02.11.06 @ HiFi Bar, Melbourne, AUS
w/ Chase Manhattan, Armageddon Sky
In the seven odd years between my first and most recent Lagwagon show, the members of the band have aged (some more gracefully than others), they’ve had to say goodbye to one of their own, and it seems, the kids at the shows are getting much younger. This was none more evident than their recent trek to Melbourne. Skepticism rose early during the announcements of the opening acts- in 1999, when they played Philadelphia’s Trocadero, it was Wretch Like Me, All, and Latex Generation warming up the crowd. All of the bands could have been lumped together in one pseudo genre group- an acceptable slate of artists one would expect to open a Lagwagon show. Fast forward to the present day and wagon fans are (mis)treated to a couple of bands trying their very best to ape Taking Back Sunday screaming inside a trash can rolling down a hill. Chase Manhattan were crap, and there’s little else to say about it other than the folks arriving early (that’s us), had the chance to check the merch booth or buy overpriced beer before the crowds came.
Armageddon Sky were decent- if not trying too hard to sound like Senses Fail. Their sound was a little muted and their songs lacked the thump needed to energize an already impatient audience. To add, they acted like rockstars, and that dear readers, is no-no numero uno: rockstar posing is for dickheads. And after they trudged through their seemingly long set, the crowd finally seemed bothered to pay attention. $30 and almost three hours of waiting, Joey Cape and friends graced the stage to rapturous, thank-god they’re finally here, we’ve sat through the muck applause.
And like a tectonic shift in plains, the atmosphere exploded with the kind riotous energy reserved for storming a Danish embassy. Oh sweet chaos! Lagwagon broke into “Heartbreaking Music” and “Automatic” as bodies began flying off the stage left and right and finally … finally, the show was on. They raced through an impressive setlist that included some of their best tunes from their extensive discography, making sure not to skip over their earlier work on Duh and Trashed, as well as their later work- “Making Friends,” “Sleep,” “May 16th,” “Island of Shame,” and “Mr. Coffee” all made their appearance- stopping every so often to fraternize with the crowd that had made their way on stage. And this would be an ongoing theme through the night- the staggering number of concertgoers who ultimately ended up on stage. Security came in the form of one solitary, weedy stage hand who spent the night pleading with rushers to “please clear the stage.” (Side note: the number of dudes who made their way on stage to kiss Joey was more than two)Spending time to acknowledge the audience and former drummer Derrick Plourde who took his own life last year, the overwhelming sentiment of the evening was rocking out and having a good time without any of the bullshit. There was a sense of closeness between the crowd and the band often lost at rock shows. They played their way through their tunes and the crowd recognized the band by providing them with the kind of organized anarchy not seen since Fear destroyed the SNL set in 1981. Closing the night with “Razor Burn,” Cape announced that this was the crowd’s last chance to “rock” the evening away, and like they had done through their hour-or-so long performance, it was beautiful carnage from beginning to end.
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.
Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”
A glorious sound of a time gone by
Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.
I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).
To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.
Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.
While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.
Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.