Less Than Jake
The Tivoli, Brisbane QLD
October 22nd, 2017
Supports: Bodyjar and Foxtrot
Sometimes you wake up in the morning and think to yourself, “Man, today is going to fucking suck,” knowing that you’ve got to go to work. This, however, was not one of those days.
Full disclosure: I’ve been a major fan of Less Than Jake for more or less their entire 25 year history (an anniversary they celebrated a few months ago), first jumping on the bandwagon sometime between Pezcore and Losing Streak – their first two records – during the major surge of third-wave Ska during the mid-1990s. Cut forward two decades, a few thousand plays of their early 2000’s belters Anthem and B Is For B-Sides, and a whole lot of misspent teenage disaffection later, and I’m mere feet from the guys whose music served as a pretty formative part of my youth and adolescence.
The evening started out with relative newcomers, Foxtrot, a four-piece from Melbourne. Often at gigs where the main act is known to be such a high energy one, the opening act/s can be pretty unengaging. I’m glad to report these guys didn’t suffer that fate – their songs were catchy and energetic, and delivered with a confident array of punchy beats, powerful riffs, and funky bass parts. Most of all, they seemed to be genuinely happy to be up there. Their sound was at times more than a little more than passingly similar to the group that they preceded on stage, Bodyjar, but with elements of The Smith Street Band (particularly Wil Wagner’s quasi-poetic-spoken-word rantings), New Found Glory, and Ataris. But even with these influences and similarities, they still powered through a set that was definitively their own.
Up next was Bodyjar, a band that needs no introduction (and for very good reason – these guys were punk royalty in Australia for a lot of years). I have many fond memories from my teenage years of their tunes, listening to the likes of Plastic Skies (an album I won off of Triple M at 3am one morning) almost as much as I did my Less Than Jake albums. Beautifully, the tunes sounded as good – if not better – than on the records they came from. As soon as songs like ‘Hazy Shade of Winter’ and ‘Is It A Lie’ came on, everybody in the venue took the opportunity to lose their collective shit. That effect was turned up to 11 about halfway through the set when Roger Lima (bassist/vocalist for Less Than Jake, and one honestly of the coolest dudes you’ll meet) snuck onto the stage to sing lead on ‘Not The Same’ and dance around the stage like a maniac.
They closed their set with the obvious choice, ‘One In A Million’. I think everybody was acutely aware that it was coming, but when it finally arrived it was like a wave over the crowd as sing-a-longs and moshing broke out in every direction. When they left the stage, a chanted chorus of the words, “one more song!” tore through the building. We missed out, but the set they did deliver was definitely worthy of their position as one of the best bands the country has produced. They were every bit as engaging on stage as a band half their age (with antics like humping the air with their guitars and riff-duelling), with a cohesion as a unit that can only come from decades of playing together. Nobody in the crowd seemed disappointed by it all, which I guess is the ultimate hallmark of a good show.
After an intermission that felt like it lasted hours (it was only like 20 minutes, but at a punk show that feels like weeks), the introduction sample to ‘All My Best Friends Are Metalheads’ fills the room. The lights come up slowly, and then suddenly the stage is full of familiar faces. The lights come full and the absolutely surreal experience that is a Less Than Jake show grabs you by the balls and tells you to hold the fuck on.
I’ve been to all kinds of shows now, but I have never seen a band hold an audience quite like these guys. I don’t know if you’d call it charisma or curiosity or what, but whatever it is, these guys have it in abundance. Every single song they rip through, the audience gets even more riled up. Circle moshes, crowd surfing, stage diving, and even a guy who broke onto the stage in order to have a cigarette (and then a subsequent one after being tackled by security and having the first one confiscated) all quickly became standard fare for this show.
With old favourites like ‘Dopeman’ and ‘Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts’ –accompanied by throwing merch and balloons into the crowd and then proceeding to shoot us with a TP gun, mind you – peppered with new classics like ‘Bomb Drop’ (“If this song came out in 1998 it’d be a fucking classic, but it came out three years ago and it fucking rocks.” – Chris D.) off of their current record, Sound The Alarm, it’s hard to pick a hole in the set. At one stage, my mate Will that I took as my +1 to help me review the show actually got called up on stage for an impromptu interview because Chris and Buddy liked his beard (“How big is your penis?” “Oh, about seven…”) and backup dancing session with his girlfriend Heather, a privilege I will forever envy them for.
Every single rendition sounded even better than they did on the records they came from. Every. Single. One. ‘Look What Happened (The Last Time)’ started off much slower than the recorded version, but once it was in full swing, there was not one set of vocal chords which are not accompanying the boys, like some kind of beautiful choir. The entire experience at this point is pretty surreal.
After a short intermission and the crowd losing their mind demanding ‘ten more songs’, we were treated to the classic number ‘Gainsville Rock City’. It once more started off slow, but built rapidly. The guitar riff is so much better in person that it’s almost obscene. They closed out the show with ‘The Ghosts of Me And You’, a fitting anthem (lol puns) to close out an evening that rendered everybody in the audience incapable of a frown. It’s almost like everybody in the crowd was buoyed on this sense of energetic apathy so many of the songs speak of.
Afterwards, I was lucky enough to meet both Roger and Cam Baines (Bodyjar front-guy and rad dude), two of the most humble, genuinely nice guys you’ll ever meet. Avoiding the rockstar bullshit both of them absolutely have right to carry, they hung around the annex outside of the main hall and gladhanded with the unwashed masses. That was a pretty awesome way to close out the evening, and a fitting summary of just how genuine these guys all are. They love what they do and it shows.
All in all, what is there left to say? I’ve waited two decades for the privilege of being at a Less Than Jake show, something I figured I’d never get the chance to do. It lived up to – and exceeded – every possible expectation that I had. Their sound is powerful and their stage show is suitably playful. It now ranks within the top three shows I’ve been to, maybe even touching the top spot. That’s no mean feat.
Gig Review & Photo Gallery by Benji Alldridge (Evrythng Is)
Please credit Wall of Sound & Benji Alldridge if you repost photos.
Revisit our chat with Less Than Jake‘s Vinnie Fiorello here
Less Than Jake
Less Than Jake – 25 Years Australian Tour
with: Bodyjar and Foxtrot
Wednesday October 25
Metro Theatre, Sydney