Not only was this my first Less Than Jake show, it was pretty much first ever gig (if you don’t count the live stage at a local skate fest the year before and a ‘concert’ which, coincidentally was also in Cardiff). And what a line up to kick things off! Ed had downloaded a handful of tracks from both The Pietasters and Teen Idols and burnt some CD-Rs for us, so we were as excited to see them as LTJ. I’m not sure if we knew much of Allister’s stuff going in, but that would change in the next few years.
Let’s start by dedicating this entire post to my Mum. In my Dad’s absence due to work commitments, she drove us the three hour journey to Cardiff and sat in the car during the gig, waiting for us to eventually re-emerge for the return trip home. When we arrived in the city early afternoon my Mum parked up in a bay near the venue. Immediately we spotted a tour bus and, assuming it would be LTJ’s, we excitedly lined up for the photo op.
You may laugh at my Kevin and Perry bucket hat, but enough time has now passed that these have come back around and I’ve seen Ed wearing something very similar recently.
Our guess that it belonged to the headline band was confirmed when Roger, having seen us taking a photo, kindly popped his head out the door to say hello. For all that can be said about my Mum’s driving and navigation skills, the same cannot be said for her ability to use a digital camera in 2003. Ed fell victim to this and was mortified for years at being accidentally cut from our second photo, this time with Rog. You would think that in the 19 years since of me using Photoshop I may have fixed this for him. What can I say, it’s been a busy couple of decades.
We spent some time in town before the show, checking out the gigantic Virgin Megastores and the independent Spiller Records. At Virgin we found, and all bought, the 7″ single edition of She’s Gonna Break Soon the lead track from Less Than Jake’s album Anthem (which was released the day after this show). This record is still one of the prize pieces of my collection, not just because of the wonderful memories attached to finding it, the cover illustration Mitch O’ Connell is one of my all time favourite pieces of LTJ artwork.
Arriving back at the venue, we joined the queue and had only been waiting a few minutes before the Teen Idols squeezed past, in single file, all wearing their leathers and get up. To be fair The Pietasters or Allister may well have walked past us too, there was no mistakenly the Teen Idols with their iconic look though.
At the door we were given a free keyring that said ‘LTJ ❤️ The Fuckin’ UK’. These were an apology from the band for having rescheduled the tour twice. I don’t think the new dates had caused an inconvenience to any of us (perhaps my poor Mum), but we were certainly happy to accept the bonus merch. I, of course, still have mine in the collection, along with everything else I bought or picked up that night (including the t-shirt below, which has been retired for a number of years).
The show itself was a non stop, four hour sugar rush of skanking, running and moshing that set the standard for every gig I’ve ever been to in almost 20 years since. Sure, plenty have been a fair bit lighter on the audience participation, yet that same feeling of absolute escapism has been what kept me scouring magazines, and later social media, finding the tour announcements, booking tickets, travelling here, there and everywhere. It all started at The Great Hall in Cardiff on a Sunday night in May 2003, while my Mum completed her crossword in the car outside.