Seminal 90's 3rd wave ska band Less Than Jake is currently touring in celebration of 20 years together as a band. That's impressive, especially considering that the genre's movement all but ceased to exist roughly a decade ago. On February 21st, for the second time within a week, Less Than Jake stopped at the Brooklyn Bowl in Brooklyn, NY with openers Samiam and Flatfoot 56.
It's important to note: if there is a two hour wait between when a venue opens its doors for a show and when the show actually begins, don't show up at the hour in between the two times. That is, unless the venue doubles as a bowling alley, as the Brooklyn Bowl so conveniently does, and you have some extra cash to spend. Otherwise you'll be stuck staring aimlessly at the merch table, venue employees, and other early arrivals- all while contemplating if it is too early to consider dropping $8 for a drink (and if you have to question it, then chances are that it is definitely too early).
Prices aside, Brooklyn Bowl is a nice and atmospheric venue. It comfortably fits 16 lanes, a stage, a bar, a small dining area, and a waiting room without any of the locations interfering with each other. It shouldn't be a wonder why Less Than Jake elected to play at the Brooklyn Bowl during both of their NYC dates.
The first band, Celtic punkers Flatfoot 56, received a very typical opening band reception: lots of heads bobbing up and down with the music, signaling that no one actually knew any of the words, but they would sing along if they did know them. Despite hailing from the windy city, Flatfoot 56's brand of punk rock has a lot more in common with New Jersey acts such as the Bouncing Souls or even The Gaslight Anthem's first album, but you know, with a mandolin and bagpipes because they're a Celtic punk band. Fast tempos, easy-to-learn choruses, and plenty of "whoas" were sprinkled throughout the band's set before launching into a cover of Screeching Weasel's Cool Kids, proving that this band of brothers (literally) comes from Chicago and not, as their music might suggest, New Brunswick.
Samiam took to the stage after a twenty minute wait and, for whatever reason, the crowd had almost no reaction to them. Perhaps it was because their set heavily focused on songs from Astray and not enough on their older material, or perhaps it was just because the crowd wasn't all that familiar with Samiam, but no one was really feeling it. This is sad to say, because the band performed fantastically. Charlie Walker is an incredible drummer, throwing in a million fills that aren't on the band's studio recordings; while guitarists Sergie Loobkoff and Sean Kennerly didn't miss a note, even with their wild playing styles, and bassist Billy Bouchard not only laid down a steady bass but also provided some solid vocal harmonies. Singer, Jason Beebout, has always had a consistently strong voice, comparable to Dave Grohl even, and he carries so much power that he could probably front a big-name arena rock band with ease.
Yet, even with a solid performance from the band, crowd reaction was limited to the fifteen people in the room singing along. The one downside to the band's set was their (lack of) stage banter. Very rarely was the audience treated to a funny anecdote or brief speech about how the next song was from their new album that could be picked up at the front, and more often the band would take a few seconds for Beebout to take another swig of beer before firing into another number. Later in the show, Chris from Less Than Jake would call them out on not playing any old material (other than Capsized) and indirectly implied that was the cause for a mostly dull (heh) audience, although after Samiam left the stage most show attendees were admitting out loud that they had "never heard of that band before" and asked "why weren't they the first band?"
She Found You
If you've ever seen Less Than Jake live before, you probably know how their shows go by now. And if you haven't, it's a little something like this: A crowd gathers up in front of the stage while the techs are setting up, and when the band comes on stage an even bigger crowd rushes forward while one guy (usually about seven years older than the rest of the crowd) pushes people out of the way to open up a circle pit. And that's exactly how it went down. Even after 20 years of playing together, Less Than Jake still has the energy of bands half their age and twice as much passion. From Gainesville Rock City to Johnny Quest Thinks We're Sellouts to Plastic Cup Politics, the band played highlights from almost their entire career, even including a tune from 2006's poorly received In With the Out Crowd but oddly omitting any material from 2008's "return-to-form" GNV FLA. In usual Less Than Jake style, in between songs they would not only banter with each other, but they would also include the audience in on the conversation, whether they wanted to be included or not.
Very early in the show (immediately after the second song, All My Best Friends Are Metalheads), guitarist/singer Chris Demakes, caught sight of an older couple in the crowd and invited them up on stage, along with their 20-something year old son, who had brought them along. After making sure that the father looked even more uncomfortable than he looked already by making a joke about his wife, the band invited the lucky son to sing Help Save the Youth of America from Exploding with them, before turning to their game show-esque routine that they are known so well for as of late. This tour's edition of the game involved a cash cube, a thirty second song, and the opportunity to win one of every one of the band's albums. After watching the male contestant fail miserably and a female contestant being given an advantage, the band fired into the old fan favorites, Liquor Store and The Ghosts of Me and You before leaving the stage and ending the night on a high note.
Just kidding, the band came back out and did a three song encore. Jen Doesn't Like Me Anymore, How's My Driving, Doug Hastings?, and Look What Happened before leaving the stage (again) and ending the night on an even higher note.
Ska might have just been a fad for most bands in the mid-to-late 90's, but as Less Than Jake proves with their live show, it can still be a real treat for those who have remained faithful to the genre.
Gainesville Rock City
All My Best Friends Are Metalheads
9th at Pine
The New Auld Lang Syne
A Still Life Franchise
Johnny Quest Thinks We're Sellouts
Help Save the Youth of America from Exploding
The Science of Selling Yourself Short
Goodbye, Mr. Personality
Plastic Cup Politics
Malt Liquor Tastes Better When You've Got Problems
SpongeBob SquarePants Theme
The Ghosts of Me and You
Jen Doesn't Like Me Anymore
How's My Driving, Doug Hastings?
Look What Happened
This review has been published on DyingScene: http://dyingscene.com/news/show-review-less-than-jake-samiam-flatfoot-56-live-at-the-brooklyn-bowl/