Gig review: Less Than Jake/ Mariachi El Bronx/ The Skints/ Kemuri (O2 Academy, Birmingham, 05/10/16)

Posted: October 17, 2016 in Liveage

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So, this was the ‘fireball’ tour. It was sponsored by fireball, which is apparently a kind of American whisky. I must say I had never heard of it before the gig. Although it was a sponsored tour, the fireball advertising wasn’t overkill, despite some ‘m ock marketing’ by Less Than Jake during their set (but that was mainly just an excuse to get some fans up on stage and dance). That 5 bands played for just £10 was pretty great, anyway. However, I must start this review by confessing that I actually missed the first band (blame British trains; this wouldn’t happen anywhere else in Europe), but apparently they were a Welsh pop-punk/pop-rock band called AMFX, who got onto part of the tour as competition winners. I have listened to the songs on their bandcamp a little bit (ok, once). They sound like an over-produced Motion City Soundtrack. End of review. Ok, time to move onto the bands I saw…

Right, so onto the second band of the night- Japanese ska-punk legends Kemuri…who I had never heard of before. Apparently, they formed in California in like 1995, but since re-forming, are now based in Tokyo. They are known for their Bad Brains-inspired PMA (positive mental attitude). Their set was pretty good. Fast-paced, energetic and catchy ska-punk; in the same ball-park as LTJ, but they have their own thing going on, too. Some songs are in Japanese and then some are in English. I’m just surprised that despite going a little bit of a ska-punk phase a few years back that I haven’t heard Kemuri before, especially since Roger from LTJ claimed that they were “bigger than Bieber in Japan”. Will be checking out their recorded stuff now!

The Skints were next up. The Skints are a ska-reggae band from London, who integrate soul elements into their sound. I like that they take influence from a number of different genres. There is no explicit ‘punk’ element to their sound, but they are more punk and  DIY in spirit. They definitely hark back to the 2 tone era and The Specials influence is clear. So much so, that I keep thinking that they are actually from Birmingham or Coventry, but then I hear them speak! They played the well-known stuff, like “This Town” and “Rat-a-tat”, and the crowd was definitely into it. Some real dancing contests going on. Their sound does become a little repetitive though and I certainly drifted off towards the end of the set. The lack of obvious hooks or melody is an issue, but overall, I still enjoyed it.

Band number four: Mariachi El Bronx. If you don’t know, this is the mariachi side project of punk band The Bronx. It is all the same band members as The Bronx; it is essentially The Bronx’s Mexican-inspired alter-ego. I have seen them live once before, when they supported, um, The Bronx. A few years back, the band did a tour where they played a mariachi set as Mariachi El Bronx, before going off stage, getting changed and then coming back on and playing a ferocious, intense punk set as The Bronx. It was pretty cool. I saw that in a small side room of a club, so this set by Mariachi El Bronx didn’t have the same intense, personal feeling as before, but it was still a ton of fun. The mariachi thing is a kind of ‘schtick’ I guess, but it’s fun, catchy and brings a smile to your face, so whatever. If you’re in need of cheering up, I would definitely recommending seeing this lot live.

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So, onto the main event: the imperious Less Than Jake. I was super excited to see them. One of my all-time favourite bands. A little like Ramones or NOFX, I don’t actually listen to them so much these days, but they remain what I consider to be one of my ‘classic’ bands. So, yes, I was pretty pumped for this and Less Than Jake met or even exceeded my already high expectations. It was an absolute classic set, filled with all the ‘hits’: “Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts”, “All My Best Friends…”, “Look What Happened”, “The History of a Boring Town”. I don’t think they missed out a song I really wanted to hear live. 90% of the set was basically comprised of Losing Streak and Hello Rockview, which was incredible. That is where their best stuff is to be found, something Roger from LTJ acknowledged on stage. He basically admitted that their best material was their early stuff and that because of this, they form their set around tracks from that era. Unlike some bands, they don’t feel pressure to focus on their more recent material. LTJ used Green Day as an example of a band who have distanced themselves from their earlier songs!

LTJ were super-energetic, fun and didn’t mess about too much between songs. The sound was amazing for their set; I haven’t really noticed that before about this venue, but the guitars were crunchy and the vocals clear. They started their encore with just the singer acoustically playing “Rest of my Life”, before the full band came on during the second verse, which was pretty perfect. I’m not even a huge fan of the song, but done this way, it was fantastic. This was followed by: “All my best friends…” and “Look What Happened”. A perfect end to a perfect set.

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DB

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