My mother often used to burst into my room unexpectedly to see if I was doing something I shouldn’t have, like masturbating (no, she never caught me, I don’t think). I felt like such a rebel listening to Less Than Jake for the first time. It was so crude and vulgar and fast and unlike any other shit I’d ever heard before in my life. It was a turn on, both mentally and sexually (no, I never jerked off to LTJ, Ok, maybe once, but I was really drunk).
When I was in fifth grade I has the opportunity to borrow a cassette tape from a girl named Autumn at school. I had no idea what it sounded like, I just knew the kids in my class thought it was cool. And, I wanted to be cool, too.
When I got home, I sunk that tape into my player, mashed down the “play” button, and eagerly waited, staring at the speakers as if they were going to speak to me. Well, they fucking did.
I first heard the announcement “This is the old dude, Harry J. Reynolds, and you’re listening to Less Than Jake,” following by that infectious guitar riff at the beginning of “Automatic.” Then, the build up of drums, then the kick-in-the-head from the horns. I’d never heard ska music. I’d never heard anything like it before. Over the next 35 minutes and 31 seconds, I discovered my body moved in both ways I’d never expected, nor could control, my ears were perked, my jaw was dropped. I was truly freaking out.
Before I finished listenenign to the album, I knew I should have it. I asked my step-dad for $5 from that night. The next day at school, I offered that $5 to Autumn in exchange for that cassette tape. She agreed, happily (money was much more valuable back then). At that point, Less Than Jake’s Losing Streak, became the first piece of recorded music that I ever owned; the most important album of my life.
Losing Streak was the catalyst which launched me into an open discovery of punk, ska, metal, alternative, indie rock, playing music, writing music, loving music, and ultimately, changed my life. I’d likely not have this badass website if it weren’t for that album. I’d likely be musically illiterate.
At Thursday night’s Pre-Fest in Ybor City, I had the opportunity to see that album, played cover to cover. When LTJ announced they were playing the show. I hesitated for a moment. Then thought about how much it meant to me and I realized I’d be a fucking idiot if I didn’t go. I took Friday off of work, bought my ticket, and made a solo voyage to see something inexplicably difficult to communicate the importance of.
I found parking less than two blocks from the venue. I was on an intimate date with myself, something that was so personal to myself and I that it could be nothing other than a Dave Chappelle’s Rick James-style, celebration, bitches. I smoked myself out in my car, finished my beer, and walked into The Orpheum. The Menzingers had just began their set and I was riding on a cloud in anticipation of what was to come.
The Menzingers are a band I fell in love with shortly after they released their album, On The Impossible Past. I saw them open for Bouncing Souls at The Social in Orlando and was sold. I bought their album on vinyl immediately after their performance. The opening track to that album, “Good Things,” is still my favorite. It’s special to me because I was going through a really shitty breakup at the time. That song was my medicine.
When The Menzingers finished their set, I peeled my boots across the sticky floor at The Orpheum, and aimed for the bar across the room. I thought about getting my usual, a shitty PBR, but decided I should treat myself, especially if I was on a date. I bought a glass of red wine. It came in a clear plastic cup, just the way I like it. I found myself a corner to stand in. I wrote with my red pen, sipped my red wine and I waited, battling eagerness and patience internally.
I thought about how my Losing Streak cassette tape was eventually lost, or destroyed by my mother (just a suspicion). After that, Less Than Jake slowly began fading into my rearview and I discovered an entire new world of music and sounds. I fell in love with bands like Bush, and Bright Eyes, and Foo Fighters, and Brand New, and Thursday, and Coheed And Cambria. I played in bands that were influenced by all them. I fell in love with jazz and learned how to play jazz on the drums. I dipped from slow acoustic jams to heavy rock bands. I traveled. I explored. Never saying “no” to a new musical journey. I grew. To that, I owe a world of thanks to Less Than Jake, their album, and that girl from elementary school.
For years I didn’t hear any of those Losing Streak songs. When I was in High School, my friends were selling burned CDs for $5.00, anything I wanted! I bought many, indeed, whatever I was into at the time. Then, I remember where it all started and requested a burned copy of Losing Streak. A few days later, I received it. A few hours later I put it into my aftermarket CD player in my 1989 Chevy S-10 pickup truck. A few seconds later I pierced right through the solid navy blue truck body at the top of my lungs, almost surprised that I still knew every single fucking word to that album after nearly a decade of not listening.
I gulped the rest of my wine down and made my way to the center of the room. The cheers began and my emotions heightened as the members of Less Than Jake emerged. I noticed my emotional high overpowering my marijuana high as I rose to my tip-toes. Here’s a shitty pic:
Everything shot right back to that day in my tiny Middleburg, FL suburbia bedroom. “This is old dude, Harry J. Reynolds, and you’re listening to Less Than Jake.” Fuck. There’s my hair, standing on end. There’s the nostalgia, dripping down my cheek. There’s my voice, going bye-bye.
Every word. Every second. Bliss. Full circle. Here’s a shitty video I took on the Shows I Go To Instagram.
The original baritone saxophone player from Losing Streak, Derron Nuhfer, was present at this show, which I was especially stoked about. I was on tour with a band called concisebloc. about eight years ago and we stayed at Derron’s house in gainesville while we were up there, which was pretty surreal. Here’s a video of the second half of the set, put it on full screen and turn it up:
I wrote a bunch of notes down before and after the show. I write things down because I usually get drunk and sometimes forget important shit. It helps me. I lost all my words a few weeks later on a drunken evening, before I had the chance to transfer them on to here. All I have is a sincere, vivid memory of dancing, sweating, and yelling every goddamned word to that album in a room full of similars.
I could never have ask for more. Less Than Jake changed my life.
Less Than Jake Live Review by Mitch Foster.
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