get into social issues so when the community listens, they can get away from their problems for a bit. We think music is a way to escape and to relax. It’s so you could dance, sing and not dwell on your problems in the world.”

As soon as Inspector performed their single, “Amargo Adios,” which translates to “bitter goodbye,” fans excitedly clapped to the familiar trumpets introducing the well-loved tune. Their performance left fans wanting more and with a gracious farewell, the band exit the stage to let the next performer, El Gran Silencio, which translates to the great silence, entertain the audience.

El Gran Silencio’s charismatic spirit was contagious as show-goers did not hesitate to instantly dance along to the fast-paced accordion. While the band performed their popular hits such as, “Dormir Soñando,” (which translates to sleep dreaming) and “Chúntaros Style,” audience members eagerly sang along to each lyric and integrated Salsa dance moves as they swayed their hips to the band’s lively songs.

The band has been together for more than two decades but despite their longtime existence, they have noticed the decline of Spanish rock’s visibility in the public eye.

“It’s disheartening,” frontman Cano Hernández said. “Once when we got back from Japan, they asked why we weren’t performing anymore. Why? Because they just didn’t see us in the public eye anymore.”

Although Spanish rock has not been mainstream for years, he wants fans to be reassured that it still exists.

“There’s a big confusion there,” he said. “If all you want to listen to is Spanish rock, then you need to look into the streets. The streets never stopped playing. The TV may have stopped playing underground music, and that’s caused a confusion about why there is no more Spanish rock.”

As the night progressed, the mosh pits became more bearable and rather than continue being small and distributed throughout the crowd, fans created one giant circle pit directly in the center of the Shrine Hall Expo once Reel Big Fish performed.

Compared to Inspector and El Gran Silencio, Reel Big Fish’s performance was greeted with a lighthearted energy rather than the intense ambience that was set in earlier performances.

The Orange County-based band’s humorous lyrics and playful attitude was catchy as fans happily sang along to their quirky and upbeat songs such as, “Beer,” “Sell Out,” and “I Want Your Girlfriend To Be My Girlfriend, Too.”

Frontman and guitarist Aaron Barrett often integrates humor into the band’s tunes because he wants fans to have fun.

“I just want (our fans) to enjoy (our music) in some type of way,” Barrett said. “If it makes them dance, that’s good or if it makes them laugh, too. If there’s something they can relate to in a song that makes them feel better that’s good. We want to make people happy with our music.”

Trumpet player and backing vocalist John Christianson thinks Barrett has the ability to make light of many situations.

“I think something Aaron is great at is being able to allow yourself to laugh at yourself with what’s going on with you and going on with the greater world around you,” Christainson said. “So if you listen to ‘Everyone Else Is An Assh*le’ and it makes you have a smile on your face then listen to that song.”

Reel Big Fish concluded the night with their cover of A-ha’s 1985 hit, “Take On Me.” While couples on the outskirts of the mosh pit embraced one another, other fans ran wildly around the mosh pit to the point a few people tripped and toppled over each other. The show had come full circle and ended on an energetic note.

For fans wanting more from Skanking Reggae Fest, Inspector is releasing a new album this year and their new single, “Busco Amor,” which translates to looking for love, is available on most music platforms. Reel Big Fish also teased about working on new material and taking time to record it.

Karla Rendon can be reached at

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