Something about pairing the twin titans of ska-punk brought out every 30-something in Lawrence Friday night. Also, their kids. Hell, even my kid was there with his roommate. It seemed like the in place to be. And why not, really? While it’s a legitimate argument that neither Less Than Jake nor Reel Big Fish have put out a good album in the last decade, the energy and fun of their live shows is undeniable.
It’s weird, because I’ve seen Less Than Jake so many times at this point that I’m never quite certain as to which show I’m remembering. Given that the band’s had a pretty steady lineup as of late, with a setlist that’s always sure to include “Look What Happened” and “Automatic,” it’s basically like the ska version of those REO Speedwagon, Boston, or Foreigner shows that played every summer for most of my childhood. It’s great that they’re still releasing new material, but I basically just want to hear “Riding the Storm Out” or “More Than A Feeling.”
But nostalgia aside, everybody’s voices are holding up, they don’t look wrinkly and sad while jumping around on stage, and the crowd’s got enough money to buy merch. I think we all win.
Jesus Christ, Reel Big Fish. The Granada was sweaty and packed by the halfway point of their set. It was a perfect example that, despite the fact that Aaron Barrett is the only original member, the band’s managed to remain a fantastic live act. You’d think that the loss of Dan Regan and Scott Klopfenstein would’ve rendered the band a pale imitation of itself, but Reel Big Fish remains a live act of impressive energy. Hell, they rocked a cover of “Monkey Man” which managed to be of quality, despite being a cover of Amy Winehouse covering the Specials covering Toots & the Maytals. I might’ve been drunk as shit by the halfway point of their set, but I could’ve watched them all night.
Authority Zero kicked everything off. They’ve been around for years, always seeming to glom onto the opening slot for a third-wave ska act making the rounds. They’re the amalgamation of every heavy pop-punk band that ever had a ska song (see also: Wank, Schleprock), and while energetic, completely failed to grab my interest. Authority Zero gives their all on stage, for sure, with a frontman who’s constantly in motion, but they’re that thing that kills me: talented, but utterly unremarkable. Not a single song turned me off, but neither was there anything which had me writing down lyrics to track it down afterward.
Fun fucking times, people. Wallowing in nostalgia might be sad at times, but sometimes it can be a glorious celebration of shit that’s fun and exciting. It’s always a pleasant thing to discover that sometimes, you can revisit your youth, and thank god — it’s actually something worth going back to.