Less than Jake at First Avenue


As the crowd started filling up the main room at First Avenue, Kash’d Out was serenading patrons with their laid back reggae sounds. For being the youngest act on this tour, these guys are more than able to hang with the big boys. Their set was clean and on point. They were the perfecting opening act for all of the great music that was to come and a great match with c0-headliner, Pepper. As someone who isn’t a huge fan of reggae music, Kash’d Out had me wondering if I should give it a second chance. That wonder turned into a “must do” by the time Pepper came out on stage. 

Pepper has been around since the 90’s but I’d be lying if I said I’ve been following them that long. Honestly, I had never listened to them before last night. I knew who they were, I had seen their name on show flyers that I never quite made it to, but that’s where my knowledge stopped. 

Like Kash’d Out, these guys had a very clean brand of reggae but Pepper seemed to be a bit more upbeat where as Kash’d out was laid back. No matter how many times singer/ guitarist Kaleo Wassman told the crowd that they are playing live and they’re going to make mistakes, I never heard one. To me, their set was flawless and had me in love. The Hawaiian trio blasted through an hour long set and the crowd ate up every single moment. It was astonishing to hear Kaleo and Bret Bollinger (vocals/ bass) pull the microphones away from their face yet still hear the words blaring from the crowd.

For a trio, Pepper blew me away with the amount of energy they had. It was fun and up-beat to match the music but it wasn’t over the top. All three members came off as very personable and, for someone who wasn’t quite sold on their brand of music before walking into the show, I was quickly turned into a believer and lover of everything that was going on. I laughed at every funny quip Kaleo said. “We’re too old to tour anymore so this is just a vacation!” I mean, come on, that’s cute, clever, and pretty much sums up what last night was– a vacation from reality.

In between the two reggae acts was a personal favorite band of mine, Red City Radio. Hailing from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, these guys play a flavor of punk that I just can not get enough of right now. It’s dirtier than the pop-punk that I grew up with in the early 2000’s but still very contagious and fun. The music has hooks and great lyrics that I find relateable and charming. Honestly, the band as a whole is charming. Like Pepper, these guys seemed personable and could be spotted wandering around the crowd after their set getting drinks and making friends. 

I have seen these guys before and try to make it out every time they come to town. Last night was the first time I had seen them in such a big venue and I’m not quite sure what I thought about it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m super happy for them because they more than deserve to be on a huge tour like this but I feel like the gritty-ness was a bit lost on the crowd that seemed to be primarily there for the reggae sounds of the night. They didn’t get the reaction last night that I’ve seen them get at smaller clubs like Triple Rock but, at the same time, they didn’t let it inhibit their performance and for that, I salute them.

Closing out the night was one of my favorite bands of all time, Less Than Jake. Their ska music is one of those sounds that, no matter how shitty of a day I’m having, as soon as I hear them, everything turns to rainbows and unicorns. Going to see a band like that live is enough to make you feel like you spend an entire day at the spa. It’s refreshing and, even though I was out far too late last night, I feel well rested and ready to seize the day (that will change after a couple hours at my day job of course). 

Not only do I love Less Than Jake’s music, their energy on stage is contagious. It doesn’t matter how tired you were when you got to the show or if you thought the opening bands were terrible and you were ready for a nap, the second these guys took the stage, the crowd erupted into a sweaty, beautiful mess. Even though my friend and I weren’t standing in the pit we still found ourselves dancing around like idiots whether we had planned on it or not. The energy mixed with their antics (last time I saw them they brought up a kid up on stage and shaved his head. Last night they brought two strangers on stage and had them slow dance and tried to get them to french kiss although that didn’t work) truly make for a great, entertaining show. Even if you don’t like ska music, going to a concert of one of the greats is a “must happen”. The feeling you get when you’re standing there whether you find yourself in the center of the pit with sweat rolling down your back or on the outskirts with a drink, it’s one of the best feelings in the world. 

Less Than Jake played as much as they could for the nearly hour and a half long set but, as a band with such an extensive discography, it was impossible for them to play everything that the crowd wanted to hear. Some shows that I go to, as soon as the lights come on and the house music starts playing, people rush to the door to get home but last night was different. People hung around just hoping, praying to hear a couple more songs… even one more song. The crowd just wanted more. I find that to be a sign of a damn good band. If your fans are willing to hold out hope and stay out late on a Monday night just in the hopes that you return to the stage even after the house lights and music have been on for awhile, I think you’re doing something right.

I know some people don’t see the point of going to see a band multiple times but I think that’s the worst thought process ever. I could have easily stayed in last night and just told myself that I had seen Less Than Jake enough, Red City Radio would be back, and I really didn’t know anything about Pepper or Kash’d Out but where’s the fun in that?

Last night was my 21st time seeing Less Than Jake live and it was just as good as the first. Every show is different even if it’s the same band. The venue changes, the crowd changes, and, most important of all, you change.