Less Than Jake / Reel Big Fish - live in New York (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Less Than Jake / Reel Big Fish

live in New York (2007)

live show

Ska-punk's not dead! Not that it was ever really threatened.

Online information told me Against All Authority would start at 7:00, but by the time we actually entered the venue, indulged in the fine services of the Roseland Ballroom restroom and made our way back upstairs (6:40), the band was already tearing through the set. For a three-piece, they were devastatingly loud above all. Considering that factor, they also looked and sounded decent, but enjoyment really only goes as far as it does for their studio albums, which isn't exactly a marathon. Not a terrible time, though, and it seemed they certainly got the crowd moving early on.

Set list (?-6:55; incomplete):

  1. Dinkas When I Close My Eyes
  2. -----
  3. Hard as Fuck
  4. Sunshine Fist Magnet
  5. -----
  6. ?
  7. ?
  8. -----
  9. cover (?)
  10. -----
  11. Walking Revolution
Streetlight Manifesto were their usual selves, regarding their tight playing and set list. Every band member hollered along with the lines, while the brass section nailed every horn line, and every extended instrumental fit the context of the song perfectly. Per habit they squeezed in a shortened "Keasbey Nights" into "Point/Counterpoint," and it ended up being their sole Keasbey Nights-era song, but with a 34-minute set time no one seemed to mind entirely. Frontman Tomas Kalnoky has been mentioning at various tour stops that their new album is completed and tonight was no exception; however, Kalnoky failed to fill us in on any additional information. There was a surprising number in attendance for a band one would figure on calling cult faves by this point, and they were fairly rabid. The one new song they played was extremely brief and laced with the band's hyperactive upstrokes, but seemed solid enough.

Set list (7:20-7:54):
  1. We Are the Few
  2. Failing, Flailing
  3. -----
  4. new song
  5. -----
  6. That'll Be the Day
  7. Point/Counterpoint ["Keasbey Nights" within]
  8. -----
  9. Here's to Life
Ever since "Sell Out" first hit the airwaves in 1996, I've somehow managed to never come across Reel Big Fish in the live setting. However, I'd read enough about it and watched enough live footage of them in that the set was relatively predictable, if not pretty fun. The band went a full hour just about spanning their entire catalog, hitting all their live trademarks. This included Scott Klopfenstein's falsetto, which got a little old after several dozen wails. The band also played all seven genre takes on "S.R.": normal/reggae, punk rock, "sweet-ass" blues, disco, country western, death metal, and what one would assume was nü-emo (the verse had a weird Taking Back Sunday vibe, complete with crying at its end; Aaron Barrett qualified it by saying "that's right, bluegrass!"). Between each of those takes, Barrett would prop the band up as "masters of every genre," with drummer Ryland Steen slamming his kit and the band shouting "MASTER! MASTER!" Their Metallica fascination didn't end there, either: earlier on the band had played "Enter Sandman" all the way up to its first chorus. While not quite blowing me away, Reel Big Fish did put on an expectedly entertaining show.

Set list (8:20-9:24):
  1. Sell Out
  2. Another F.U. Song
  3. I Want Your Girlfriend to Be My Girlfriend Too
  4. -----
  5. Your Guts (I Hate 'Em)
  6. -----
  7. Ban the Tube Top
  8. -----
  9. You Don't Know
  10. -----
  11. She Has a Girlfriend Now
  12. -----
  13. The New Version of You
  14. -----
  15. Enter Sandman [Metallica cover up to its first chorus]
  16. The Set Up (You Need This)
  17. Where Have You Been
  18. Everything Sucks
  19. -----
  20. Hate You
  21. S.R. [1. normal/reggae, 2. punk rock, 3. blues, 4. disco, 5. country western, 6. death metal, 7. "emo"]
  22. Beer
  23. Take on Me [A Ha cover]
Speaking of entertaining, Less Than Jake has a refreshing setup for this particular tour. After the venue emptied out considerably (there was still a massive crowd there, but Roseland wasn't nearly as packed out as it usually is) and the band was called onto the stage game show-announcer style, the "Price Is Right"-style setup was revealed. The band's name was even in the same font on a center display, and Chris Demakes came out in a yellow suit and with a stupidly parodic host name ("Bob Boner," which sounded more like leftover material from The Mark, Tom, and Travis Show or a 1960s-era porn star).

The band ran through a couple songs including their terrible Bowling for Soup outtake ("Overrated (Everything Is)"), and then called up three "contestants" to play their little game show. After one fellow -- who probably thought he was awesome when he wrote his name as "Chuck Nasty" on the submission form -- was closest in answering Demakes (or Boner's) trivia question, he was allowed to step up to LTJ's Plinko board and drop a chip in. "Wherever the Plinko chip lands, we'll play that album!" declared Demakes. From where I was situated I couldn't explicitly see where the album covers were placed along the bottom of the Plinko board, but when I saw the chip nestle beside some pegs on the far right, I knew it...and immediately cringed.

"We're gonna play our best fucking record," Demakes enthused, "In with the Out Crowd!"

And with that, the crowd almost completely died. A whoooole lotta mere standing in place ensued, compared to the lively skanking and dancing the audience had been previously partaking in. Luckily, Demakes was exaggerating when he said the band would play that album -- really, it was only selections off it. Another bit of luck was that they picked the album's better songs, as you can see below. Along the way the frontman cracked comments about the backlash: "You know why I love this album so much? Because you guys hate it so much." After their first two selections off it, he added "[see], we're halfway through already!"

Fortunately, the next winning contestant spun a wheel with all the album covers that landed on Pezcore, and we were treated to five straight selections from the fan favorite. The band played one more planned song, left the stage and came right back with four more that ended it well.

Is Less Than Jake relying on live gimmicks to retain their potentially dwindling fanbase? One could argue it, but one could also argue that they're merely doing something a lot of bands don't have the financial luxury of doing: putting on an actual show, which they certainly did here. 15-some-odd years into the game, you can't blame them for trying to mix it up a little bit. It added a little humor to the set and nearly ensured the crowd would still get to hear some of their best material.

All in all, another fine show from the ska-punk vets, and giving a glimmer of hope that their next album won't, simply put, blow.

Set list (9:51-11:02):
  1. All My Best Friends Are Metalheads
  2. Overrated (Everything Is)
  3. Johnny Quest (Thinks We're Sellouts)
  4. -----
  5. History of a Boring Town
  6. Sugar in Your Gastank
  7. -----
    In with the Out Crowd:
  8. Soundtrack of My Life
  9. Let Her Go
  10. -----
  11. A Still Life Franchise
  12. -----
  13. P.S. Shock the World
  14. -----
  15. Liquor Store
  16. Big
  17. Growing Up on a Couch
  18. -----
  19. Out of the Crowd
  20. -----
  21. Three Quarts Drunk
  22. -----
  23. Look What Happened
  24. Encore:
  25. Rest of My Life
  26. My Very Own Flag
  27. -----
  28. Last One Out of Liberty City
  29. Gainesville Rock City