If you doubt the intensity of experiencing Reel Big Fish in concert, think about this: The band recently watched a girl in the audience bite the guy standing next to her. She bit him out of sheer excitement, right on the arm. Drew blood and everything.
“And this while you’re trying to play a show,” says John Christianson, who plays trumpet for the ska band from Huntington Beach.
In that context, one can see how it is nearly impossible for Reel Big Fish not to get caught up in the excitement of the crowd.
You may remember Reel Big Fish from the 1998 film “BASEketball.”
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Even three weeks into a national tour in a bus the band can almost not afford, with all six of its members (plus three crew members and a girlfriend) sharing bunk space.
And a cold.
“Everybody is sick. Everybody is sore,” Christianson says, talking in advance of the band’s show Sunday, Feb. 21, at Strummer’s.
And still, the band is having a great time.
“You can’t help but jump around and play your ass off.”
“It’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on,” says Christianson, better known to fans as Johnny Christmas.
It’s the kind of remark one expects from the upbeat band, which along with No Doubt and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones gained mainstream recognition during the third-wave ska movement in the late ’90s. They are known for playing quirky, fun, almost anti-anthems, such as the 1997 hit “Sell Out.” The band signed with several major record labels during the early 2000s, but traded much of its mainstreaming following for rabid cult fans as tastes in music changed.
There are two kind of music, Christianson says.
There’s happy music – the kind of irreverent and joyous songs that are Reel Big Fish’s stock and trade.
And then there’s “music that makes you want to cut your arm off and cry,” he says.
People tend to want one type of music more than the other at any given time, and it tends to happen in cycles.
Right now, the band is moving back toward the happy cycle, Christianson says. That’s good for the band and even better for fans. Because even if ska doesn’t have the cachet it did in the late ’90s, the band might be at its peak, Christianson says.
At least in terms of putting on a show, one that will keep you dancing and singing from start to end.
“We’re really good at this,” he says.
I want to be a better trumpet player, a better singer than I was at 20. And I am.
John Christianson, trumper player with Reel Big Fish
Reel Big Fish
- 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 21
- Strummer’s, 833 E. Fern Ave.
- Tickets: $21, all ages
- 559-485-5356, www.strummersclub.com