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Review Fri Feb 04 2011

Review: Less Than Jake @ the Bottom Lounge

Four years ago, longtime ska-punk scene members Less Than Jake were granted a release from their contract with Warner Bros. imprint Sire Records and began their own label, Sleep It Off Records. This was arguably one of the best moves the band has made throughout the course of its nearly 20-year career.

Fan's reaction to LTJ's final record with Sire, 2006's Out With The In Crowd, was painfully dismal. As the band continued to drift further and further away from its ska roots, even longtime fans began to remark that it might be time for Less Than Jake to throw in the towel.

If it weren't for the resilience of these ska-punk veterans, last night's show at the Bottom Lounge would not have been such a good time. Not long after LTJ's departure from Sire the band began replacing Warner Bros.-produced singles with older catalogue selections during touring cycles and recording what would become 2008's GNV FLA, an homage to the band's beginnings in Gainesville, Florida. Less Than Jake fans wanted the old Less Than Jake back and that's what the band was finally giving them.

Songs like "Great American Sharpshooter" and "Nervous in the Alley" that seemed to have fallen from LTJ's live rotation in recent years were played with wild reaction from the packed venue. Even obvious setlist choices such as "Look What Happened" and "All My Best Friends Are Metalheads" elicited more frenzied responses than I can remember from past shows. At times it was even a struggle to hear the band's vocals over audience members'. Hell, at times it was hard to even see the band due to the non-stop barrage of stage divers.

But that's one of the benefits to watching a band that's been playing music together since the early '90s: whatever goes, goes. Members of Less Than Jake certainly aren't greedy with the stage. Throughout the 75-minute set countless audience members scrambled on stage to dance and sing alongside the five-piece. What's most notable about LTJ shows is that no two are ever exactly the same. For instance, attendees of last night's show witnessed the first-ever--according to band members--"Less Than Jake Drinking Contest for the Follicly Challenged," an event during which three bald-headed audience members were challenged to chug their beer the fastest. Being on tour for the better part of two decades could probably get monotonous for some bands, but I'm guessing that's not the case for the members of LTJ.

Prior to the aforementioned back to basics endeavor that Less Than Jake has taken on in recent years, many of the rock-heavy song selections from the Warner Bros.-era records that filled Less Than Jake live sets left trombone player Buddy Schaub and saxophonist JR Wasilewski out in the cold and taking on awkwardly unnecessary stage presences. However it was good to see the horn players back in the saddle last night and taking the lead on heavily ska-influenced tracks like "Johnny Quest Thinks We're Sellouts" and "Scott Farcus Takes It In the Chin."

Of course the only uncomfortable moments during the show came when LTJ broke into some of their newer and less favorably received cuts. Audience members quickly took songs like "Overrated" and "P.S. Shock the World"--both from In With The Out Crowd--as cues to hop in line for the restrooms or head to the bar. Luckily these moments passed quickly and gave fans a breather before the next raucous old school classic.

More impressive than the number of Chicagoans that braved the snowy conditions to make it out to the Bottom Lounge last night was the truly diverse nature of the audience. That's another benefit to seeing a band with so much history. Less Than Jake has been building a fan base since its inception in 1992, so it was really no surprise to look around the venue and see eyes of all ages glued to the stage. After all, aren't good music and good times truly ageless pastimes?

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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