Being a teenager in 1997 had its advantages, one of which was growing up during the peak of the third-wave ska revival. I attended my very first ska show that year and the first band of the night was a then unknown Save Ferris. I knew that their singer sang the female parts of Reel Big Fish’s “She Has a Girlfriend Now” but not much else about the band. By the end of that show, I was hooked (on them, and ska), and saw them 5 or 6 more times before my final show of theirs in 2000. I can’t think of a much better motto for a 16 year old music enthusiast than “it sucks to be under 21.”
Despite my teenage infatuation, Save Ferris fell rather far from my music rotation and to be honest I wasn’t even slightly excited to see them announced for a show at Backstage Bar and Billiards. My grumpy old-aged indifference continued as the band hit the stage and launched into It Mean’s Everything opener “The World is New,” but then Monique Powell jumped up to the stage from the dressing room and I became 16 again. I had forgotten what a great front-woman Monique is and immediately her infectious energy got the sold-out crowd dancing and singing along. Their set contained almost everything from It Mean’s Everything, as well as 1999’s Modified, and I soon realized that I knew all of the lyrics.
After a long set and two wardrobe changes by Monique, the band left the stage, and returned for a quick encore containing “New Sound” (which is a much newer sound than fellow ska band The Interrupters’ “This is the New Sound”) and unsurprisingly “Come on Eileen,” the band’s biggest hit. At this point, the house lights came on, music began playing and a good portion of the the audience left. However, some devoted fans began a “one more song,” and “SPAM” chant (one of the only songs missing from the set) and a surprised band emerged from backstage to indulge them. It seemed genuine that this second encore wasn’t planned as Monique had since changed clothes into her “pajamas,” but the band seemed happy to satisfy the crowd and played “SPAM” as well as Operation Ivy cover “Artificial Life” which had been part of their set even in my first show 20 years earlier. I’m a bit ashamed that I wasn’t more excited for this show, but now that the band seems to be touring again and have a new EP Checkered Past out, my old jaded ass definitely won’t miss the next show.
Opening the show were locals Rayner and Light Em Up, in my opinion a perfect match for Save Ferris. I always love seeing Rayner and they didn’t seem phased at all having such a large crowd. Somehow, I hadn’t seen Light Em Up before but I really enjoyed their late 90s ska-punk sound. The touring opener Vista Kicks, an indie-rock/pop band from Los Angeles, sounded great but in my opinion weren’t all that great of a stylistic match for a third-wave ska/punk show.