Less Than Jake @ Mr. Smalls, Millvale, PA

Live Reviews | By on Feb 27th, 2012

Less Than Jake

Date: February 24th 2012
Opening Bands: Flatfoot 56, Samiam
Band Links: www.lessthanjake.com

It’s been a few years since Less Than Jake has been back in the Pittsburgh area and they were back with a vengeance. Along for the ride to spread the chaos were Flatfoot 56 and Samiam.

When I first arrived at the show, the opening band had already begun. The band was called Gene the Werewolf and they are apparently an 80’s cock rock revival band or something. The lead singer really didn’t have the proper glam rock voice if there is such a thing and no one in the band had hair that was longer than their ears. The drummer was also wearing headphones!? WTF? Good thing there is a senior citizen center close by. I wasn’t too fond of them and was kind of glad that I missed half of their
set.

On tab next were Chicago Irish punkers Flatfoot 56. It was obvious that they were influenced by the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly and came complete with a bagpipe player wearing a kilt. I really enjoy Flatfoot 56’s music and this was the first time that I’ve managed to see them live. They were definitely one of the highlights of the show. My only gripe with the band was that they kept calling out people for standing around or not jumping into a frenzy for every song yet they stood behind the bouncers and wouldn’t let any crowd surfers up on the stage. It’s a punk rock show fellas, remember?

Next in line were Californian melodic punkers Samiam. Now I’ve listened to and casually enjoyed Samiam for quite some time but again being the first time seeing them in person, I have to say that although they are good live, their song selection was somewhat lacking and I found myself a little bored by the end of their set.

After the usual switching of gear and the band having some brewskis backstage, the lights dimmed and the band of the evening hit the stage. The show was sold out and the full house let out a rumbling roar of approval. Less Than Jake kicked things off with great mix of older songs. “Gainesville Rock City” was the opener, which it has been on many an occasion followed by “All My Best Friends Are Metalheads”, “Happyman” and “9th At Pine”. The crowd was movin’, grovin’ and skankin’. It truly was a great selection of songs to kick things off.

There was somewhat of a lull following the kickass opening song selection with a couple of songs in a row from “In With The Out Crowd” followed by a pretty good new song from the recently released “Seasons Greetings From Less Than Jake” EP called “The New Auld Lang Syne”. And then it was back to the oldies… ”Help Save The Youth…”, “Johnny Quest…”, “My Very Own Flag”…and it seemed like even more people than before crowded into Mr. Smalls.

As with just about every LTJ show, there is always some kind of on-stage shenanigans going on. This time, in celebration of their 20th Anniversary, they were pulling people up onto the stage to put in a Less Than Jake money box where they had to pluck floating money out of the air to use on LTJ merch. The first kid up on stage apparently wrote a letter for the band asking them to help him ask his girlfriend to the prom. Chris obliged by bringing the girl on stage and then making fun of the two kids. Classic Less Than Jake. He then put them in the money box and specifically told them the rules, one being that you cannot pick money up from the ground. Less Than Jake gave them thirty seconds in the box by playing their 30 second song, “Anchor” from “Short Music For Short People”. Both of the kids began picking money up from the ground and they were disqualified and booed off the stage. The boos were led by the entire band. Later on in the show they pulled a sixty something stoner from the crowd that thought that he was at a Phil Lesh show, put him in the box, played the SpongeBob Squarepants theme song and then booed and made fun of him when he failed to reach the money quota.

Speaking of audience participation, I got to see for a second time, Less Than Jake bring Richard Allen George (Cheez) onto the stage for the song of the same name. This kicked off the last part of the show as LTJ ripped through a couple more songs and took their mandatory encore/bathroom break. Yada yada yada, LTJ chants, lights dim, wait around a few more minutes, band is back on! Encore time!

The encore went pretty much like this. Hey guys, you didn’t hear enough from “Losing Streak”? NOOOO! Do you want more? YES PLEASE!!! “Jen Doesn’t Like Me Anymore”,” Sugar In My Gas Tank” (by unanimous request), “How’s My Driving, Doug Hastings?” and the staple finale song (not from “Losing Streak”) “Look What Happened”. Very, very good encore selection if I must say so myself.

In the 20 years of LTJ, I’ve seen them countless times and it’s hard for me to pick a favorite show but this one was pretty high up on my list. It seemed like they were picking my favorite songs from each album and playing a personal setlist live for just me. One thing that I do know for certain is that there are a number of reasons why Less Than Jake has been around for 20 years. Not only are they always entertaining live in concert on top of always having some kind of hijinks and interaction with the crowd, but when it comes down to it, they just really know how to rock (in a ska punk kind of way). Here’s to 20 more years!!!

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