Words & Photography by Felix Bartlett
Is it time for another ska revival? Perhaps. Over the past few years it’s become apparent that nostalgia is a powerful aspect in the world today, with all this doom and gloom sometimes, a bit of nostalgia goes a long way. With this ultimately came the resurgence of early 2000 bands and it was only a matter of time before Less Than Jake embarked on another UK tour. This time around it was different however, with the band sticking to their roots and playing play one of their most iconic albums ‘Hello Rockview’ at the O2 Academy, Brixton. Joining alongside them featured the likes of GoldFinger, Snuff, Save Ferris, Millie Manders, Thieves, and Bottom Line.
Growing up in the 2000’s meant I grew up listening to the new wave of ska punk that came flooding out of America, with the likes of Reel Big Fish, Less than Jake and Sublime being blasted out of my speakers throughout my teen years. ‘Hello Rockview’, was a phenomenal album that put Less Than Jake into the homes of teens across the world. It was the album I played whilst on my way to school and when hanging out with friends and to this day it holds a special place in not only my heart but countless others. But 21 years on does the album still live up to the hype or is it time for ‘Hello Rockview‘ to be left in the memories of our teen years.
Walking into Less Than Jake’s set I’m met with an overwhelming crowd of excitement with the entire ground floor being filled to the brim with eager fans. One could argue, that from the size of the crowd the band brought in for their headline set at Brixton demonstrated that the resurgence of Ska is here. As the band invade the stage the crowd is met with the all too familiar intro to ‘Last one out of liberty city’. As soon as Roger Lima (Bass) hits those first few chords the crowd splits open, with fans crowd surfing to the front of the stage followed by the trademark symphony of saxophones and trombones. One thing is clear when Chris (lead vocals/guitar) takes to the vocals, and that is this will be a night to remember. Chris and Roger, accompanied by their saxophonist and trombonist have no hesitation when entering the stage in a frenzy of excitement, vaulting towards the front, whipping the crowd into a sweaty pit of madness. Both old and young fans unite to mosh to ‘Help Save The Youth of Americas From Exploding’, and I’m left feeling as though I’ve been transported back to the band’s first ever UK tour.
“This is for you guys!” yells Chris, followed by Roger stating “this is a weird album” bringing a welcoming personal touch to the gig. Throughout the setlist Less Than Jake proved once again why ‘Hello Rockview’ was such a beloved album. The unison between members felt a strong as ever, with each member (percussionists included) all bouncing off one another. The members may have aged, but their antics and performance felt reminiscent of their first years touring together. Stealing the show was Roger who took centre stage, headbanging away with his blur of dreadlocks throughout ‘Great American Sharpshooter’.
With an hour setlist and ‘Hello Rockview’s 40 minute run time there was no doubt the band would pull out a few extra songs. Less Than Jake didn’t disappoint with the band reuniting on stage after performing ‘Al’s War’ to finish off on a high note, playing a selection of songs from their album ‘Anthem’. Whilst not as strong as their previous selection of songs featured on ‘Hello Rockview, the band nonetheless pulled off an incredible encore with ‘Look what happened’ feeling fluid and both nostalgic, bringing a true sense of how far the band has come. Hundreds of fans could be heard joining in unison singing the chorus “And I swear it’s the last time”. Ending with ‘Gainesville Rock City’, left myself feeling a sensation of nostalgia and somewhat disbelief that to this day the band still feel as impressive as they did when they released the album back in 1998. Needless to say, I played through ‘Hello Rockview’ in its entirety as I ventured home, reliving some of my fondest childhood days.
Growing up listening to Less Than Jake I ventured into this show cautious, hoping my fond memories of the music I grew up listening to weren’t going to be butchered live, as has been the case with so many other bands these days. However, I can gratefully say that I was not disappointed but rather overwhelmed and impressed with the breath-taking performance the band put on. Less Than Jake pulled out all the stops for this show, fulfilling my teenage dreams of seeing them live.
Less Than Jake have been on the scene for roughly 25 years but from the performance tonight you would be forgiven for thinking they had only just begun. Is this show the most defining in the band’s career? Probably not, but I can argue that it is the perfect homage to one of the most influential ska punk albums of the late 90’s. The band were able to bring back an incredible classic to the shores of Britain, proving that ska isn’t quite dead (yet).