Face to Face
Friday, July 1
The '90s were a good time for punk rock. Fat Wreck Chords, Epitaph, Lookout, and Nitro were powerhouses of the upbeat catchy punk that dominated Warped Tour's glory days. While many of the bands that defined the genre have faded away after year of inactivity, a select few have charged on. Face to Face and Strung Out are two such bands, and their status as tour-mates makes perfect sense.
Both formed in the early '90s in Southern California and share an audience that grows with them. Sure, the fans haven't changed much in the past twenty years, but there's nothing wrong with that. These are the same people that keep buying tickets year after year to support bands they love.
If The Nile wasn't sold out last night, it was pretty damn close. It was like a time warp back to the skate punk shows I saw before I was old enough to drive, at a venue that is practically legendary for hosting bands like these. It felt like the crowd hadn't changed at all; I was once again surrounded by a mass of tall, friendly guys who averaged about ten years older than me. As a teen, I was crazy enough to bounce around the pit like a pinball. After a few pairs of broken glasses and some concussions, I stopped, but it's still hard to resist not joining in the fun. Lots of people think of mosh pits as violent, chaotic things, but any time I lost my balance or fell down, three sets of arms helped me up right away.
I thought that maybe this camaraderie was unique to my personal golden era of punk, but last night, I was transported back to the band's farewell show at the Marquee in 2004. According to their website, they decided to break up because they felt they had said "everything they wanted to say as a band."
They called it quits at their prime, a couple years after How to Ruin Everything was released. As much as it was a bummer, it's better to break up before putting out a series of mediocre records.
In 2008, I was fortunate enough to see one of their first reunion shows at Bamboozle Left. Face to Face apparently had found more to say. The band sounded great then, as good as they had when I first saw them.
Their tours remained sparse until they joined Warped Tour last year. Singer Trever Keith recalls playing "in 115 degree heat to about four people" in Phoenix. Fortunately, this wasn't the case last night, as the packed venue welcomed Face to Face's first headlining Arizona show in a long time.
A sign on stage reads "NO stage diving," but most fans didn't seem get the memo. For the most part, the stage diving was safe and free of kicks to the head, in spite of guitarist/vocalist Chad Yaro's mic stand being taken out.
Keith announced a song from the new album and said, "I can't talk, I'm fucking retarded tonight. I drank a lot of stupid juice before the show tonight." His guitar work and vocals didn't giveaway that he was sloshed, but a few of the hilarious one-liners hinted at it.
The set was dominated by fan favorites, including an impressive array of songs from the self-titled album. The band sprinkled in a few new songs from their first album in nine years, Laugh Now, Laugh Later, which stays true to their signature brand of rapid-fire punk rock.
During "Blind," a blonde girl jumped on stage and danced around until the song was over. A perplexed Keith said, "I'm not sure what to say, but a couple responses come to mind....I remember my first punk rock show. I remember my first beer."
This reminiscence carried on to memories of Face to Face's first show at The Nile circa Don't Turn Away when they were still a trio. Second-guitarist Chad Yaro was added to the band, allowing Keith to "get away with fucking up the chords."
The crowd sang throughout the evening, usually following Keith's cues. He had some fun during "Pastel", as fans sang the "I don't want a game that I don't know how to how to play, just go away..." interlude and he randomly stopped playing guitar and fell silent. The audience laughed as he said, "Psych. I totally psyched you guys out right there."
Keith recognized some fans from early shows and asked who saw them at the Silver Dollar. A few cheered, and he immediately accusing them of lying, asking how many thirtysomethings were out there. Not surprisingly, most of the crowd raised their hands.
During "A-OK," Keith walked off stage as Scott Shifflet played an extended bass solo. The singer reemerged imitating a pair of glasses with his hands around his eyes. "I always get bored during the bass solo, but if you like it, that's cool," he answered in response to a couple "fuck yous" from the crowd.
He called out the "guy in tan shorts" for violating the "three stage dive rule." He told the audience to part like the Red Sea if he tries to do it again since he's "an attention whore," then encouraged fans that wanted to see them in Vegas to duck tape themselves to the van as stowaways.
"Handout" was a nice surprise that transitioned well into "Disconnected," setting off the largest circle pit of the evening. The encore entailed a guitarist from Blitzkid and Rob and Jordan of Strung Out taking the stage with Face to Face for the heavy song, joined by a mummy and a bunch of tattooed guys in speedos. I guess that's one way to have a memorable send off -- though all signs indicate Face to Face are going to be sticking around for awhile.
1. You've Done Nothing
2. Should Anything Go Wrong
4. Walk the Walk
5. It's Not All About You
7. I Won't Lie Down
9. Bill of Goods
11. You Lied
12. Nothing New
13. Setlist says Velocity, but they played something else.
15. All for Nothing
18. Song with members of other bands.
I'm not that familiar with the new album, so if you can help with the two unnamed songs, I'd really appreciate it!
Strung Out was another walk down memory lane, kicking things off with "Too Close to See" and "Firecracker" back to back. It was a good way to represent fan favorites Twisted by Design and Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues while giving fair play to their strongest intro songs. Their was a good representation of their work, including some rare songs like "Speedball" and "Cemetery" alongside new material, and a few seconds of Pantera's "Walk."
Strung Out's brand of hardcore infused pop punk still gets the fans to go crazy.
The closing songs followed suit of the openers, packing the one-two Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues/Twisted by Design punch. The anguish and power of "Bring Out Your Dead", one of their biggest songs, is best played toward the end of their set, usually as a pre-encore song if the band is headlining. It was followed by their usual closer, "Matchbook," which was accentuated by bassist Chris Aiken stage diving and frontman Jason Cruz belting out lyrics on his knees.
Last Night: Face to Face at Nile Theater.
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The Crowd: dominated by the same guys in their early 30's that always seem to come to Face to Face shows.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I just want to stand in a circle and dance."
Personal Bias: Face to Face and Strung Out were both my favorite bands at one point. I was itching for a punk show, and this was a good way to go.
Random Notebook Dump: Water is only a dollar? The Nile rules.