Date: Friday, October 5th 2012
Line up: Less Than Jake, Mr. Skannotto, Boldtype, Flatfoot 56
Location: Summit Music Hall. Denver, CO
Less Than Jake kicked off their 20th Anniversary tour at the Summit Music Hall in the LoDo District of Denver, Colorado on the first Friday night of October. The city recorded its first snowfall of the season and temperatures dropped to the high thirties. Fans began to line up outside of the Summit Music Hall anticipating openers Mr. Skannotto, Denver locals Boldtype, and Flatfoot 56.
The area in front of the stage became shoulder-to-shoulder as the backdrop of Less Than Jake’s signature Evolution Kid appeared on a giant twenty-dollar bill. The body heat mixed with the smell of booze and sweat brought many Less Than Jake fans back to the original days of the ska/punk legends.
The band formed in July of 1992 when Chris Demakes (Guitar/Vocals), Roger Manganelli (Bass/Vocals), and Vinnie Fiorello (Drums) began playing together in Gainesville, Florida. The name comes from Vinnie’s dog, Jake, who was treated better than the rest of the family so everyone was considered to be “less than Jake”. They added a horn section and have been through several trombone and saxophone players over the years. Buddy Schaub (Trombone) and Peter “JR” Wasilewski (Saxophone), lend their brass and woodwind to complete the current line-up.
Seven full-length albums, five compilations, eight EP’s, and over fifty 7” vinyl releases later, Less Than Jake continues their hard work in the studio and on tour.
LTJ has taken few breaks from the road over the past two decades boasting one of the most grueling tour schedules of their genre. Their experience with multiple independent and major labels grace their résumé being signed with independent punk labels Asian Man Records and NOFX frontman, Fat Mike’s Fat Wreck Chords as well as two albums with Capitol Records. After releasing an album on Warner Bros. Sire Records they decided to take matters into their own hands by releasing their latest full-length LP, GNV FLA, through their own Sleep It Off Records.
Eruption from the crowd occurred when the Florida rockers took the stage and instantly blared the horn introduction to “Gainesville Rock City”. “Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts” followed, a classic from their Pezcore album and re-recorded on their first major studio recording Losing Streak, and was dedicated to “the guy in the back with the broken mohawk’. When “I swear, it’s the last time” was heard over the PA the entire music hall echoed the lyrics in unison as the band played the biggest hit from the Fat Wreck Chords release, Borders and Boundaries.
Chris Demakes joked, “This is the best show of the whole tour.” “Starting off on a fucking high note,” added Roger Manganelli “It’s all downhill from here.”
Less Than Jake’s chemistry with their audience is something that is second to none with their witty one-liners and back and forth bantering. The connection they make with their audience creates a chemistry that gets everyone involved in the show. When Demakes noticed an older gentleman’s mustache he immediately brought him on stage to compliment and show off his upper lip to the rest of the crowd. After a long cheer, the band told the man he could help himself to the band’s beer at the bar to which JR mentioned he had slipped a Cialis for him already.
Next, the band showed off their self-released, “Golden Age of My Negative Ways”, a not-so-sobering song about staying young when everyone else seems hell bent on growing up. Roger Manganelli’s favorite live song came next; “The Science of Selling Yourself Short”, one of the only songs that can be frequently found in decent karaoke collections, turned from a circle pit into a giant dance floor.
Almost everyone at a Less Than Jake show gets along. Just smoking a cigarette outside in between sets is an easy way to get involved in a conversation about past shows and favorite albums. When conflict arose between a man and a woman in a pit, Demakes immediately brought them on stage and tried to get them to make up by making out. They settled for a hug.
The crowd was graced with two classics from their Capitol Records releases including “How’s My Driving, Doug Hastings?” a high energy song that never fails to get the biggest circle pit of the night. The set was closed with two uninterrupted tracks dedicated to the ladies, “Goodbye, Mr. Personality” and “The Ghosts of You and Me”.
When the band thanked the audience and walked off-stage, they were immediately called back with claps and chants of “LTJ! LTJ! LTJ!”
Less Than Jake’s encore was one of the most energetic and well chosen I have ever seen in my eighteen years following them. “Nervous in the Alley” opens with a marching beat provided by Vinnie mixed with some catchy horns always causes everyone in the crowd to jump up and down to the beat every single time I see them play this song live. “History of a Boring Town” followed, a song that anyone who grew up and spent a majority of their life in a small town can relate to. Finally, Less Than Jake closed with the fastest song from their Anthem release entitled “Plastic Cup Politics”.
The band thanked the crowd for their support over the past twenty years and even stuck around after the show for drinks, pictures and small talk. Their dedication to their fans works in perfect symmetry with their fans dedication to them. This is a competitive industry that can chew a band up and spit it out in the blink of an eye, or even the beat of a drum. After twenty-years, one of the original bands from the 1990s ska/punk movement does not appear to be slowing down, partly due to their ability to grow up musically while their maturity levels stay the same.
Less Than Jake Set-List:
1.) Gainesville Rock City
2.) Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts
3.) Look What Happened
4.) The New Auld Lang Syne
7.) 9th At Pine
8.) Golden Age of My Negative Ways
9.) The Science of Selling Yourself Short
10.) Help Save the Youth of America From Exploding
11.) Motown Never Sounded So Good
12.) How’s My Driving, Doug Hastings?
13.) All My Best Friends Are Metalheads
14.) Goodbye, Mr. Personality
15.) The Ghosts of You and Me
16.) Nervous in the Alley
17.) History of a Boring Town
18.) Plastic Cup Politics
Article & Photos By: Blake Taylor