Over the last few years, Rocksins.com has been big supporters of Bowling For Soup, and in my opinion deservedly so. Bowling For Soup are a band who in my 7 years + of seeing them live have never put in anything other than a great live show, though this particular show looked set to challenge that run. The Forum in Kentish Town is a unique venue with something of an unreliable PA system. I’ve seen a variety of bands over the years there and bands ranging from Dimmu Borgir to Lostprophets have had very bad nights when it comes to The Forum’s sound setup. Up until now the only band I’ve seen be a big success there were Ministry on their farewell tour a few years back. So, the question was, could Bowling For Soup beat the curse of Kentish Town.
Before everyone’s favourite Texan pop punk band took to the stage there were two support bands. First up on tonight’s show were Orange, a pop punk band from Orange County, California (I’m guessing that’s where the name came from). Fronted by lively frontman Joe Dexter complete with his impressive head of red/orange hair (bearing a close resemblance to Gerard Way circa the MCR Killjoy’s album), Orange were energetic throughout their half hour set and did their best to get the crowd involved including teaching the assembled masses a chorus or two and Joe even diving down off stage to sing amongst the fans in front of the barriers. Unfortunately the curse of the PA struck again, though not to some of the levels experienced in the past. It was hard to make out the vocals at times and the mix wasn’t brilliant but Orange battled on gamely regardless. Always the crowd pleaser, BFS frontman Jaret Reddick put in a brief appearance to contribute some vocals at one stage, complete with a “Delicious Gary” in hand (more on this later). “This has been the best night of my life” proclaimed Joe Dexter at the end of the set. Whilst I wouldn’t go quite that far, there was enough promise from Orange to suggest there could be lots more to come from them.
I’d never heard of Suburban Legends before they were announced for this tour and hadn’t bothered to check them out prior to the show so I had no clue what to expect other than a brief heads up from Orange’s Press Team as to how entertaining they were. Entertaining was something of an understatement. For those unfamilar, Suburban Legends are a six piece punk rock / ska band comprised of the drummer, bassist, guitarist, two horn players and singer Vincent Walker (who also played trumpet in the band previously before becoming the singer). Instant comparisons could be made with Reel Big Fish (who I’ve since been told are Suburban Legend’s good friends) but Suburban Legends are on another level musically compared to Reel Big Fish.
Full of exuberance and energy the band flew around the stage, with Vincent and the two horn players Chris and Aaron having several dance routines worked out, some of them pretty complex while the guitarist and bassist also joined in on occasion. Vincent Walker had the crowd in the palm of his hand almost from the word go, and a brass heavy version of “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” from the Lion King got one of the loudest cheers of the night. Suburban Legends, like Bowling For Soup are a feel good, good time band. They’re an extremely tight, impressive live band who gave Bowling For Soup a tough act to follow. The set flew by and 40 minutes felt like no time at all. If you like music that will genuinely put a smile on your face try out Suburban Legends, you won’t be disappointed.
After an impressively quick changeover, the lights went down and the traditional intro “Here Comes Bowling For Soup” was blasted over the PA as the Denton quartet strolled on stage to a set up that included its own bar (an idea I’m sure many bands have considered but Bowling For Soup are the first band I’ve seen put it into practice). The packed crowd inside The Forum were delighted by the opening where the very comical (even for BFS) “I’m Gay” was followed by one of their biggest hits “High School Never Ends”. The sound was spot on from the word go – Bowling For Soup had beaten the curse of The Kentish Town PA! Audience participation was at extremely high levels from the word go and it only took until the third song Emily for a rather large mosh pit to break out. Whilst Bowling For Soup gigs traditionally have a lot of activity I haven’t seen too many moshpits at them down the years but this was the start of a trend that continued all night, the pits getting bigger and crazier with every song.
In between songs BFS were their usual extremely entertaining, banterous selves with topics ranging from high school friends of the band to Chris’s relationship status and need for some action “My Dad told me if I didn’t knock anyone up on this tour he was gonna disown me” – lets hope he was successful in his quest! Back to the music and the first appearance of songs from most recent album (arguably the best one to date) Fishin For Woo’s was in the shape of first single S-S-Saturday which went down a treat.
One of the highlights of the show was as Jaret started talking about Texas (usually the link in to start “Ohio (Come Back To Texas)” a rather christmassy bra was thrown on stage. Written on one of the bra cups was a note. “Hope you like the bra, please play My Wena”. True to form (as Bowling For Soup have almost never used setlists for their shows) they obliged and we got My Wena, before being followed by the originally intended Ohio. This included the first ever Bowling For Soup on stage trip to the bar, which was now populated by some lucky members of the audience who got to watch the show from onstage, complete with joining the band for a round of “Delicious Gary’s” and being given Delicious Gary T-shirts (A Delicious Gary is the BFS drink of choice on tour, though it’s exact contents are not currently known).
True to their usual high level of audience interaction, the bra incident was only the beginning. Someone in the crowd had a sign asking Bowling For Soup to play “Stacey’s Mom” (The Fountains of Wayne song), which they duly obliged. After playing the song Jaret took the mic and asked the crowd to “allow him to explain”. The story goes that Stacey’s Mom came out around the same time as one of Bowling For Soup’s biggest songs 1985, so people used to ask them often to play it. It reached a point where the band just said “screw it” and now they treat it as part of their repetoire if asked for it. The second trip to the bar of the evening was presented as “the part of the show where we sing to the band while they have a drink”; Cue Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing over the PA and a 2 minute singalong while there was another round of Delicious Gary’s (surely he must be getting some royalties for that or something?!).
The Bowling For Soup set for the evening was a nicely balanced mix of their entire careers, though it was slightly surprising that only the fantastic Turbulence joined S-S-Saturday as new material to get played. Suburban Legends horn players Chris and Aaron came out to join Jaret, Erik, Chris and Gary for a ska’d up rendition of their oldest hit Belgium (the way the song was originally intended to be played, as the first BFS album had much more of a Ska feel to it) while the rest of Suburban Legends looked on from the on-stage bar before the main portion of the set was rounded off with the aforementioned 1985 (which prompted an enormous circle pit complete with a wall of death organised by the participants – A wall of death at a Bowling For Soup show is something of a very odd sight).
We didn’t have to wait long for the band to return for the encore and we were treated to a superb rendition of Summer Of 69 by Bryan Adams, one of the bands oldest and most rarely performend covers so that went down swimmingly with the BFS hardcore following. Unsurprisingly Girl All The Bad Guys Want was left until last, sending The Kentish Town Forum into chaos and bringing the show to a very satisfactory conclusion.
Bowling For Soup’s complete setlist was:
High School Never Ends
Ohio (Come Back To Texas)
When We Die
The Bitch Song
Stacey’s Mom (Fountains of Wayne cover)
Phineas & Ferb Are Gonna Do It All (Today Is Gonna Be A Great Day)
The Last Rock Show
Punk Rock 101
Gary Won’t You Suck My Balls (to Gary Wiseman, BFS Drummer)
Summer of 69 (Bryan Adams cover)
Girl All The Bad Guys Want
I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again. Bowling For Soup are one of, if not the most consistent live band I have had the pleasure of seeing live multiple times. “Off night” doesn’t seem to be in their vocabulary and they even managed to achieve very good sound quality in The Forum, a rare achievement. It was another superb performance made all the more enjoyable by the support (particularly the excellent Suburban Legends). If the band stick to the schedule of the last couple of years, Jaret & Erik will be back for the third BFS acoustic tour in April followed by another full band tour in October 2012. Anyone who likes good, fun music needs to be at those shows, they’ll be some of the most fun you’ll have all year.