A selection of current ska and punk legends took to the Bristol O2 stage as part of the renowned Fireball whiskey sponsored tour around the United Kingdom. Day two of their non-stop party train saw Reel Big Fish taking headline spot, supported by Pennsylvanian Anti-Flag, Mad Caddies, Fireball’s hottest band Sweet Little Machine and local competition winners Tree House Fire. A packed, sold-out night that brought together the best influences of punk, rock, ska, country and everything in between.
Following suit of the Bristol-based Tree House Fire who opened the night, Mad Caddies bring forth their own spin on the ska genre with plenty of charisma in tow. Kicking it all off slow and steady with ‘Lay Your Head Down’, they accentuate their funky beats and gritty vocals from the get go. They whizz through a number of tracks taken from their 2007 record ‘Keep it going’, with ‘Backyard’ bringing out a reggae influence that continues to pop up every now and again throughout their 45-minute set.
The group have an incredible ability to merge a number of seemingly opposing genres together in outstanding style, each with killer break downs that show off their true talents with tempo and keeping the audience on their toes. They bring heaps of fun to the stage with songs like ‘Monkeys’ fetching upbeat and entertaining sounds to shake your ass to. ‘Shoot Out the Lights’ shows off their lighter side, embracing themes of peace, love and diversity before jumping into a heavy track in their back catalogue to shift the room’s energy in seconds. Taken from their first full-length album, the sextet bring their show to a close with ‘Diversity’ with grungey guitars taking centre stage in the breakdown.
American punk four-piece Anti-Flag waste no time in getting stuck in with ‘The Press Corpse’, with the crowd following their example and are not afraid to get jumping around the packed floor. They mix in their older back catalogue with newer tracks taken from their upcoming record ‘American Fall’; due to be released in a matter of weeks. Every track has a level of morality as they thrust their strong beliefs into the lyrics as well as the intermissions between each song. They go on to praise the ska and punk community for being individuals that care about more than just themselves. They continue preaching their anti-fascist stance in ‘1 Trillion Dollars’ and ‘This is the End (For You My Friend)’, showing off their similarities with the likes of Billy Talent and Rise Against.
Their catchy hooks and impactful lyrics don’t cease there either. With one of their latest releases ‘American Attraction’ bursting to the seams with energy and enticing riffs that makes every member of the audience bounce; even the ones who aren’t there to see the quartet. They propel themselves through a speedy rendition of The Clash’s ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’, giving it a fresh spin and new life. The floor doesn’t stop when it comes round to their final showcase ‘Brandenburg Gate’, which gets Bassist and singer Chris Parker and drummer Pat Theic up close and personal with the crowd. Following a swift manoeuvre of the drum kit down into the centre of the pit, they chant alongside fans in a satisfying conclusion.
Reel Big Fish
No matter where Californian sextet Reel Big Fish perform, you are bound to be greeted by a bunch of colourful characters that move around stage with immense swagger. It is next to impossible to smile when the ska legends are playing. They spring into action with ‘Somebody Hates Me’, complete with swaying brass. When it comes round to their classic ‘Everybody Else is an Asshole’, the beach balls are already flying and the atmosphere in the room in a chaotic wonderland of funky beats and fun beach vibes. The group take their covers in their stride and easily own the Toots & the Maytals cover of ‘Monkey Man’, which has become a staple for their live set lists.
They bring out the compulsory shout out to the tour sponsors Fireball when they introduce ‘Everybody’s Drunk’: “thank you to Fireball Whiskey for making us all drunk”. The whole set is a barrel of laughs for the band and they clearly like to mix it up for audiences, claiming that their renowned cover of Van Morrisey’s ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ was written by bassist Derek Gibbs back in the 1970’s. The tune is met by masses of cheers and they claim it with ska-ridden allure. The band’s very own ‘Saxl Rose’ – aka sax player Matt Appleton – shows off his feminine vocal talents in ‘She Has a Girlfriend Now’ with an impressive result.
The fun doesn’t stop as the group introduce a succession of short snippets of various covers from Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, Lit’s ‘My Own Worst Enemy’ and The Proclaimers’ ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’. They finally get stuck into their huge hit song from the 1990’s ‘Sell Out’ and straight into ‘Beer’; coating the stage in foaming bear ad leaving the stage. The encore features the electrifying ‘Where Have You Been?’ and of cleaning up their previous mess, before bringing the night to a close with their renowned cover of A-Ha’s ‘Take On Me’.
It is an entertaining night that features plenty of booze and relentless mixes of sounds and fun. Each band got sizeable sets and took opportunities to promote peace love and lots of Fireball. With ticket prices at only a tenner, it is a full-on party experience that is hard to turn down.