Reel Big Fish / Mr. T Experience / Irving Plaza / March 3, 1996
Though they play different styles of loud, catchy West Coast pop, California’s Reel Big Fish and Mr. T Experience unified a highly energized, fully appreciative teen-dominated audience at Irving Plaza. While brassy seven-piece Reel Big Fish speed up Two Tone Brit ska and give it an assertive kick in the pants, bouncy ‘70s-flavored rockers Mr. T Experience unleash adrenaline-fueled, feisty pre-Green Day punk.
Several energetic fans went crowd surfing while others gleefully moshed non-stop, creating an intense buzz that further stimulated both bands.
To get the boys and girls juiced up, Reel Big Fish led off with the goofy Animal House-imbibed “Trendy,” throwing caution to the wind by cheekishly begging ‘please don’t hate me ‘cause I’m trendy’ and chanting the infectious catchphrase ‘everybody’s doin’ the fish, yeah yeah yeah.’ Their self-effacing humor and hilarious bohemian sloganeering dotted nearly every song.
Gleeful fans connected instantly with each little ditty, joining in on silly choruses and a few casual, curse-filled verses. Playfully mocking the so-called third wave ska scene and their own teen-reckoned insecurities, RBF offered a constant stream of exuberant adolescent laments to remedy schoolyard blues. And when they tossed out a new song, they had no problem getting a thumbs up from the crowd.
Rarely does a band get the complete audience eating out of its hand, but it became customary this fortuitous night, especially during the anthemic “Everything Sucks,’ and the daringly obvious “Sell Out.”
Perfect frat-boy fodder for misguided youths, RBF fully understood the plight of its followers. As silly pranksters, they never met a trend or heartbreaker they couldn’t sufficiently razz. They snubbed rapper “Snoop Dogg Baby” on an innocuous teaser and a former lover on the lesbian-licked “She Has A Girlfriend Now.”
Mr. T Experience delivered hard rock candy and bubblegum-chewed power pop that received a dense bass-thickened tone at this spacious venue. Guitarist-vocalist Dr. Frank struck crooked knee poses and jumped up and down while his cheesy harmony-doused two-minute tune shimmied forward. Strangely, after asking the crowd if they wanted to hear a ska song, Dr. Frank broke into the Lurkers’ punk classic, “Sonic Reducer.”
Taking the best elements of ‘60s/ ‘70s AM radio smashes (a cool cover of Elton John’s obnoxiously sassy “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” and the ultra-catchy original “Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba”) and sharp-witted Bay area punk, MTX proved they could still get excited over simple pleasures.