Fun, fun, and more fun was the order of the evening as ska punk legends Less Than Jake and reggae rockers Pepper brought their high intensity show to The Fillmore this past Thursday. The evening started off a bit earlier than advertised and I walked into the venue in the midst of what appeared to be a crowd pleasing set by the opening band The Attack. The reggae punk mix of The Bunny Gang was up next. I wasn’t familiar with them prior to the show but they won me over quickly with a solid, high energy set led by lead vocalist Nathen Maxwell who worked the crowd like a seasoned pro. The band sounded tight and performed well together with lots of interplay between band members and the audience. It’s safe to say that we will be hearing and seeing a lot more of The Bunny Gang in the near future.
After the crowd was sufficiently warmed up, Pepper blasted onto the stage. The reggae rockers pack a solid punch for a three piece unit and things amped up quickly. Bassist Bret Bollinger and guitarist Kaleo Wassman have been friends since middle school and have played together so long they can anticipate each other’s movements and really put on a fun show. Pepper has an impressive full and lavish sound for a small band and they made it known to the audience shouting things like”Hey, give it up, there’s only three of us up here.” Bollinger has a fantastic stage presence and really played into the crowd, pointing and laughing as he talked about how everyone came to party and how Pepper wasn’t going to disappoint them. People were dancing and singing along and a good time was had by all. I was happy to see that some tunes from their latest 2016 release “Ohana” made it into the setlist and garnered as much appreciation from the crowd as the Pepper classics.
During the short break that followed, shouts of Jake! Jake! began as fans were eagerly waiting for Less Than Jake to take the stage. At just about 10:30 PM, confetti cannons shot out from each side of the stage as the band ran out and launched right into “All My Best Friends Are Metalheads,” a sure crowd pleaser. What followed was a master class of showmanship from the band as they went above and beyond to make sure every single person in the audience had a great time. Trombonist Buddy Schaub was on fire jumping and runing all over the stage as he posed for the crowd and played with everything he had as bassist Roger Lima pointed, clapped, and shouted at the crowd. The sound quality was superb and vocalist Chris DeMakes sounds as good as he did 20 years ago. Their set was all about the energy and the crowd fed off of it. There were a lot of hardcore Less Than Jake fans in the audience, including one young fan who was dancing around with a Less Than Jake hoodie on all night. He was up front and tried to get a selfie with the band in the background so the band brought him right up on stage to get a picture and do a little more dancing. It’s little things like that that make the fans truly appreciate a band and was a very classy move. The fun continued as a costumed character came out to shoot toilet paper all over the stage and the audience up front.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen so many people in the crowd letting loose as small groups of dancing were breaking out all over the venue floor as couples danced together and even groups of guys were dancing in circles with their arms around each other. With a 17 song set, there were plenty of opportunities for all to particiapte and Less Than Jake made sure that they did. A group up front had been screaming “Plastic Cup!” all night long and the band obliged with a rousing set closer of “Plastic Cup Politics.”
The night wasn’t over yet as Less Than Jake still had plenty of gas in the tank and came out for a three song encore. Kicking off with one of their biggest hits “The Science of Selling Yourself Short” followed by the roof raising “Gainseville Rock City,” the band was really tearing it up. The grand finale “The Ghosts of Me and You,” complete with more confetti cannons and smoke plumes shooting up around Vinnie Fiorello’s drum kit, capped off one hell of a show.
Less Than Jake has come a long way since 1995’s “Pezcore” days but they still have all of their youthful vim and vigor and haven’t lost a bit of energy. If you’re looking for a rip roaring good time, check out Less Than Jake when they hit up a venue near you.
Less Than Jake Set List:
All My Best Friends Are Metalheads
Sugar In Your Gas Tank
Last One Out of Liberty City
Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts
Look What Happened
The Rest of My Life
Overrated (Everything Is)
P.S. Shock The World
Rock n’ Roll Pizzeria
Plastic Cup Politics
The Science of Selling Yourself Short
Gainesville Rock City
The Ghosts of Me and You
We would like to thank Gray Strack from Reybee, Inc for the credentials to review the show.