Less Than Jake
The Expendables, The Flatliners
House of Blues, Orlando, Fl • March 8 ,2009
The First weekend in March not only served up the most gorgeous weather in months, but it also found Orlando in the rare position of having almost too much going on in the way of live music. The cancellation of South Florida’s Langerado Festival and the presence of the inaugural punk rock mecca of Harvest of Hope put a whole lot of bands on Central Florida’s touring circuit. Even with a half-dozen tempting musical options for the weekend closing Sunday night, Less Than Jake still pulled in a large crowd at the House of Blues. More importantly, as with any LTJ audience, these fans had not only come out for some live music, they had come out to party!
After The Flatliners laid down a quick set of reggae-tinged punk, The Expendables gave any Sublime fans in the room a familiar taste of the slow and stoned side of ska. The mostly mellow, spiraling rhythms of this Santa Cruz band occasionally broke out into a speedier, pit worthy few minutes before easing back into a calm-water groove. Their set was pleasant enough, only steering into an odd direction once when vocalist/guitarist Geoff Weers busted out with a heavy metal riff that seemed entirely out of place with the otherwise beach friendly ska band. The audience, thinking nothing of it, just churned the pit up tighter and faster.
After opening up with the set with a new track, “Conviction Notice,” Less Than Jake very quickly gave the “old folks” in the crowd a little piece of yesteryear.
“Look at that old guy in the back. I bet he’s old enough to remember the album that this next song is off of. This is from Losing Streak,” Less Than Jake vocalist/guitarist Chris Demakes said before rewarding veteran fans with “Happyman” and “9th at Pine” off of the band’s 1996 major label debut.
Feeling positively ancient, I began reminiscing about the first time I saw Less Than Jake play, back in 1995. It was at Cafe DaVinci’s in Deland — Hot Water Music opened for them, and it cost $4. Back then they still had Jessica Mills on sax, and they were just a bunch of kids with a whole lot of crazy, young energy. The punk/ska scene was brewing hot and LTJ hadn’t yet made the controversial move to sign with Capitol Records.
Fourteen years later and, aside from a member change or two, they are essentially the same band. That is to say, a NOFX inspired pop punk act that has managed to ride the third wave of ska for all these years, when most have fallen by the wayside. Their new songs, off of last year’s GNV FLA, rubbed up nicely against the oldies but goodies. “Does the Lion City Still Roar,” and “City of Gainesville” — which led right into into “State of Florida” — fared especially well.
Having played together since they were teenagers, they’re now tight as can be, but the real secret of their success is in the simplicity of form. They ham it up onstage, they heckle security guards, and they tease their fans — all in the name of not taking things too seriously.
How unserious were they on this night? Well, they brought up a terribly sunburned fan who had proudly burned the band’s name onto his beet-red chest; they told a bored looking bouncer to “clock out and go home… or clock out and come get drunk onstage with us,” because he wasn’t doing anything productive; and trombone man Buddy Schaub boldly sported a Mickey Mouse rasta beanie — complete with braids.
Less Than Jake aren’t out to save the world, they’re out to give the fans a good time and God knows we could use more bands with such a noble and simple intent!
To see more photos of this show, and others, go to www.jencray.com.
Less Than Jake: www.lessthanjake.com