Last Saturday night, The Canal Club was graced by the presence of one of music’s most mysterious and unorthodox providers of mayhem, spectacle, and wonderment. This powerful force goes by the simple designation of Reggie and the Full Effect. Not much is quite known about the whos, the whats, or the whys surrounding this entity, but it really doesn’t matter. If their purpose was to entertain a group of twenty-somethings with the combination of trashy euro-pop, thrash metal, and total regret of Korean tattoos that literally mean nothing, then this evening was a total and utter success. The band came through Richmond on their No Country for Old Musicians tour, with Dads, Pentimento, and the Concussion Theory along for the ride, and few people left the show disappointed. I, for one, know that it exceeded my expectations.
The show started off with The Concussion Theory, a local alternative rock band. Despite their status as opener, the band’s popularity on the VCU campus brought in many students from throughout the area. Something I love about shows with an older crowd is that they will watch the opening band even when they’ve never heard of them, and it was really awesome seeing groups of parents gather around to check out what their kids could be listening to. Some notable songs were “Unsinkable Ship” and “Mango Gorilla,” from their Stuck at Sea EP, and “You Be Quiet, Joyce” from their self-titled album, which is coming out in March. Local opening bands are awesome, and the Concussion Theory did not disappoint.
Pentimento is probably 70 percent of the reason why the show exceeded my expectations. I saw them play in Richmond last year, and at the time I felt like they were kind of a generic indie/emo band. Clearly, I was wrong. Their performance was musically spot on, with “The Wind” and “Any Minute Now…” standing out in particular; my favorite was the slower, heavier “Circles,” also from their 2012 self-titled album.
Dads were the main reason why I went to the show, and despite minor problems with the sound system towards the end, the duo put on a fantastic set complete with “Boat Rich” and “No We’re Not Actually” from Pretty Good, and “Get to the Beach!” from American Radass. I would like to give a shout-out to the guy standing next to me wearing a Brand New hoodie, who knew every single word of every single song. Like a true punk/emo/indie band, Dads made plenty of comments about pizza and basement shows; apparently drummer John Bradley doesn’t like pizza! They ended with “My Crass Patch,” which I was most excited for, but half the song was distorted due to problems with the sound system. Guitarist Scott Scharinger seemed pretty frustrated.
After Dads finished their set, the older crowd hanging out around the bars started crowding around to the front, adding to the people who were already surrounding the stage. Everyone was looking forward to seeing Reggie And The Full Effect. This unique project began at some point in the late 90s when James Dewees, the sometime keyboardist for bands such as My Chemical Romance, New Found Glory, and The Get Up Kids, created it an outlet for his very personality-heavy, humor-laden music. While it never was his day job, it nevertheless had a dedicated following, and explored Dewees’s goofier side, combining pop-punk hooks and metal chugs, all lambasted with electronic elements. Even when it comes from a heartfelt place, it’s hard to take Reggie And The Full Effect seriously, but it’s always an amusing time.
After several years of nothing from the Reggie camp, it was a huge surprise to see the group begin a minor comeback with a Kickstarter campaign and a new album, titled No Country For Old Musicians, which dropped just last November. The album was a sure return to form, offering interludes that were almost better than the songs as well as songs about breakfast, Frank Iero meeting RoboFonzie, and, well, chickens. It’s the almost rap-like element to Reggie’s records that make them so damn fun and intriguing. But how does this translate to a live setting? In a lot of ways, to experience Reggie and The Full Effect live is like the albums, but cranked up to eleven. The interludes that lead into the more famous tracks are even accompanied by James and his live band between songs. While that’s a huge crowd pleaser, its Dewees’s jokes, stories, and irrelevant anecdotes that really strike a special something-something in this setting. It’s not Storytellers, but it does give much context to Dewees’s musical outlook and his humor.
While the band itself was tight, played energetically, and had the perfect combination of new songs and old favorites, the energy the crowd drew from it was what really set the performance on fire. It’s pretty dazzling watching a horde of crowdsurfers finding their way to the stage to be caught by Dewees, while he tries his best to continue to sing. The setlist was arranged around the new material, but comfortably incorporated old favorites like “Congratulations Smack + Katy,” “Girl, Why’d You Run Away?,” and “Get Well Soon.” While the newer stuff fared pretty well and was welcomed, the older stuff tended to be what garnered the most reaction. The older the song, the more violent the crowd got. The hour-plus performance went quickly, and it took the crowd at least ten minutes to stop chanting for more. It’s a rare feat to bring about this kind of dedication and remain not super creepy.
If the giant question of the night was whether an aging emo-rocker’s side project that nobody ever took seriously was somehow still relevant, or warranted attention, then the answer was a resounding yes. It’s a cynical, dark, and very fickle music scene out ther,e and it’s kind of nice to see something built around the idea of being silly and having fun get such a great reception. We need Reggie as much as he needs us.