Less Than Jake / The Swellers - live in Orlando (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Less Than Jake / The Swellers

live in Orlando (2009)

live show

Let's face facts, people: If you were a fan of third-wave ska at its peak (let's say from 1993-1998), chances are good that you're certifiably old by now. Y'know, you have a real job and a family to worry about, and skanking has simply lost its importance. Gone are your Hawaiian shirts and porkpie hats, relegated to the back of your closet in favor of more universally presentable fare (read: ties without black and white checkers) and the thought of heading out to a show on a weeknight is far from your mind. Not cool at all. But if you're afforded the chance to relive those wonderful years, if only for a night, it's definitely an enjoyable time.

I bring all of this up because the amount of (A) middle-aged folks and (B) middle-aged folks accompanied by their young children at a recent Less Than Jake show at House of Blues near Orlando was pretty staggering. Shit truly was all ages. And for what was the closest thing to a hometown show on this tour, it showed in the band's exorbitantly fun performance, and the decently-sized Friday night crowd was hot, to say the least.

(Click any image to see more.)


Boca Raton's Protagonist opened the show, a last-minute replacement for Cage who was reportedly banned from performing on Disney property, likely due to lyrical content. The crowd was largely indifferent to them, though, which was a shame; the band was energetic, sounded tight and their brand of politically-charged melodic hardcore is definitely underrated; the three-vocalist approach the band utilizes gives them a strong dynamic compared to a lot of similar acts. The songs from their full-length The Chronicle translate well in a live setting, but it's difficult for a band of this ilk to go over well on a show largely attended by ska-punk fans. Still, their effort was admirable and it made me give their recorded output another listen.



The Swellers were next, and took full advantage of an extended set time on this stop (40 minutes to their usual 28 they'd been alloted on previous shows of this tour) with a bevy of tight, anthemic pop-punk and had the initially tepid crowd eating out of their hands by the halfway point of their set. The last time I'd seen the band perform was at The Fest 8 in Gainesville and while they sounded great, I was slightly disappointed at the low number of songs they played from their excellent new full-length, Ups and Downsizing. That wasn't an issue here, as the Flint, MI quartet's set this night was definitely UAD-heavy, with "Do You Feel Better Yet?", "Feet First" and "Dirt" all surprisingly making the cut, along with the more expected inclusions of "2009," "Fire Away," "Welcome Back Riders" and "Sleeper." 2007's My Everest wasn't completely ignored, however; "Vehicle City," "The Flood," "This Is My Everest" and "Bottles" all made the cut, and the band played them with the same aplomb as their new material. Vocalist Nick Diener's improvement was evident, as was the depth added by the strategically-placed backup vocals of bassist Anto Boros and drummer Jonathan Diener. There were a small, but devoted core of kids down on the floor singing along to every word -- yours truly among them -- and I have a feeling that this number is rapidly multiplying before our eyes. The improvement the band has made in such a short time is downright alarming. It won't be long before the Swellers are headlining shows of this size.



After a refreshingly short break (and with Cage's music playing over the PA in a subtle protest of his ban from performing), Less Than Jake took the stage and performed an extraordinarily fun, hour-plus set replete with most of the band's 'hits' (although the band played neither "Gainesville Rock City" nor "Jonny Quest Thinks We're Sellouts"). There was also a large amount of amusing stage banter after virtually every song, ranging from poking fun at, and then ordering shots for members of HOB's security staff, bringing middle-aged fans on stage (one of whom was a schoolteacher that attended high school with trombonist Buddy Schaub, which Buddy hilariously and embarrassingly failed to remember), Chris Demakes heckling family members in attendance, Roger Manganelli quipping that the band gets booed less when they play songs from Losing Streak and Hello Rockview, and jokes about the members' advanced ages, among other things. Despite Roger's observation, the songs the band performed from Anthem seemed to yield the strongest crowd reaction on this night, with "Plastic Cup Politics," "Short Fuse Burning," "The Science of Selling Yourself Short," set closer "The Ghosts of You and Me" and encore closer "Look What Happened" all accompanied with room-wide sing-alongs; I must not be the only crazy person who thinks that it's Less Than Jake's best album.


Set list:

  1. Automatic
  2. Plastic Cup Politics
  3. Help Save the Youth of America from Exploding
  4. Last One Out of Liberty City
  5. National Anthem
  6. Liquor Store
  7. Anchor
  8. Sugar in Your Gas Tank
  9. All My Best Friends Are Metalheads
  10. The Science of Selling Yourself Short
  11. Conviction Notice
  12. Short Fuse Burning
  13. Scott Farcas Takes It on the Chin
  14. How's My Driving, Doug Hastings?
  15. The Ghosts of You and Me
  16. Nervous in the Alley
  17. Does the Lion City Still Roar?
  18. Look What Happened
Source: setlist.fm

Overall, a fine night out for those several hundred reminiscers who were willing to shell out the 29 dollars (thanks, Live Nation!) to see this show. All three bands delivered fine performances, aging ska fans got to show their kids yet another uncool side to them, and two promising bands continued their rise.