Courtesy of myspace.com/lessthanjake
Less Than Jake
at the Great Saltair
with Reel Big Fish, Streetlight Manifesto, Against All Authority
Going to ska-punk shows does two things to me: 1. They make me feel old and 2. They make me feel relatively attractive. Ska-punk is an inherently dorky genre of music, and sad though it may be, the dorky tend to be less attractive than the non-dorky. Now I'm not saying that I'm a prime cut of 100% American Male myself, but goddamn those ugly kids sure made me feel good about myself (operative word being “kids”). The average age of the crowd had to be around 17, and even though that's not a whole lot younger than me, I still felt a bit out of place. And because I'm older than 17, I work all goddamn day, and because I work all goddamn day, I didn't get out to Saltair until about 7:30, so I missed Against All Authority. Damn.
I got into the venue about halfway through Streetlight Manifesto's set, and I trudged through the throng of trolls, CHUDs and gargoyles to get closer to the stage. Streetlight is one of the better ska-punk bands out there today, and they put on a really good live show. Their song structures owe a lot to classical music, especially the awesome horn arrangements, and their lyrics go far beyond the typically goofy subject matter usually tackled by other ska-punk bands. After only one song, I was covered in sweat (though it mostly belonged to other people) and was having a pretty good time. They busted out an awesome version of “Point/Counterpoint” that transformed into the Catch 22 (former band of several Streetlight members) classic “Keasby Nights”, and the crowd went crazy. They closed off the set with the horn-tastic, high-energy “Here's to Life” and the crowd dispersed. I went outside to take in the dank and stinky scenery of the Great Salt Lake before Reel Big Fish took the stage.
I make no bones about the fact that I fucking despise Reel Big Fish. I was too mature for their brand of hyperactive, juvenile bullshit by the time I was 15, and every time I've seen the band play, it only gives me more and more reason to dislike them. Still, I figured that I'd go back inside and at least catch some of their set. They opened with “Sell Out”, the song responsible for the ska explosion of the late '90s and the near-death of ska in the early 2000s. Pretty catchy song, though. Then they started delving into their crappier songs, such as the predictably crappy “Another F.U. Song”, and “She Has a Girlfriend Now”, which contains the poignant and startlingly deep lyric of “I'd even cut my penis off for you.” Classy. When they busted into their clever and inspired version of Metallica's “Enter Sandman”, I'd decided that I had enough. I went back outside and waited for Less Than Jake to start.
Less Than Jake was one of my favorite bands back in my high school days, and I've seen them live more than any other band, so they kind of have a special, nostalgic place in my heart. Their newer material is definitely weaker than their output in the mid-'90s, but they still manage to put on a good live show and deliver at least a couple of incredibly catchy songs on every album. The band took the stage as an announcer introduced them Price is Right style, complete with a “Come on Down!” an lead singer Chris Demakes was decked out in a red velvet blazer and was introduced as our host, Bob Boner. Well, at least they're not Reel Big Fish. The band busted into “All My Best Friends are Metalheads”, which is one of their more danceable songs, but the crowd didn't seem to be as into it as I thought they would be. A couple more songs went by, and then the band went even further with the whole Price is Right motif. Contestants were called onto the stage, answering questions about how many girls the bands bass player has had sex with in Utah for the chance to play Price is Right rip-off games that determined the band's setlist.
The whole idea of randomizing the setlist was pretty cool, but the execution was kind of tacky. Still, the band played more than half of their killer album Losing Streak, so I'm willing to forgive the stupid stage banter and the whole “Bob Boner” thing. That said, I think that my days of seeing Less Than Jake may be behind me. I think that I've gotten all that I can out of this band. It was fun while it lasted, and they delivered a fine final performance for me, but now it's time for me to move on. Songs about being lost in the world with blaring horns linked together by juvenile stage banter just isn't my thing anymore. I can totally see why it's appealing to unattractive, goofy teenagers, but that just isn't who I am anymore.