Flatfoot 56 provided a more entertaining set than I probably could have expected. I'm not huge on the Celtic punk thing, but they had an aggressive, gruff punk delivery that made it sound decent enough, and they definitely sounded pretty tight. They kicked out a rad cover of Screeching Weasel's "Cool Kids" too (though it strangely reminded me Off with Their Heads with Flatfoot's vocal style). If I was only halfway into it, though, the crowd more than made up for it–the band garnered an impressive circle pit reaction on their very first song. Before said song was over, Flatfoot requested some clapping, and the crowd obliged. And yet, the band was still hungry: "You need to move around," one of the guitarists told the audience. "This is no place for wussies." Yeesh. What more do you want, guy?
One interesting thing Flatfoot 56 mentioned was "all the old people here who saw Less Than Jake 10 years ago" (I don't remember the exact context) and it astounded my cousin and I that we almost fell in this category. While we probably discovered the band somewhere in the neighborhood of 2000-2001, we didn't see them until Warped Tour 2003. While that's almost a decade already, there were plenty of folks here far older than us, even. But I guess that just meant we were closer to them in spirit than the surprising amount of teenagers in attendance here.
When Flatfoot 56 ended promptly at 8:00 and A Wilhelm Scream came on 15 minutes later, things seemed to be running smoothly. This was a good thing. And with "hometown" favorites A Wilhelm Scream (who are really from New Bedford, at least an hour south of the Middle East here) tapped for a one-off with this lineup, the show was hitting a high point. The band blasted through 10 fan favorites with ease and precision and the audience generally going bonkers in response; the front was divided between raucous push-pitting and rows of those simply singing and pointing along. Middle East security, usually bearing down a zero-strike policy regarding crowd surfing and stage diving, simply pulled enthusiastic bodies off each other onto the floor, letting them enjoy the rest of the show instead of kicking them out. That definitely helped the vibe. Nuno Pereira said they couldn't be happier to accept the invite from Less Than Jake to open for them and (especially) Samiam; later during Samiam's set, him and bassist Brian J. Robinson could be seen right up front during their set singing along.
Set list (8:15-8:48):
We Built This City! (On Debts and Booze)
Me vs. Morrissey in the Pretentious Contest (The Ladder Match)
When I Was Alive: Walden III
Famous Friends and Fashion Drunks
Hike [Smackin' Isiah song]
The King Is Dead
Samiam compared themselves to a baseball team's setup man and the fanfare for such a spot was probably about the same as it is as baseball stadiums–the band had plenty of enthusiastic singing along up front, but it was mostly polite head-nods the rest of the way down the floor of the Middle East. Any time I see Samiam, it's been like that. It probably doesn't help that frontman Jason Beebout's vocals always seem super low; maybe it's a mix of him not singing loud enough and the sound system neglecting his vocals to begin with. Granted, the guy can put on a pretty passionate display, even if he doesn't seem to move too far from this little five-foot radius he seems to limit himself to on stage. It was a solid enough set (though no "Stepson?" Damn.), but the audience was definitely at its most sedated during these 40 minutes. When the band suddenly realized they only had time for one more song, they busted out "Mexico," and it just seemed sort of anticlimactic. That jolt really hurt any natural finish that at least could have ended things on a great note instead of an awkward one.
Set list (9:04-9:44):
She Found You
something from either of the last two albums
something from either of the last two albums
Then it was time for Less Than Jake, celebrating their 20th anniversary. When vocalist/guitarist Chris Demakes was talking about the band's surprise new EP, Seasons Greetings from Less Than Jake (released just a few days prior), he was explaining how the band wanted to continue touring but didn't want to be looked at as just a nostalgia act. But his tone and facial remarks indicated some self-deprecation and sarcasm in that statement, which was pretty refreshing, since he was just reflecting the probable spirit infecting much of the crowd. Still, there were a lot of younger kids in the crowd, and they were running around, pushing each other and skanking along in a sloppy pit along with the likely drunken 30-plus-year-olds. Opener "Gainesville Rock City" alone had half the room pogo-ing.
Hell, I was probably sticking around more for nostalgia than anything myself. I didn't expect to be THRILLED, but a lot of those old Less Than Jake bangers hold up really well ("All My Best Friends Are Metalheads," "How's My Driving, Doug Hastings?"), so the set was pretty enjoyable from a safe distance.
Every Less Than Jake tour, they tend to do a little something different between the childish jokes and playful jabs at each other for further entertainment purposes. For this, they brought one of those "flying cash" booths on tour, where participants have a certain time to grab dollar bills caught in an artificial windstream while everyone else watches and laughs. First, as they played the theme song to Animaniacs (from their TV/EP), they brought a girl on stage who collected far more cash than asked to win her prize of assorted merch; but she looked visibly uncomfortable when the band told her that her additional prize was a kiss from their merch guy. Awkward. Thankfully, he never seemed to make the trek from merch table to stage. (I don't think the girl's Blood for Blood shirt-clad boyfriend would have been too pleased with that, anyway.) A fellow attending his 51st (or 52nd?) Less Than Jake show later hopped in the cash room and lost by a dollar (during the SpongeBob SquarePants theme, led by an impressive impersonation of Painty the Pirate by saxophonist JR), but was awarded some stuff anyway.
Otherwise, you know what to expect from these guys by now: Some of the better ska-punk jams of the last 20 years played tightly by professionals, with plenty of mildly humorous banter and inside jokes being passed around between songs. Even if you attend just to romanticize select moments from the band's timeline, you'd get your money's worth.
Set list (10:05-11:10):
Gainesville Rock City
All My Best Friends Are Metalheads
9th at Pine
The New Auld Lang Syne
Overrated (Everything Is)
Johnny Quest (Thinks We're Sellouts)
The Science of Selling Yourself Short
Short Fuse Burning
Help Save the Youth of America from Exploding
Channel 3 (Animaniacs theme)
Goodbye Mr. Personality
Plastic Cup Politics
Channel 10 (SpongeBob SquarePants theme)
History of a Boring Town
Rest of My Life
Jen Doesn't Like Me Anymore
How's My Driving, Doug Hastings?
new song from Seasons Greetings from Less Than Jake EP
Look What Happened