Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I had mixed feelings during the Face to Face reunion show at the Troc. Part of me was glad to be there seeing these SoCal punk rock legends again. It's been over 5 years since I last saw them on their "farewell" tour in 2004 before going on hiatus.
And another part of me thought it was kind of sad seeing a band that seems kind of trapped where they are. They have a loyal, hardcore following and that can be a blessing and a curse. Having been doing this since 1991, their faithful won't really accept any deviation from the Face to Face formula, as evident by the mixed reaction, at best, to singer/guitarist Trever Keith's more melodic post-Face to Face projects. And actually Face to Face's Ignorance Is Bliss, the one album that sounds very different compared to the rest of the catalog, was also poorly received at the time as a sellout.
The band is a 4-piece once again with 2nd guitarist Chad Yaro back in the fold. He was with the band from '93-'98. And there is a new drummer - Danny Thompson. But Keith and bassist Scott Shiflett remain.
Keith and Shiflett spent the last 4 years working on side projects. Keith had a solo album + another techno project called Legion of Doom. Shiflett teamed up with his brother Steve Shiflett from the Foo Fighters on the second Viva Death album with Keith also contributing to that. But obviously none of this stuff was received well. On a side note, last year when I ordered Keith's solo album online as a download-only release, several months before the CDs were pressed, he actually personally answered my email in re of my problems downloading it initially. Now, that's a DIY operation.
The show was about 1:20 with 21 songs played. Very little banter between songs. Keith mentioned that they are recording a new album, but kept reiterating that tonight they were only playing old stuff. Mostly very old stuff. 17 of the 21 songs played were from their first 3 albums, which were their 3 best. And Face to Face's music is now on the latest edition of Guitar Hero that just came out. Nowadays, that's probably as financially lucrative as selling 50,000 CDs.
At a few other points in the show they talked about being back in Philly and loving coming here to the Troc and also how much they like being back together playing these old songs again. Keith, who appeared to have put on quite a few lbs, joked that they took time off because "Scott had to go to rehab and I had to go to a fat farm....and all that did was remind me of how much I like food." A few other times they just chatted and tuned guitars, admittedly so they could take a break from the usual 100mph pace. At another point Keith asked the audience to raise their hands for those "under 21", "under 30", "under 40", "40 and over". Surprisingly, I'd say about half of the crowd was 30+. And then Keith revealed that he turned 40 this year.
Part of the fun of a Face to Face show is the crowd. Just like in 2004, it was another sold out show and pretty much the entire floor area of the Troc from about 5 lines deep near the stage back to the soundboard was a giant mosh pit. Lots of crowd surfing.
On a side note, the Troc closed most of the summer for renovations, but I didn't really see any difference. I thought they'd at least re-paint it and maybe reconfigure the upstairs area, like by adding another bar in that one room, so you aren't waiting 4-deep around the one bar to get a drink during crowded all ages shows. I had some hope that they would renovate the top floor, like the TLA did a few years ago and open it up so you can actually see the stage from up there. But it was not to be. I'm guessing they closed down to resolve some L&I safety violations or something and not to do any actual improvements.
The setlist (see below for complete setlist) was pretty much as expected. I was surprised that they didn't play "Walk the Walk" and I was surprised to hear them play "The Devil You Know" from the derided Ignorance album. Otherwise, the other 20 songs were from the same pool of 30 or so that they've been playing since they got back together in 2008. The highlights for me were "Pastel", "You Lied", "Ordinary", "Velocity", "Complicated", "A-OK", and their cover of the Descendents' "Bikeage" that they recorded as a bonus track on 1995's Big Choice. And of course hearing their only song that ever charted - "Disconnected", live is always a treat.
Chicago hardcore punk legends Pegboy opened. Pegboy started in 1990, founded by ex-Naked Raygun guitarist John Haggerty and influenced such bands as Jawbox and Alkaline Trio. They had reunited and are touring for the first time in 9 years. I had familiarized myself with some of their stuff so I recognized a few songs. But I thought the band seemed old and tired. And at one point they were all breathing so heavy that they had to kill time with lame banter and guitar tuning for several minutes before starting the next song. It was a decent set, but I honestly would have preferred seeing a good young band instead. Polar Bear Club opened the show and they were decent. I caught the last few songs and the crowd was mostly disinterested.
You've Done Nothing
Bill of Goods
What's In A Name?
The Devil You Know (God Is a Man)
I Won't Lie Down
I'm Not Afraid
Out of Focus
It's Not Over