Ska is one of those genres that many people consider dead. The genre has seen heydays in the late 1950s with bands like Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, in the late 1970s with bands like The Specials, and most recently in the 1990s with Reel Big Fish and Save Ferris. Since the 90s boom, ska has been a dormant genre at least in the mainstream but a booming underground ska scene still exists in certain areas of the country. Inexplicably, one of those areas is Connecticut; this is evident by the jam packed Less Than Jake show at Hartford’s Webster Theater.
Less Than Jake hit their commercial peak with 2003’s Anthem which reached number 45 on the Billboard 200, yet their following remains strong especially among ska fans from the mid-1990s. Less Than Jake’s 90s albums Pezcore, Losing Streak, and Hello Rockview are considered ska/punk essentials. The band is currently touring to support a rereleases of two of those three records in March.
Touring to support rereleases of their classic material meant that Less Than Jake played a set packed with classics. The set kicked off with “Shindo” from Losing Streak. The set contained “Automatic” from Losing Streak as well as “Last One Out of Liberty City”, “All My Best Friends Are Metalheads”, “Help Save the Youth of America from Exploding”, and “Scott Farcas Takes It on the Chin” from Hello Rockview.
The rest of the set was a mish-mash of tracks from the band’s five other albums and four EPs. The band played several selections off of last year’s TV/EP including covers of the The Animaniacs and Spongebob Squarepants theme songs. The set, of course, featured many tracks from the band’s biggest commercial success, Anthem. Selections from Anthem included “Look What Happened” and the band closed their main set with “Plastic Cup Politics”. The band’s three song encore included both “The Science of Selling Yourself Short” and “The Ghosts of Me and You” from Anthem.
While the set list was sure to delight both fans new and old, the big draw with Less Than Jake is their in-between song antics. The band pull a girl on stage with the hopes of having her stage dive. With the gap between the stage and the crowd, the band got a little nervous if the girl could actually make the jump so pudgy lead singer, Chris Demakes tried the jump first. He just barely made it into the crowd but definitely hit his shin on the metal barrier. He made sure to show the crowd the lump and bruise that formed on his shin as a result of this. The girl did end up trying the jump to much better success than Demakes.
During another part of the set, a girl in the front row was seen yawning. Demakes asked the girl to come on stage and then to “wake her up” had her compete in a push-up contest with trombonist, Buddy Schaub. Then during the next song, they had the girl do jumping jacks for the entire song.
These types of antics kept the show light-hearted and fun and gave the fans a different experience than just a fast set with little interaction. The crowd poured out into the snow covered streets of Hartford feeling hot, sweaty, and fulfilled.