The Starting Line / Motion City Soundtrack
04.17.04 @ LaSalle University, Philadelphia, PA
The price of stardom can be a profound and heavy one. Bands are easily caught in the fast coming success of today’s industry. It is displeasing when a band loses sense of what got them where they are; and for as many bands that take this problematic and troubled path, there are those few who stay on course. They give back to the fans and proudly rock out at the places they call home.
Pennsylvania based The Starting Line are one of those bands who have not forgotten their pedigree. Through their success they have managed to keep themselves grounded. On Saturday, April 17th, The Starting Line took a trip from Asbury Park, New Jersey, where they were playing the annual Skate and Surf Festival, to a small, cozy Christian Brothers university in Philadelphia. Along for the ride were good friends Motion City Soundtrack.
This concert was unique as it was a private show for only 400 LaSalle University students (although it seemed to only reach 200 students). Tickets were free and were on a first come first serve basis. Set up in a small auditorium with a low-rise stage, the show was remarkably warm and intimate. With the rising popularity of The Starting Line, their local Philadelphia shows have become regular sold out events, and the students of LaSalle were fortunate to view The Starting Line in such an informal milieu.
The show opened with Motion City Soundtrack taking the stage and ripping into an energized set list with songs primarily from their Epitaph album, I Am the Movie. The Moog-infused power rock of their songs made for an ideal opening act to jump-start the evening. The eccentric time changes and quirky lyrics delighted the small crowd. A muted aspect however, was a sound guy that spent more time checking his cell phone than saving the crowds ears. He had absolutely no clue that having the drum volume cranked so loud could cause permanent ear damage. He even managed to block out the entire drum monitor at one point so drummer Tony Thaxton couldn’t hear a damn thing. To Tony’s credit, he didn’t miss a beat. Despite our quality sound man, the band managed to work around him, and made a fantastic start to the night. After Motion City Soundtrack delighted the crowd, it was time for the hometown boys to charm LaSalle.
After about fifteen minutes, The Starting Line took the stage and opened with the sore-to-the-touch “Cheek to Cheek,” a track the band has rarely played live during their past Philly shows. From there, The Starting Line played a host of songs from their full length Say It Like You Mean It with little down time in between. One thing you can never knock The Starting Line for is lack of energy and emotion of their live set and this show was no different. Bassist and lead singer Kenny Vasoli led the bedlam on stage with his high-energy expressionism. As they continued to play, the crowd seemed to get more animated and enthusiastic. The Starting Line also played a few new songs, which added a nice change of pace. One of my only moans is that they have been milking Say It Like You Mean It since its release. They have so much material that was never released that I wish they would incorporate into their live shows a little more. It was definitely a delight to hear a few new songs. The Starting Line performed their songs with heightened competence and sounded really tight-knit while the set flowed together extremely well. They are without a doubt, progressing musically as a band. I also noticed the particular enhancement in the drumming of Tom Gryskiewicz. I used to think he was a step behind at times, but he has really improved and advanced his timing and sounded exceptionally proficient behind the kit.
When bands like The Starting Line play small, private shows like this, to me, it is something special. It shows that some bands are still willing to do the little things to make their fans feel distinctive and unique. I can honestly look at them and know deep down, it doesn’t matter if they play in front of ten people or 10,000. In a music industry where more and more labels and bands have their noses in the air, it is nice to know there are still some good guys around; especially that quartet from Pennsylvania known as The Starting Line.
Special thanks to Michelle Miller and LaSalle University for welcoming us. Photos by David Walter.
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.