Festival preview: Reel Big Fish at Slam Dunk North

Reel Big Fish
Reel Big Fish
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Headlining the Desperados Stage on Cookridge Street for Slam Dunk Festival this Saturday are Californian ska-punk sensations Reel Big Fish.

Not only is this a welcome return to the festival for the band, but also to a city that has taken them truly to its heart, with them enjoying a string of highly memorable performances here over the years.

Frontman, lead guitarist and principle songwriter for the band, Aaron Barrett, is the only surviving member of it’s original incarnation in the early 90s. He has been a constant driving force for the bands success and indeed such longevity – despite on the surface seemingly not taking himself or each other too seriously, he and his bandmates are truly passionate about the music, and the job that they are so honoured to do.

Interestingly, he assures us, the love is not at all one-way and Aaron holds the fans in Leeds in just as high regard as they hold he and his band.

“We’ve played so many gigs in Leeds since our first time in town in 2001 and every single show has been amazing! The people are always there to have a good time and they show it. Everybody is so loud and rowdy and ready to party and that makes it so much fun to play in front of a crowd like that. We always feed off the energy of the crowd and Leeds has so much energy and that always makes it great.”

Joining Reel Big Fish on stage will be long standing friends and peers of the scene such as Goldfinger and Zebrahead. This helps make the event extra special for Aaron, who really does get a kick out of these moments.

“Lots of our friends are playing on the same stage with us,” he says. “So it’s going to be a lot of fun seeing them and playing a show together – we’re looking forward to a huge, wild party on and off the stage.”

Those unfamiliar with ska or Reel Big Fish may in fact recognise the band from the 1998 comedy film BASEketball, or for their rousing cover of A-Ha’s Take On Me. Although mostly known for their own material and songs such as Beer and Sell Out, they have always had a lot of fun with cover versions and this is helped in part by keeping an open mind.

“I really don’t think there is any musical genre that I absolutely hate or would completely just not give a chance to...but there are lots of songs I hate! I hated Another Day in Paradise by Phil Collins and still covered that and made it...well, different.”

Ska, and more particularly ska punk, became the soundtrack to many people’s teenage lives over the last two decades, and bands such as Reel Big Fish continue to enjoy a mass cult following across many age ranges. But what is it about this genre that appeals so much to the younger generations?

“Ska is definitely still alive and skankin’! We play all over the world and even though most of the shows have a pretty wide age range, it tends to be a lot of younger people at the shows. I think, at least for our style of ska, it’s about having fun and being silly, which most people do less and less as they get older and it really appeals to younger people who have a lot of energy and want to go crazy on the dance floor...also our humour is pretty juvenile sometimes so that might be a reason for it too.

“If people still keep coming to the shows, I will keep playing! Even when I’m 105 years old and they have to wheel me out on stage in a wheelchair, I won’t stop skankin’.”

Slam Dunk takes place at various venues around Leeds cty centre on Saturday. For tickets visit http://slamdunkmusic.com/festival/north/

Jesca Hoop at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds. Picture: Gary Brightbart

Gig review: Jesca Hoop at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds