When Less Than Jake announce a UK tour it's always a very exciting thing for me. For as long as I've been a fan of punk rock Less Than Jake have been my favourite band. When the Fireball sponsored super tour with Less Than Jake, The Skints, Mariachi El Bronx and Kemuri was announced I quickly booked tickets for the Brixton Academy show and excitedly counted down the days.
We arrived at the Brixton Academy a little early and joined the queue that was already forming. Usually this isn't really worth writing about but I figured the security guard/steward deserved a mention. Normally I find the security guards at these bigger events to be rude idiots who aren't friendly or helpful in the slightest. The chap we encountered who was looking after the line on this night was an absolute hero, willing to chat, make jokes, answer questions and generally just be a nice guy. He also gave me and the other people in the queue lanyards. I'm not quite sure why but I decided to attach one of my Colin's Punk Rock World business cards to it.
First up were a late addition to the line up, London's Ghouls. Playing their own unique brand of pop punk with horns, the five piece are having an incredible year and this Brixton show must be one of their biggest shows to date. I must admit it was kind of weird seeing them on such a big stage after seeing them play so many smaller venues over the past couple of years. The size of the stage and the room didn't deter them though as they confidently played a fantastic, energy filled set. This show without a doubt earned them some more fans. Next stop for Ghouls is America and The Fest!
Next up was a big treat for everyone in Brixton, especially if you've been a fan of ska punk since the late 90s after the third wave exploded. Tokyo, Japan’s Kemuri were playing their very first show in London - and what a place for it to happen! The seven piece lead by front man Fumio Ito looked so excited to be playing the show and it really came across in their performance. If there was only one word that I could use for their set it'd be joy. That's the feeling that I got from the band and it clearly spread through the entire crowd as we danced, skanked, put arms around our neighbours, waved our arms, clapped, sung along and did generally whatever else Kemuri wanted us to do. Kemuri are veterans in the ska punk world and, in this instance, are still one of the very best.
Mariachi El Bronx were the next band to take to the stage. A band I've heard so much about but have never actually listened to. I have a little confession to make, Mariachi El Bronx's proper band, The Bronx, are not a bad I've ever really gotten into and the idea of them playing mariachi-style music seemed a bit odd to me. Not really knowing what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised to immediately find myself dancing along to the first song and this continued throughout the set. The eight piece from Los Angeles, California, are clearly an extremely talented group of musicians who really enjoy playing this style of music. I did find myself wondering during their set if when they started the mariachi version of The Bronx they ever expected to be playing shows in front of almost 5000 people in London? I really liked this set and it helped to continue the party atmosphere that was really beginning to build in Brixton.
The penultimate act of the evening was The Skints. It's incredible how far The Skints have come in such a short space of time and by playing a genre of music that is far from mainstream. I remember hearing them not long after their debut EP came out on Do The Dog Records and seeing them for the first time supporting Capdown at Koko not long after their debut album was released back in 2010. Since then I've seen them almost a dozen times but it must have been well over a year since the last time. Immediately I was blown away by them. I think I'd forgotten just how good Josh, Jamie, Marcia and John are as musicians and as a band. Their brilliant modern take on reggae and ska with added elements of hip hop and dub music really got Brixton moving. Playing a selection of hits from all three of their albums, The Skints really were on top form. On one song they even had some additional saxophone from Less Than Jake's JR which was a nice surprise. They could have easily been the headline act for this tour and if they continue the way that they're heading I'm sure that one day they will be.
Finally it was time for the amazing, the brilliant, the majestic (I might be over selling this now)… it was time for Less Than Jake. Gainesville, Florida, America and the world’s (might be over selling again) finest band. To say I was excited might be an understatement. If I was to do a list of the best live bands I've ever seen Less Than Jake would place first without any real competition. I've now seen them eleven times and on every occasion they have been perfect. I'm of the belief that it is impossible for them to play a bad show. Opening the set with Last One Out Of Liberty City, Less Than Jake played a very crowd pleasing set featuring many songs from the classic Hello Rockview. This album is considered a fan favourite and the entire room began moving from the opening bass line - didn't stop until the final chords of the closer All My Best Friends Are Metalheads. Of course, the usual fun and shenanigans that Less Than Jake are famous for went on. Whether it was setting off confetti canon, firing toilet paper into the crowd, playing with beach balls or inviting members of the crowd on stage to dance and drink with them. After more than twenty five years of playing shows, Less Than Jake still manage to find ways to stay fun - I imagine this is as much for them as it is for the crowd. The energy and effort that goes into a Less Than Jake live set is nothing short of amazing. To still be so excited to play these songs and put that much into them after all these years is a testament to the band and their desire to make sure every fan has a fantastic time seeing them. Long may it continue - I don't think we'll ever see a band like Less Than Jake ever again.
Every single band was great this evening but my highlight of the night wasn't actually any of the bands. It was actually this: My best friend of over twenty five years Craig was a last minute addition to our gig party after another friend sadly had to drop out. Over the years, Craig and I have been to a couple of gigs together but never a full on punk or ska gig which are really my favourites. Craig has often teased me about my tastes in music, not because he doesn't enjoy the music, just because he enjoys teasing me. In our group of friends I was always the youngest and the smallest, so I got a lot of the little brother treatment - always the one to be teased about things. I've always wondered if he really ever understood my love of going to see live music and why I spend so much of my time and money travelling around going to see bands with silly names that nobody has even heard of. Watching him enjoy himself so much at the Brixton Academy to bands that I completely adore put a big smile on my face. It felt like he got why I love going to see these bands so much and hopefully he went home a fan of some new bands. It was a great feeling and a fantastic night.