Epic duos persist throughout pop culture. Rick and Morty, Joker and Harley Quinn, Pinky and the Brain, Jay and Silent Bob, and so many others over the decades. That brings me to the peanut butter and jelly of epic duo tours, Bowling For Soup and Less than Jake. The pop punk and ska punk staples are together for a west side run of the U.S. bringing the awesome pair of Cliff Diver and Doll Skin with them to the Marquee Theatre this past Friday.
Up first was a band known to many here in the Valley of the Sun, Doll Skin. The punk and metal influenced band has Syd up front on vocals, as always, with Tay and Tori returning on bass and guitar once again. This marked the band’s first local show since original drummer, Meaghan, announced her departure. It was my first look at the new person behind the kit, Scoot. She did a great job playing drums. Like her predecessor, switched off from drums to guitar with Tor for a little during the set.
Syd talked about being home made for the first time on the tour where it was more than one or two hands up when asking who had heard of them before. They said it was welcoming to play the Marquee stage, a place they had watched so many artists play growing up while holding back the emotions it was stirring. In addition, they talked during their set about how they just want to live. They want their existence as a trans and queer person not be something political. They rolled from that into the song “Eat Shit” with a dedication to our current state governor, Doug Ducey, one of many politicians responsible for that discourse here. One of the best parts of this band is they advocate and make a stand for acceptance for one another. They want to make things better and you see it inspire their fans. It is fantastic seeing Doll Skin get to open up across this tour and for this date here in their home town this stop.
Cliff Diver was the only question mark for me on the night going in. I knew the name, but not the artist. They came out to Limp Bizkit further making me wonder what I in store for. I was a little further confused as I saw a sax player and thought it maybe ska, but as they played it did not seem as which. They self-identify as Emo Pop which makes sense of what I was watching of the seven-piece band.
The co-vocalist Briana’s singing immediately stood out as amazing. She shared singing duties with Joey, who occasionally took lead, but more often they would bounce back and forth sharing parts of songs. The band danced and moved all over the Marquee stage. Talking points included Joey boasted over 400 days sober to applause. At a later point they invited Doll Skin out to dance and sing along showing how the bands have bonded over this tour. It was impressive and totally look to check out Cliff Diver again next time they come through.
Next Less than Jake, first of our coheadliners and top of my favorite all time musicians, hit the stage. The Gainesville ska punk band that tend to increase in their dancing quota on stage as they get older. I swear Buddy, trombone, specifically has just gotten more excited with each set I get to watch them play. Chris, lead vocals and guitar, took a fancy to entertaining the kids over on stage right, going over frequently and making funny faces as he played portions of songs at them. At a point they brought the two kids up and their mother, who was fanning herself as the Marquee got hot and humid with the show. They had their roadie follow and fan her to keep cool as she danced around the stage for an entire song with her kids.
Later during “Look What Happened” we had further of the tour bands cross pollination as Briana, of Cliff Diver, came out with her fantastic vocals to sing on the second part of the song. Myself fighting through a lingering long Covid fatigue, this was the band that got me singing and jumping along to songs like “Plastic Cup Politics” and “Nervous In a Alley.” From that sample you can probably tell, but the set was a solid list of tracks across a few of the older favorites in their catalog. Less than Jake made for another blast of a performance with this visit.
Last of our co-headliners would be the guys full of not just music, but jokes too, Bowling for Soup. From the start it is nonstop jokes through their set and had me laughing for most of it. Adding to that, they held a joke contest for all four members of them. Jaret, Chris, Rob and Gary each took a turn on the microphone telling a joke and then based on crowd applause. Gary, drums, won the contest of the pop punk group on a joke about wind turbines and metal fans. Later Jaret, on vocals and guitar, boasted he could do magic and Chris joked there are no birds up his ass, to have Jaret walk over and flip us the bird as if it came out of there like magic. It is the traditional immature trappings of pop punk, but I found myself laughing as they did this.
Also, you cannot go without talking about a trademark of the times I have watched Bowling for Soup, the pick tricks. Throughout the entire set you watch Chris and Jaret over and over attempt to flip their many guitar picks onto their forehead. They shrug off failed attempts and nonchalantly try again as they play. It adds for an additional layer of entertainment. As for the pop punk, it was a set full of their catalog of songs talking about missed romances with girls and how punk works like “Punk Rock 101.” Before going into their last song Jaret talked about how it may shock everyone to know that he does not like bacon, he does not like pies, but most of all he hates goodbyes. The first two a little surpising, albeit I found myself laughing at the crowd reactions more. They would finish on that trademark favorite, “1985.” Bowling for Soup and the entire night left me leaving with a smile through my exhaustion.