When it comes to stories about finding new bands to listen to, most stories are pretty predictable. You hear a track on the radio, it’s reccomended to you on Spotify, or maybe if we’re pushing the boat out you might see them as a support act before a band you went out to see live. However, my first experience listening to the band Big Red Ass was a little unusual, and informs a lot of why I think they’re hilarious.
I first heard Big Red Ass play at a night out in an all night London club. This was the kind of night out where you might have Electro Swing in one room, Drum and Bass next door, and some Psytrance if you go the next door along. An eclectic musical night with a lot of variety. It’s about 2am, and I’m quite inebriated, and I stumble upon a room where there’s some really fun ska playing. I’ve always enjoyed live Ska, it has a similar energy to a rock or metal show, but with a more upbeat tone, so I get up near the front and start skanking along.
It’s not until maybe three songs in, that I realise something a little strange is happening. Everyone in the crowd, myself included, is chanting the words “Oyster Card” (contactless London transport card) in a call and response segment. Nobody is quite sure why. We all share a bit of a confused look, a query about if we did indeed just sing oyster card a bunch, then the song moves on and we get back to dancing, with slightly more of an ear open.
It wasn’t until a couple of song later, when the band whip out their classic song “Hat”, that I really realise what’s happening.
Big Red Ass are a Ska band who know they play to largely non sober people, and as such have some lyrical fun with it. They sing silly ridiculous songs, aimed at the mental capacity of someone having a skank at 2am, where the audience are part of, and then eventually aware of, the joke.
“I don’t need no rhyme or reason, Tell me where we at.
Hey all it’s time to get into some shenanigans, time to doth your hat.
Hat hat hat hat hat hat hat hat, now everybody doth your hat.
Hat hat hat hat hat hat hat hat, from the bowler to the flat cap.
Hat hat hat hat hat hat hat hat, Look at us, fancy that!
Hat hat hat hat hat hat hat hat, everybody doth your haaaaaaaaaaat”
The above is all sung while the band and audience repeatedly lift up and place back onto their heads an imaginary hat. Yes, it’s as ludicrous as it sounds.
Having seen a pretty lengthy set by Big Red Ass, and gone home to listen to more of their music, it’s clear the slightly eclectic band have a real talent for music composition, live performance, and stagecraft. They also know their audience, and how to get a laugh out of people on a night out in a way few musicians try for.
While the whole point of Big Red Ass seems to be that when you see them live, you’re part of the joke until you get in on the joke. However, listening to them at home now I am in on the gag, I actually really enjoy them regardless, because they are so different in content tone than anything else I tend to listen to.
I am a big fan of songs that lyrically speak to me in some way, I’m one of those people who will find a sad introspective depressing track and listen to it on loop until I can’t stand it anymore. I love feeling like my music has some kind of meaningful message. That’s the opposite of Big Red Ass.
I love Big Red Ass because they’re not afraid to make music that really goes nowhere, and knows it’s doing it. It’s catchy, it’s creative, and it’s so pointless it’s hard to take it too seriously.
Big Red Ass are a perfect band to listen to when you just want to stop taking things too seriously and have a good bounce to some nonsense. Also, they have ass in the name, so I was always going to be at least a little on board with giving them a listen.