Less Than Jake

support Pepper + Beat Union + Imperial Leisure
author AP date 10/11/08 venue Guildhall, Southampton, UK

In my experience it's often gigs like these, ones that you simply end up at for some reason or hear about at the very last minute, ones with bands that you know of but haven't paid particular attention to, that end up being the best gigs. I spotted this show two days prior to it, and received confirmation for reviewing it ten minutes after it started; which is why this article contains no further mention of the opening act, Imperial Leisure, than what their merchandise suggests in big, bold letters: Imperial Leisure are less than average.

Beat Union

Beat Union, however, seem to be more distinguished, though their moderate, new wave punk rock earns almost no response. Aside from the few diehard fans of Less Than Jake who have stitched themselves to the front barrier and subsequently have no choice but to rock out a little bit out of courtesy for the band, most of the crowd, the undersigned included, are lounging around on the cozy carpet having casual conversations with each other and enjoying cold pints of beer. But that's the kind of reaction that Beat Union's music warrants. It is, after all, fairly safe and unobtrusive. Judging from their performance, however, this isn't some garage band enjoying their fifteen minutes of fame: there's plenty of experience behind their confidence, something that bassist Ade Preston in particular seems keen to prove with a performance which is almost an eye sore compared to the modesty of his peers. Beyond his energy there isn't much to look at on stage, except for the occasional burst of genuine emotion from vocalist Dave Warsop, which may explain how most of the room regards it with the same enthusiasm as they would were it some kind of break music.

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Pepper

Pepper are, I learn, from Hawaii, and take no steps to make this an ambiguous truth. Clad in surf shorts, Aloha shirts and straw hats, the trio looks at home on stage even though it's pouring outside, and deliver a forty-five minutes of some of the funkiest, most authentic rock this scribe has had the pleasure of listening to. Once the crowd picks up on the feel good reggae vibes resonating from the stage, the place erupts into small enclaves of dance pits that, during the band's rare explosive moments, readily welcome a bit of friendly moshing, too. These guys, if anyone, have groove, but they also have funk; to the extent that better funk hasn't surfaced since Brad Nowell passed away, and it shows. It's impossible not to move with this stuff, and to not enjoy it would be to not understand the meaning of fun. It is, dare I say, the most fun show since the Dropkicks set Vega on fire, and it's spiced up with the sleazy talk about smoking weed, sleeping with beautiful women and the fact that as we speak, Chris Demakes is drinking Pepper's booze backstage. Vocalist Kaleo Wassman feels that some kind of retribution for such misbehaviour is necessary, so he reveals the fifth song in Less Than Jakes setlist, "All My Best Friends Are Metal Heads", which Pepper then play a partial, but not entirely faithful cover of. When the show ends, I summon Kaleo at the merch stand to personally shake his hand for already making this concert more than worthwhile.

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Less Than Jake

It's hard to better Pepper's performance, but the pandemonium that erupts when Less Than Jake step on stage suggests that they can, and will. Who knows if the Lion City still roars, but Southampton damn well does; and it skanks; and it moshes; and it tears my loyal jeans to shreds. If the gig before was fun, then this one is ecstatic. Chris picks up on this fact and invites a handful of awfully young-looking girls to join him on stage. Much to their dismay, however, the security is not warming up to the idea and blocks their way, leading Chris to call one of them, Shirley is her name, on stage instead for the duration of one song, some of the lyrics of which Chris changes to "Shirley! Shirley! Shirley!". Soon after, someone runs on stage in a strange costume, raging there at Shirley for a while, and after she has been called a number of things, including Osama Bin Laden, she becomes more leniant, and a group of girls are allowed on stage for a special competition: whoever can speak with the best American accent wins a prize. In light of some pretty lackluster attempts, Chris declares a winner and admits that there is no prize after all. If there's anything to criticize the band for, it's the length and sameness of their setlist, but when there's this much party packed in every song, that's hardly a problem - just concentrate on the party. It's a party that comes to an end too soon though, despite it being a good one and a half hours long. Chris is as disappointed as the rest of us with curfews, and calls for a backup plan, which from popular opinion is decided to be a local pub known as The Hobbit. I head there with a satisfied, if not positively surprised smile on my face.

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