If there was ever a tour to get us looking wistfully ahead to summer and festival season it was last week’s corking punk rock triple header co-headlined by veterans Yellowcard and Less Than Jake. On one of the year’s first must see lineups the heart on the sleeve balladry and Ska madness was joined by a blast of partycore as French upstarts Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! completed the unique but not to be missed trifecta of different punk styles.
Already Heard caught the very final UK stop of the tour at Leeds’ O2 Academy, and for a city normally so reliable at turning out lively and responsive crowds, openers Chunk were badly let down. Sure it was early, not even half six when the Frenchmen took to the stage, but there were still enough people in the room to generate more noise and energy then the band ripping straight into ‘Haters Gonna Hate’ was met by. Fortunately Bert Poncet and his mob had their game faces on and, unperturbed by the nonplussed reaction of all but those that were already fans of the band, continued to plug doggedly away at winning over the crowd.
The band’s pop-punk meets metalcore sound may have been just a shade too heavy for many in attendance. But here Chunk sounded electric, their aggressive riffs and raucously chipper choruses striking a great mix and Poncet battering away at the initial indifference in front of him with the full force of his roar, his on point clean delivery and his Gallic charm. ‘Taking Chances’ saw the start of the thaw, but it was a well-timed airing of Chunk’s cover of ‘Allstar’ that properly got band and crowd on the same page. By the time ‘In Friends We Trust’ brought Chunk’s set to a close hands were up and clapping all around the room. (3/5)
On this night it was Yellowcard who had drawn the short straw and provided the first half of the co-headline. Sean Mackin garnered a heroes reception as he took to the stage alone to perform ‘Convocation’ the stirring instrumental opener from new album ‘Lift A Sail’ before his bandmates joined him to plough straight on into the album’s first single, ‘Transmission Home’, only stopping when two knuckleheads felt the need to have a scrap in the front row and a visibly peeved Ryan Key halted proceedings to vent his ire at them with vocal agreement from the rest of the crowd. Mercifully cooler heads and higher spirts quickly won out. YC’s atmospheric new battle cry ‘Crash The Gates’ then finally began to rouse the O2 into its first serious stirrings of life. Although there was a sense that it was only the diehard Yellowcard fans that genuinely knew them, the new songs are as emotive and hard hitting live as anything the band have written in years. And it didn’t stop Key from regularly imploring as many people as possible to belt the songs back at him, regardless of whether or not they knew the words.
It took a full blooded rendition of ‘Lights And Sounds’ to really get the room moving as one before ‘Only One’ got it blissfully singing as one for the first time too. Key and co are clearly hugely proud of their new record and went to great lengths to try and inspire similar feeling for it from the Leeds crowd, ‘Make Me So’ getting bodies bouncing at Key’s command before title track ‘Lift A Sail’ drew an increasingly positive reaction. But it was older songs that repeatedly received the most love. ‘Awakening’ and ‘With You Around’ both elicited respectable sing-alongs but it was ‘Way Away’ and biggest hit ‘Ocean Avenue’ that properly made the place come unglued with wall to wall pogoing.
For all the tracks from ‘Lift A Sail’ may not have ignited the crowd as well as the high energy classics, they still sounded excellent live and helped add extra shifts in tone, mood and scale to Yellowcard’s live show. More than ten years into their career the Jacksonville natives continue to get better and better; showing that they are as compelling and able to sweep up crowds in the feeling and stellar choruses of their songs as they have ever been. Awesome stuff. (4/5)
If Yellowcard’s focus was on showing their pride in new material, Less Than Jake’s was plainly in revelling in the glories of the ska-punk greatness of their back catalogue, and having a damn good time while doing so. Wasting little time in breaking out the hits with ‘Look What Happened’ opening the set in boisterous fashion, accompanied by a now fairly hammered crowd going suitably bonkers from the off.
It wasn’t just the songs going downa storm either, Chris and Roger were on pretty fine gag cracking form too. With the former wryly explaining “We’re doing 50% more dick jokes because Tom got kicked out of Blink. Now other 40 year olds in punk bands have to pick up the slack.” This pre-empted a lively performance of ‘Good Enough’ from most recent album ‘Shine A Light’ that also featured two of the band’s crew firing toilet rolls over the bouncing crowd. Older favourites ‘Sugar In Your Gas Tank’ and ‘Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts’ then set of some pretty heavy duty skanking throughout the room.
As always ‘Science of Selling Yourself Short’ was wildly received before two randomly selected members of the audience threw their wildest shapes on the stage as LTJ broke out their cover of the Pacman Cereal jingle to plenty of laughs.
The feel good classic ska of ‘Give Me Something to Believe In’ certainly eased the set proper to a cheery close, but this was an inebriated crowd that most definitely wanted more. And after a comedy voiceover it got exactly what it wanted. A storming encore comprised of breakneck performances of ‘All My Best Friends Are Metalheads’ and ‘Gainesville Rock City’ complete with golden confetti pouring from the ceiling on to the crowd taking the chance to deliriously skank its collective rears off for one last time.
Few bands can entertain quite like Gainesville’s finest and with dancing mascots, light up stage sets, balloons, smoke machines and confetti adding pomp and pantomime to their already riotously good fun live show this was the kings of Ska on their very best form. (4/5)
Honestly whoever put this tour together was an absolute ruddy genius, in three cracking sets Chunk, Yellowcard and LTJ put on a night that will blow many a festival out of the water this year. Gigs just don’t get any more enjoyable then nights like this one.
Words by Dane Wright (@MrDaneWright). Photos by: Connie Taylor Photography and taken at Koko Camden, London – 09/03/2015.