Strung Out plays in Vegas tonight, but that didn't stop the band from having a good time in Phoenix last night. Frontman Jason Cruz showed off Chris Aiken's brand new Fender signature bass and the band took shots to celebrate as they tore through a setlist that was dominated by old material.
As much as I hate to admit it, I had low hopes for how the crowd would react to Strung Out. When I first saw the band in 2004 or so at Marquee Theatre, they had a great reception, but every time I have seen the band since, the audience has grown smaller and smaller (with the exception of their opening slot for Face to Face last year).
Things looked grim during the opening acts. Both The Sheds and Jughead's Revenge played solid punk sets for a small crowd. The audience got into the second half of Jughead's set with a couple guys playing air guitar, doing the running man, and screaming out song requests. The band mixed original material like "Victims and Volunteers" and "Pain" with covers of classic punk bands including Adolescents, Black Flag, and Reagan Youth.
Air guitar guy and running man dude begged Jughead's Revenge for an encore, and Jordan Burns (drummer of Strung Out) gave the band a nod so they could play a few more songs. Singer Joe Doherty joked that Burns wasn't done getting his nails done.
The all ages section slowly filled up before Strung Out opened with "Analog," the first track from 2004's successful punk/metal hybrid Exile in Oblivion. What followed was an onslaught of classic Strung Out songs with a few new songs peppered in. The band kept banter to a minimum, aside from Cruz stating that the band can no longer play in Flagstaff or Tucson (which was met with a few "fuck [insert city name here]s") and the guys talking about their plans for Vegas. "Let's pick up some pro-...play some slots!" cuing a series of jokes that spiraled into cocaine talk.
Fast forward to 1:40 for a cool solo.
The white dragon made another appearance during "Exhumation of Virginia Madison." The original line was "gotta learn to stay away from all this TV," and in Live in a Dive, Cruz changes the lyrics to "LSD." Last night, Cruz and Ramos used this line to spout off a list of drugs while Ramos made a cocaine snorting gesture.
"In Harm's Way" included a brief sample of Pantera's "Walk," like Strung Out's previous performance.
"Matchbook" is usually the band's closing song, but instead closed out the first set. Strung Out had a solid encore with "Iceburn" sandwiched between some of the best songs from Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues.
Strung Out's set clocked in at just over an hour. Last night they proved that they are still as fun to see live as they were all those years ago. Cruz, Ramos, and Aiken all engaged the audience by frequently leaning into the crowd, and Cruz frequently handed the mic off to fans.
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Setlist: Analog Carcrashradio Lubricating the Revolution Reason to Believe Too Close to See Savant City Lights Velvet Alley No Voice of Mine Speed Ball Blue Print of the Fall In Harm's Way Lost Motel Exhumation of Virginia Madison All the Nations The Misanthropic Principle Mission Statement Matchbook
Encore: Bring Out Your Dead Ice Burn Gear Box
Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Strung Out at Clubhouse Music Venue. Personal Bias: I've been to a lot of Strung Out shows. The Crowd: The same 30-somethings I see at almost every punk show. Overheard in the Crowd: The guys in Strung Out were pretty excited to spot Josh James from Casey Jones/Evergreen Terrace in the crowd. One More Thing: Please don't elbow your way to the front if you're going to be taking cell phone pictures every five seconds.