Headliner Reel Big Fish is known for bouncy tunes from the mid-1990s’ ska revival, hyperkinetic stage shows and for just being flipping hilarious. Middle act The Maxies has a rep—partly fostered by this infernal rag—for being the baddest boys of OC ska even though they aren’t a ska band, with some having suggested they’re the antithesis of The Aquabats based on their costumes, fictitious story lines and villain vibes. So think of Marquis & The Rhythm Howlers, the opener on the Reel Big Fish/The Maxies show at the Anaheim House of Blues on Wednesday, as the bastard sons of those outfits.
The Los Angeles band plays “evil swing,” which squeezes the greasiness out of 1940s swing music from orchestras headed by the likes of Glenn Miller, Count Basie and Duke Ellington.
“Swing is dance music, physically or figuratively” is how guitarist and vocalist Marquis W. Howell explained it to Kerrang!’s Chris Krovatin. “Dancing is a Terpsichorian ceremony, a great communal gyration. Some tie the name to the past, hitching it up to vintage clothes & complicated curls. We take the anachronisms out of it. Old songs, new songs, originals, or otherwise, we play not to the memory but rather to the mystery.”
Howell continued: “Put on some records. Try Cab Calloway’s 1931 record of ‘St. James Infirmary Blues’ or Charlie Johnson’s ‘The Boy In The Boat.’ Maybe Bessie Smith’s ‘Blue Spirit Blues’ or Jelly Roll Morton’s ‘New Orleans Bump.’ The Paradise Joy Boys’ ‘Cemetery Sal,’ Hank Williams’ Ramblin’ Man, and countless others. There is music everywhere, and everywhere, that stirs up shadowy notions, that conjures up specters of the past alongside tomorrow’s demons.”
If that has an air of mystery to it, consider The Maxies.
“According to lead vocalist and head Maxie in charge, Maximum Maxie, the masked band started as an interpretive dance group in [Nuuk] Greenland, who moved to Southern California as part of their plans to conquer the world in Greenland’s name,” Candace Hansen wrote for the Weekly in 2016.
“Over the last decade they’ve perfected their odd blend of Greenland references, dick jokes, upbeat power pop, and ‘90s punk, through multiple indie releases and intentionally confrontational theatrical live shows.”
“I’m sick and tired of going to punk shows where everything is just serious,” Maximum told Hansen at the time. “I want to have fun, I want you to come to our show and leave with a smile.”
The Weekly story was in service of a record release show in Anaheim for The Maxies’ album Nuuk ‘em All, which was produced by Reel Big Fist frontman Aaron Barrett. Orange County’s ska-punk behemoths play the hometown show on the heels of the latest Reel Big Fish release, last year’s Life Sucks…Let’s Dance (which you can hear on Spotify and iTunes).
The road warriors had been touring with Bowling For Soup and The Aquabats, besides playing at this summer’s Vans Warped Tour 25th Anniversary Show in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Reel Big Fish head for the UK after Anaheim and, in December, Australia.
Reel Big Fish, The Maxies and Marquis & The Rhythm Howlers at House of Blues, 400 W. Disney Way, Ste. 337, Anaheim, (714) 520-2334; houseofblues.com/anaheim. Wed., 7 p.m. $25. All ages.
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.