I’m now comfortably enough out of my teenage years to go to gigs out of nostalgia. A child of that awkward mid-2000s emo/punk rock revival, the bands I used to worship and adore have now either split up or done some sort of follow up album that poorly attempted to jump on that Nu Rave/ post-hardcore bandwagon that we’d all rather forget.Listening to those albums these days and you're filled with warm memories of musical discovery, tinged with the slight relief that you no longer have to side sweep your fringe or sneak swigs of stolen vodka to ready yourself for a gig.
Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake were unique in someway; whilst Green Day was mouthing off about Bush and Enter Shikari were screaming along to the Mario kart soundtrack, these guys were revelling in a bouncy infusion of punk/ska that made you wanna pogo about rather than participate in a wall of death. With the both the acts uniting with Zebrahead for a gloriously nostalgic tour, I headed to the Oxford 02 comfortably intoxicated and quickly warmed to the venue; whilst not huge, the low hanging ceilings and black walls drew adorned with peeling band posters me back to those tiny rooms above dodgy pubs where you would huddle in within breathing distance of your mate’s awful pop punk band.
We arrived just as Zebrahead were wrapping up, unfortunately so as what we caught of their act was enjoyable, although when slated third on a bill the audience will never really treat you as more than a warm up act. Shame, Zebrahead are good and could probably command an evening on their own, and by leaving the stage to Whitney Huston’s ‘I Will Always Love You,’ they demonstrated that the humour and boyish sense of glee that carried the pop punk wave was still very much alive. By the time Less Than Jake arrived on stage the crowd were readying themselves; already preparing space for a circle pit, cider cups flew into the air and grown men screamed as the the band made their way to stage. They comfortably filled the following hour with a run through a classics like ‘All My Best Friends Are Metalheads’ and ‘History Of A Boring Town’ New tracks from See The Light were well received with all the musicality tied together with solid audience interaction from the band; dance offs were had, audience members were made to snog on stage just because they had the most popular names in Britain. It’s the kind of screw ball, teenage humour that Less Than Jake embody, and arguably made them the most entertaining act of the night. By (sort of) ending with ‘The Rest Of My Life,’ perhaps the bands’ most poignant track, they proved that they are worthy of far more than the backing track of your myspace page.
Headliners Reel Big Fish strolled onto stage just before ten. Unlike Less Than Jake, who’s set felt like you’d interrupted a band practice, Reel had this air of maturity, LTJ were the kids, these were the men. The Star Wars theme music played the band into an hour of almost non stop tunes. There was no need for banter or chitchat here, Aaron Barrett was all about the music, only pausing from Reel’s back catalogue to play half of ‘Call Me Maybe.’ Whilst I was more won over by LTJ’s antics, it’s undeniable that Reel put on a fantastic show.
We left the show, giddy ska-happiness and soaked in skank sweat and cider. As part of a generation now transfixed with warehouses, DJs, and rizla balls, returning to the much maligned gig nights was a breath of hot, booze soaked air. Thank you Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish for bringing back an old love.