Sept. 13 @ The Catalyst Club, Downtown Santa Cruz

More Cowbell.

That’s what the audience wanted and what it got as the seven-man alternative/reggae band One Pin Short, hailing from Las Vegas, started off the evening.  The band put on quite a pre-show for a modest crowd, including a daring spectacle by guitarist Jesse Magaña, who climbed atop the club’s interior second-story balcony to strum a solo. The band was surprisingly harmonious and managed to get the sparse crowd clapping along to their melodies about peace and revolution.

Orange County natives Suburban Legends followed, and temporarily stunned the crowd with what might best be described as sounding like a boy-band infused first-grade sing along.  Though some might classify the band’s style as childish, there’s also no doubt about the group’s professionalism: with choreographed moves you probably haven’t seen since the ‘N Sync days, and energy level normally attained only by chugging 12 consecutive cans of Red Bull, these boys really know how to work a crowd.
Drummer Derek Lee stopped to chat with City on a Hill Press before the show, and mentioned with certain sadness that the night’s show would be the last one of the tour, which hit cities throughout the U.S. and Europe.   The band went all out for its last show, playing classics from its 11-year career.  Aside from their well-received rendition of the Disney song “Under the Sea,” most of the set was fully recognized only by the two high school girls in the crowd who donned “Suburban Legends” t-shirts.

Many of the members of the eclectic crowd probably wouldn’t jam out to a Suburban Legends album alone at home, but there was nary a soul at the show who could keep from chuckling and grooving with the boys as they goofed around on stage.  The younger and rowdier attendees even started a mosh-pit as horns sounded and rainbow lights flashed.

Headliners Reel Big Fish finally burst onstage and got the crowd going straight away with a spunky, fast-paced version of Aha’s 80s-era hit, “Take On Me”.  Riddled in between their own hits and crowd favorites, the band played a well-received cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” an exciting rendition of Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl,” and a hilarious adaptation of “Beauty School Dropout” from the movie “Grease”.

The mosh pit grew steadily and practically exploded with the onslaught of “Where Have You Been,” and a guest appearance by Suburban Legends guitarist Brian Wayne Klemm, a roommate of Reel Big Fish singer Aaron Barrett.  When Klemm stepped on stage, a wild guitar battle between the roomies ensued.

As the evening reached its pinnacle, Reel Big Fish busted out with the beloved song “Beer”, transporting all in attendance back to the nineties — an era Barrett never fully left, with his impressive sideburns and Hawaiian floral button-up.

When the night seemed like it couldn’t get any more epic, the band announced that it was master of all musical styles and subsequently delivered multiple renditions of their song “You Don’t Know” in various styles: punk-rock, bluegrass, disco, country western and screamo.

As the night drew to a close, Reel Big Fish consoled the audience with the following words of wisdom: “The bad news is we only have one song left. The good news is you can’t get herpes twice.”

It was an undeniably entertaining evening.  There were flashy dance moves, an epic guitar battle, back-in-the-day tunes, and trumpeter Scott Klopfenstein’s adorable thigh-high blue sailor shorts and nerdy glasses.

Oh, and the cowbell.