Reel Big Fish, performing in Fargo this week, wants audiences to lighten up

Reel Big Fish will get the crowd at Sanctuary Events Center dancing on Tuesday night, Jan. 22. Special to The Forum

FARGO — Reel Big Fish has never really been about subtleties. For more than 25 years, the ska group has hit audiences over the head with big, brassy tunes like “Beer,” “In the Pit,” “Party Down” and “I Want Your Girlfriend to Be My Girlfriend Too.”

So the title of the group’s ninth studio album, “Life Sucks… Let’s Dance!,” won’t come as much of a surprise.

“That’s our slight comment on the climate today,” says trumpet player Johnny “Christmas” Christianson. “We all go through periods where things aren’t going as you would like them to. If you can relax and remind yourself that this will pass, that’s the way to live your life. Take your life sincerely, not seriously.”

The sextet will be down for some serious partying when it returns to Fargo to play Sanctuary Events Center on Tuesday, Jan. 22.

While ska may not be as popular in America right now as it was at its height in the late 1990s, Christianson says the bright, punchy tunes may just help make America, well, great again.

“Absolutely. With our band, people need to be able to laugh at themselves,” he says. “When people cannot make fun of themselves, you have people that ruin the world. You have people who take themselves way too seriously and they wind up starting wars. That’s true in every culture — you have people that are too intense and too serious and they (mess) that up for everybody.”

Ska may not solely bring about world peace, but the group’s high-energy music and stage shows help keep the 41-year-old in shape.

"You cannot abuse your body like you once could. I can’t eat pizza after shows,” he says with a laugh. “Everyone is breaking out the yoga mats these days and stretching. Being health-conscious and taking care of yourself is something that everybody could learn a little sooner in their lives.”

He also wishes he would have discovered ska earlier. A classically trained trumpeter who also studied jazz, Christianson recalls going from playing to an audience that sat and clapped politely to the raucous crowds that danced and crowd-surfed at ska shows.

So when he talks about the dangers of taking yourself too seriously, he speaks from experience.

“It was really a life-changing thing for me,” he says of going to those first shows. “If I would’ve had my head out of my (butt), I could have been playing in bands like this (during college).”

While “Life Sucks” is the group’s first album of new material since 2012, it’s not like they went away. The group often crisscrosses the country and last played Fargo in 2015 at an anniversary party for Fargo Brewing Co., selling out the 600 tickets in presale.

The date won’t be forgotten by Christianson, who recalls a game that involved an ax being thrown in the air.

“The show was great. It was definitely our people. We don’t get the chance to play North Dakota often, but it was an awesome show,” he says. “That’s the great thing about our band: Everyone who comes to our shows wants to have a good time, so they’re smiling and dancing.”

If you go

What: Reel Big Fish with Mest and Bikini Trill

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22

Where: Sanctuary Events Center, 670 Fourth Ave. N., Fargo

Info: Tickets for this ID-only show are $26; or 866-300-8300