Since its beginning in the 90s, Fat Wreck Chords has established a rock solid rep as a home for fast and fun skate and pop punk. From their early days of Lagwagon and No Use For a Name through the early 2000s with Against Me!, Lawrence Arms and Rise Against, to today’s roster featuring Teenage Bottlerocket, Cobra Skulls and Dead to Me, Fat has stayed true to that sound through every fad that’s come and gone, remaining independent when many labels were selling ownership to the majors. And for that, Fat Wreck has been rewarded with some of the fiercest and most loyal supporters of any label still going. Those fans were eager to sing along with the label’s bands at this year’s edition of the Fat Wreck Chords tour featuring Less Than Jake, Anti-Flag, Masked Intruder, Get Dead and on the Vegas date, locals (and only non-Fat band) Be Like Max.
I’ve seen Gainesville’s Less Than Jake more than just about any other band, but they’re so much fun live that I can’t fathom a reason not to check them out every time they come through. The floor was full of familiar faces from the Vegas “Less Than Jake family” coming out to support the Pez-loving ska punks. They kicked off with “Good Enough” from their 9th studio album See the Light, their first album of completely new material on Fat Wreck Chords since Borders & Boundaries way back in 2000. The crowd really got going during “Automatic,” and the jams kept coming with the best foursome of any set I can remember this year, “Sugar in Your Gas Tank,” “Last One Out of Liberty City,” “Look What Happened” and “History of a Boring Town,” leaving my voice raw from singing along. “All My Best Friends are Metalheads” will always remind me of hanging out with friends and playing Street Sk8ter, and I was particularly excited to hear my favorite LTJ song, “Al’s War,” played at the request of Hard Rock’s Andrew Courtney.
Of course, no Less Than Jake show would be complete without stage antics. Frontman Chris Demakes found himself on the receiving end of some disapproving groans after an off color joke about recently-deceased Paul Walker, with Demakes saying we’d be eating it up if Fat Mike said it. The band invited a few fans up to the stage during their set, first Merakai bassist Josh Estrada, who Demakes thought looked too young to be sporting his sweet ‘stache. They also orchestrated an on-stage makeout session between two young strangers, and took the time to sing happy birthday to the biggest Less Than Jake fan I know, Nancy Cruz.
Anti-Flag is in the midst of celebrating their 20th anniversary so the political punk rocker’s set spanned deep into their 8 album discography. They kicked things off with “The Press Corpse” from their 2006 album For Blood and Empire and right from the start the floor erupted into a fast, circling sea of mohawks and black boots. Co-frontman and bassist Chris 2 spent most of the band’s set in midair, and I had to double check that he didn’t have a pair of Reebok Pumps on, because he was definitely getting more air than Jordan. Old Die for the Government favorites “Fuck Police Brutality” and the title track got the crowd shouting along and the former made me hope they’d bring out Masked Intruder’s own personal cop, Officer Bradford. The band played one of my all-time favorites, “Turncoat” from 2003’s The Terror State and threw in their spot-on cover of The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go.”
With a line up this good it’s hard to pick a favorite, but I fought through the urge to be impartial and hands down, this night goes to Madison, WI pop punks Masked Intruder. My wife and I caught the band in San Diego earlier this year and couldn’t wait to see the disciples of Teenage Bottlerocket and Chixdiggit take the Hard Rock stage. To my pleasant surprise, a sizeable amount of the rapidly filling up Hard Rock floor was already familiar with the band’s hooky and lovelorn tales of heartbreak and incarceration. Once the police sirens died down and their on-tour parole officer Officer Bradford let the four-piece loose on stage, the crowd erupted in the chorus of “Stick ‘Em Up, Stick ‘Em Up, Stick ‘Em Up I got a knife, motherfucker, Stick ‘Em Up.” You could say the band stole the show (see what I did there?) with “I Don’t Wanna Be Alone Tonight,” “Breakin’” and “How Do I Get to You.” Since Intruder Pink was MIA (I heard she’s on tour with Mixtapes) MI put out the call for any and all female fans to come on stage and sing her part during “Heart Shaped Guitar.” While 2/3s of our chosen ladies didn’t quite know the words, the crowd singing along made up for it. A few stage dives from Officer Bradford and Green’s acrobatic, cheerleader esq high kicks and posi jumps rounded out the best set of the night (can we get an Intruder Green, Chris #2 jump-off next time, please?)
The first Fat band was the one I was least familiar with on this tour, San Francisco’s Get Dead. The new Fat signees partied hard on their way to Vegas but even with copious alcohol in their system, they put on an intense performance. The gruff-yet-melodic vocals on their first few songs reminded me a lot of Nothington. I’m guessing it’s more likely that, like Nothington, the band listened to a lot of early Social D and are cultivating that same freewheeling, outlaw style. As their set went on I found myself also reminded of Rancid’s first and second self-titled albums, and all of that combined with some folk influence makes them a band I’m eager to hear more from in the future.
Vegas’ own ska punkers Be Like Max kicked off the show to a small crowd mostly made up of their own fans, and it’s cool to see a local band be able to bring a few dozen people on really short notice (they were only added to the show three days prior). Be Like Max have really worked hard to hone their Big D meets Streetlight style of rowdy yet technical ska punk and they’re one of the best bands Vegas has, so hopefully the earlybird Fat fans liked what they heard and show up at more of BLM’s show (including their January 10 LP release show - hint hint).
Less Than Jake setlist:
Sugar in Your Gas Tank
Last One Out of Liberty City
Look What Happened
History of a Boring Town
My Money is on the Long Shot
Never Going Back to New Jersey
Scott Farcas Takes it on the Chin
The Science of Selling Yourself Short
Landmines and Landslides
Give Me Something to Believe in, Inc.
Great American Sharpshooter
All My Best Friends Are Metalheads
Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts
Plastic Cup Politics
The Press Corpse
Fuck Police Brutality
This Is the End (For You My Friend)
This Machine Kills Fascists
This Is the New Sound
1 Trillion Dollar$
Die for the Government
Should I Stay or Should I Go (The Clash cover)
Power to the Peaceful
Masked Intruder setlist
Stick ‘em Up
25 to Life
How Do I Get to You
I Don’t Wanna Be Alone Tonight
Why Don’t You Love Me in Real Life
Hey Girl (Whatcha Doin’ to me)
Don’t Run Away
Am I Only Dreaming
Heart Shaped Guitar
Wish You Were Mine