Last night was a blast to the past, specifically 1996, thanks to punk legends Face To Face and Strung Out who made a stop in Cleveland at Peabody’s. The fact that the show landed on a Tuesday night meant nothing to all who filled up the venue to almost sold out proportions. Fans generally were a little older at the show seeing how the main bands playing ruled the punk scene in the mid-nineties. It was actually refreshing to be surrounded by such a crowd as I was in their company 15-years ago at random shows. There were so many familiar faces, it was like a punk rock reunion of sorts.
The Artist Life opened the show but I did not get into the venue in time to see them. My friends really did not have much to say about them, but after checking out their MySpace profile, I would not have mind to have taken them in. The Toronto foursome kind of reminds me of a mix of some of the newer punk acts I have been digging recently like Menzingers mixed with AM Taxi.
Long Beach, CA’s The Darlings took the stage to a full crowd and did their best to impress. The crowd was just not into them at all. They did not heckle the band or anything, but there was not that much cheering or crowd response at all. In fact, the old time the band got the crowd riled up was not when they played a Misfits cover, but when they played “Cruel World”
Strung Out, on the other hand, had no problem what so ever getting the crowd going. Taking the stage, the band dropped into “Too Close To See” and basically just hammered through an impressive set. Fans went wild when they played “Firecracker” followed by “Mind Of My Own” with Jason Cruz sounding better than ever on vocals.
During “In Harms Way” the band decided to reline the 90s a little more and did a nice little breakdown of Pantera’s “Walk” to which the fans all sang along to. Even though they were all hard at work, Strung Out also decided to do a live audition for a new guitarist for all to see and invited Jim Blowers from Pulley to fill in on a “Speedball”. Needless to say, Blowers proved he has what it takes to play in Strung Out.
My pal Chewy said it best about Strung Out’s set when he turned to me while we both took in the show and said that “this is one of those bands you listen to on CD thinking – wow, I wonder if they sound this awesome live?” He paused, turned his head to watch the show for a couple more seconds and looked back at me with a huge grin on his face and happily said “yup.”
He was right. Strung Out is one of the more technical punk rock acts out there and even though the band is going on 20 years, they sounded amazing if not better since the last time I saw them. Rocking through tracks old and new, the band finally thanked Cleveland for allowing them to play for them and finished off their set with “Bring Out Your Dead” and “Matchbook”. The crowd of course wanted more, and I am sure the band wanted to play more, but everyone knew they would have to wait till the next time they rolled through town.
The headliners of the night, Face To Face, finally took the stage to an adoring crowd. The band was all smiles as they broke into “You Lied”, a punk rock classic followed by “You’ve Done Nothing”. About four songs into the set, Trevor Keith announced that his voice was finally coming back and without hesitation started throwing out snark remarks to the crowd in good fun. The crowd took it well and realizing that he had everyone’s attention, Keith announced that the band would be playing a new track titled “It’s Not All About You”.
I am not sure the crowd really was into the new track played, but I can tell you that the following three songs the band played including “Ordinary”, “I Won’t Lie Down”, and “Blind” was a whole different story. Everyone, including myself, had their eyes on the stage and sang along every single lyric to those songs. Keith and company looked impressed and Keith even mentioned hoe he was feeling an “old school punk rock vibe” in the venue and liked how there was not a line of bouncers in front of the stage.
He continued how he wanted everyone to have a fun time and wished for no one to get hurt. He invited fans on stage one to two people at a time as they played and told them to do their thing and jump back in the crowd, just like the good old days. Keith also warned that anyone acting like an ass would have to face the bouncers located on both sides of the stage. After noticing some of the smaller folk in the crowd he even went so far as to inviting a handful of girls to watch the show on the side of the stage. Keith was looking out for the fans last night, that is for sure.
After laying down the rules, the band continued with “Pastel”, another new track titled “All For Nothing”, and one of my favorites “A-OK”. Honestly this might have been the best performance I have ever seen by Face To Face. They looked so happy to be playing on stage again after being on hiatus for about 8 years (minus last year’s 30 minute Warped Tour set).
With minimal breaks between songs, the bad kept moving on with “Velocity” and “Complicated”, perhaps my favorite Face To Face track ever. Hearing it live just made me love it even more.
When fans threw beers towards the stage, Keith avoided acting like a Weasel and laughed saying “I Don’t Want That!” He was having a good time and that made the show that much more entertaining. Just for kicks, the band decided to play a country song, more specifically “Keep Your Hands To Yourself” by the Georgia Satellites. Keith was amazed when the entire crowd sang the chorus in unison and admitted that he thought Cleveland was amazing.
Putting an end to the night, the bad played “Big Choice” and treated everyone to “Disconnected”, perhaps the band’s most commercially friendly song. Popular or not, I loved hearing it live and practically lost my voice singing along with. The band thanked everyone for coming out and exited the stage only to return for a two song encore, one new track, and one old track.
Seeing Face To Face and Strung Out play live together in one night was a dream come true. I felt like a kid all over again seeing both of the 90s acts take the stage. I was impressed with how both bands sounded live and how excited they were to be performing to the crowd. They were both top notch throughout and I could not ask for a better punk rock show.