On a cold Sunday evening, you’d expect people to be home preparing themselves for the new working week. However, this could not have been further from the truth inside the O2 Bristol Academy. Fortunately, I was able to experience the madness with photographer Tony Hebblethwaite.
As I stood at the box office waiting for that all-important golden press pass,the booming from the stage was already filling my ears with joy. Due to a lengthy road diversion we only managed to catch the end of Suburban Legends. Their fast paced, high energy set had the crowd well and truly warmed up. Lively dancing from Vincent Walker was reciprocated by the audience. They peppered their set by adding a ska twist to several Disney favourites including ‘You’ve Got A Friend in Me’. This was going to be a good night.
Next to the stage was Zebrahead. Bringing a heavier undertone to the party, they were the bad boy from the block. The crowd shouted every lyric of Ali Tabatabaee’s rap verses with gusto, causing Ali himself to jump into the mosh and surf his way around. Mid way through the set a beer chugging contest was held by three giant beers. The appropriate response to this was, of course, a furious circle pit. Their set was closed with the help of Reel Big Fish’s horn section, giving the audience a sneak peak of what was in store for the rest of the evening.
Less Than Jake were the first of the two headliners to perform. During their performance they picked out a topless guy from the crowd to dance on stage with them (who they described as a big cuddly bear) whilst their mascots shot out toilet paper. Unsurprisingly the crowd went wild, and the cheers were deafening. Less Than Jake’s sing-along anthems were a sure hit with the age-diverse crowd, people of all ages sang at the top of their lungs and danced their hearts out. They put on a fast-paced show, running and jumping around on stage it was impossible to tell who was more energetic, the crowd or the band!
The night finished with an incredible set by Reel Big Fish. They burst onto the stage with a fiery version of ‘Take on Me’. The energy from their performance radiated around the venue and somehow the already excited crowd really stepped it up. The mosh pit doubled in size and the cheers were louder and louder with each song they performed. Aaron Barrett revelled in teasing the audience with the promise of a new song only to play a wonderful medley of covers including Smash Mouth’s ‘All Star’ and Semisonic’s ‘Closing Time’. As they left the stage, the crowd chanted louder and louder determined to get an encore. They were blessed with a couple of songs including ‘Beer’.
The gig was exhilarating and managed to find the perfect blend of ska and punk rock. The venue was intimate but managed to balance intimacy with a sense of community and a passion for music. After the gig people were dancing and smiling in the street, the electric atmosphere was powerful enough to ensure that they were ready to face another Monday.
Review: Jo Sanders
Photography: Tony Hebblethwaite