On a personal note, the release Face To Face‘s last album was a bit of a big deal. Not only did it mark the seminal SoCal punk band’s triumphant return to their previous label home, Fat Wreck Chords, but as we all know, new albums are typically followed by new tours, and Face To Face have long been one of the premier live bands in the business. It may have taken a little bit longer than was initially hoped, but May 2017 finally brought us the Econolive 2017 tour, which featured the band pulling double duty; an acoustic set for VIP ticket-holders in the early evening, followed by the normal fully plugged-n main set that has been the band’s bread and butter over the decades. We caught the show at the Once Ballroom in Somerville, Massachusetts, last Friday, and we’re pretty sure it’ll rank as one of the best shows we catch in any venue this year.
In many ways, the VIP pre-set is a tip-of-the-cap to the fans who missed out on the acoustic Ignorance Is Bliss shows that Face To Face’s Trever Keith and Scott Shiflett put on five years ago. The duo didn’t play too many dates on those small runs, leaving a large number of long-time fans clamoring for a chance to catch the increasingly respected album played in such a stripped down format. For the Econolive ’17 dates, Keith and Shiflett are joined by their bandmates Danny Thompson (drums) and Dennis Hill (guitar) for a more filled-out performance that included not only songs from Ignorance… but a handful of reworked tracks that might otherwise appear in the band’s main set on a normal night. Longtime crowd favorites “Don’t Turn Away” and “1000x” made appearances in the stripped down set, alongside a varied collection from fairly deep in the catalog, like “Everyone Hates A No It All,” Protection track “Keep Your Chin Up,” and INXS’s “Don’t Change,” a track that Face To Face originally covered on their 1999 album Standards & Practices. This portion of the evening was open to a couple dozen people who dropped extra money for the VIP experience, and it the intimate nature and unique song selection genuinely equated to a special experience.
Doors opened to the main show shortly after the completion of the acoustic set, and not long before Lost In Society took the stage. The Jersey-based band jumped on the Face To Face tour for four northeast dates before heading west on a three-week US tour of their own. The typically three-piece punk band are aggressive, at times even ferocious, playing a raw style that hearkens back to the early 90’s alternative movement; Mudhoney or Nirvana or Screaming Trees are fair comparisons from a sonic perspective. They were joined on stage by The Scandals’ Jared Hart on second guitar for the last half of the set, further filling out the sound and allowing frontman Zack Moyle to perform the last couple songs on vocals only, baring more than a passing resemblance to Strung Out’s Jason Cruz’s level of intensity. (The band have a new, Pete Steinkopf-produced EP available here.)
Face To Face’s main set was among the best, most energetic I’ve seen them play in the greater Boston area in a solid decade. The Boston market can be a bit of a rapidly-cycling bipolar one at times, resulting in a weird phenomenon in which the same band can receive categorically opposite reactions on consecutive times through the area. Perhaps due to the fact that it had been almost four years since their last appearance in the greater Boston area (no, Providence doesn’t count), perhaps due to the fact that Protection has been the band’s best-received album probably since 2002’s How To Ruin Anything (if not even earlier), the old punks were out in full-force on this rainy, unseasonably cool Friday Boston evening.
The band kicked off their headline, fully plugged-in set with “You Lied,” met by an eager response from a fired-up crowd. From that point forward, band and crowd performed in perfectly symbiotic fashion, each seeming to provide the fuel for the other’s engine. Like the acoustic set before it, the main set was a pretty representative cross-section of the band’s discography, with only the band’s 2013 album Three Chords And A Half Truth serving as the only album not featured on the evening. The sixteen song main set was effectively broken down into four-song quarters, each featuring a track from Protection nestled in amongst tracks from the more classic catalog, particularly those from the “Triple Crown” albums (Don’t Turn Away, Big Choice and the self-titled 1996 full-length). Tracks like “Double Crossed,” “Say What You Want” and “I Won’t Say I’m Sorry” seemed right at home alongside long-time crowd favorites like “Pastel” and “Ordinary” and “Blind.”
The band took the makeshift stage in the ballroom for a two song encore that consisted of their cover of the Descendents’ track “Bikeage” and, of course, their biggest single, “Disconnected.” Like the remainder of the band’s set, the last two songs found the venue’s dance floor (not unlike that found at your local wedding banquet hall) converted into the closest thing you’ll find to a circle pit in the New England region, and it legitimately seemed like both the quartet and the crowd were energized enough to continue well into the early hours of the morning with no signs of slowing down. It can sometimes take a lot for the old timey punks to step away from the couch and the Netflix to head to a show nowadays (more on that in our upcoming sit-down with F2F front man Trever Keith in the next couple of days), but if the Econolive ’17 tour is any indication, it’s well worth the effort.
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