Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Gig Review: Less Than Jake and Yellowcard at Koko 9/3/15

Less Than Jake are touring machines. At the beginning of the year they had a tour with Reel Big Fish and Authority Zero across America. Now they are back in the United Kingdom for a co-headline tour with old friends Yellowcard with Chunk! No, Captain Chunk in support. They played two sets at Koko in Camden this week, I went along.

First up were Chunk! No, Captain Chunk. This was a band from France who I’ve been aware of for a while now after seeing them on line ups for Slam Dunk Festival but never really gave them a chance. I soon found out these five guys from Paris play a blend of pop punk and metalcore music. Lead singer Bertrand Poncet is equally adept at singing a nice clean pop vocal as he is laying down a heavy growl. Even though this style of music isn’t one I’m too keen on it’s easy to see from their performance that they are a band that are destined to go quite far in their scene. A good portion of the crowd really seemed into their set and the cover of Smash Mouths All Star from the Punk Goes 90s compilation went down a storm and put lots of smiles on lots of faces.

Up next were Florida’s Yellowcard. I was staggered to find out Yellowcard have been a band since 1997, almost twenty years! Yellowcard are one of the most unique bands in the world of pop punk, incorporating a violin and in more recent years a piano into their sound. The band is a bit of a weird one for me, I’ve been aware of them for a long time now and have always found them good enough to listen to but I’ve never really gotten on board and became a massive fan so I went into their set not really knowing what to expect. Surprisingly I wasn’t the only one who seemed somewhat apprehensive at the beginning of their set, despite seeing a lot of kids in Yellowcard shirts there crowd seemed very stale at the beginning of their set. I later found out that this was because they were playing songs of off newest album Lift A Sail so I guess only the real diehard fans really knew them. Eventually though the kids woke up and Yellowcard put on a polished, energetic set which everyone really enjoyed. From what I could tell front man Ryan Key’s vocal was spot on and his ability going between playing guitar and piano was very impressive. The biggest reaction of the set was for the song Ocean Avenue where everyone went nuts, even I, despite not knowing the words found myself trying to sing along. I finished the set extremely impressed and was very happy to have had the chance to see them. Now however I was absolutely buzzing for Less Than Jake.

This would be my ninth time seeing Less Than Jake in less than five years (the next night would be my tenth) and every single one of those times I’ve come away feeling like I’ve just seen the best live band ever. Whether it’s at a club the size of Koko, somewhere smaller like the Camden Barfly or the Concorde 2 in Brighton or on big stages at festivals such as Reading or Slam Dunk this Gainesville five piece never have to put the biggest smile on my face. This night would be no different. Starting out with a the big sing along Look What Happened the whole floor of Koko didn’t stop moving throughout the set. Playing a career spanning set list there was something for everyone to enjoy. It amazes me how after all these years as a band Less Than Jake still play with so much enthusiasm for what they do. Chris and Roger are for sure the stars of the show, harmonising throughout the songs perfectly as well as being very entertaining between songs the enjoyment of everyone doesn’t stop for a moment. Chris gave a special mention to long time trombone player Buddy, who a few weeks prior to the tour had just had a pacemaker fitted, so the fact that not only was he there performing but running around the stage and at one point for the balcony was a testament to what kind of man Buddy is. As ever all the stops were pulled out for the whole production of the set. There was a huge back drop with artwork based on most recent album See The Light as well as confetti, toilet paper guns and Less Than Jake balloons being shot into the crowd at various points of the set. It’s clear that Less Than Jake don’t just turn up to a venue to play song, they come to party and their enthusiasm is infectious to the whole crowd. There were too many highlights of the set to mention here but one in particular really stood out. It was during the classic Automatic from the album Losing Streak, midway through the song they switched up and played the chorus of the song We’re All Dudes from Good Burger (that 90s Nickelodeon film starring Kenan and Kel in a burger place). I went nuts because of this, Good Burger has for a long time been one of my favourite movies and I never ever expected to see them play We’re All Dudes live so this was the best surprise. At the end of their set I was talking to a couple about how we had grown up with Less Than Jake, I’m 29 now and I’m guessing that they were a similar age and we remarked how there were probably people there ten years young than me who also would have grown up with the band. That’s quite a remarkable thing really, especially when you consider that Less Than Jake are a ska punk band who despite being very successful have never really had a big chart hit. This night, and the next cemented my belief that Less Than Jake are the very best live band on the planet, everyone should go and see them at least once in their lives, though I suspect that if you see them once you’ll have to keep going back again and again.

 Now listening to Games That People Play by New Town Kings