A modern style of vocalized Jamaican popular music, which emerged in the 1950s as a blend of African-Jamaican folk music, calypso, and American rhythm and blues, notable for its shuffling, scratchlike tempo and jazzlike horn riffs on the offbeat. (dictionary.com)
The best music to ever grace the planet. (Tyler Carmody)
Within the past five years, I have gone absolutely crazy about ska music. Streetlight Manifesto, Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, Mustard Plug, and MU330 are among my favorites. I’m lucky enough to live during a time and live in a city where the ska scene is stronger than ever, with these bands, among others, coming to Philadelphia on a regular basis. On Saturday, January 24th, Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake, with support from punk act Authority Zero sold out the Electric Factory, and it was one of the best shows I’ve been to in a really long time.
I have seen Reel Big Fish multiple times, but every time I see them, I get equally as excited as the last. I’ve been to two Less Than Jake shows, the first was at Warped Tour in 2011 (so that doesn’t really count) and the second time was at Skanksgiving 2013 at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey, and my friend that I was with sprained his ankle, so we had to leave during their first song.
Authority Zero took the stage, and I didn’t really know what to expect, as I had never really listened to them before. They have a very unique sound, combining the feel of legendary punk acts like Rancid and NoFx with more modern day punk acts such as The Gaslight Anthem and The Menzingers. They put on a great set, and everyone was very excited for Less Than Jake to show Philly what’s up.
This was Less Than Jake’s first Philly show since 1995, so they had a lot of lost time to make up for. Opening the set with “Look What Happened,” a huge explosion of confetti showered the crowd as a huge circle pit opened up, which would stay in the same place for the entire show.
As the set went on, hearing some new tunes such as “American Idle” and”Good Enough” off of their newest release from last year, and some older tunes such as “All My Best Friends are Metalheads” and “Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts,” the Electric Factory was a frenzy of skanking, circle pitting, and crowdsurfing.
Recently, the Nabisco Corporation was absorbed by the General Mills Cereal Company, and as part of the merger, the company is going to re-release the popular (yet insanely bad for you) cereal, Pac Man Cereal. Why is this important? Less Than Jake was paid a gigantic sum of money to cover the Pac Man Cereal theme song to be played on all of the commercials (I hope that General Mills knows that the band covered that song on a 2010 EP comprised of theme songs). The band played the 30 second tune three times throughout the set, two times in the middle, and as their last song after “History of a Boring Town.”
The highlight of their set was a couple who has been following Less Than Jake for years coming onto the stage and having a marriage proposal happen right there. Of course the girl said yes, and for some reason, everyone in the venue sang Happy Birthday for her. It was weird, yes, but also very cute.
After Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish came on to the stage, opening their set with “Trendy” which is one of their best. The Electric Factory exploded (not literally, of course) and everyone got moving. Reel Big Fish has the definitive third wave ska sound, very fast, very clean, and very fun. Playing hits such as “I Want Your Girlfriend to be my Girlfriend Too,” a cover of “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, and “She Has a Girlfriend Now,” everyone couldn’t stop dancing and singing along. Even the people who are “too cool” to show emotion during shows were bobbing their heads.
It’s hard to explain the feeling one gets from listening to ska music. For some, it makes one want to run in a circle, pushing and punching everyone in sight. For some, it makes one want to dance in sync with everyone around them, doing the popular “skank” dance that happens at these shows (for those who don’t know what skanking is, just look it up. It’s hard to explain). It’s a fun genre of music that has been around for a very long time, and it is as strong as ever.
I have seen this band so many times, and they still blow my mind. Ending their set with their five genre spanning song “Suburban Rhythm,” their well known song about beer entitled, well, “Beer,” and their all too classic cover of “Take on Me”, the band said their goodbyes, and exited the stage. Until next time, Reel Big Fish, until next time.
Article By: Tyler Carmody