LIVE: Less Than Jake / The Skints / Maricahi El Bronx @ O2 Academy, Brixton

By Christopher Lee

You know what they say about Thursdays being the new Fridays? Well Less Than Jake and Fireball are about to team up and show us exactly why that’s the case. We headed down to Brixton Academy to check out the inaugural Fuelling the Fire Tour and here’s how it panned out. No sooner had we gotten through the front doors then we were offered free shots of Fireball Whiskey which set pretty much set the tone for the rest of the evening. With red cups as far as the eye can see you could be forgiven for thinking you’d actually been transported to some frat party on an American college campus or in a scene from American Pie.

The Ska Punk rockers may not have had a studio release since the 2013 album ‘See the Light’ but looking at the number of people in tonight that certainly hasn’t stopped them pulling in a crowd. There’s no need to go into too much detail about Less Than Jake, but if you happen to have been under a rock for the last 24 or so years then, here’s what you need to know: There are five of them, they’ve probably been featured on one of those ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ compilation album things and their song ‘All My Best Friends Are Metalheads’ once featured in the hit film ‘Digimon: The Movie’ from 2000.

Before we get to that point, however, there’s some dancing to be done to get everyone in the perfect mood. Kicking off the evening are Los Angeles’ greatest ever Mariachi band, Mariachi El Bronx. The somewhat more chilled out alter ego of The Bronx these guys never fail to deliver a polished performance. Formed back in 2006 when they were asked to play an acoustic set as The Bronx, the band decided to challenge themselves musically and rather than dilute their hardcore sound they went in a completely different Latin direction. Taking to the stage in their ever impressive Mariachi get ups, Matt and the rest of the band get straight to it hitting us ‘Right Between the Eyes’ and those soothing Latin sounds soon get the room swaying along. The band runs through a faultless set which includes hits such as ‘Cell Mates’, ’48 Roses’ and ‘Litigation’. You can tell that the guys just love playing this stuff and they seem just as disappointed as the crowd when they bring their set to a close with ‘Revolution Girls’ but it’s been an absolute pleasure as always.

Now it’s time for everyone to get their skanking boots on as up next are London’s own, The Skints. The four piece have been dubbed the best modern British reggae music has to offer and true to tonight’s theme they’ve come to bring the party home. Storming on stage and jumping straight into ‘Rubadub (Done Know)’ they’re certainly full of energy even if the odd vocal isn’t quite there, but to be perfectly honest tonight, is a night for good times and not scrutinising. Their set is heavy on tracks from 2015’s release, ‘FM’, including ‘Tazer Beam’, ‘Friends & Business’ and ‘This Town’ which is for me the stand out moment from the set. There is however a very nice cover of Dawn Penn’s ‘You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No)’ which as you can imagine gets the whole venue singing. Closing on ‘Culture Vulture’ they’ve done a perfect job of getting the mood set for our next act to conquer the evening and believe me that’s exactly what they do.

On to the evenings headliners and as I mentioned before Less Than Jake have been around for well over 20 years now so you could say they know a thing or two about gigs. They probably also know a few things about partying and this set was most definitely a bit of both. Opening up with ‘Last One out of Liberty City’ the band just oozes energy and unsurprisingly there isn’t a single person in the venue standing still.  The second track arrives in ‘Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts’ and the band are flanked on stage by two crew members shooting toilet roll guns into the crowd. I hope everyone’s drinking heavily tonight asks singer Chris DeMakes? Especially out of those ‘Paper Cups’ the track comes to an end with a burst of confetti high into the air.

“Happy fucking Thursday” screams bassist Roger Lima. “We’ve definitely been way shittier than we sound tonight!” he proclaims, much to the amusement and also acknowledgment of those in the crowd who’ve probably been unfortunate enough to see them at their worst. We then get one of the funniest moments witnessed on stage in a while, as the band proceed to pick out two guys from the crowd and challenge them to a competition involving you guessed it… Fireball! “Let’s see which of you two can drink the most shots in the next two and a half minutes,” asks Chris before hitting us with ‘Sugar in Your Gas Tank’ followed by ‘Happyman’ & ‘9th at Pine’.  “I hope you guys like the old stuff?” asks Chris “we’re gonna play those because they’re better!

Now onto something which has been a privilege for us here at Punktastic and that’s our ‘Punktastic Request’ for the band to play on each night of this tour. Chris lets the crowd know just how awesome our site is… but of course you already knew that otherwise you wouldn’t be here… And tonight’s track is ‘The Ghosts of Me and You’ which is an excellent choice, so well done you beautiful people who chose it. This is followed up with ‘Overrated (Everything is)’ before Chris tells us he can’t see anything in here as it’s so foggy but we all look beautiful.

It’s then time to pull yet another member of the crowd up on stage for? You guessed it! Fireball shots and we’re all instructed to go out and stream, download, buy & steal their newest live at the Astoria album. They really don’t give a shit, just make sure we listen to the songs. ‘Good Enough’ is followed up by ‘Gainesville Rock City’ which ends with confetti explosions and streamers everywhere, forever being the sign of a good party. The band leave the stage to thunderous applause and chants of LESS.. THAN.. JAKE, but they’re not gone for very long. Returning for an explosive encore of ‘The Rest of My Life’, ‘Look What Happened’ and of course ending the evening with the incredible ‘All My Best Friends Are Metalheads’.  Two things are learnt from tonight: Less Than Jake are like a fine wine getting better with age, and hot damn they know how to throw a party!