Date: February 10, 2017
Opening Bands: The Attack, The Bunny Gang
On a frigid Friday night in downtown Pittsburgh, two warm-weather bands join forces to brink the ska punk and reggae heat to the ‘burgh.
Just about every year since the mid-90s, Less Than Jake has put Pittsburgh on the tour itinerary and 2017 is no different. This time they’ve teamed up with Hawaiian reggae rockers Pepper for this stop with opening bands the Attack and the Bunny Gang tagging along.
First up was the Attack whose brief set was full of energy and stage presence but the crowd just wasn’t ready for that yet. I liked their sound which I would describe as a mix between the Street Dogs and Teenage Bottlerocket…catchy melodic street punk. They did their best to warm up the crowd and they would definitely be interesting to see in a small punk rock dive bar.
Following up the Attack was a band from Denver, Colorado called the Bunny Gang. They were kind of all over the place with their sound which was a mix of rock, punk and reggae but with none of those sounds taking center stage. I wasn’t too into their set and was turned off by their sound for some reason. They did manage to get the growing crowd amped up for Pepper.
Hitting the stage with a blinding light show, Pepper ripped through the first few songs, kicking it off with “Love Affair” and easily whipped the crowd into a frenzy. Their setlist was heavy on songs from “Kona Town”, their newest release “Ohana” and “No Shame” which was recently released on vinyl. While random Pepper setlist staples like “Ashes” made the list, it was very heavy on stuff from “Kona Town” and “No Shame”. Off the top of my head I can recall hearing “No Control”, “Lost In America”, “Stone Love”, “Sitting on the Curb”, “Too Much”, “B.O.O.T.” and “Give It Up”. I don’t recall anything at all from “Give’n It” or “Pink Crustaceans” but the new stuff from “Ohana” sounded really good live. There was even an acoustic version of “Point and Shoot” with the lead singer of the Bunny Gang and a surprise appearance from Buddy and J.R. from Less Than Jake doing horns on a crazy ska punk version of Pepper’s “Face Plant”.
Although I’ve been a fan of Pepper for many years, the one thing that always bothers me about their live show is that sometimes the way that they play the songs in concert is very chaotic and unpredictable. Sometimes the songs are unrecognizable until a chorus or guitar/bass part kicks in. I noticed a lot of confusion in the crowd where they wanted to sing along to a particular song, but the audience missed the cue or just didn’t know what song was being played. Pepper just comes out and plays their songs however they want and while confusing to the audience, they just kind of go with what they want.
With the crowd at its largest capacity of the night, it was finally time for those boys in Less Than Jake to hit the stage and, as usual, they hit it with a bang jumping right into “All My Best Friends Are Metalheads” complete with the retro line in the beginning about not judging others by their looks or beliefs. This is a very similar theme found on “All My Best Friends Are Metalheads” obviously. With that said, the crowd was pretty fired up with this song kicking things off and it was quickly followed by the circle pit-inducing track from “Losing Streak” called “Sugar In Your Gas Tank” as well as another “Hello Rockview” favorite “Last One Out of Liberty City”.
Much to my delight, LTJ decided to pull out a song that I haven’t heard them play live in quite a few years; that song being “Dopeman”, which came along with a little story about their last stop on the tour in Denver and the audience members not knowing what that was anymore. They ran through other titular LTJ tracks like “Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts”, “Automatic”, “Rock-N-Roll Pizzeria”, “Plastic Cup Politics”, “Overrated (Everything Is)” as well as a handful of tracks from their recently released EP “Sound The Alarm”.
As usual, Less Than Jake put on yet another great show. The setlist was a good mix of a little of everything from their discography but felt more like a late 90s show to me. The crowd was absolutely nuts for the entirety of their set with circle pits and skank pits encompassing most of the floor on random occasions. Everyone was having fun, LTJ were full of energy and excitement and it oozed over into the audience. As an ancient fan of Less Than Jake you never know when the last time you’ll have the opportunity to see them play and I know that I sure do appreciate every stop in Western PA that they make. I don’t see any signs of the band slowing down anytime soon so here’s to a few more dozen shows in Pittsburgh in the future.