Less Than Jake – O2 Academy Birmingham, 9/11/08 (a review by Ripper)

Now, I’m a Less Than Jake virgin. Wait, make that a ska virgin. It’s true! Of all the shows I have ever been to, I have never experienced a major band ska show. I’ve been to local ska shows, but around my area, that just means that the band’s attempting to be [spunge] and nobody’s skanking.

So, when I turned up to the Academy, in the pouring down rain, I didn’t quite know what to expect.

Also, I should mention here that fightclubsandwich was also at the show, and in between every band, me and my boyfriend searched in vain for her, believing that she still had pink hair. She didn’t tell us she’d dyed it back to black. So, we gave up in the end, until she came dancing over during LTJ’s set. We TBO girls really need to co-ordinate ourselves better.

For one of the first times in my life, I didn’t miss the support bands. First up were Imperial Leisure, a British band with a unique mix of ska and hip-hop. There were literally a sea of people skanking, and it was good to see a support band with so much… support! They were a lot of fun, but they’re potentially controversial in the way that ska fans will either love them or hate them. It’s definitely not traditional ska that Imperial Leisure are playing, but it works.

Beat Union were up next, and to begin with, I wasn’t enamoured. The type of bands they’ve supported in past put me off, the main one of these being Good Charlotte. I actually like GC, but they have a habit of playing with notoriously bad support bands (I think the main exception to that is Millencolin, who I actually preferred to GC when I saw them a few years ago). However, after a couple of songs, I was pleasantly surprised. Pop-punk with more emphasis on the punk, they played loud and energetically. Obviously influenced by the Police, they incorporated a more laidback style into some of their songs which worked well. They were my boyfriend’s favourite band of the night, and what pleased him even more was that they were local lads. Nevertheless, they played well and got the crowd going.

The third band on the bill was Pepper, a ska band hailing from Florida. Pepper are very much influenced by Sublime, and you can tell. Not that that’s a bad thing, though. Their laidback ska grooves were great, and it amused me greatly how every member of the band was wearing shorts in Birmingham, of all places. Their onset jokes were funny though crude. I found a lot of it funny, but when they started joking about weed, I wasn’t impressed. It doesn’t take much to stereotype ska fans, unfortunately, and they did it with ease. However, the songs were good and the brief cover of Bro Hymn by Pennywise went down well.

Finally, the band in question. Less Than Jake. fightclubsandwich and I disagreed on a few aspects of this show, but LTJ was one where we couldn’t help but to agree. They were awesome. It’s actually impossible to go to a Less Than Jake gig and come out with a frown on your face. I haven’t heard a lot of the new album, but the songs from GNV FLA came across as some of the strongest, as well as tons of classics from Hello Rockview, Borders And Boundaries, Anthem and even a couple of songs from even earlier were played. I was very pleased by the amount of Anthem material, because that was the album of 2003 for me, and songs where I actually knew the words! I’m abysmal when it comes to song lyrics. It was an extremely entertaining set. Bad jokes from the brass section! Heavy metal scream contests! Making fun of security guards! It felt good to laugh at a show again. LTJ’s sound was also incredible, making up for the bad levels in previous sets. Everyone was dancing, everyone was singing, everyone was having a good time. And that’s what a show should be like.

The truth is, whether you’re a Less Than Jake fan or not, it’s hard to deny that cheeky grin creeping up on your face when they’re playing. This band is essential for everyone, especially in a scene now dominated by depressing haircuts and suicidal lyrics. And hey, who doesn’t like trombones?

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