By Henry Schecker
2016 was a rotten year. After 18 months of a bizarre and nerve wracking election with an unexpected and anti-climactic conclusion, and personal and academic struggles piling up; I needed this.
At the end of a stressful election week, Reel Big Fish brought their brand of joyous sophomoric ska punk to Stroudsburg’s Sherman Theater.
To say the show was great would be an understatement and also a moot point, as there’s really no such thing as bad ska.
It was a night of great catharsis: profanities were sung along to, limbs were flung wildly, and for three hours I was brought back to my youth and how the all healing altar of rock ‘n roll can make everything alright again.
To this author, this show was of two great significances.
One, I’ve been a resident of East Stroudsburg for nine years and have never attended a show at the Sherman, and two, this was the first time I had seen a show with a press pass with the express purpose of reviewing it.
So forgive me, as I missed the first of the three opening acts, The Queeftones, which RBF front man Aaron Barrett humorously joked “they’ll never regret that name” later on in the evening, while waiting in line for the box office.
My experience began shortly after 8 p.m. as I walked into the gorgeous old timey entrance hall of the Sherman, was shooed past security and entered the auditorium just as the second band of the night, Stacked Like Pancakes, hit the stage.
I was overcome by how many people crammed into the Sherman to see the show, and the Sherman itself.
I never knew how “legit” the Sherman Theater was.
The lighting and audio equipment was top notch and the auditorium was much larger than you would assume just driving past the box office and marquee.
Stacked Like Pancakes hail from Maryland and were a highly energetic ska punk band. Considering that this was the first time that many in attendance, including myself, had heard them, “SLP” had the crowd skanking and chanting along with their songs in record time.
I highly recommend giving their social media a follow and checking out their music.
The third and final opener, Masked Intruder, had an awesome gimmick. All four members wore ski masks to obscure their faces.
Each member’s mask matched their guitar and sweat bands.
They sort of looked like what I imagine a cross between the Power Rangers and the burglars from “Home Alone” would be.
To say they were just a gimmick would be the biggest disservice I could possibly do to them.
Masked Intruder rock. Plain and simple.
The skits they did between songs ranged from “kidnapping” women from the crowd to dance on stage, to having everybody in the audience wave their hands to reveal “this is a stick up,” and after knocking out 30 straight minutes of raw pop punk that could make Blink 182 blush.
They left us with “and if anybody asks, you never saw us here.”
The tension and anticipation in the Sherman grew as sound techs and roadies began setting up for Reel Big Fish to take the stage.
“Reel Big Fish” chants rang through the air and reverberated off the walls and ceiling until the lights cut out and a deafening cheer started.
The band took the stage, leading the crowd in a classic soccer-stadium “Olé” chant. RBF opened with three songs from newer albums before getting to the reason they were here, to celebrate 20 years of their major label debut “Turn The Radio Off.”
Aaron Barrett, the only original member of Reel Big Fish, seemed almost bashful when talking about the album.
“We’re going to plat the album from start to finish; even the crappy songs!” Barrett said before launching into their 1996 hit “Sell Out.”
The hour that followed was one of unadulterated fun as the band ripped through the album, playing it perfectly note for note even though only one of the five men had been present when the songs were written.
I must say that despite this not being the original lineup of RBF, the band in its current form has such a tightness to it that it may be the best incarnation ever.
All the members locked into each others’ grooves perfectly and the on stage banter was genuinely hilarious and didn’t feel forced or contrived at all.
The band performed every track on “Turn The Radio Off” except the secret hidden track “Cool Ending,” which prompted a “One More Song” chant and a reprise of the “Olé” chants from earlier, which incited a bizarre and slightly Trump-esque “U.S.A.” chant.
Of course being the entertainers they are, Reel Big Fish returned to the stage to perform the hidden track.
Barrett then spoke about “Turn The Radio Off” turning 20 as the band played “Happy Birthday” in the background, “Really, we just had to wait. It was that easy.”
Barrett added “Out of all the ska punk albums that came out in the nineties, it…was one of them,” underscoring the feel good “all are welcome” humility of the ska genre itself.
The band couldn’t resist poking fun at itself one more time as they launched into “the biggest hit from ‘Turn the Radio Off,’” a really good cover of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “The Impression That I Get” before cutting the song short and announcing “hey we didn’t write that song, everyone knows that was Everclear” a joke on the fact that many ska hits are incorrectly attributed to Reel Big Fish.
The band blasted through their hits “Beer” and “Where Have You Been?”
They finished with a rousing rendition of A-Ha’s 80’s hit “Take On Me” that left all in attendance with a warm buzz as the crowd began to dissipate.
I simply stood there for a moment absorbing all that I had just participated in, my body was sore, my feet were burning and I was dead tired.
But I would do it all again in heartbeat.
The Sherman Theater is an amazing little venue with plenty of local flavor and an amazing energy.
I’ve never been one to go to live shows, but this experience has definitely put the Sherman on my radar and in hindsight it was more than worth the $20 admission price.
Reel Big Fish’s “Turn the Radio Off” Twentieth Anniversary Tour continues through the remainder of 2016 and if you have the means to, then to please go see them.
The Sherman Theater, on the other hand, puts on shows almost every Friday and Saturday.
This is directed more towards our out of state students I suppose, but I highly recommend that if you have the means to check out the Sherman sometime: it’s a five-minute walk from campus and is a total blast.
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