The fireball whiskey shots began to flow like the red wine of ancient Greece, as the four bands of the Fuelling The Fire tour took it upon themselves to educate the occupants of Bristol’s O2 Academy. The many lessons of the evening included how to grow an impressive moustache, an even more impressive length of dreads and the palpable passion of the ska genre, that can bring punk-packed love to any venue it invades.
Weatherstate walked out and were first to open the evening (being one of the tour’s lucky competition winners, receiving an opening slot as a prize) with a strong and successful set that justified their presence but things became unexpectedly interesting when the Japanese Kemuri took to the stage and demonstrated new levels of heart-pumping stamina.
Their first time in the United Kingdom was one for the records, as highlights involved the Saxophone and trombone player competing in a endurance competition of jogging on the spot mid-song, jumping between playing and soaring across the stage. As the show progressed, their performance took on a growing similarity to a fitness video but instead of a leotard straddling Deanne Berry, the man stepping in to lead the English class was front man Fumio, who refused to keep his knees below waist level.
The electrified environment admittedly depleted but was replaced by an almost fluid reggae vibe, delivered by The Skints as they made their mark in the English city. Marcia Richards exemplified her musical talents by cycling through a long list of instruments such as the saxophone, melodica and her main role on the keyboard and vocals, while Jonathan Doyle simply shoulder shrugged along through his booming (and slightly overpowering) bass performance. Josh Rudge beguiled the “ska and soul fiends” with his Rastafarian singing and English smeared rapping, creating a relaxed set for the “beautiful Bristol people”.
Comprised of eight musicians, Mariachi El Bronx came out in their decorated but formal outfits and appeared equipped to continue preserving a rich taste of culturally fuelled music, with a healthy injection of punk to make them even more appealing. Understandably reserved in comparison to the previous bands, Mariachi determinably kept it all about the music and the delicate precision of their technique (as well as a few introductory song seconds that brought about nostalgic memories of western classics).
Each musician remained professional with their on-stage character, plucking away and forcing down finger buttons with an unshakeable straight-face until Matt Caughthran practically embodied The Bronx element, approaching the audience with his cool American edge.
The stage was thoroughly prepped and if there was ever a band to personify the all too familiar Spinal Tap reference, it was certainly the headliners everyone was impatiently waiting for. The lights blanketed the platform in a deep blue as Buddy Schaub came jogging out, followed by the rest of the legendary Less Than Jake. Chris Demakes appeared, rocking a terrible (but amusing) union jack embroidered suit, immediately striking off the compulsive tick box associated with so many of their live shows.
After an immense opening of ‘Pezcore’ classics such as “Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts” and Bassist Roger Lima’s boasting of lengthy dreads, he commented that “we wrote these songs damn near thirteen to nineteen years ago and somehow you are all f**king crazier than the crowd we wrote them for”, and if that was not taken as a compliment then this crowd would be increasingly difficult to please.
The band metaphorically began categorising into an endless index, exactly what was needed to make a true Less Than Jake-led tour. In alphabetical order it read beach balls, confetti cannons, crowd surfers, In-pitch Harmonies, merciless mosh pits, passionate mascots, small Co2 jets that dramatically brought every one of Vinnie Fiorello’s drum and cymbal strikes to lasting attention and lastly, toilet roll for multiple wiping uses like the worrying amount of sweat forming on multiple brows.
The travelling party of rough and ready troubadours fired up a song sheet that covered all of the punk empowered bases. They took a long trip down the unyielding “Five State Drive” before “Sugar in the Gas Tank” erupted into life like a rowdy gang of Casanovas discovering a discounted brothel.
“The Ghosts of Me And You”, “The Science of Selling Yourself Short” and “History Of A Boring Town” will undoubtedly always remain mid-set favourites, with dominating choruses and a high-quality pick-you-up for anyone feeling the mid-show blues.
Their fierce encore of “All My Best Friends Are Metalheads” clarified that if this figurative directory ever did become finalised, it would likely have ended up in shreds. Why you may ask? Because that is exactly the level of compulsiveness this quirky quintet has managed to achieve over their many years together. That and a tremendous back-catalogue of albums that consistently have the profound ability to re-affirm a newfound respect for life.
Words by Nathan Roach