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Face to Face in Philly – 5/21/11

May 23, 2011 1 comment

The road to Face to Face show #13 took a much different route than expected. As I said in my last post, show #13 was set for Toad’s Place in New Haven, Connecticut, on May 19th. Sadly, Face to Face doesn’t draw particularly well in Connecticut (I can’t think of them playing a non-Warped Tour show in CT since probably 1995/6), as evidenced by the small crowd that was present for their mid-afternoon Warped Tour slot last summer. So, the day before the New Haven gig brought with it word that there would, in fact, not be a New Haven gig.

As such, it seemed there would be no show #13, at least on this tour. The band played May 20th in Sayreville, NJ, which is a couple of hours from my in-laws house in CT. Certainly doable, but did I really want to go to New Jersey? May 21st was set for the Trocadero in Philadelphia, and the tour would continue to head south thereafter. While Philly has always been one of my favorite cities, this certainly didn’t seem like a realistic option. That is, until Natalia said “I’d go to Philly.” That was all it took; Philly it was.

Philadelphia is not a bad ride at all from southern Connecticut, as it turns out. I say “not a bad ride” because it does involve driving through New York and New Jersey, neither of which are overly appealing options even in the best of all possible worlds. A necessary evil, however.

On to the show…

The Trocadero in Philadelphia, for those that have never been there, is a pretty awesome venue. Though it has obviously been updated since its opening as theater in the 1870s, “the Troc” still contains a lot of classic, original charm.  Also, a lot of the original lack of bathroom sanitation, but I digress. The Troc holds about 1,200 people, and I’d guess there were between 900 and 1000 in the house for this gig (by the time Strung Out took the stage, anyway). Not sold out, but that wasn’t a bad thing as it gave the crowd a chance to really get “in” to the show (pretty solid ongoing circle pit for both Strung Out and Face to Face).

Before I get to Face to Face, allow me to expound a little on opening act The Darlings (I’m going to skip Cerebral Ballzy, because they are, quite frankly, not good). I at least saw most of their performance this time (missed all of Boston), and frankly I think they are awesome: very solid, younger band. It’s refreshing to see a younger band that isn’t doing the screamo/skinny jeans/Day Glo t-shirt/Jennifer Aniston haircut thing. Much props to The Darlings. Expect bigger things from them in the years to come.

The Darlings, from much farther away  than I should have been. If you are reading this and are planning on heading to a show on this tour, make sure you get there early: these guys deserve your support.

Strung Out came next and kicked the crowd’s collective ass for a solid 40 minutes. A large portion of the crowd was much more familiar with Strung Out’s body of work than I am (though I’m getting better), so there was a pretty solid pit from start-to-finish. As always, Strung Out were musically tight, and their high energy set does a great job of getting the crowd whipped into a frenzy.

The crowd at the Troc, actively participating in Strung Out’s performance

Strung Out’s Jake Kiley

Speaking of the crowd: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how stellar the crowd was. Not only was this the thirteenth time I’ve seen Face to Face, but those shows took place in thirteen different venues across four states. I’m not just being clouded by recent memory when I say that Philly’s crowd may well have been the best of the bunch. They seemed into the entire show from start to finish; aggressive without being overly rowdy. Admittedly, my vantage point during Face to Face’s set was fairly poor in order to get a true impression of the crowd, so I’m basing this portion of the review off of A)their performance during Strung Out’s set and B)Trever’s reaction. Trever seemed pretty genuinely impressed by this. If you’ve been to multiple Face to Face shows, especially on the same tour, you know that Trever can engage in a certain amount of canned stage banter, typical of most frontmen. I couldn’t help but get the impression on this night, however, that Trever was genuinely ‘feeling it’ tonight.

I’m not going to bother with a setlist this time, in part because the physical “setlist” was exactly the same for this show as it was for Boston. It is also wrong from song #1.

As you can see, “You Lied” is listed as the first song, and “Should Anything Go Wrong” is listed as the thirteenth. “Should Anything Go Wrong” was actually the band’s first song, and from there it just gets more jumbled. In glancing at the setlist pictured above, memory tells me that all of those songs were played, just not in that order. I didn’t notice any real banter between the guys on the stage that they were switching things up, so I’m not honestly sure how that all works. Why bother using a generic setlist if you aren’t actually going to come close to going by it?

Anyway, we had four songs from Laugh Now…Laugh Later at this gig, as opposed to three this time (“Bombs Away” was actually played, much to my delight as I find it one of the best songs on the album). Only one song from How To Ruin Everything, and none from Reactionary or Ignorance Is Bliss. I meant to ask why Reactionary is being largely ignored on this marathon of a tour, but it slipped my mind at the time. Most Face to Face “fans” tend to swear that only the band’s first three albums are worth listening to, so this setlist probably finds the band playing to that expectation. Not a bad decision from the perspective of luring people back to the band after a prolonged absence, I suppose, as long as it means the list gets broadened next time out.

Danny and Scott were in solid-as-ever form. Dennis’ sound was a little clearer than in Boston, which is good because that guy can really play. Aside from being a very likeable guy, he’s a hell of a guitar player. Trever was Trever…intense at some times, silly and playful at others. Classic Face to Face performance from soup to nuts.

Enough blabbing…here are some more pictures. Please to enjoy.

The one and only Scott Shiflett. Trever has made a habit of pointing out Scott’s awesomeness at shows on this tour, allowing Scott a minute to get into a bass solo. On this night, Trever also pointed out how great a guitar player Scott is, prompting Dennis to take off his own guitar and sling it over Scott. Scott proceeded to shred an impromptu lightning-fast metal-icious guitar solo. Pretty awesome…just wish I photographed it!

There are worse places to watch a punk rock show from, I’ve gotta say

Danny Thompson on drums. I really like the way the coloring worked out on this one. Just wish I could remember what setting I had the camera on!

Totally different coloring, but I still think it’s a cool picture

The closest I came to getting the four fellas in the same shot

Trever and Scott paying Danny a visit. That’s Corey Miller on the right.

Dennis, Trever and Scott and his maroon Docs

Messing around with long shutter speeds. I like the results.

Trever and Scott

The view from Danny’s corner of the world

Seriously…not a bad spot to watch a show from

I really like this picture. Wish it was a little crisper, but still…

Trever keeping an eye on Scott

Face to Face w/Strung Out – Boston, MA

May 15, 2011 1 comment

For the first time in just about two years, Face to Face played within Boston proper last night (May 14th). The band are celebrating their twentieth year in business, and touring in support of their seventh studio album, Laugh Now…Laugh Later, which is due to be released this coming week (May 17th). Joining them for the duration of the two-plus month-long tour are fellow SoCal heavyweights Strung Out, themselves rounding the corner on 20 years (the band was formed in 1992).

As much as it pains me to say, I’m much less familiar with Strung Out’s catalog than I should be; this is certain to change in the near future. The band play a fast-paced, metal-infused brand of SoCal punk rock. I’m not sure how I never got around to seeing Strung Out before. Nevertheless, they put on a very enjoyable, high octane 40-ish minute set on this particular night. Their 7:50pm time slot was also notably earlier than anticipated; Brooklyn band Cerebral Ballzy (yes, that is their real name) were due to occupy one of the opening slots, but played in the UK the day before and didn’t make it back to the States in time for this gig.  Redondo Beach punk band The Darlings occupied the 7:00pm time slot, though admittedly, I missed their performance.

Anyway, here are a few pictures from the Strung Out set…

Frontman Jason Cruz

Jake Kiley and Jason Cruz
Jake Kiley and Chris Aiken

Aiken and Cruz

On to the headliners. May 14th, 2011, would mark my twelfth f2f gig. Paradise is a fairly legendary rock club in Boston, so I was pretty excited to get the opportunity to see my favorite band there for the first time. The boys took the stage promptly at 9:10pm. Thanks to our spot up front between Trever Keith and Scott Shiflett, we had a pretty good view of the setlist ahead of time. Here’s how it read:

You Lied

You’ve Done Nothing

Struggle

Walk The Walk

It’s All About You

Ordinary

I Won’t Lie Down

Blind

Bill Of Goods

Pastel

All For Nothing

A-OK

Should Anything Go Wrong

Velocity

I Want

Complicated

Big Choice

Bombs Away

Resignation

Disconnected

——————–

I’m Trying

It’s Not Over

As you might imagine from looking at it, that right there is a pretty solid setlist. The band’s first three albums were obviously very well represented (five songs from Don’t Turn Away, six songs each from Big Choice and the self-titled album), while Ignorance Is Bliss (to be expected) and Reactionary (unexpected) were unrepresented, and 2002’s How To Ruin Everything had only one song featured. The remainder were from the forthcoming Laugh Now…Laugh Later. “Should Anything Go Wrong” and “It’s All About You” were fairly well-received and several people seemed to know the words already.  “All for Nothing” occupied the space that “Bombs Away” was slotted for, the latter song not actually being played, and was met with nodding approval (no ‘thumbs-down, middle-finger-up’ this time around), a good sign for a song that isn’t full-throttle punk rock song.

The mostly-capacity crowd was pretty chipper for most of the set, and seemed to get rowdier from about the halfway mark on. Pretty decent pit ebbed and flowed for the majority of the set, and the number of crowd surfers was unexpectedly high. Frontman and band founder Trever Keith acknowledged that his voice was a little off (“phlegmy” was the precise word he used) and it was noticeable in some places, but by and large he sounded great for an “old guy.” About a third of the way through the set, Keith commented on how Face to Face crowds have grown decidedly older over the years, but pointed out that they were, in fact, old men themselves (prompting bass player extraordinaire to pretend to shuffle over to his spot aided by a walker). Keith also repeatedly commented on how the Red Sox were beating the Yankees, which always pleases him due to his noted hatred of the Bronx Bombers. That met with applause from the crowd, and didn’t come off as typical front-man pandering.

Despite the band’s age, they played with their trademark high energy and precision. New drummer (since the 2008 reunion) Danny Thompson served as the rock steady gas pedal behind the kit, keeping things plowing straight ahead. While longtime guitar player Chad Yaro was back home tending to “real job” duties, touring guitar player Dennis Hill continues to serve as a formidable replacement. Sadly, the sound was not mixed all too well, so his guitar was almost inaudible from our spot. Keith and Shiflett continued to do what they have been doing best for sixteen years (Shiflett took over for Matt Riddle in 1995): Keith’s power chord rhythmic assault on guitar continues to interplay with the melodically nimble-fingered Shiflett’s swirling bass lines.

But enough of my words. Here are some pictures for your enjoyment…

“You’ve got brains in your head…feet in your shoes…you can steer yourself…any way you choose…”

Scott doing the “duck face,” probably unintentionally…though, knowing Scott…

Scott either showing that playing bass is hard work, or trying to keep his dinner down

Danny, Trever and Dennis

Trever Keith

Scott, Trever and Danny. The banner behind them was designed by the one-and-only Corey Miller

I’m pretty sure Scott posed for this one…

I love this picture. Who says “old guys” can’t rock?!?

The man does have a thing for the Les Paul Studio, doesn’t he?

Danny, Trever and Dennis, seemingly enjoying themselves

Just sorta like the coloring on this one

“Whaaaaa?!?”

A considerate crowd member shares a beer with mini Dennis

I have a tough time photographing drummers, I’m not gonna lie

More Dennis

In closing, I would say that my twelfth Face to Face show left me looking forward to another twelve, but I’m not that naive. Still, a boy can dream, can’t he? At least there’ll be New Haven on Thursday!