Less Than Jake Kicks off 2019 Concert Season At New Jersey’s Starland Ballroom Also, on the nights ticket Anti-Flag, The Backyard Superhero’s & The Jukebox Romantics
SAYREVILLE, NJ – Gainesville Florida ska/punk band Less Than Jake kicked off their 2019 tour season with a stop at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville NJ on Feb 22, 2019. LTJ has been a driving force in the ska/punk scene for over twenty years and has earned a reputation for delivering fun, fast paced shows that incite their fans to sing and skank the night away.
Getting things started tonight were two local bands, The Backyard Superheroes & The Jukebox Romantics.
First up were The Backyard Superheroes, a local ska band with a great following. Known for their high energy shows, the Superheroes are Josh on guitar and vocals, Bex on baritone sax and vocals, Gary on tenor sax, Ryan on drums, Brian on trombone, Matt on guitar, Greg on bass and special guest Chris Lucca of Suburban Legends filling in on trumpet for Erin who’s out on maternity leave.
The Superheroes most recent album Never Give up, Never Surrender dropped this past September and comes highly recommended. The Superheroes were a great addition to this show with a big crowd showing up early to catch their set. Big thanks to the band for allowing photos for the duration of their set, it would be impossible to photograph them all in three songs!
The NY based Jukebox Romantics were also a great addition to this lineup, delivering a solid performance of hard driving punk tunes for the early crowd. The Romantics are Terry on guitar and vocals, Norm on drums and Bob on bass, their latest album Sleepwalk Me Home dropped this past October via Paper & Plastic.
Stylistically the Romantics were a great addition to this show because they balanced out the punk portion with Anti-Flag. The Romantics had a great melodic punk sound that the crowd really enjoyed, responding with a large circle pit. I’m always amazed by how much noise three-man bands can make and this was no exception. The Jukebox Romantics were a solid punk band, and I look forward to catching a full set of their music sometime in the near future!
While Anti–Flag is known as a punk band, I’m not so sure that tells the entire picture. IMHO, their music does incorporate a strong punk musical style, however their lyrics are so politically and socially charged you could very easily call them activist. With our current political situation providing unlimited inspiration AF writes songs about issues that really hit home with their fans, and clearly make some uncomfortable, but for what it’s worth AF has never been accused of playing it safe.
Anti-Flag has been a band since 1992 and is Justin Sane on guitar and vocals, Chris Barker on bass and vocals, Chris head on guitar and backing vocals and Pat Thetic on drums. AF’s latest music (EP) American Reckoning dropped in 2018 via Spinefarm Records.
AF took the stage and wasted no time getting the crowd involved, Chris Barker making no questions about the bands political leanings announcing the band is anti-racist, anti-fascist, anti-homophobe, and anti-Trump! The opening song “Die for Your Government” set a fast and hard pace that would carry over for the entire set. Justin Sane was a spectacle, shredding the lead guitar while Chris Head and Chris Barker laid the foundation with Pat Thetic on drums. One of the things that always amazed me at AF shows is the aerial stunts of bassist Chris Barker, who while playing complex bass lines still manages to pull off some rather sick air time.
It would be very difficult to not dive into the band’s politics in this review, but honestly no other band has the ability to politically ignite / incite an audience like AF can. AF played a total of thirteen songs during their set driving the crowd to mosh and surf creating a mass of moving, sweating bodies!
Less Than Jake members are Chris DeMakes on guitar and vocals, Roger Lima on bass and vocals, Buddy Schaub on trombone, Pete (JR)Wasilewski on sax and vocals and Matt Yonker on drums. LTJ has an extensive discography with their latest release (EP) “Sound The alarm” dropping in 2017.
Ska-punk shows are always a good time, the music is loud, the beer flowing and the crowd wild. Very few bands have the ability to bring their fans together like LTJ. Their shows are more like a community event of young and older fans, joining together to scream and skanking together. I’m not sure how this band does it, meshing solid veteran instrumentals and vocals with a loose approach. LTJ doesn’t seem to take themselves to seriously, while being a seriously solid band.
LTJ started their set with “Shindo” going back to their 1996 album Losing Streak delivering that unquestionable LTJ sound that the crowd couldn’t help but move to. Watching LTJ perform is something that needs to be experienced, from the comic (and constant) interaction between DeMakes and Lima, the band bringing fans on stage, JR’s smooth sax, Buddy Schaub getting the crowd fired up and let’s not forget the occasional confetti canons and toilet paper streamers delivered via leaf blower to round things out.
LTJ continued on their set hitting a few high marks in my book including the standard “Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts,” Never Going Back To New Jersey,” Sugar in Your Gas Tank” and a cover of Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive”. LTJ would go on to play twenty-two songs (including encore) spanning more than two decades of music driving their fans to dance and sing/scream along for the entire set.
I have a real pet peeve when it comes to other writers claiming a veteran band can still rock out, seriously what do you expect? Veteran bands like LTJ wrote the book on rocking out and set the standard for others to follow, there should be no surprise just high expectations. If you’ve never seen a LTJ show, its something you need to do!