Less Than Jake brings the party to the Paradise

A Review of Less Than Jake at Paradise Rock Club on March 15, 2009

, Staff Writer

For over 15 years, Less Than Jake have made a career of living on the road and bringing a party to each city they visit. Touring in support of GNV FLA, the band’s seventh studio album, they hit the Paradise on Sunday night. Of course, in Boston around this time of year, the parties are plentiful. Still, Less Thank Jake managed to bring it to another level for the Boston crowd.

After I’ve spent the better part of my day staggering around Southie dodging vomit and chicks in green hats, I made it to the Paradise just as the band hit the darkened stage to the theme from "Satr Wars". Bopping, running and dancing around frenetically, Less Than Jake quickly made their presence known. The horns come alive, playing along to "Star Wars", soon to be joined by the guitars and drums in a hardcore science fiction ska-punk song and I’m taken for a moment of momentary nostalgia. Then the lights come on and Less Than Jake tears into "Conviction Notice" and the mass of people in the crowd below me start jumping and shaking and dancing around to the jumpy horns and crushing guitars. They scream along as Chris Demakes hollers "Tell ’em all to go to hell!" and suddenly the whole thing feels like a crazy party. For these veterans, it’s just another night with a bunch of friends.

Less Than Jake have been part of the pop punk scene for sixteen years, and they put every inch of heart into their shows. They banter constantly and profanely. When they’re not bantering they’re playing smart and catchy ska-punk songs about growing up and hitting the road and feeling stuck in a small town. Demakes proudly announces that they’re celebrating the third year anniversary of bassist Roger Manginelli’s divorce, calling his ex a "foul-mouthed woman," among other things. He makes more than one off-color joke, wears a shirt and tie he bought at the Goodwill next door, and checks to see if everyone’s okay after the bouncers remove some asshole who picked a fight. Then the band busts into "The Ghost of You And Me", dedicated, of course, to Mr. Manginelli’s former flame.
The set features tunes from throughout Less Than Jake’s seven-album catalogue, including a couple of obligatory wacky covers, in this case The Partridge Family’s "I Think I Love You" and a song from a TV commercial about pirates, restaurants, and identity theft. "Al’s War" and "Gainesville Rock City" are both kick-ass punk anthems, while "The Science of Selling Yourself Short" and "Plastic Cup Politics", both featuring Manginelli’s vocals, prompt singalongs from many in the crowd, including the fat guy next to me who was clearly even drunker than the aforementioned girls in green hats. The first part of the set closes with "Look What Happened", their biggest commercial hit and another crowd favorite.
After a very short break, Demakes returned to a dim stage with his guitar for the quiet, regretful "The Rest Of My Life". Joined by trombonist Buddy "Goldfinger" Schuab and some cheesy snowglobe confetti, the ballad was the only somber moment of the evening. The rest of the band joined them for "The State of Florida", tearing into the chorus while everyone screamed along "Too much, too soon, too little, too late!" Everyone wants more, but the show is over.
The crowd leaves, buzzing and trying to converse with ringing eardrums. I make my way out the doors into pleasant cool air, and I feel an adrenaline rush so powerful that I might have trouble sleeping tonight. Less Than Jake may be considered old-school in some circles, but these guys are as awake as ever and playing their hearts out. Sunday’s sold-out show is a testament to the longevity of a band who have seemingly outlived their scene.

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