Strung Out brought the US leg of tour in support of their ninth studio full-length, Songs Of Armor And Devotion, through Boston’s Brighton Music Hall last Sunday night. Boston circa 2019 can be a bit of a notoriously fickle market when it comes to punk rock, particularly when it comes to bands who stem from the Fat Wreck/Epitaph glory days. Those that were present at the what I’d call “respectably attended” and dimly-lit gig were in for a treat, because Strung Out circa 2019 still slay.
The Simi Valley icons kicked off their set with “Rebels And Saints,” the first track from Songs Of Armor And Devotion. As an ode to not only the band’s longevity but to the legion of fans that’ve stuck by them through the course of the last three decades, it seemed a pitch-perfect way to set a tone for the evening. What followed was a few dozen tracks from across the band’s storied career. Of course genre-defining albums like Twisted By Design and Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues were well represented, but so to were (my personal favorite) Transmission.Alpha.Delta and the 2016 stand-alone single “Crows.” The encore even included their cover of the Ozzy classic “Bark At The Moon” that I think dates back to one of those Punk Goes Metal compilations from like twenty years ago. It was yours truly’s first time seeing Strung Out with new drummer RJ Shankle in the fold, and I can attest to the fact that he’s a rock-steady breath of high-energy fresh air in the mix, peppering the band’s set with blistering fill after blistering fill. Frontman Jason Cruz’s voice seemed a little strained, the result of leaving it all on stage for the last couple weeks of East Coast dates – and the last few decades if we’re being honest. The two-headed guitar monster that is Rob Ramos and Jake Kiley still shred just as heavily as ever, and Ramos’ harmonies serve as a great balance that smooths out Cruz’s rougher, visceral vocal edges. And bassist Chris Aiken…well, he’s become one of my favorite artists in this little scene for a reason; he was battling a few technical difficulties on this particular night, but still provided his steady, heavy undertones while bounding side-to-side the length of the stage for the duration of the band’s set.
Support on the duration of this run comes from none other than New York City street punk vets The Casualties. I don’t profess to be the biggest Casualties-style fan in the scene. That said, the band are just as earnest as ever, and it’s always good to see the leather jackets and liberty spikes come out for a night of revelry that’s becoming fewer and farther between in one of the most expensive (read as: least street punk) and gentrified places in the country.