The Aquabats – Serious Awesomeness (DVD)
If you know The Aquabats, then you know that this is one band that was long overdue for a DVD release of some sort. I say this because they are so much more than just a band. Their live performances involve all kinds of theatrical interludes such as skits, on-stage battles, wrestling matches, small-time fireworks and pyrotechnics, video displays, and more. In order to experience The Aquabats fully, you absolutely need the visuals to go with the music. So when I heard that Fearless Records was putting out a double-disc Aquabats DVD I knew this would be a sight to behold.
The main feature on these DVDs is a full live concert recorded earlier this year in Pamona, CA. The show was recorded in digital video from a variety of angles, and while the quality is certainly not at a “professional” level, it puts you on stage with them from a perspective few people have seen. Although it was a recent concert, the 12 song set list for this show covers a lot of their older ska material, as well as some of the new wave/synth driven songs found on their latest 2 records. You do get new songs like Pool Party and Giant Robot Birdhead, but at the same time old school songs like Play Dough and Martian Girl, so it’s a pretty good cross-section of stuff.
The crowd at this show seemed to be a little rambunctious and generally non-attentive to the band. Throughout the performance there was always at least 1 or 2 kids parading around on stage like fools then diving back into the crowd. Although The Aquabats “do it for the kids”, they did seem a little annoyed that even when there was no music playing people were more interested in stage diving than the on-stage theatrics.
For this concert, the main foe that they faced off against was one of the most sinister of all — a slimy record exec who tries to convince them to sign to his record label. Of course, when they don’t agree to his terms a huge fight ensues between The Aquabats and his minions (including the Powdered Milkman, oddly enough). The coolest thing about these battles are the new “commercial breaks” they decided to insert in between the onstage fights. You’ll have to see it to understand what I’m talking about.
The second disc contains “Sweet Clips That Rip”, in other words more live performances from a variety of shows over the years. You get to see the impressive array of costumes they’ve gone through (I think I counted at least 8 different incarnations of their outfits though I’m sure there’s more), and many of the different baddies they’ve defeated, from Dr. Space Mummy to El Demonico to “a tough looking street gang”. The selection of songs here is pretty similar to the concert on the first disc, and while it would have been nice to get a bit more variety there are still some cool surprises like a cover of The Ventures’ surf classic “Journey To The Stars”. Interesting note: in some of these older performances their drummer is none other than Travis of Blink 182 fame. How he could go from The Aquabats to Blink is one of the great mysteries of our time, although the fact that he is too “punk” to wear his mask onstage is the first hint that maybe he didn’t really belong here.
In addition to all of the live footage, you also get the Super Rad music video (an absolute classic), and an older, very DIY-looking video for the song CD Repo Man.
Perhaps the coolest thing on the entire DVD is a featurette of sorts entitled “A Band Called The Aquabats: A Sweaty History Of Rad-Ness”. This consists of more live footage edited together with little skits, interviews and TV appearances from over the years. It is hilarious and fascinating, and at 20 minutes it is just not long enough damnit! I want more, more, more!!! I guess this is my only real complaint about this DVD: I was hoping for a bit more extra stuff aside from the music. Whatever happened to the cool Aquabats TV show demo that is available on their website? I guess maybe someone else owns the rights to that, but it really would have been a stellar addition to this package.
The DVDs have a cool home-made style to them, from the cartoony artwork to the DVD menus, etc. The menu setups are a little sloppy (they don’t always have navigation back to the main menu) and also the video and sound quality are a bit of a mixed bag but overall nothing is glaringly sub par. For a compilation like this it’s all to be expected, and it adds to the charm of the work.
The Aquabats: Serious Awesomeness is simply a must own DVD for fans, and for anyone else it serves as proof that contrary to popular belief, they are not simply a “gimmick” or “joke” band. This 2-disc set is a testament to the overwhelming creative output that this band has put forth. If only every other band on the planet could be as entertaining and downright fun as The Aquabats, we’d all be much better off. Then again, the fact that they are such a rarity in the music world simply gives even more reason to admire these guys. They really are superheroes for our time. — Sean