Thursday, April 18, 2024

Bowling for Soup and Less Than Jake: a hilarious distraction before time takes us all

Bowling for Soup and Less than Jake were two of the biggest acts at Slam Dunk 2023 and two of the acts RAMzine didn’t cover because we predicted a UK tour – we were right as usual. Everyone knew this show would be an incredible night of late 90s nostalgia, toilet humour and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater but the lengths these bands went to to put on an incredible show were absolutely incredible. 

The Vandoliers

The Vandoliers went on first and they were a unique and interesting take on punk/ska/country in that they combined all three genres and had a sound that was really cohesive and engaging. The Vandoliers featured a violinist, a brass section, two guitarists and a drummer which made for a busy stage but they made the best of every second and every square inch. 

The Vandoliers

The Vandoliers had every risk of being too weird and alienating but frontman Josh Fleming did a fantastic job being an engaging frontman as well as a brilliant musician. Guy Namington said “we may be the only country band but we are not the only ska band”, which helped satiate the yee-haw crowd and the doot doot crowd. 

The Vandoliers

Tracks like ‘Sixteen Years’ acted as amazing introductions to the band with grand guitar solos and joyous doots that seem to say ‘we’re exactly where we need to be’. It was a wholesome environment full of fun and this was solidified with their bittersweet drunken last orders anthem about youth, ‘Every Saturday Night’. They close their set with a cover of ‘500 Miles’ by The Proclaimers from the soundtrack of the 2001 animated classic Shrek. It became clear that The Vandoliers were the real deal even if their name was made up and it also became clear that it’s impossible to sing ‘500 Miles’ without doing a Scottish accent. Yee haw. 

Less Than Jake

Faster than you can say ‘this song was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’, Less Than Jake rushed the stage and they immediately cranked the energy to 11 as they immediately burst on stage to ‘Last One Out of Libery City,’ a song that screams ‘we don’t have enough time on the set so we’ll just play it 5 times faster’. 

Less Than Jake

The whole set was full of weird and wonderful gimmicks and props including toilet paper guns and wacky waving arm flailing inflatable tube men. Less than Jake’s whole set felt like they were dedicated to playing as tight and seriously as possible while still being as wacky and free as they could. It’s the old adage ‘I take comedy very seriously’

Less Than Jake

Punk and metal have had some rivalries over the few decades they’ve both existed but that all gets put aside when ‘All My Friends are Metalheads’ (which was on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater) gets played at the rock club. The venue was full of an eclectic bunch from metalheads to punks to parents and kids. It was a wild spectrum of people who respected the art of having fun in a safe and liberated space. 

Less Than Jake

Their set was full of joyful bubbly ska classics like ‘The Science of Selling Yourself Short’ and ‘History of a Boring Town‘. Having very little prior experience with Less than Jake, it was bizarre to see clips of the ’60s cartoon Johnny Quest during the song ‘Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts’. The song is immaculate and the odd campy clips fit so well with the youthful atmosphere. 

Less Than Jake

It was a little bit disappointing that ‘That’s Why They Call It a Union’ wasn’t on the setlist as that comes from Tony Hawk’s Underground 2, the game that I spent the most time on as a kid and also one of the most important pieces of media in developing my music taste. There were countless other skater punk bangers like ‘Help Save the Youth of America’ from Exploding and Plastic Cup Politics

Less Than Jake

Less than Jake ended their manic energetic set with the triumphant return of the wacky waving arm flailing inflatable tube men as they hit the audience with the lively hard rock anthem ‘Gainesville Rock City’. This whole set really filled my special meter and I felt like I could kick-flip down a flight of stairs without a trip to the hospital. 

After a quick break and a few announcements from the Academy’s new MC (apparently they have one now, I guess), Bowling For Soup took to the stage opening with the high energy/low mood banger, ‘Emily’

The band may be quite far into their careers but they still know how to open a killer rock show and their biggest skills are maintaining that youthful exuberance that made them so compelling in the late 90s and 2000s. Never trust someone who didn’t smirk just a little bit when they burst into ‘My Wena’ and was transported back to being a teenager when Jarret proudly proclaimed “that was a song about weiners”.

Bowling For Soup

The goofy antics continued through the set on tracks like ‘Ohio’ which featured an appearance from the wacky waving arm-flailing inflatable tube men and The Vandoliers, an iconic group of gentlemen that were absolutely essential to doing this song justice. The Vandoliers were also great. 

Bowling For Soup

It’s also worth noting that this may be the first rickroll I’ve experienced live. Bowling For Soup stopped playing ‘Punk Rock 101’ so they could have the very first photo op of 2024 accompanied by ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ by Rick Astley. It was a profoundly silly moment full of dad dancing, awkward posing and the immortal words of the pride of Newton-le-Willows. 

Bowling For Soup

The set carried on with a cavalcade of all-time bangers and staples of Kerrang (rest in peace), ‘High School Never Ends,’ ‘Girl All the Bad Guys Want’ and the SR-71 cover of ‘1985’ which has since become an anthem of existential dread and the fear of the ever-encroaching spectre of oblivion and how the cold touch of death will be felt by all of us much sooner than we think as all we love crumbles to dust before our very eyes as we’re forgotten and abandoned by time. It also has a really funny music video. 

Bowling For Soup

Everyone on the bill is a consummate professional who prides themselves on being at the top of their game while still maintaining a fun-filled stage persona that matches the comical nature of their music. If Weird Al dared to be stupid then Bowling For Soup and Less Than Jake double dared to be stupid as they continue into their third decade of growing as musicians and songwriters but never losing that youthful stupidity that made them so relatable and lovable. 

Bowling For Soup

Also if you interpreted “stupid” as anything but a positive thing then you’re the real idiot. Being stupid is one of the most freeing things you can be if you focus your dumbassery in the right way.

Bowling For Soup
Lamestream Lydia
Lamestream Lydia
Self-proclaimed journalist, Progressive rock enthusiast and the most American sounding person you're ever likely to meet in the North of England

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