Lava Cantina, The Colony, TX June 8th 2019
According to legend, back in 1994 Bowling for Soup was formed one evening over a few too many Zimas. While most people forget things they do, say, or promise after having too many malt beverages (or at least wish they could), fortunately for the rest of us they didn’t forget, and spent the next two and a half decades cranking out one punk-pop jam after another and amusing their fans and roasting each other between songs during their live performances. Their music videos over that period mirrored the “don’t take this too seriously, we’re just having fun” vibe of their persona and most of their music. And of course, they became and still are, The Greatest Band Evertm. So in 2019 it was time for a 25th Anniversary show at Lava Cantina.
Lava Cantina was booked for 3 days to accommodate the celebration, including 90s alumnus The Nixons for Friday night. The big BFS concert on Saturday night, and “Brunch with Bowling for Soup” would follow on Sunday. Jerry/Iceberg snagged tickets early when they went on sale, fortuitously as the concert quickly sold out, one of only 9 sellouts in Lava Cantina’s history. However, a last-minute trip to Austin intervened so his tickets were bequeathed to yours truly. I grabbed my camera and tickets and went to Lava for Friday and Saturday night.
After spending half an hour circling the front and back lots in vain, I was forced to valet park an old, tired Honda Civic, waiting in line among car-show-worthy SRT Chargers and Raptors. Fortunately, my VIP ticket spared me from waiting in the GA line. Instead, I got to stand in the slightly shorter, faster-moving VIP line. Once inside, it was sardine-Ville. The patio was already stuffed to capacity. I squirmed through the gauntlet of knees and chairs, finally making it to my seat after the opening act was already well into their set.
The opener, Not Ur Girlfrenz, was on stage killing it. If you haven’t heard of them, they’re a female trio from Dallas barely into their teens, touring with Bowling for Soup and in fact managed by BFS’s front man Jaret. As their lead singer, 14-year-old Liv Haynes, pointed out during their set, Bowling for Soup was celebrating a career almost twice as old as they were. Their style blends several 80s-influence elements, mixing rapid-fire punk with Joan Jett rebelliousness, and even with some (appropriately enough) Bowling for Soup flavor, putting their own contemporary twist to it all.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to see their entire set, but I did get to see their incredible rendition of Heart’s “Barracuda”, delivered in their more aggressive, punk sound. NYG is definitely a band to keep your eye on as they become more experienced over the next few years.
I didn’t notice during NYG’s set, but the crowd had continued growing. People kept pouring in. By now it was shoulder-to-shoulder on the main floor, and I wondered if I was even going to be able to take any photos or video from anywhere other than my seat. I kept Jerry/Iceberg up-to-date on the crowd size. Most of his replies were variations of “My God”. Just before BFS took the stage, I grabbed my camera and squeezed my way to the ramp leading down to the main floor. It was a wall of bodies at the end of the ramp. I returned to the VIP patio, where I noticed a spot I could stand, behind one of the big columns supporting the upper deck. I got behind it, craning my head and camera around it for a halfway decent vantage point, and just in time.
The crowd erupted as BFS took the stage, and a more generously-proportioned Jaret than I remembered took the mic. Immediately the roasting and riffing came out of their mouths, not missing a beat since the last time I saw them in the old Clearview parking lot in Deep Ellum around 2004. Their act has always been a bit of a comedy hour with some music tossed in for good measure, and this night was no different. Bowling for Soup is probably the most crowd-interactive experience since Sublime.
Jaret warned the audience they were going to play songs from all of their albums, not just A Hangover You Don’t Deserve. In true style, after “Almost”, Jaret and Chris turned to banter, confessing that yes, they’ve gained a bit of weight and a new bass player. Jaret then gave the audience useful tips on how to properly pee in the shower (avoid the tile because it gets in the grout, in case you were curious). He also admonished anyone in the audience who showed up to a BFS concert expecting to hear songs, then promptly kicked off “Emily”.
The night pretty much continued this way, 2/3 interactive roast, 1/3 concert. The Texas crowd understandably went nuts during “Ohio (Come Back to Texas)”, especially when Not Ur Girlfrenz ran up on stage for a return cameo, taking BFS’s place to finish out the song. Acknowledging early into the concert that many people probably just showed up to hear their biggest hit on the US charts, “1985”, Jaret introduced the official “1985 Countdown Clock”, which began at 59:59 and counted down on the big screen behind them on stage, and they’d periodically check in on the clock throughout the concert.
After joking about rubbing one out to Linus of Hollywood’s Facebook page, Jaret told any parents in the crowd who brought their kids to the show “you’re welcome – good luck explaining that on the way home”. Peppered throughout was their back catalog of hits, both mainstream and cult with the companion music video playing behind them, and a charity auction that doubled as an intermission. At one point they had the audience vote on each band member’s dad jokes before checking in on the official “1985 Countdown Clock” as it rolled over from 10:00 to 9:59, and Jaret struck the match on “Turbulence”.
To start the third act, their old drummer Lance took the sticks and the throne as Jaret gave us more BFS origin story, going back to he and Lance meeting in grade school and sticking together all the way through college. After their jam with their old bandmate, the host came on stage and announced that, due to this being only one of their 9 sellouts, by tradition they would all down the most rarified of tequilas in their bar that costs $1,000 per shot along with co-owner Steve.
Jaret and the band then struck up The Best. Song. Evertm. Which of course was “Girl All the Bad Buys Want”. When the song was done, BFS sat down on the drum kit riser as the lights dimmed, preferring not to waste their energy pretending to walk off stage so the audience could demand more. The lights came back up, the band took their stations again, the crowd roared, and someone tossed a t-shirt on stage.
When Jaret found it, he opened it up and read the shirt to the crowd – “taking the guesswork out of encores since 1994”. He then called for the official “1985 Countdown Clock” again, which popped up on screen back at 59:55. As the crowd groaned, Jaret asked if it was daylight savings time, and the clock was promptly corrected to 0:28 remaining. As the clock struck zero, the band struck up their chart-topping nostalgia jam.
During the song, a very well-endowed purple bra was tossed on stage. Jaret didn’t notice, but Chris did, and he stealthily made his way to pick it up and draped it over Jaret’s guitar. They closed the song with the audience taking care of lyrics duty. And just like that, the show was over. The mass of humanity quickly drained from the venue. Within what seemed like moments the electric mob had dwindled to a few stragglers closing out tabs and calling Ubers.
It was a fantastic show, and this time I got a much better view than I did 15 years ago when a mutual friend dragged me to the “VIP” section, which was at the back of the stage. Their tour continues, and I highly recommend you buy your tickets early. Very early.
Some video from the night1