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Passion for the road keeps Reel Big Fish afloat

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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After more than 10 years of service, Johnny "Christmas" Christianson finds himself the second longest-tenured member of Reel Big Fish, behind only founder and frontman Aaron Barnett.

And it's a position the ska-rock group's trumpeter takes seriously.

"I do have a little more responsibility, especially helping to train the new guys when they come in," says Christmas, 39, who joined the group -- which plays Jan. 22 at the Royal Oak Music Theatre -- during 1994. "Aaron's a little more shy than I am, so there are musical and personality things that maybe he isn't easily able to do, and I don't mind talking to people and helping them out."

"I don't mind doing whatever it is to help our organization succeed. I'm happy to do whatever I can to serve the greater good that is Reel Big Fish."

There was no special prize for Christmas when he hit the 10-year mark, however.

"It's funny; (Barnett) has celebrated other guys' anniversaries of being in the band," Christmas note. "I think Matt (Appleton) has been in the band three or four years, and Derek (Gibbs) for about seven. But the years go by for me without any acknowledgement, and it's not any big deal. I'm not bringing it up."

Reel Big Fish -- which released an EP, "Happy Skalidays" last fall and plans to release a sequel this year, followed by a new studio album -- has actually been through 25 members during its 23 years. Barnett is the only constant, and Christmas says it's the frontman's drive that continues to propel the band through its changes.

"Aaron loves to do this," he explains. "there's not a thing he likes to do more than to play and be on the road. He's uncomfortable being at home and trying to live a normal life. His life is being on the road; that's all he's known since he was 16m, and now he's 40.

"Really, I think if you pause and realize how lucky we are to be able to make some kind of living as a band, as musicians, that's something he's very aware of and that helps keeps us going."

Reel Big Fish, Less than Jake and Authority Zero

Thursday, January 22. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St.

Tickets are $22 in advance, $25 day of show.

Call 248-399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.

Web Site: www.royaloakmusictheatre.com

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