Review by Jake Davis
When buying tickets to a show with either Streetlight Manifesto or Reel Big Fish, any skanker worth his checkered shoes knows he’s in for a good show. Nonetheless, I entered Webster with a certain amount of apprehension. Could all the stories people have told me about these two bands live be untrue? My friends, I come to you with joyous news. I have seen heaven on stage. I can say with all certainty there isn’t a better live show than Streetlight Manifesto or Reel Big Fish, and the fantastic openers that preceded them. On that note, certainly the biggest surprise of the night was not one, but two amazing openers. I will say the first band, Rodeo Ruby Love, even though they were a great act, seemed a little out-of-place. The Indiana natives have a wonderful mix of upbeat ska tunes (oddly lacking a brass section on stage), the best of which was a horn-tinged number called “Rickey Henderson.” They were a little soft and slow in tempo compared to the rest of the groups, and because they were opening the show, had a bit of a lukewarm reception from the rowdy bigger-name hungry audience. The best part of the suspicious interaction between band and crowd was the extremely funny self-conscious looks of complete uncomfort the rhythm guitarist had on his face. To top it off, their mixing seemed a little off, drowning out the vocalists with guitar fuzz. Listening to them now, I cannot say enough good things about them, considering their tight sound and often-hilarious lyrics. My one piece of advice to the band: Give Annie Cheek (the female vocalist) some sort of instrument on stage so she doesn’t stand there looking so endearingly awkward as she waits for the next bit of her lyrics to kick in.
The next band to play was Lionize, who my friend dryly remarked that he wouldn’t want to meet any of these guys in a dark alley, are certainly a physically imposing, heavily bearded band. When a huge white guy, decked out with a lumberjack beard came out on stage, my first reaction was, “Oh, God, another lame, loud, grunge knockoff band.” Readers, learn to never trust my first impressions. To start, the lead singer had a beautiful voice, and his crystal clear lyrics cut straight through the crowd. This is one band that no one saw coming, but no one wanted to leave after their first song. Between a wonderful vocalist, a truly amazing keyboardist who laid out incredible organ riffs and superbly tight drum lines, this band impressed like no other. Its one thing going into a show and knowing the band will be great and another matter entirely for one to come out like a bolt out of the blue. This is one hard-edged reggae band I’ll keep coming back to again and again.
And now, the moment I couldn’t wait for…Streetlight Manifesto takes the stage. The opening notes of “Watch It Crash” hit our collective audience ears. No matter how steady I wanted to keep my camera, I couldn’t help but screaming “Mercy, mercy, mercy me!” when the chorus came about. They played an incredible set, I only wish it lasted longer. They played 10 amazingly created songs. I cannot express how great they were, but I must confess, Reel Big Fish I looked forward to more and was ultimately more entertaining.
When they came on stage accompanied, of course, by the Superman theme song, the crowd just about lost it. I think a sweaty, shirtless man next to me began to cry. I rushed to the front of the photo pit, and used the majority of my camera’s memory on this incredibly charismatic band. They danced, sang, make bawdy jokes, sang “Suburban Rhythm” countless times in different styles and took pity on the short kid among the huge security guards and looked right at the camera multiple times. If that grandiose run on sentence didn’t prove it to you, they were unbelievable. Better than anyone had ever told me, and I implore anyone to see them. Take a train, bus, learn to fly, rent a camel, I don’t care. Just go. This band gets me so excited, and really, as the guy in the “Bitchin’” shirt could tell you, you should be too.