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Wilmington, Rock City: A Night with Less Than Jake!

Wilmington, Rock City: A Night with Less Than Jake!

What’s that? A show in Delaware? I’m sure it’s just some pop country act or a novelty one-hit wonder band. No? It’s a lineup filled with a few of the best acts in the current punk/pop punk scene? Get right out of town!

Alright, cheesy intro over. Delaware jokes never get old though. Listen, I’m doing my best not to offend natives of the first state, but let’s be honest, who comes to Delaware? That’s why when I found out one of my all-time favorite bands were playing a show at The Queen in the rarely visited state, I had to go.

Less Than Jake is a band that has ruled the ska punk scene for almost 3 decades! Not only, are they quickly approaching that 30 year mark but they’ve done it whilst still retaining their signature sound and a majority of their original members. Their up tempo, feel good tunes have allowed them to remain in the hearts of many over the years and, by the end of this show, they pretty much solidified themselves as my favorite band…period. So let’s stop screwing around and let’s get into this review.

Its Friday, February 16th. Hell, I’m giving this bonus points for being a show going into the weekend. Too often am I dreading attending a show simply because I have to work the next morning. So yeah, as I pull into the city of Wilmington, the hype level is over 9000. I’m joined by one of my best buddies, Manny Soto, who you might remember from our “Bowling for Soup” review. After getting felt up by security, hey man I understand the need especially in today’s society, we make our way to the barricade and park it.

The venue itself has changed quite a bit since the last show I attended. Five years prior to this night, I had attended a Reel Big Fish show at the formerly “World Café Live”. At this time the venue was almost restaurant first, concert venue second. Tables and chairs took up half of the dancing space; it looked more like a dinner theatre than a venue. That all being said, that show was great so I expected similar results for the show I was now attended. Fast forward 5 years, the venue has changed hands and is now known as The Queen. While the aesthetic remains the same, the tables and chairs are gone.

Bearings

It’s 7:10 and the first band takes the stage. It’s Bearings, a pop punk band out of Ottawa, Ontario. Let me start off by being 100% honest, this is a band that 5 years ago I would’ve hated. Their sound is more in tune with the modern day “easy core pretending to be pop punk sound” that ruled the Vans Warped Tour in more recent years. That being said, once I took off my bitter glasses, I found a genre that has a lot to offer and I began to appreciate it. Not all pop punk bands need to have that skate punk influence…and that’s okay. If I can get passed it, so can you. Alright, back to Bearings. These dudes completely destroyed the stage and got a crowd full of “old heads” moving! They put out a new EP last year titled “Nothing Here is Permanent”, and I’ve been listening to it nonstop since the show. If these guys come to a venue near you then you need to go see them. They’re a young group of talented musicians and I look forward to what’s up next as they move forward.

Direct Hit

My excitement is building. Anyone that knows me knows how much I love the next band, Direct Hit. Formed in 2007, Direct Hit is a punk band that has gone through multiple changes within the line-up, but retain those fast paced catchy tunes. My first experience with this band is when they released a split with one of my favorite bands, Mixtapes (RIP). Their video for “Werewolf Shame” led to the discovery of one of my current favorite bands that are keeping the scene alive. If you think good punk music is dead, I implore you to check out three bands: Direct Hit, PEARS, and Teenage Bottlerocket. I also swear I’m not a shill for “Far Wreck Chords”, however, I could talk for days about current and past bands on that label. That’s a story for a different time though. Back to the concert, “Fuck you, Get Pumped!” rings out through the crowd and we’re blasted through a roller coaster of fast riffs and the catchiest lyrics in the scene. All members of this band deserve respect and appreciation for continuing to kill it, so I’m just going to list them: Nick Woods (vocalist/guitar), Danny Walkowiak (drums), Devon Kay (guitar/vocals), and Steve Maury (bass/vocals)…I salute you!

Direct Hit

 

Four Year Strong

Next up is a band that was one of the originators of that “easy core” genre I mentioned above. While that means I should dislike them for influencing the plethora of acts that followed, and masqueraded as “pop punk”, I can’t help but admit that I’ve loved these guys since the beginning. Four Year Strong has remained an unstoppable force in the alternative scene since the release of “Rise or Die Trying” in 2007. On this night, they showed how they’ve held up over the years. The chugs and beards remain, these guys killed it. While I’m a little disappointed we didn’t get to sing along to some of their 90’s cover jams, they played a set that spans their four full length albums. I’ll admit, I bowed out on this band around album 3, “In Some Way, Shape, or Form”. It wasn’t on purpose, I just lost track and found myself listening to other bands. However, if this show made me realize anything, it’s that I need to get back on board with these dudes. Plus, they put out an acoustic record last year that’s totally been my jam since putting it on!

Four Year Strong

 

Less Than Jake

The main event…a band that was born the same year as I…ladies and gentlemen… LESS THAN JAKE! What more can I honestly say about this band that hasn’t been said before?! They’ve been killing it for over 2 and a half decades, and they show no signs of stopping. With 8 full length records, and a ton of EP’s under their belt, they’re a band that has retained their signature sound while also making slight adjustments to stay fresh. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing these guys twice before, and the show never gets old. They have enough tracks under their belt that, while the main tracks remain intact, the setlist changes each time. While I was a bit disappointed to not hear more tracks from my two favorite records, “Losing Streak” and “Hello Rockview”, it was an eclectic mix that spanned their almost 30 year career. From toilet paper laced leaf blowers to beach balls, these guys know how to keep a crowd engaged. Nothing will ever change, if these guys are in your area, that’s where the party will be. They will continue to be one of my favorite bands of all time.

Less Than Jake

While this tour is just about wrapping up, Less Than Jake is heading out with the boys in Face to Face for a co-headlining spring tour. Be sure to get tickets soon, as shows are already selling out!

About The Writer: 
Dylan Lyles – Staff Writer
The Phenomenal Dylan Lyles is an obsessive fan of cinema, pro wrestling, horror, vinyl, and comic books. Bursting from the womb in 1992, Dylan’s surrounded himself with all things geek culture. Earliest memories include Wrestlemania 11, ‘The Death of Superman,’ and Jason popping out of the water. You may see him sharing his opinion on just about everything on the internet or maybe even working the MonsterMania Con on the east coast. You love him and he loves you!
Twitter: @thedylanlyles

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Concert Review: Bowling For Soup Take Baltimore Soundstage By Storm!

Concert Review: Bowling For Soup Take Baltimore Soundstage By Storm!

“I swear, I did not eat the singer of Bowling for Soup”. This is the quote that pretty much sums up the night of April 4th, 2017 … and I mean that in the GREATEST WAY POSSIBLE! I’ve been a Bowling For Soup fan for as long as I can remember. While they reached their peak popularity in the late 90s/early 2000s, BFS has been steady releasing albums since 1994. They just released their latest album, the crowdfunded ‘Drunk Dynasty,’ on October 7th of last year. I can honestly say they’ve continued to put out catchy pop punk tunes record after record. “Pop punk” is a term used loosely here because even that term has become a label for modern “easy core” bands with little to no punk influence. It’s a travesty that these guys do not get the recognition that bands like Green Day or Blink 182 get; two bands that abandoned their original sound to appeal to the masses. Alright, I’m off my “get off my lawn” high horse. Let’s talk about the show!

Doors opened at 6 and after a lengthy meeting after school I found myself leaving the Shore of the Eastern around 4:30. I picked up my buddy Manny from his place of employment and we were on our way. Making great time, “Maps” projected us at pulling up as the doors opened. Ritchie Highway, my least favorite road of all time, had other plans for us. We sat in a 2 mile back up for 30-45 minutes. We didn’t understand! Most of the time Ritchie Highway is stop and go traffic to begin with; what kind of rear ending requires multiple fire engines, ambulances, and police cars. When we pulled forward we saw the damage. A tractor trailer completely flipped over with a pickup truck practically embedded into the bottom of it. Needless to say, we decided to drive with extreme caution from that point forward. We reached Soundstage around 6:45, grabbed my photo pass, and were off to the races. The first band up is one I’m very familiar with: Stacked Like Pancakes.

For anyone who read my Reel Big Fish “Turn the Radio Off” show review you would know that I really wasn’t a big fan of these guys. I can’t stress to you how wrong I was. I don’t know if I was just tired last show or grumpy, but these guys put on a hell of a show! The Baltimore natives, with the only horn section of the night, had the entire crowd “skanking” up and down the venue. As much as these guys “didn’t appeal to me” the first time around, I went right home and downloaded multiple albums of theirs off of iTunes after the show. I’m man enough to admit that when I’m wrong, I’m wrong. They were fantastic, and I still find myself humming the tune of “SFDD” this morning. Thankfully I’m only humming it … singing it could get me fired.

Next up was the band that sealed the deal for me and the main reason I decided to come out to this show, DIRECT HIT! These guys have been dropping fast-paced punk tracks since 2008, and I’ve been a huge fan of theirs since their 2010 split 7” with one of my all-time favorite bands, Mixtapes (RIP). Their 2013 concept album, ‘Brainless God,’ was one of my top 5 albums of that year, and their newest album, ‘Wasted Mind,’ is their first release on legendary punk label, Fat Wreck Chords. They’ve gone through so many different incarnations over the past 7 years but they haven’t missed a beat. I can truly say that these guys did not disappoint.  Led by founding member and vocalist Nick Woods, these guys left it all on the stage, treating every song like it was their last. Kicking off their set, they played a couple songs from their newest album before delving into a track off of their upcoming “Domesplitter” reissue, a collection of tracks from their earliest EPs. I think the only complaint I could have is that their set wasn’t longer, ranging only around 8 songs. This is understandable, but when they were finished … I WANTED MORE! There’s nothing else to say about these guys, except that if they come to your town — GO!

The next group up was the only band I wasn’t familiar with, Runaway Kids. I had listened to only one song of theirs, “Better Days,” on the way to the show and I was pretty psyched to hear some unfamiliar tunes. I think it’s fair to say that they were definitely the most aggressive/heavy band of the night. Their sound blends pure punk with the modern hardcore sound in a way that fits perfectly.

Vocalist, Gage Armstrong, commanded the stage in an almost intimidating fashion. They had the crowd in the palm of their hand. The entire band’s stage presence demanded the audience’s attention. Guitarist: Sean Chamilian, bassist: Korey Keeton, and drummer: RJ Shankle put everything into each intricate part of every song. I was a bit disappointed to reach the merch table to find they only have one 5 song EP. These guys are the next big thing in the scene, I have no doubt!

Alright, it’s time for the main event of the evening! The moment everyone has been waiting for! Bowling for Soup! The opening music kicked on and out they came. “Do not worry. I swear I didn’t eat the singer of Bowling for Soup!” yelled Jaret Reddick, well aware of his weight gain since the early days. It was at this moment where I knew we were in for a good time.

I had seen BFS before on Warped Tour a few years ago, but only got to catch the end of their set. Tonight I got the whole enchilada. I don’t think people realize how many hits they actually have. Besides the song off of the new album, which I picked up at the show, I knew every single track played. As did everyone in the crowd. It was a show full of singalongs, jokes, and the occasional satanic worship. These guys know how to have fun. Their self-deprecating humor really makes you appreciate the work they’ve put in as a band for over 20 years. The set kicked off with my personal favorite “My Hometown”, a song that I’ve always felt highlights Jaret’s unappreciated vocals. He really is a fantastic frontman, the best frontman alive if you were to ask him… and I’d be hard pressed not to agree. These guys killed it, from beginning to end; no other words to describe it.

It was a fantastic night from beginning to end. Each band appealed to the crowd while still providing their own unique sound. It was a fantastic mesh of punk, pop punk, and even a tiny tinge of hardcore. There are only four dates left on the tour but be on the look-out for each of these bands because none of them are slowing down any time soon!

About The Writer: 
Dylan Lyles – Staff Writer
The Phenomenal Dylan Lyles is an obsessive fan of cinema, pro wrestling, horror, vinyl, and comic books. Bursting from the womb in 1992, Dylan’s surrounded himself with all things geek culture. Earliest memories include Wrestlemania 11, ‘The Death of Superman,’ and Jason popping out of the water. You may see him sharing his opinion on just about everything on the internet or maybe even working the MonsterMania Con on the east coast. You love him and he loves you!
Twitter: @thedylanlyles

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