A decade ago, wacky ska preceded bling-bling rap as an ostentatiously decadent musical movement. With choreographed horn sections inflating their ranks like air-filled cheeks, groups in this subgenre traveled in trailers instead of tour vans. The most successful of these acts, the Clueless-canonized Mighty Mighty Bosstones, even carried a designated dancer on their roster, paralleling the equally superfluous hip-hop hype man.
But brass is a luxury metal-ska bands can no longer afford. Once an octet, the Aquabats have slimmed down to a four-piece and ditched ska for zippy synthesizers and sci-fi guitar leads. But even without tooting trumpets, this group could outgoof Gallagher. All the song titles on its recent release, Charge!!, end with exclamation points, much like the lines of dialogue in a Mad Magazine movie parody. Live, the masked Aquabats wear matching wet suits and toss party favors into the crowd. The proud new-wave act that opens the show, the Epoxies, spends hours on elaborate duct-tape-intensive costumes, lavish stage ornamentation, and kaleidoscopic lights. Even in tight-budget times, these throwback acts remain devoted to stadium-sized spectacles and aggressive mirth. Zaniness dies hard.