Words by Frank Nelson
Images by Susan Muller
It’s 2007. Punk and Ska still get airtime on local radio, Tony Hawk Pro Skater is still a good game, and the Warped Tour is alive and rocking. This is the time I was transported to the moment Authority Zero kicked in at the Athenaeum in Columbus. If you have never had the pleasure of seeing a show at the Athenaeum, it feels a lot like a gymnasium or auditorium. Initially I thought I had mistakenly gotten tickets to a high school production of West Side Story rather than a punk show.
Authority Zero came out of the gates fast with rapid, machine gun vocals and bouncing riffs. While the whole band started at full speed and didn’t let up until they hit the final note, I need to mention their guitarist, Dan Aid. He played punk rock with precision and speed with the best of them, but he has one difference: he is missing his strumming arm from the elbow down.
He lost his arm when he was a child due to an accident with a high-tension powerline. He plays using a pick, some paint stirrers, rubber bands and a sports band. Aid is another example of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things that I personally take for granted, and I needed to make sure I pointed out how awesome that is. These guys were a really fun opening band and they set the tone for the night early.
Next up was ska punk mainstays Less Than Jake. Firstly, every band should use a horn section. I personally cannot think of a single genre of music that would not benefit from the addition of a saxophone, but I digress. The band kept the energy up with while they danced around the stage, all while reminding the crowd they have been doing this since the early 90s.
Midway through one of the songs vocalist Chris DeMakes stopped the band to call out people talking in the crowd. They proceeded to bring a young woman on stage to stand there while they played. It was equal parts very awkward and fun. After a few moments of not knowing what to do, she started dancing along to the music, and the show went on. Near the end of their set they brought a few more people on stage, just because they could from what I could tell. The music was just as good as when it was originally released, and the band sounded great. The whole set was very lighthearted and just fun.
Finally, it was time for the main attraction. Before they came out, a chant came over the sound system simply calling for “Bowling for Soup!” The show started with The Bitch Song and the entire crowd was instantly enthralled. Any song that allows people to yell “You’re a bitch” is understandably a crowd favorite. The band was feeding off it, with lead singer Jaret Reddick attempting to throw his picks in the air and catch them and guitarist Chris Burney dancing across stage.
They transitioned into Almost to kick off a four-song run from their album A Hangover you Don’t Deserve. If there was anyone that wasn’t singing along to the first song, they had joined in for the choruses here. After the bridge, everything stopped as they let the previous note hang in the air. “What you are experiencing right now is the greatest band that has ever lived pausing for dramatic effect,” announced Reddick. The crowd implored them to go on, and just as the pause was about to overstay its welcome, they jumped back into the final chorus.
Next up was a somewhat lesser known track from Hangover, Trucker Hat. Unlike the first two songs, not as many people seemed to immediately know the words. Luckily, this song contained the first of a few audience participation sections. Reddick led the crowd in the chorus, asking them to repeat it. By the end everyone was singing along just like before. He was able to command the crowd in a very jovial way, something I really enjoyed. It was different than how I’ve seen punk and metal vocalists direct a crowd. He simply asked everyone to do something, and they were more than happy to oblige. During this song, drummer Gary Wiseman broke his kick drum beater. Burney responded with a Dennis Rodman joke that I will leave to the imagination.
I have never seen a group of people so excited for a song that makes their state the butt of a joke. Nevertheless, this was the response they gave to Ohio (Come Back to Texas). This was the first song that I noticed how good the harmonies were by bassist Rob Felicetti. He only officially joined the band in January of this year, but his chemistry with the band was still great. He is significantly younger than the other members, something Reddick pointed out when talking about the band’s 25th anniversary.
After this, the opening riff to AC/DC’s Shoot to Thrill ripped out of the speakers. Felicetti took vocals in the impromptu cover, singing the chorus, before they transitioned into Mötley Crüe’s Kickstart My Heart, which then led into the band’s song Get Happy. To continue the rock section, Reddick showed off his best hair metal scream over the beginning of Last Rock Show.
Punk Rock 101 comes in and it brought the audience energy back up with the well-known song after a few album cuts. After the last verse the song cuts out and Reddick announces the first “Bowling for Soup photograph opportunity.” Full houselights come on as Sarah McLachlan’s In the Arms of the Angel plays while the band poses on stage in multiple positions. They pick the song right back up like they simply hit the pause button.
The first big surprise came when they played the theme song to Emmy award winning children’s cartoon Phineas and Ferb. I grew up with this show, and it is even better live. If you have never heard the theme song please find it, because it is incredible.
There is a break from the action as the audience is treated to “The Bowling for Soup Comedy Jam.” All the members take turns telling jokes of varying degree of hilarity. The crowd then picks a winner through cheers and drummer Wiseman wins. They then explain the comedy jam only exists so Rob Felicetti can go to the bathroom in the middle of the set.
As with all punk shows in 2019, it is not complete without 50-something band members singing about high school. High School Never Ends includes audience participation number two, which brings the energy right back to where it was before the intermission, once again proving how well the band knows how to control a crowd.
“How many of you remember our hit single Stacy’s Mom?!” Jaret Reddick asks to massive applause. “That’s weird, ‘cause we didn’t write that song. That was Fountains of Wayne. But we’ll still take the streaming money.” They jump into Stacy’s Mom, and it is understandable to get the two confused.
Reddick proclaims they will now play the best song ever. This leads to them playing a riff for about thirty seconds before they stop and sit down on the stage. As the crowd chants “one more song” Chris Burney approaches the mic and says “Relax, were just chilling, were gonna play a couple more songs” He then leads the crowd in chants to try and get the rest of the band up
They bring out the big guns with Girl All the Bad Guys Want. Burney dances on stage with his guitar on his head. The whole band is just having a great time and it radiates into the crowd.
The song everyone knew would be the closer kicks in and the floor literally shakes from people beginning to jump around. 1985 has everyone dancing and singing from the first note. “This is the part where you sing our song for us while we go back and drink.” And the band does just that as the instruments stop and the crowd sings along to the chorus. They come back in for one more chorus before bidding everyone goodnight.
Bowling for Soup have dubbed themselves “The Greatest Band in the World” for a while now, and it’s really hard to argue with that. The entire performance was energetic and happy. I haven’t had that much fun at a show in a long time.
- The Bitch Song
- Trucker Hat
- Ohio (Come Back to Texas)
- Get Happy
- Today is Gonna be a Great Day (Phineas and Ferb Theme Song)
- The Bowling for Soup Comedy Jam
- High School Never Ends
- Girl All the Bad Guys Want