Lucky for Dan Regan, San Diego is a Mecca for microbrew and craft beer.
The Reel Big Fish trombone man is a beer aficionado and practiced brewer himself. Speaking to SoundDiego from a soundcheck at Tucson’s Rialto Theatre, the ever-loquacious Regan had to take a good long moment before deciding on his favorite brew.
“I really like Russian River's Blind Pig. It's an IPA," Regan said. "But also San Diego AleSmith. All their beers -- especially Wee Heavy. It's a Scottish-style ale. It's the opposite of the IPA. Really smoky and sweet.”
Regan came to San Diego in mid-June for the National Homebrewers Conference, and he’s set to make a return – this time for business, if that’s what you can call an international ska tour.
Reel Big Fish is skanking back into town Wednesday, July 13, to play at the House of Blues. The ska-punk pioneers have been in a perpetual state of travel as they criss-cross the U.S. before heading to Brazil and Argentina this October.
Regan and lead vocalist Aaron Barrett are the last two original members in a group that has said more than a few hellos and goodbyes as RBF musicians come and go. Of course, that’s to be expected when you’ve been on the road since the mid-90s. Regan has found his own quirky balance between life onstage and at home in Long Beach with his wife and almost 3-year-old daughter.
“I'm getting the best of both worlds cause I'm like Super Dad at home, and then I get to be a rock star," Regan said.
It’s definitely not your average career. Except for a short stint as a city park garbage collector, this rock existence has been Regan’s job since high school.
“Aaron and I don't have a lot of experience supporting ourselves with regular jobs,” he said.
Regular is the opposite of a Reel Big Fish tour. Its fan page is plastered with snapshots of admirers inked with flashy RBF tattoos, and the band's stage is routinely littered with stranger than strange paraphernalia – including the occasional live fish.
“We were in Australia once, and a prosthetic leg was thrown onstage," Regan said. "Then a dude was thrown onstage, completely drunk … and he was the guy without the leg. So we got to re-unite them."
A good sense of humor is vital in the face of such bizarreness. The band’s website cites “juvenile humor” as one of its key ingredients, and Regan couldn’t agree more.
Raised on the Marx Brothers and Monty Python, the musician has great appreciation for what he calls “the absurd and sarcastic,” and he knows how to use the tools of comedy to build rapport with an audience.
“There's a certain timing you can't teach; you have to grow up with it," he said. "It's not what you say but how you say it ...You're talking into this microphone and it's kind of this binary thing with the crowd.
"We'll go, ‘Wahooooo!’ and they'll respond, ‘Waaoooo!’ People play off your inflections. They can't really get all the words -- especially in foreign countries. The humor gets a little lost in translation.”
Language barriers pose no threat when it comes to fully appreciating the special brand of mania at a Reel Big Fish concert.
“Mom's real proud,” Regan said with more than a hint of sarcasm. “She finally started getting adventurous with the internet -- watching Youtube videos, sending money to African con artists -- and she looked me up on Youtube, and the very first thing is me onstage screaming for like two minutes straight, and she thinks, ‘This what came of all those trombone lessons.’”
“Pirate,” Regan declares when asked what he would do if music wasn’t an option. “I like the travel aspect of my job, so maybe a foreign correspondent or a war journalist. Something with adventure. A zeppelin captain.”
Dreams of plunder on the high seas (or skies) aside, this pro performer isn’t giving up on the road just yet, but the call of a slightly less frenetic life is within earshot. “I'm gonna try to open a brewery in Long Beach,” he says.
Rest assured, Reel Big Fish diehards. You won’t be losing your favorite trombonist just yet. Like a good brew, these things take time. In Regan’s own words, “I just brewed a barley wine with molasses and all kinds of dark stuff. I won’t even try it for a couple years.”