On November 18, 2022, Orange County welcomed back their very own Save Ferris to the House of Blues in Anaheim, and it was a glorious night! Charged up by the awesome opening acts The Inciters and La Probeska (OMG I cannot wait to see them again live and cover one of their shows someday!), the crowd was primed and ready for some timeless ska music and to dance, sing, and get a little rowdy. A little foreshadowing, Save Ferris brought it, and we sang until our voices gave out and we danced our asses off!
Over the last several years, due to multiple circumstances, including a worldwide pandemic, Save Ferris had not played many live shows. They had graced the stages of the Beach Life Festival and Punk Rock Bowling, amongst a few others, but it had been a minute since they headlined a show. When they announced they were playing in my backyard, I jumped at the chance to see them! I had seen them several times during their first iteration as a band back in the late 90s (or the late 1900s as you darn kids call it) and I loved them every time I saw them. Front woman, and absolute bad ass, Monique Powell brought so much elegance, power, charisma, and effervescence to every show I had seen back then, I was hopeful that after several years she would still have it. Let me tell you, she not only still had it, but she had it in spades and then some! She carried so much confidence in her skills as a performer but also as a strong and confident woman with a take no shit and no prisoner attitude, and it showed in every minute of this performance.
As the packed house stood in growing anticipation of Save Ferris hitting the stage, I chatted with a few fans at the front rail. The excitement from every single person I spoke with was palpable. I was not surprised to see an unbelievably diverse crowd at the House of Blues that night.
Ska, for as long as it has been around, and yes, even during the third wave, has always openly embraced diversity, acceptance, inclusivity, and one love.
From the fans who had seen Save Ferris numerous times, to the youngest kids in the house, they were all excited and ready for Save Ferris to take the stage once again. One fan expressed that not only was Save Ferris her all-time favorite band, but the band had also inspired her through some very dark times in her life. She credited Monique for saving her life. She was shedding some tears of happiness that she was getting to see Save Ferris again and from the rail. As the lights dropped, the crowd roared with excitement, the brass blew, and Monique hit the stage with the rest of the band, and the crowd went nuts.
Monique greeted the crowd and thanked everyone for being there and started their set off with the driving sounds of “Turn It Up” and “What You See Is What You Get” from the band’s second album Modified. While the second album moved a bit more towards a ska punk/pop punk sound than their first album It Means Everything, the live versions of these two songs were given an awesome ska treatment. Those two songs had the crowd surging, dancing, singing, cheering, and crying. It was a foretelling of things to come for the rest of the night. Oh, and I need to mention Monique’s wardrobe, which she changed so many times that night, sometimes while on stage while performing, that it would have made J-Lo jealous! Next up was the upbeat, skank inducing, wave your hands above your head “Nobody but Me.”
Following the first three songs, Monique chatted up the crowd a bit and received a huge round of applause before moving into one of my favorite songs, “Goodbye.” This song starts off with such an awesome smokey and bluesy sound, almost torch like (look it up), and Monique brought the sultry and seductive vibe that was reminiscent of so many Hollywood classic icons like Carole Lombard, Betty Grable, Elizabeth Taylor, and dare I say, Marilyn Monroe? Yes, I dare. Monique is an absolute bombshell and exudes the power of a true woman. She is just that damn awesome! And can I just say, it is not often that a singer’s voice continues to be as great throughout their career, but Monique’s voice was just so good! The song immediate kicks up into the upbeat ska number that got the crowd moving from swooning to skanking. The band followed this up with another one of my favorites, “Superspy,” yes, another song that is so reminiscent of music of the past that just forces you to dance.
Monique thanked the crowd for their love and support and for coming out for the show. She expressed that the House of Blues was a favorite place to play and that this was a hometown show. She made a joke that she wasn’t very good at talking between songs and wrapped by saying “I don’t really know what else to say, so fuck you”! The crowd roared with approval! This would become an ongoing joke throughout the night. The next set included a mixed version of “Let Me In” and “Lies.” These songs come from the first two albums and, while very different on the albums, worked perfectly together live. They finished the next set with the awesome teenaged angst song, “Under 21.” Such a great song, and no matter how old the crowd was, they could all relate to the theme.
The next round of songs started off with Holding on. Monique then introduced a song that “we all might know”, the song she sang with Reel Big Fish, “She’s Got a Girlfriend Now.” This brought one of the loudest cheers on the night. The crowd LOVED this song and absolute went nuts. This is when the pit started up. Who needs Reel Big Fish when you have Save Ferris killing the song all on their own? Not the crowd at the House of Blues, not me! Monique absolutely brought it. Her voice was so damned good, and the vibrato was never better.
The next round of songs started off with the more traditional original ska stylings of “New Sound” from the band’s last EP, Checkered Past. No, Neville from The Specials did not make an appearance, but it did not matter. Save Ferris absolutely crushed this song live and I was so stoked they played this one. One thing I absolutely love during live shows is when a band covers a song that real fans will know and love. During a break following “Do I Even Like You,” Monique said “this one is for DH. I miss you my friend” in reference D.H. Peligro from the iconic punk band, Dead Kennedys (DK), who recently passed away. The band broke into a ska version of the DK song “Too Drunk to Fuck.” This was such an awesome surprise, and I am sure it came as a surprise to many in the crowd, but those in the know understood as Monique comes from a punk rock background (See my upcoming interview with Monique here on Top Shelf Music Magazine!). It was an epic ska cover that found Monique killing the song all the while swinging the mic between her legs in a representation of why a guy might be too drunk to…well…perform. Classic. I would love to see them record this on a future album!
The final main set included “I’m Not Crying” and “Sorry My Friend.” Both songs were played to perfection and had the crowd dancing, singing, and cheering. The final song before the break was the hit “The World is New.” The House of Blues crowd went crazy. The circle pit opened, and a mix of old and young fans skanked and moshed throughout. The song was the perfect song to end the main set. The band took a bow, thanked the crowd, and took a short break.
Of course, the crowd cheered in anticipation of Save Ferris returning to the stage and treating us to a couple of more songs before the end of the night. Chants rang out, and Monique and the boys of course obliged. They hit the stage and thanked the crowd for an amazing night. She expressed just how thankful she was. She pointed out a guy in the crowd wearing a Cannibal Corpse shirt and said that it was one of the highlights of the night for her. One of the members of the band joked that the guy looked like Post Malone. Monique quipped back without skipping a beat that “Post Malone wishes he was a hot as this guy!” This was the kind of interaction the band had with the crowd the entire night. Monique knew how to connect with the crowd and make them feel loved and the crowd responded every single time. During this final set, Monique proved what a one in a million performer she was by jumping down off the stage and into the crowd while singing. At one point she even signed an autograph on a picture for a fan. Who the hell does that, especially during a show? Monique freaking Powell, that’s who!
The final song of the night came and of course it was one of the best covers ever done (fight me), Save Ferris’ ska version of Dexys Midnight Runners classic, “Come on Eileen.” The place went crazy!
The floor turned into a skanking, moshing, and hopping zone of singing fans that got to a moment of absolute release after a 90-minute build up.
As the show ended, Monique and the band thanked the crowd and encouraged everyone to support bands and small venues that have suffered in these crazy times and promised they would be back. We all walked out smiling, sweating, and reminiscing about our favorite moments of the night. Save Ferris gave us a night of positivity and upbeat music. Monique Powell gave us a night of empowerment, frivolity, humor, dancing, and love. For all of us in attendance it will be a night we will not forget and night we long to repeat. Welcome home Save Ferris. Welcome home Monique Powell. It is so good to have you back where you belong! When Save Ferris comes back, go see them! Give them love and they will give it back to you ten-fold!