w/ Stolen Youth, Bad Day Down
02.23.07 @ The Palace, Melbourne, AUS
The last time I got to see NOFX was back in 1999, on a lazily lit evening at Slim’s on what would be a perfect San Francisco night. It was the crowning glory for this (former) angsty teen punk- the flesh and blood of the songs in person … even if they stood around on stage for a handsome 45 minutes before they actually played one. And while much of the landscape of punk music has changed since then, NOFX, like many of the old timers, haven’t changed all that much. Sure, they’ve tried their hand at crass political commentary that was neither effective, nor really any good for that matter. Then they tried to skew the religious right, which ended up being no fun (but that whole Underoath/Warped Tour debacle was pretty funny). And in all honesty, serious political/religious review coming from a band that once sang about a vagina, the glorification of Jerry Garcia’s death (they even got the date wrong!), and sex with fat people is hard to take. Nonetheless, no matter the year, there are a few things guaranteed at a NOFX show:
- People still throw shoes at them.
- People still spit on them (and they still hate it).
- Drunk or not, NOFX still put on one of the best live shows you’ll ever go to.
They key is, of course, the depth of the catalogue from where they can pull their material from: 10 full-length albums, the best longest song ever written, countless EPs, and more 7” records than you can throw at a hippy. It’s a cavalcade of quality material that on any given night will satiate everyone from the old fans to those who jumped on the Pump Up the Valuum bandwagon.
They’re also lazy- having not returned to Australia in some five or so years, tickets for their run through the country were sold quickly. A packed house was treated to some quality opening acts, the bill listed two but according to other concert goers there were in fact three. The first two were missed because public transport means getting to a venue that’s a 30-minute drive takes almost 2 hours. Adelaide’s Stolen Youth however, were on late enough for those casual attendees to get a good taste of their punchy punk/hardcore that is more out of the 80’s hardcore scene that anything recently. Their songs were fast, destructive, and concise- a good way for the crowd to warm up to the headliners.
Thankfully, when the Bay Area foursome made their way on-stage, they wasted little time and got straight into it (thank God). Opening curiously with their rendition of “Straight Edge,” they launched into what guitarist El Hefe described as a “shit sandwich that everyone is taking a bite of”—the song I’m sure, a lot of the crowd came to see, their 18-minute opus, “The Decline.” At this point, I was satisfied; no other alcoholic band in the world could pull off a technically difficult 18-minute song quite so perfectly. The rest of the set was peppered with the new (“Seeing Double at the Triple Rock”— one of the few highlights of Wolves In Wolves’ Clothing) and the old (“Soul Doubt,” the crowd favorite “Bob”) while engaging the crowd like no one else could. None of this rockstar bullshit either- at one point, Fat Mike, sufficiently fed up by someone in the crowd for throwing a shoe at him, threw the shoe back and asked the crowd to politely, “beat the shit out of him.” In-between raucous performances of favorites “Lori Meyers,” “Eat the Meek,” and of course, “Linoleum,” there was a bizarre wedding proposal by a girl invited on stage. And after the successful, wildly incoherent proposal, Fat Mike promptly berated her for having “poor stage presence.” Superb.While they are now in the their forties and sportin’ kids, the quality hour and a half set was more than what the crowd could have expected after a lengthy absence from these shores. NOFX may not write songs as well as they use to, but when they kick out those old jams, it’s not only strangely refreshing, it’s still something to behold.
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.