If you were a fan of punk in the late 90’s or early 2000’s, it’s likely that, among your abundance of CD’s by New Found Glory, NOFX and Zebrahead, you have at least one Less Than Jake album. They were the poster boys for making ska punk popular again, and, as we rock up at Liverpool’s O2 Academy, the already busy room is evidence that, at least in Liverpool, that resurgence is still in full swing.
Opening the night, announcing that “this is not a punk show, we’re here to rock and roll!”, are Lionize. Hailing from Maryland, the four piece are a cacophany of fuzzy, distorted guitar licks and rumbling basslines, reminiscent of bands like Clutch, Corrosion Of Conformity and He Is Legend. The effortlessly paired duelling vocals of keyboardist Chris Brooks and guitarist Nate Bergman compliment each other perfectly, creating harmonies seemingly with the greatest of ease. It is apparent that Lionize will stick out like a sore thumb on a night filled with punk, but what an incredible sore thumb they are.
As London punks The Kenneths take to the stage, it seems sarcastic band introductions are going to be the order of the night, with vocalist/guitarist Josh announcing to the crowd that they are Less Than Jake. This gets them the odd boo here and there, but by the time the first few bars of set opener KENNETHS, that’s all but forgotten among an impressive display of balls out, sleazy punk rock, straight out of the 80’s, from a band that can’t be that far into their 20’s. But that isn’t all they can do, apparently, busting out everything from Busted-esque pop rock (What Happened To The Radio), to straight up hardcore punk (What Happened To My Sex), with the band’s frontman hurling himself into the crowd for the latter, wrapping himself around various crowd members, unphased by the guy stood next to him ruffling his impressively rigid mohawk.
Next up, a band making waves on the UK pop punk scene, and from the crowd reaction, the band a hell of a lot of people are here to see, Trash Boat. From their impressive energy, chemistry, and songwriting ability, it’s clear to see why the St Albans quintet have supported everyone from New Found Glory to Neck Deep, and gained airplay on several of the UK’s top radio stations. As predicted, the crowd become immersed absolutely in their infectious catchiness, giving us both our first real crowd movement, and singalong of the night. Comparable to bands like The Story So Far and Knuckle Puck, the band give us catchy, angst filled vocal melodies, and scrappy guitar hooks in abundance, all whilst managing to sidestep the “sounding like New Found Glory” pop punk pit trap. Our advice at Invicta is to keep an eye on this young band, they’re almost certainly set for bigger and better things.
Finally, coming on stage to the music from 2001: A Space Odessey, the room just about filling out nicely, Less Than Jake seemingly set the room on fire with energy. People from all walks of life and all ages, metalheads, punks and fans of reggae are all in attendance, a stark reminder of LTJ‘s incredible “catch all” fusion of punk rock, ska and reggae. The setlist reads like a greatest hits collection for the band that punk almost forgot, including classics such as All My Best Friends Are Metalheads, Plastic Cup Politics and Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts, as well as newer tracks like The Ghosts of Me And You and Good Enough, which slot straight into the bands back catalog seamlessly.
With an impressive stage presence from a band who, let’s face it, aren’t getting any younger, and an equally impressive combination of brass instruments, up-beat upstroke guitars, and four part vocal melodies that wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack to a popular pro skating videogame series, it’s clear to see that Less Than Jake are a band who are no stranger to the road. LTJ play the crowd like the veterans they are, as they absolutely lap up every increasingly silly joke, dance at every opportunity, and sing along to every chorus. By the time encore time comes, no one in the crowd, the Invicta team included, want the show to end. The band reward the crowd for sticking around with a ten minute trio of favourites, Look What Happened, Give Me Something To Believe In, and Gainesville Rock City, and even as the final notes ring out, and the band have all but left the stage, the sweaty, exhausted crowd still have enough left in the tank to chant for the band in unison one last time.
Less Than Jake storm Liverpool's o2 Academy.