Live Review: Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake

5 October 2015 | 6:42 pm | Paul Mulkearns

"it's no wonder their setlists read like a greatest hits compilations, but we can't imagine it would be better any other way."

More Less Than Jake More Less Than Jake

By the time five-piece ska-punk band Less Than Jake hit the stage Max Watt's is already packed to the rafters. Kicking things off with Good Enough the audience goes mental and even the crowd at the back start skanking. The banter and jokes between songs have the audience laughing and jeering. As well as this, some balloons get thrown out during Overrated (Everything is) and stay alive for most of the night; possibly to keep everyone happy with what are pretty depressing lyrics. Buddy Schaub even bounces a balloon off his trombone a few times.

At one point the boys get a couple of strangers up on stage to kiss each other for some reason. Their tunes, much like a lot of the '90s ska-punk from the States, are bright and bubbly and they can say a lot without losing the happy vibes, for example during All My Best Friends Are Metalheads. Less Than Jake head deeper into the ska sounds for Give Me Something To Believe In. And they remain there for the last few songs The Science of Selling Yourself Short, which gets a proper singalong as one might expect. They finish their set off aptly with Look What Happened.

The crowd ebbs and flows before Reel Big Fish are on, but whether anyone actually leaves is doubtful. Expecting to see mostly old songs, this reviewer is surprised when they open with Everyone Else Is An Asshole, but everyone else appears to have expected it, chanting along. They stay within the realm of hate with Another FU Song and The Kids Don't Like It before going more positive with Party Down. In between tunes they throw riffs from bands like AC/DC and even The Imperial March (aka Darth Vader's Theme). Trendy gets everyone doing the fish, at least singing the fish, and it's funny to note there's a lot more singing coming from the audience than when Less Than Jake were on. Also the banter between tunes is kept to a minimum, leaving more time for playing songs than anything else, which is most excellent. Other songs that get everyone skanking include Your Guts (I Hate 'Em), Where Have You Been? and their cover of Monkey Man by The Specials. The Horn solo in She Has A Girlfriend Now gets whistles and cheers, and it seems nobody minds two guys performing the duet. Before Reel Big Fish play their breakthrough hit Sell Out they play about a minute of Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana and this gets everyone properly riled up.

As an encore they play Beer, noting it's the same song as Self Esteem by Offspring. Finishing with their brilliant version of Take On Me by A-ha.

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It's been a few years between albums for both these bands so it's no wonder their setlists read like greatest hits compilations, but we can't imagine it would be better any other way.