- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 31, 2016

They’re back to cause more mischief. Reel Big Fish, the California ska band famous for good-time lyrics and stage theatrics, will be performing at The Fillmore in Silver Springs, Maryland, Sunday evening, and trombonist Billy Kottage is amped up for the experience.

“It’s hard to not have at least a decent time [at] one of our shows,” Mr. Kottage said. Audience members, he said, can expect “to be sweaty and … be prepared to have some beer thrown at you or get hit in the head with something. Some positives, some negatives.”

Mr. Kottage joined the band in 2013, replacing his friend and original RBF trombonist Dan Regan after traveling in the same circles for years as a member of other bands.

“It was a really flawless and smooth transition,” Mr. Kottage said of stepping into Mr. Regan’s shoes, with whom he shared the stage for several performances before taking over full-time. “We’re very different players, but we’re the same exact person, except he’s a little older than me. We like a lot of the same things, we have the same mannerisms, we look the same.”

Unlike the rest of the current lineup of the band, Mr. Kottage eschews living in Southern California, maintaining a home in his native New Hampshire when not out on the road with the Fish.

Musically, he counts as his influences The Beatles, Amy Winehouse, The Slackers and Westbound Train. As a trumpeter, he looks up to Glen Pine from The Slackers and, of course, Mr. Regan.

“If I can just [play] somewhere in the middle of those two, it’ll be fine,” he said. “And I think that, stylistically, I lie somewhere in between both of them. Or I hope, at least.”

While Mr. Regan may no longer be in the band, he still joins the Fish during their many shows near the band’s hometown California haunts — as does former drummer Ryland Steen. Former trumpeter Scotty Klopfenstein also sits in when the band comes to New York.

“With the three of them the relationships are pretty good,” Mr. Kottage says of the former Fish. “They all have families now, but whenever we’re around their areas, they’re out and about” with the band.

Mr. Kottage has gotten to meet and play with some of his heroes, including Oteil Burbridge, who played bass with the Allman Brothers Band and now does so with the Grateful Dead revival act Dead & Co., which also features John Mayer.

“It’s just a cool thing to see someone who’s that talented and shreddy,” Mr. Kottage said of Mr. Burbridge. “He sat in with us and we played a Grateful Dead song. That was cool to to play a Dead song with a dude who plays in one of the reincarnations of that band. It’s epic.”

Mr. Kottage says he often warms up for gigs with a vodka and soda, while running through exercises on his trombone, although he says he has no “preshow ritual” per se.

“This is definitely what I want to be doing more than anything,” he says of the life of a touring musician. “I love this lifestyle. I love waking up going to bed in the bus and waking up in a new city everyday. That’s so unique [and] I’m definitely still not jaded by that; I’m not even close to it.

“Every day is pretty much a Friday night. I never have to go to bed and worry about waking up for that dreaded job in the morning. It’s a party every single day.”

Reel Big Fish will perform at The Fillmore Silver Spring Sunday along with Suburban Legends and The Maxies Sunday. Tickets are $25 by going to LiveNation.com. 


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