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Review: The Aquabats throw an all-ages party at the State Theatre


The Aquabats proved they weren’t washed up Saturday night at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg. The wet-suit crusaders sprung into action with a high-energy mix of surf rock, new wave pop, ska and punk, fighting valiantly and hilariously to rid the world of evil — and to bring a smile to the faces of children. 
From the looks of the appreciative St. Pete crowd, mission accomplished.

The quasi-filled-to-capacity venue had the trappings of a supergoup rock concert and wacky revival. The family-friendly performance — with 7- and 8-year-old kids sitting on parents’ shoulders, teenagers in masks, grownups costumed head to toe and almost the entire crowd flashing the Aquabat signal — included songs from all of the Aquabats studio albums since the mid ’90s. Their most recent CD, Charged!, was released in 2005.

The Huntington, Calif., band may not be on the radar of most Americans, but it’s got some big-time connections. Singer MC Bat Commander, a.k.a. Christian Jacobs, co-created the children’s show Yo Gabba Gabba! and writes and directs for the show as well as providing the voice of magic robot Plex. And when he was a wee one himself, Jacobs played Joey Stivic, Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers’ son on All in the Family. Cycling through members several times since forming in the mid ’90s, the Aquabats at one time had Travis Barker donning the wet suit before joining Blink-182.

On Saturday night, the Aquabats made the audience forget they weren’t superstars of the mainstream world and emerged with gleeful bombast from their “super-customized Winnebago tour vehicle.” They gave it their all with kicks, punches, crazy movement to and fro, and even some audience participation from a couple of shy, unwitting stage divers.

The band averted sabotage midway through when costumed crustaceans popped out of a sloppily wrapped birthday gift to fight the Aquabats, but the musicians triumped over the crabby villains.

Announced with a split-screen ’70s-cartoon-style video backdrop, the background screen featured hilarious and stunning montages. Videos of Right Guard commercials, scenes from monster movies, Square Pegs snippets and all sorts of movie, TV and variety shows, and wacky pop culture miscellany. It had that similar, psychedelic savvy and offbeat humor parents enjoy from Commander Jacobs in Yo Gabba Gabba!.

MC Bat Commander frequently addressed the crowd with mischievous sarcasm, absurd displays of hubris and irreverent asides. He thanked the audience for putting on a downtown block party in the band’s honor, referencing a music and arts event on Central Avenue that was presented in conjunction with several other events nearby. He declared at one point that the Aquabats were the best act in the world alongside Justin Bieber and Nickelback.

At some points a mosh pit broke out in the front while older folks and children stayed back in safety. The frontman wasn’t too big to leave out the little ones. He often addressed the kids in the audience, having them participate in follow-along activities.

Openers included local ska-punk band Victims of Circumstance along with Minneapolis duo Koo Koo Kanga Roo, who MC Bat Commander credited with “mad dancing skills.” The Action Design was superb, an effervescent and fierce San Francisco band that sounds like a coherent Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Sweet and salty female vocalist Emily Whitehurst, with her duo-toned bangs, may just be poised to become the next Spin cover girl.

-- Julie Garisto, tbt*

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 3:19pm]


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