Monday Oct 23
Mar
28/16
Tour Diary: Blake Taylor’s Less Than Jake-ation

From March 17th to the 20th, our own Blake Taylor flew out to Florida to follow Less Than Jake around on their run of shows celebrating the 20th anniversary of their hit album Losing Streak. Here’s a day by day diary of Blake’s excursion that he refers to as his Less Than Jake-ation

INTRO

There are numerous factors that go into choosing a favorite band. The way the music sticks in the listener’s mind for days on end causing multiple moments of musical clarity amidst the noise of everyday life is an important one. The relationship between the band and its fans, on and off stage, is quite another. Or the connection one makes to the lyrics; whether or not their original meaning has anything to do with the listener’s real life experiences. In this case, the band has created multiple records that can be played from start to finish without the temptation to skip to the next track. 1Orlando1-Universal

[Related: Backstage: a Less Than Jake Story]

To celebrate the 20th anniversary release of the 1996 Capitol Records release Losing Streak, Less Than Jake embarked on a brief tour where concertgoers could hear the album in its entirety, along with a follow-up night to play their subsequent 1998 album, Hello Rockview. Dates were scheduled for the East Coast and the Mid-West so I decided to make a pilgrimage to LTJ’s home state of Florida to hear the albums 4-nights in a row beginning in Orlando with a drive down to Ft. Lauderdale to close out the brief stretch.

Kicking off a 4-day tour on St. Patrick’s Day can be dangerous due to the amount of beer imbibing that takes place. Although I am a seasoned professional, despite the disappointment in my mother’s eyes when she reads this, I decided to play tourist at Universal Studios prior to the first show. It was a long, humid day drinking Duff Beer in Springfield and Butter Beer on Diagon Alley before finishing off with a Red Stripe at Bob Marley: A Tribute to Freedom; a beautiful replica of Marley’s home on 56 Hope Road in Kingston, Jamaica, yet nothing was going to deplete my adrenaline.

DAY 1 – March 17th, 2016

Date: Thursday, March 17, 2016
Line Up: Less Than Jake, Beebs and Her Money Makers, The Attack
Venue: The Social, Orlando, FL

The Social was a lot smaller than one would imagine Less Than Jake, who is completely capable of packing venues holding thousands in capacity, would play. However, the intimate setting provided the perfect place to experience Losing Streak in all its energetic glory and gave a nice glimpse into what it may have been like to see this band when they began close to a quarter of a century ago.

Orlando’s The Attack opened up the first night with their unadulterated punk/hardcore sound. If you have any interest in old school Rise 1Orlando8-LTJAND2474 Against or Good Riddance, they are right up your alley. After the mosh pit subsided, local Orlando act Beebs and Her Money Makers took the stage. Their unique blend of ska and funk delighted everyone’s eardrums with every note while Beebs’ serene, yet powerful, voice captivated the crowd.

[Related: Getting To Know Beebs & Her Money Makers]

Fortunately, no one passed out from heat stroke in the close quarters and Less Than Jake took the stage and immediately dove into Losing Streak with “Automatic,” which set the tone for the night and got the tiny pit going. Chris Demakes took the time in between tracks to give some history of a few of the songs, making the meaning much more valuable. For example, “107” was written about their shitty apartment during college in Gainesville, with paper-thin walls that looked like it “could have had a glory hole” to those who felt so inclined.

Drummer Vinnie Fiorello, who writes all of the song’s lyrics, wrote “Rock-n-Roll Pizzeria” as an ode to Chris, who worked as a pizza boy to pay the rent and undoubtedly drove with his “hand on the wheel and the other out the window with a smile on his face” and his middle finger up.

One thing is for sure, if Less Than Jake ever disbanded (God forbid), Chris will have a promising career as a stand-up comic. Security Guard “214” was standing on the side of the stage, responsible for keeping control of crowd surfers, and Chris convinced the crowd to chant his name a couple of times. The now infamous “214” said he was tempted to surf himself at one point but needed to keep his job. It was going to be interesting to see if some of the same jokes would be used the following nights.

Less Than Jake Set-List:
1.) Automatic
2.) Happyman
3.) 9th at Pine
4.) Sugar in Your Gas Tank
5.) Shindo
6.) 107
7.) Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts
8.) Krazy Glue
9.) Never Going Back to New Jersey
10.) How’s My Driving, Doug Hastings?
11.) Just Like Frank
12.) Ask the Magic 8 Ball
13.) Dopeman
14.) Jen Doesn’t Like Me Anymore
15.) Rock-n-Roll Pizzeria
16.) Lockdown
Encore:
17.) Good Enough
18.) Look What Happened (The Last Time)
19.) Overrated (Everything Is)
20.) Give Me Something to Believe In, Inc.
21.) Ghosts of You and Me

DAY 2 – March 18th, 2016

Date: Friday, March 18, 2016
Line Up: Less Than Jake, The Attack, Wolf-Face
Venue: The Social, Orlando, FL

Fighting off the hangover, I made my way to the Social for Hello Rockview and arrived early to chat with people and see who had seen the show the night before. Much of the pre-show time was spent in front of The Social talking to Nick and Nicole about the local music scene and how easy it was to bribe their parents into babysitting for the night. The quietness of Orange Avenue the day after a chaotic St. Patrick’s Day was easily observable until Wolf-Face took the stage.

Dawning wolf masks and 1980s style basketball uniforms, the Teen Wolf-inspired band started day 2 in Orlando off with quite a howl. Even though the small venue only fit a few hundred people, The Social was at standing room only and the crowd leered and cheered, a response not often given to opening acts.
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The Attack was back for the second night as well. Although I am not familiar with their songs, I believe their set list differed from the night before. Even if they played the same song, it was a good chance to familiarize myself with what they have to offer. They did, however, play some songs off of their newest EP to be released on Vinnie’s Paper + Plastik Records.

Thanks to Less Than Jake, I was able to gain access to the shows with no problem giving me a chance to hand out miracle tickets to the unfortunate souls who were not able to purchase theirs ahead of time. The friendly faces I conversed with before the show packed the front of the stage. The rooftop city-scape theme of the stage, including Vinnie’s window-lit bass drum, riled up the crowd ready to hear Hello Rockview.

Chris Demakes’ interaction with the audience is always entertaining as he singles people out throughout the set. One girl, fanning herself in the venue heat, caught his attention. “You know how you expend more energy eating celery than the nutrients you get while eating it?” he asked before telling the gentlemen next to her to do the fanning for her. One inebriated fan even had the chance to get up on stage but had obviously drunk a little too much to make any sort of coherent sense. At least the band gave him a shot to give his two cents, whatever that might have been.

Chris told a story about the recording sessions when Buddy Schaub played a really catchy trombone tune. “What is that?” he asked. “It’s just something I play to warm up,” Buddy responded, which transformed into an album favorite “Nervous In the Alley.” Perhaps the most memorable moment was the entire crowd belting out the theme for “Cinco de Mustache,” a small clip sang during the Ska Against Racism Tour in 1998 that can be heard after “Richard Allen George…. No, It’s Just Cheez.”

The encore included their anthem “Rest of My Life” beginning with an acoustic style intro before leading into a full band bridge. Vinnie could be seen pointing his drumstick to the sky, eyes closed, singing along with intensity. It reminded me of It’s Not Dead Fest when Vinnie told me each of these songs hold special meaning.

Atlanta Braves General Manager John Coppolella was also in attendance who happens to be a huge Less Than Jake fan and provided the Evo Kid with his Fred McGriff jersey for the evening.

Less Than Jake Set-List:
1.) Last One Out of Liberty City
2.) Help Save the Youth of America From Exploding
3.) All My Best Friends Are Metalheads
4.) Theme Song for H Street
5.) Nervous in the Alley
6.) Motto
7.) History of a Boring Town
8.) Great American Sharpshooter
9.) Danny Says
10.) Big Crash
11.) Five State Drive
12.) Richard Allen George… No, It’s Just Cheez
13.) Scott Farcas Takes It on the Chin
14.) Al’s War
Encore:
15.) Good Enough
16.) The Science of Selling Yourself Short
17.) Plastic Cup Politics
18.) Rest of My Life
19.) Gainesville Rock City

DAY 3 – March 19th, 2016

Date: Saturday, March 19, 2016
Line Up: Less Than Jake, Beebs and Her Money Makers, Fallen From the Sky
Venue: Culture Room. Ft. Lauderdale, FL

When you take a trip to Florida to see one of your favorite bands two nights in a row and notice they are also playing the following two nights, three hours South, what else are you supposed to do? I would have regretted not making the trip to Ft. Lauderdale so I rented a small car and hopping on Florida’s Turnpike with LTJ’s record See The Light turned up as high as the little Hyundai speakers would go.

I arrived at my motel and took a quick power nap before having a few at the Irish Pub next to the Culture Room. I did not catch much of local act Fallen From the Sky, which was unfortunate because their 3 guitars, in addition to the bass, had me intrigued, but I enjoyed what I heard.

The Culture Room looked like an island venue straight out of Hawaii or Jamaica. The gigantic tiki head overlooked the outdoor patio where the bands set up their merchandise tables and patrons spoke and smoked with each other. I had purchased some Less Than Jake merchandise in Orlando, including the last stash box from their annual Wake and Bake Weekend in Gainesville, and I knew I wasn’t done. Less Than Jake is one of those rare bands that have the merchandise game down and will always be a band I’ll represent no matter where my travels take me. FtLauderdale7-LTJ3

Another bonus for the trip to Southern Florida was seeing Beebs, trumpet player Bunky Garrabrant, and the rest of Beebs and Her Money Makers again. Their music hits the soul and makes any heart beat to their upbeat rhythms. Bassist Levon White has so much range it’s always interesting to see him go from intense speed to a funky solo at the drop of a dime. Beebs never ceases to amaze me with her constant smile and unique style. Her capacity to go from heart dropping melodies to hardcore metal vocals makes one ask, “Is she of this world?”

Less Than Jake took to the stage again with “Automatic” and triggered the first circle pits of the night, which did not seem to stop. They told different tidbits about the tracks, such as how they were almost sued for “Krazy Glue.” I must have been too into the set because my jumping around on the stairwell during “Just Like Frank” caused some of my beer to spill onto the bartender’s head below me. I felt terrible, and only had a $5 bill on me, so I gave it to her to buy a bottle of shampoo or a drink after work to forget about my accidental classless move.

They also made a point to recognize the fans for keeping their career alive, something they never seem to take for granted all of these years later, before going into “Ask the Magic 8 Ball” clarifying it was, “not that kind of 8 ball.”

“Jen Doesn’t Like Me Anymore” is always a crowd-pleaser, but does not contain horns until the last few seconds. Watching Buddy throughout the entire song doing what Chris called his version of Hatha Yoga was a highlight of the set. It was also refreshing because Chris told a joke about Bikram Yoga in Orlando, which does not count as the same joke. The crowd chanted the usual “LTJ! LTJ! LTJ!” before the band returned for their encore. Needless to say, my second time seeing Less Than Jake play Losing Streak in three days was just as fun as the first.

Less Than Jake Set-List:
1.) Automatic
2.) Happyman
3.) 9th at Pine
4.) Sugar in Your Gas Tank
5.) Shindo
6.) 107
7.) Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts
8.) Krazy Glue
9.) Never Going Back to New Jersey
10.) How’s My Driving, Doug Hastings?
11.) Just Like Frank
12.) Ask the Magic 8 Ball
13.) Dopeman
14.) Jen Doesn’t Like Me Anymore
15.) Rock-n-Roll Pizzeria
16.) Lockdown
Encore:
17.) Good Enough
18.) Look What Happened (The Last Time)
19.) Overrated (Everything Is)
20.) Ghosts of You and Me

DAY 4 – March 20th, 2016

Date: Sunday, March 20, 2016
Line Up: Less Than Jake, The Attack, Fallen From the Sky
Venue: Culture Room, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

After three days I was surprised I was still standing. Pushing myself out of bed, I slowly made my way to the Egg ‘N You Diner down the street for a delicious Southern breakfast. Wait… it was more like a lunch. Either way, my stomach was full and I was ready for my afternoon nap to replenish what energy was left for the second time seeing Hello Rockview in the last few days. I surely hope they didn’t think I was stalking them.

Closer to show time I made my way to the same Irish pub from the night before to have a pre-show dinner and pint. There seemed to be more punk fans than the night before because the jukebox had a lengthy playlist of Strung Out, Pennywise, and Bad Religion. It was at that time I met Nick and Bobby; feeling sorry for me because I was by myself they adopted me as their friend for the night and we walked to the Culture Room for the final show of my Florida tour. FtLauderdale9-LTJ5

I would like to personally apologize to Fallen From the Sky because I was too busy socializing in the courtyard and missed their set again. Arriving at the merch booth, to my surprise, two guitar picks with the covers of Losing Streak and Hello Rockview printed on them were left for me by bass player Roger Lima. At The Attack’s booth I learned they wrote a song that they sang in a few different languages with the help of language experts, a stunning feat for any artist.

At the end of the show, instead of the crowd chanting the usual “LTJ! LTJ!” everyone sang a well-organized and memorable punk version of “Olé, Olé, Olé!” After the show some guy offered me a joke for a cigarette:

Q: How many rude boys does it take to change a light bulb?
A: 4; 1 to drop the ladder and 3 to pick it up, pick it up, pick it up.

Later, I was able to chat with Peter “JR” Wasilewski about how a mutual friend introduced him to the band when they were in need of a saxophone player around fifteen years ago. We also talked about our shared love of baseball and how he’s had the opportunity to visit multiple major league ballparks and hopes to visit every single one in the coming years. I thanked Vinnie for letting me follow them around for the last four days and asked when they would be going on a Pezcore tour to which he quickly responded, “Never.”

Meeting a band whose music you have enjoyed throughout a majority of your life is quite an experience. Getting to meet them a second and third time while learning how humble they are is quite a relief, but also not that surprising. It’s a trip that I will not soon forget.

Less Than Jake Set-List:
1.) Last One Out of Liberty City
2.) Help Save the Youth of America From Exploding
3.) All My Best Friends Are Metalheads
4.) Theme Song for H Street
5.) Nervous in the Alley
6.) Motto
7.) History of a Boring Town
8.) Great American Sharpshooter
9.) Danny Says
10.) Big Crash
11.) Five State Drive
12.) Richard Allen George… No, It’s Just Cheez
13.) Scott Farcas Takes It on the Chin
14.) Al’s War
Encore:
15.) The Science of Selling Yourself Short
16.) Plastic Cup Politics
17.) Gainesville Rock City

In Closing…

Less Than Jake will be on the Warped Tour this year, playing alongside Reel Big Fish, New Found Glory, Teenage Bottlerocket, Pepper, Ballyhoo!, Masked Intruder, Sum 41, and many others this summer.

You can purchase Less Than Jake’s latest record See The Light through Fat Wreck Chords by clicking HERE!


Related Links:
Less Than Jake website
Less Than Jake Facebook
Beebs and Her Money Makers website
Beebs and Her Money Makers Facebook
The Attack Facebook
Wolf-Face Facebook
Fallen From the Sky Facebook


Article and Photos by: Blake Taylor


More Photos…
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