Less Than Jake have been delivering their catchy ska punk themes for 27 years to skaters and punks alike around the world. Almost three decades in, and their popularity has not waned as numbers at their recent UK and Irish run have proven.
With the quintet back in Belfast ahead of an appearance at Slam Dunk festival across the water, the Pezcore punks packed onto the cramped Empire venue for a night of pogo-fulled, pop with punch.
Stirring thing up from the off, with up opening track ‘Plastic Cup Politics’, wide-eyed lead singer and guitarist Chris DeMakes declared; “Como Estas Belfast!!!” Handing over to partner in crime Roger Lima, the bassist / singer set the tone for the evening with his announcement of a night of fast songs and circle pits. He wasn't joking, and as the band launched into early days tracks ‘Short Fuse Burning’ and ‘Shindo’, it was clear that the declaration was not without foundation.
Getting closer than they had perhaps ideally liked - due to the cosy stage size - it was however Chris and Roger's undeniable stage presence that dominated. With their cheeky rapport entertaining the crowd, Chris crossed the fan / band divide, bringing one of the crowd on stage after he took a fancy to his hair. Not wasting the opportunity for a little more interaction, ‘The Loudest Song’, provoked a striptease, before said fan exited in a timely stage dive to ‘History of a Boring Town’.
With the set list a dream for the fans, the crowd danced through ‘Landmines and Landslides’ and ‘Science of Selling Yourself Short’; the latter of which provided the opportunity for trombonist, Buddy Schaub and saxophonist Peter ‘JR’ Wasilewski, to show their flare, with an extended solo to one of their best-known tracks.
Reflecting the energy on stage, the crowd kept their momentum - and alcoholic intake - going through ‘Escape from the A-Bomb House’ with one eager lag passing Jägermeister shots to the front.
Continuing apace, ‘She’s Gonna Break Soon’ provided some familiarity to the casual fans, while well-known skater anthem ‘All My Friends are Metalheads’ prompted a fearsome circle pit that continued into “the fast one” ‘Last One Out of Liberty City’, accompanied by toilet roll guns, stage invaders and crowd surfing.
With the main set ending, the band returned to encore with ‘Nervous in the City’, and an anthemic ‘Johnny Thinks We’re Sellouts’. With energy levels high, some fans' boisterousness proved all to much for the venue's security, prompting the band to call out a certain“Officer McNoFun”’. Wrapping up, it was left to the band to inciting some well-intentioned chaos with hometown namesake hit ‘Gainesville Rock City’.
Tonight, Less Than Jake excelled, with a strong set that traversed almost 30 years of ska punk anthems. An energetic performance to passionate fan base, with crowd interaction and off the cuff comedy. Let's hope that promise of another visit to Belfast isn't too far off.
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Check out our gallery from the show below. All photos by Warren Blair.