April 1st: Time for practical jokes and spoofs, and possibly some traditional April showers. It was also the opening night of what has become the annual Bowling For Soup UK Acoustic Tour by BFS frontman Jaret Reddick and bassist and generous timegiver to Rocksins Erik Chandler. I was fortunate enough to attend the London show of the first acoustic tour, which was one of the greatest gigs I’ve ever been to by any band heavy or more light hearted. As a result, this show was going to have quite a lot to live up to to preserve the always consistently excellent live Bowling For Soup reputation.
With this in mind, the opening night of the tour, conveniently located for myself just down the road from my house at The Junction in Cambridge was something we (both myself and my wife are hardcore BFS fans) had been looking forward to for a good while. In addition to Bowling For Soup recording a new album both Jaret and Erik have been busy with new side projects, and it was Erik’s side project “Erik Chandler and The Mulberry St Socialities” that kicked off the evenings festivities. The Mulberry St Socialities, consisting of Erik and multi BFS side project collaborator Linus of Hollywood ran through a few numbers that were very well received, the dual vocals working very well together before Linus left Erik solo for the last song of the evening about one of his ex girlfriends (a real ****, as Erik put it). We found out at the end that that was Erik’s first ever live solo performance anywhere. If he was nervous he certainly didn’t show it and it was a great way to kick off the evening.
Not to be outdone by his Bowling For Soup bandmate, next it was the turn of Jaret Reddick’s side project People On Vacation to take the stage. People On Vacation, consisting of Jaret, fellow guitarist and vocalist Ryan Hamilton and Linus of Hollywood in his second appearance of the night had everyone clapping and singing along as directed by the band throughout their 25 minute set. The sound of People on Vacation is not a million miles away from Bowling For Soup (particularly in acoustic form) as they had fun songs which sounded cheerful for the most part and in particular Ryan Hamilton seemed to be having a great time (turns out it was first live gig anywhere outside of the US, so another first for the evening). A great continuation to proceedings, which set us up nicely for part three.
One of the many good things about acoustic tours is the incredibly fast changeover time due to the lack of instruments and general changes that don’t have to be made to the stage. As a result within five minutes of the end of People On Vacation, Linus had returned for his third stint of the evening, this time on solo duty. Linus was just as enjoyable solo as he was with both of the BFS side projects, including a couple of great singalongs and treating us to a single by his band Palmdale with a little help from Jaret for the cracking “Claire Danes Poster”. A third thoroughly enjoyable entree before the main course, so to speak.
Last time out, Jaret and Erik were on stage for nearly three hours for a combination of music, comedy, drinking and general merriment. They wouldn’t have quite so long this time but as we all know its about quality over quantity (and its always great when you get both, which you always do with BFS). After a short interval after Linus’s set, Jaret and Erik returned to their living room set from last time complete with some fantastic added artwork (Jaret bearing a remarkable likeness to Charlie Sheen in one such portrait). They were both well lubricated with pink beverages (“I’ve had 7 of these already” was one of Jaret’s first announcements) so Erik was playing catch up from the outset as the guys engaged in some traditional audience banter about american pronounciations of British expressions from the word go.
Regardless of how many beverages had been consumed, it didn’t affect them one bit as there was a killer singalong to “Almost” to kick things off with fellow BFS favourite Emily and Star Song. The Bitch Song was next up, but slightly modified to “Still A Bitch” in honour of another of Erik Chandler’s ex girlfriends (poor guy had most of his romantic history discussed during the course of this one show). The “no setlist policy” of Bowling For Soup live shows is always great, but even more so in the acoustic environment as sometimes when the audience would shout out songs the guys would play them (such as when someone asked for the Phineas and Ferb theme song), and other times they’d tell us to not tell them what to do. At the same time, they’d flick through the song book and suggest songs to each other, half the time one of them would shoot the other one down, or agree to it despite not being sure at all about playing it!
As with any Bowling For Soup live show of any sort there were many classic moments; A slow motion singalong in the middle of my personal favourite Ohio (Come Back To Texas), A complete reworking of A Really Cool Dance Song (something that should never have worked as an acoustic song in a million years but did and sounded great in the process) and the return of Linus (really earning his money on this tour) on the keyboard to add a little extra to a few songs in the middle of the set. Audience participation was a feature of the acoustic tour last time (anyone remember Tom in London last time round?) and things were no different this time. No Hablo Ingles featured Emma, Jaret’s personal Kazoo handler whilst during a song break a few members of the audience broke out into a bit of Journey, prompting Jaret & Erik to get one of them onstage to sing most of Don’t Stop Believin while they played along.
Another different element to tonight’s gig was that we all got a taste of the upcoming album, Fishin For Woos (out April 25th worldwide). Lead single Turbulence was incredibly well suited to being played acoustically and was one of the best tunes of the night while other new songs What About Us and S-S-S-Saturday also went down very well. This boded very well for the new album (something I can confirm having heard it, there will be a review up on this website in the next few days).
This opening night was yet another entry in the catalogue entitled “awesome Bowling For Soup gigs in the UK”. After finishing off with the traditional Girl All The Bad Guys Want (it was a vote between that and My Wena, won overwhelmingly by Girl All The Bad Guys Want) we’d hit the 11 O’Clock curfew and were left with the short trip home.
The full Bowling For Soup Setlist was:
The Bitch Song (“Still A Bitch”)
Phineas and Ferb (Today is Gonna Be a Great Day)
What About Us
Punk Rock 101
Ohio (Come Back To Texas)
No Hablo Ingles
If You Come Back To Me
These Friends O’Mine
I Don’t Wish You Were Dead Anymore
High School Never Ends
When We Die
Don’t Stop Believin (featuring “Darren”)
A Really Cool Dance Song
Girl All The Bad Guys Want
As always, Bowling For Soup live in any format is a fantastic, hugely fun experience. Quite simply, They do not know how to put on a bad show. There are just different degrees of excellent and fantastic.
The acoustic tour runs until the end of the week and if it isn’t sold out and it’s coming anywhere near you, you need to go and see it, its that simple. Here’s to their return to Download in June and to the full band tour in October!