Story and Photos: Spencer Fleming
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Omaha got a one-two punch of punk rock shows this week from two legendary bands. Thursday night brought us Descendents at The Admiral and last night (9/16) Less Than Jake skanked their way to The Slowdown. I'm about ready for a nap! Tonight (9/17) we'll be checking out I Prevail at the Liberty First Credit Union, but luckily Stories collaborator Audrey is covering so I'm off the hook. Tickets are still available for that one if you've got no plans. All right so what went down in Omaha last night? Let's get into it!
I was scrolling through Instagram and I noticed a post from The Slowdown saying "Get here early for the sold out Less Than Jake show" 5:30 on a Friday? That's nearly impossible coming in from the suburbs. Unless Virginia and I skipped dinner there was no way we were going to catch all the bands. Our goal at Stories from the Crowd is to include every act and only miss the openers if it's absolutely unavoidable. As torn as we were, we opted to grab dinner and just hope the show was still starting at 7:00. Note to venues, it's really helpful if you put the door time and actual show time in the event notes on Facebook. The time on the cover of the post means nothing. I know there's a lot of moving parts with shows and things can shift at the last minute, but let's do better. Just for posterity, we hit Block 16 before the show and yes, it was fantastic.
With a little luck from the concert gods we found parking right down the street from The Slowdown and the line was minimal. For a sold out show I expected a line around the block. Ok, maybe having the doors at 5:30 was a smart move. It got all the early birds in with ease and everything started on time at 7:00. Way to get me worried though, thinking we were going to miss a band or two. As we arrived I noticed a guy in a Cliff Diver shirt, one of the opening bands at the Descendents show from the night before. I gave him a card so he could check out our photos and write-up, but he was already super hammered. The chances he's reading this right now are very small, haha. But that's ok.
The first band on the bill Keep Flying was a lot of fun. They got the party started with some upbeat ska punk jams. The band had six members with the trumpet player and trombone player pulling double duty on instruments and harmonies. Their lead singer had Claudio Sanchez vibes with his wild long hair and the trombone player looked like Josh Eppard, the drummer from Coheed & Cambria. Was this some sort of bizzaro Coheed band? Nah, just a punk band from New York with a lot of heart. The Sax player said that their van had broken down in Sydney, Nebraska and they got some help from a local mechanic shop. "The people that worked on our van this week were the nicest, most respectable, upstanding people. I'd like to think that they reflect all of the people in Nebraska and we're so grateful to get to know you guys." He went on to speak about mental health and how important it is to celebrate life. He said their song "Surviving The Night" was one of the most important songs they've ever written. The band stepped off stage except for the lead singer who strummed along solo. His heartfelt lyrics stirred within my soul and had me almost in tears! One-by-one the rest of the band came back out and picked up their instruments. The song built up from a soft strum to a ska punk throwdown! Everyone in the crowd was jumping in celebration. The band was stoked with the crowd response and the lead singer shouted "Welcome to the show!" Keep Flying set the bar for the evening pretty high.
The next band Doll Skin out of Phoenix, Arizona changed the energy with their harder metal-tinged pop punk. I had the chance to shoot for Doll Skin shortly before the world shut down in 2020. I caught them at the Bourbon in Lincoln and just a few days later everything had changed. I remember Doll Skin's lead singer telling the crowd all of their dates were getting cancelled. At the time we had no idea what was going on, but now everything is clear. Let's not dwell on those dark times though, Doll Skin tore up the stage and gave the crowd a show!
The band was young, angry, and full of energy. This is what punk rock should look like. Doll Skin was ready to take no prisoners. They got the circle pit raging with shredding guitars and intense screams. At one point they talked about trans rights and how the LGBTQ community, specifically the youth is being targeted for hate and they weren't having any of it. Their new song "Eat Sh@t!" put the crowd into a frenzy. Lead singer Sydney led the room in a chant of well... "Eat Sh@t!" It definitely took things up a notch. The highlight for me was Doll Skin's brooding cover of "Waiting Room" by Fugazi. Talk about honoring your forefathers! It was an awesome set and I hope to catch Doll Skin again soon.
After Doll Skin was the self-proclaimed "Greatest band of all time" Bowling For Soup. This was Virginia and I's second time catching the Texas pop punkers and I was pretty excited. I love Bowling For Soup because they know exactly who they are. They're not chart topping rock stars, but they've had a steady career of under the radar success. Lead singer Jaret even said "Everyone knows us from our one big hit and people are quick to label us as one hit wonders. But we've had a lot of hits. We're ok being a one hit/ 9 secret hit wonder". It's totally true! If you check out Bowling For Soup's Spotify page you'll see hit after hit. But since most people were there to hear the "big hit" "1985" Jaret and Rob revealed a giant countdown clock showing how long we'd have to wait before they played the song. Bowling For Soup's comedy game is always on point. So much so, they even took a minute to have a joke contest. They each did their best to get the crowd laughing but ultimately drummer Gary took the bragging rights. For a full hour Bowling For Soup rocked our faces and had us smiling with so many jokes. I couldn't even fit in all the silliness if I wanted to. Just know it was amazing and if you weren't there you missed out!
As the clock struck 10:00 it was time for the ska punk legends Less Than Jake! The band came out to thunderous applause minus one fan near the front. During the opening song "Automatic", lead singer/guitarist Chris Demakes looked down and said "Are you bored? You look bored" Ouch. That's ok, the rest of the crowd was there to party. With giant red balloons and toilet paper launchers Less Than Jake had the party in full swing from the very first note. Much like BFS, Less Than Jake has had a long career of subtle hits. They've never had a ton of radio airplay, but it felt like every song in their set has been in a movie or video game somewhere along the way. They're one of those bands that is so recognizable once you hear them, but just not on the forefront of the scene. Less Than Jake is celebrating 30 years as a band if you can believe it, but their energy could rival almost any younger band out there. Bass player Roger exclaimed "That guy with big mohawk (Colin from local band Cutthroat Kids) looks like he should be in a circle pit, let's get some action going!" The crowd quickly started to swirl and Colin's mohawk bounced along the sea of heads. A few songs later a skeleton dancer appeared and skanked upon the stage! This show was wild y'all.
Chris and Roger took a moment to walk us down memory lane, "Do you guys remember the Ranch Bowl? Yea we played there a bunch of times". Chris also mentioned how Blink 182 used to open for them, talk about legends. A lot of bands come and go, but 30 years later and Less Than Jake is still killing it. The band is getting ready to release a deluxe version of their latest album Silver Linings. Go check that out and give LTJ a follow on social media so you can catch their amazing show the next time they come through!
A huge thank you to both Less Than Jake and Bowling For Soup for getting us on the photo list. Thanks to The Slowdown for putting on such an amazing show and keeping things running smoothly.
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Less Than Jake
Bowling For Soup
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