Review by Mark Ashby
Photography by Jamie Hunter
Let’s get this straight, right from the off… I don’t like pop punk; well, the vast majority of it. The very term more often than not makes me cringe, inwardly at least. To me, and perhaps it’s because I’m of a certain generation, there is either pop music or there is punk. The two should never meet.
From which you’ll probably be able to determine, dear reader, that I’m not a big fan of bands such as Bowling For Soup and their ilk. OK, to give them their due, they are one band who seem to have approached the genre with their tongues very firmly in their cheeks, making their inanely funny songs deliberately so – and they’ve made some pretty (intentionally) humorous videos along the way.
So, it was in this context that I braved the chill autumn air and dodged the fleeting torrents of rain to check out the Texas quartet on what obviously was their highly-anticipated return to my beloved Belfast. With events (including a door time of stupid o’clock) having conspired to make me miss openers Patent Pending, the basement venue is jammed to the ceiling by the time main support The Dollyrots take to the stage. And, they’re a lot of fun, it must be admitted…
Frontwoman Kelly Ogden comes across as a youthful mixture of Joan Jett, Suzi Quatro and Avril Lavigne, with the rabblerousing ability of the first two and the energy of the third, as she leads the LA trio through a lively set of infectious punky pop songs – even dragging BFS frontman Jaret Reddick prematurely on stage for a brief a cappella version of the theme from ‘Friends’ – with the standout track, for me, being Ogden’s high-pitched rendition of ‘Brand New Key’ (even if I did get a few funny looks for bellowing out “I’ve got a brand new combine harvester” at the top of my lungs – but, I much prefer the Wurzels’ version…).
What is obvious when the house lights go up for the handover is that the audience is more or less divided into two halves, with the teenagers on the main floor and their parents pretending to watch protectively from the balcony – although the sight of one middle-aged woman later telling guitarist Chris Burney exactly what she would like to do to his rotund body soon put that assumption to bed!
Within seconds of BFS demonstrate exactly why they have a reputation as a brilliant live band, as they immediately have the whole room bouncing and singing along, ensuring that both they and their audience are in for what we describe as a “great night’s craic” in this part of the world. Reddick, Burney and bassist Erik Chandler interact well, between both the fans and themselves, and everyone present (with the possible exception of the two very concerned looking security guys in the pit area) is smiling and dancing.
‘Let’s Go To The Pub’ signals the opening of the onstage bar, where the guys from Patent Pending and The Dollyrots are quick to agree that it’s ‘Hooray For Beer’, and this summarizes the party atmosphere. There are brilliantly playful covers of Fountains Of Wayne’s ‘Stacy’s Mom’ and Britney’s ‘Baby One More Time’, a brief, punked up version of the ‘Phineas And Ferb’ theme and onstage antics which include spilled drinks and simulated sex scenes and riotous renditions of ‘High School Never Ends’, ‘Girl All The Bad Guys Want’ and ‘1985’, as well as a curfew busting encore mash-up of ‘Paranoid’ and ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’, complete with Kelly Ogden returning Reddick’s favour from earlier and taking over the lead vocals.
I’m still not a Bowling For Soup (or pop punk, for that matter) fan, but I’ll be the first to admit that they put on a bloody entertaining show and I’d definitely go see them again!