Bearings was the opening act for the Less Than Jake and Four Year Strong co-headlining tour hosted at Mr. Smalls Theater in Millvale, PA on February 23, 2018. The band hit the stage with minimal background gestures, which was okay for the band, for they had a flag or two that had the image of their newest release on it. However, it didn’t harm the band by not having an elaborate stage setup, for their music resonated with the audience on its own. The music the band provided to the audience was strong in terms of their pop punk genre influence. As one listens to their material, they notice that it falls into the same realm as popular artists in the scene such as Knuckle Puck, Seaway, and Real Friends. With that being said, Bearings provided a performance to the audience that proved they aren’t just another pop punk band; rather, they have their own creative vision, and that’s what they were going to provide. They were able to do this by giving their all from the very beginning of the set; to further, as soon as they had the greenlight to go, Bearings stepped onto the stage and just went. The band stopped for a brief moment here and there to collect their breath, but for the most part the band kept their high energy checked in at one-hundred. The band was able to shake the crowd, which was impressive, for the majority of fans present were at the concert to see Less Than Jake; however, through their overt style and over-the-top instrumental breakdowns, Bearings was able to strike a nerve in the audience, which woke them up and began to build the excitement for the two headlining acts. Overall, Bearings was a strong opening act for this concert, for they provided the audience with a fresh approach to pop punk music, and they did so while providing an enjoyable environment for everyone in attendance.
The next band to hit the stage was Direct Hit!. Before diving into the details of their set, it is notable that this band gives more than everything they have on the stage, which speaks highly of their dedication to their band and their craft. The minute the band hit the stage, they were off; meaning, the band was running around the stage, jumping, singing, and messing with the crowd for twenty-eight minutes of their thirty-minute set. The band stopped maybe two times to catch their breath, other than that, it was high energy times one-hundred constantly. The music that they provided to their audience was very vintage to the punk rock genre of music. They were able to emphasize this type of music through rapid melodic figures both lyrically and rhythmically, which was enhanced throughout various grandeur instrumental interludes. Moving from song to song, the band provided different staging and vocals effects to allow the audience to join in with them, for it was evident that their goal was to wake up the audience, and help them to have the best concert of their life. Towards the end of the set, the lead singer brought the mood down slightly to thank the audience and to tell them that they aren’t ever alone, especially at a Direct Hit! show. This was a nice shift of mood, even if it was only momentarily, for it gave the audience a minute to breath, and it allowed them to connect with the band more than just through screaming lyrics back at them. Overall, Direct Hit! was a fantastic opener for this concert, for they weren’t afraid to jump on the stage and give it every ounce of energy they have. As their set ended, the bassist gave his bass to someone in the crowd to hold as the lead singer fell to his knees and screamed the lyrics to the very last phrase: clearly giving that moment all of the energy he had left. I’ve never witnessed an opening band amplify their band’s aesthetic as well as I did for this one, and after their set, the crowd was anxious with anticipation for the headliners.
Four Year Strong:
The first of the two headliners to hit the stage was the one, the only: Four Year Strong. To make a side comment, the crowd for Four Year Strong was depressing in some moments, for it was evident that most of the patrons in the crowd were only there for Less Than Jake, so the normal energized crowd for Four Year Strong’s sets wasn’t present, but that didn’t take away from their performance even one bit. Like the opening bands, Four Year Strong hit the stage with top notch energy, and they were able to enforce that through the consistent production of repertoire, moving quickly from song to song. The band structured their setlist in a killer fashion, for they included works off all their releases, and they planted them in such a manner that would wake the crowd up the moment they started to feel tired. Four Year Strong is known for their musical intricacy and larger than life breakdowns, and throughout this performance they didn’t just play them verbatim, oh no, they took them and expanded on them to make them even greater. To further, throughout the performance when there would be an elaborate instrumental breakdown, the band would fall into the nuances that is characteristic to them for a live performance of that track; however, in some instances, the band took the creative liberty to either elongate certain breakdowns or add instrumental embellishments. The biggest example of this is when the band played their song “Who Cares?”. When they made it to the instrumental interlude in the middle of the track, instead of blowing through it, they slowed it down to prolong that specific section, which made the arrival to the chorus even greater than normal. Overall, Four Year Strong put on a fantastic set as they always do. Yes, there were moments where it was hard to hear due to microphone malfunctions, and the crowd was mixed at times, but Four Year Strong kept their energy up and delivered another phenomenal show for their audience.
Less Than Jake:
Last, but certainly not least, the act that every person in attendance was waiting for: Less Than Jake! The audience knew they were in for treat by the band’s stage setup alone. Their stage setup was focused through a huge banner with their most recent logo on it with a drum set that matched it completely. Something notable about the drum set is that each tom had green lights surrounding it to give off a more dramatic effect. Once the band hit the stage, they kept the same level of high energy as every other artist on the tour. Moving to the band’s music, the band seemed to play some of their repertoire that they don’t normally play, which was a nice touch for the fans that have seen them dozens of times. As the band moved throughout their set, they played off the quirky nuances of their additional instrumentation (saxophone and trombone). They did so by allowing those timbres to shine throughout each of their instrumental features, which is one of the reasons they are one of the leading SKA bands in the business. As they played through their set, one could notice that the audience was loving every single moment of it. The audience was mixed with people of all ages, which shows that their music holds firm overtime and is enjoyable to all. Here and there, in between songs, the band members would provide small comedic commentary to lighten the mood. Honestly, this was one of my favorite parts of their set, for as an audience member you are able to connect with them on a different level while having a chance to catch your breath. The last major thing to note about their set is that as you watch this band perform their music, it is heavily evident that they all love what they are doing. It is so moving to watch a band get on stage and enjoy everything they are providing for you because then everyone is having the time of their life through music, not just the audience. Overall, Less Than Jake put on a killer set that everyone should’ve been present for.
Overall, I would give this concert a 4.5 out of 5 stars. I landed on this score for a few different reasons. The first reason that this score popped into my mind is that the line-up of the concert was just perfect; to further, Bearings was a great choice for fans of Four Year Strong, for they share similar genre filled nuances throughout their music. The same connection is felt between both Direct Hit! and Less Than Jake, so with these two strong pairings, the audience was in for nothing but a treat. The other main reason I landed on this score is that each set was rock solid top to bottom, which made for an overly enjoyable evening. The only thing that held back this show from getting the top score is the crowd. Since the show was classified as a co-headliner between Four Year Strong and Less Than Jake, I thought the crowd would go nuts for Four Year Strong as they have in traditions past; however, the majority of the crowd remained stagnant during their set, which caused a tiny kink in the overall picture of this show. Regardless, I highly recommend seeing every artist on this tour at a live concert, especially Four Year Strong and Less Than Jake: both of them truly know how to perform.