Words by: Tyson Clarke
Photography by: Jerome Joyce
On February 21st 2018, Less Than Jake and Four Year Strong brought their co-headlining tour to The Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto. The tour had support from the Milwaukee based punk band, Direct Hit and the Ottawa based pop punk band, Bearings. The show was completely sold out, as thousands of fans came out to witness the wide range of music on this bill.
By the time the Massachusetts based pop punk/melodic hardcore band, Four Year Strong hit the stage the venue was completely full to capacity. As a special treat for the Toronto show of this tour, the band played their first album Rise or Die Trying in full for the last time ever. Hearing the album live was an exclusive for the Canadian shows of the tour since Four Year Strong had already went on an American tour supporting it last fall.
Four Year Strong opened their set with the songs “What the Hell is a Gigawatt?” and “Who Cares?”. Singer, Dan O’Connor jumped on the mic and said “tonight we’re playing the album Rise or Die Trying for the last time, and we mean the last time ever. If you know these words get the fuck up here and show us what you’ve got” before jumping into the albums opening track, “The Takeover”. After that they flew through the album with no breaks and relentless energy. The band’s set had the biggest mosh pits of the night, not one person in the crowd was standing still. The show felt special because a lot of the songs being played are probably never going to be played live again. After finishing Rise or Die Trying, Four Year Strong closed their set with the fan favourites: “We All Float down Here”, “It Must Suck to be Four Year Strong Right Now”, and “Wasting Time (Eternal Summer)”.
The last band to grace the stage was the legendary Florida based ska punk band, Less Than Jake. The band opened with “Sugar in your Gas Tank” and “The Ghost of You and Me”. Singer and guitarist, Chris Demakes, greeted the crowd by saying “You guys are a lively bunch for a Wednesday night. Thank you for that. How are you guys doing tonight?” I got to hang out with Paul from The Flatliners so I’m doing great. This song is about alcohol” before jumping into “Dopeman”. Less Than Jake flew through an 18 song set which had a mix of everything from their illustrious 26 year career.
It’s amazing how after 26 years it seems like the boys are still having the time of their lives. As if the music itself wasn’t enough to entertain the crowd, the banter between Guitarist, Chris Demakes and bassist, Roger Lima was a show in itself. At one point, Chris noticed a couple in the crowd aggressively making out so the band stopped playing and told the couple to go into the middle of the circle pit, and continue to make out while the crowd dances around them. Another standout moment during the show was when the band pulled 4 volunteers (2 men and 2 women) from the crowd to come on stage during the song “Look What Happened” do have a dance battle. Some bands like to shower the crowd with confetti or streamers, but instead Less Than Jake brought an 8 year old kid onstage to tee-pee the crowd with toilet paper.
Even though it was a brisk, Canadian winter night, the band made it feel like a summer day at Warped Tour. The entire set just felt like a party and a celebration of music and life. Everyone in the crowd was jumping, dancing, clapping, and singing along with huge smiles on their faces. Less Than Jake closed out their set with “The Rest of my Life”, and “All My Friends are Metalheads”. Before playing their final song “Gainesville Rock City” Chris Demakes expressed his gratitude to the crowd one last time by saying “This has been the best show on the tour, and we’re not just saying that. We’ll be back very soon whether it’s in an arena, some festival, or your grandma’s basement”.
This tour has a very big contrast in styles of punk music. If you’re into pop punk, Bearings is the band for you. If you’re into Punk Rock, Direct Hit is the band for you. If you’re looking for something a little more aggressive, Four Year Strong are your guys. If you’re looking to dance heart out, you’ve got Less Than Jake. This tour is very different, but that’s what makes it feel special. There really is something on this bill for everyone. The tour is coming to an end this weekend, but if it’s coming to your city you don’t want to miss out.
Four Year Strong Setlist:
What the Hell is a Gigawatt?
Prepare to be Digitally Manipulated
Abandon Ship or Abandon all Hope
Heroes get Remembered, Legends Never Die
Wrecked ‘em? Damn Near Killed ‘em
Men are from Mars, Women are from Hell
Bada Bing! Wit’ a pipe!
Beatdown in the Key of Happy
If He’s Here, Who’s Running Hell?
We All Float Down Here
It Must Suck to be Four Year Strong Right Now
Wasting Time (Eternal Summer)
Less Than Jake:
Sugar in your gas Tank
The Ghost of You and Me
Plastic Cup Politics
Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts
Soundtrack of my Life
Look What Happened
Never Going Back to New Jersey
Overrated (Everything is)
The Science of Selling Yourself Short
How’s My Driving, Doug Hastings?
Last One Out of Liberty City
The Rest of My Life
All My Friends are Metalheads
Gainesville Rock City