The nine-headed punk rock monster that is the Face To Face and Lagwagon tour made its way to Boston’s legendary Paradise Rock Club over the Columbus Day weekend. Both bands are touring in support of new Fat Wreck Chords releases; Face To Face’s Live In A Dive entry dropped October 18th while Lagwagon’s Railer Rollerbladed into the skate parks on October 4th. As has come up repeatedly in my circle lately, Boston can be notoriously fickle when it comes to showing up for left coast, 90’s-style EpiFat bands in this day an age – one of the downsides of it being a gentrified college town, for sure – but let us make no mistake about it; the punks came out to play on this night.
Newly-minted Fat Wreck signee MakeWar opened off this particular gig, and it marked the trio’s last night on the tour. What a breath of fresh air they are. Just a hair over twenty years ago, I saw Face To Face play a show locally on the ill-fated Ignorance Is Bliss tour and vividly remember being captivated by the sound coming from that tour’s direct support, No Motiv. This kinda reminded me of that. Huge hooks, soaring melodies, and passion and fire in spades. It gives hope that what I guess, at this point, is the next generation is more than capable of carrying the punk rock battle flag well into the future. Stay tuned for their Fat Wreck debut, Get It Together, next month; it’s a killer.
Lagwagon and Face To Face have been trading off headline duties for the duration of this tour and Face To Face drew the honors on this night, so Lagwagon was next out of the chute after MakeWar. The iconic quintet kicked things off with the Railer track “The Suffering” before immediately rewinding the clock about a quarter-century for “Weak.” The twenty-song set was fairly representative of the band’s lengthy catalog, with 1995’s Hoss and the new album seeing the most tracks included. There is of course that neurobiological thing where people always want to hear the music they related to most when they were younger, but I think the new material was pretty well received; “Surviving California” and “Bubble” certainly saw their share of crowd-surfers. I suppose that stands to reason, as Railer is in many ways a throwback album that hearkens back to the skate punk glory days of the mid-90s with a but through the filter of a collecting that’s got the wisdom that comes with not being 25 year old kids anymore. (Side note: 2014’s Hang became one of my favorite albums upon first listen and only say “The Cog In The Machine” included on this setlist but whatever.) God knows the band musically still fire on all cylinders in a live setting.
And then, of course, there’s Face To Face. To SoCal band are the band I’ve seen the most: this marked my 20th F2F show since their spot opening for No Doubt and Weezer twenty-two years ago. Like Lagwagon, their own most recent studio full length, 2016’s Protection, also was credited by many as being a bit of a return to form from a sonic perspective. As such, the set on this night – and this tour, as I understand, featured a couple Protection tracks peppered in amongst the traditional “classics” primarily from Big Choice, Don’t Turn Away and the self-titled album. However, based on what I think can be described as the unexpected success of their 2018 acoustic EP Hold Fast, the band also included a trio of songs in the middle of set that found frontman Trever Keith trading in his Les Paul (itself a return to form from the Gretsch’s he’s been playing the last handful of years) for a Gibson acoustic for reworked versions of “Blind,” “Keep Your Chin Up” and “All For Nothing.” As always, the depths of the band’s musicianship were on full display both in the foreground – the in-your-face lead bass playing of Scott Shiflett – and in the background – the wildly underrated percussive stylings from Danny Thomson. Lead guitar player Dennis Hill has been a bit of a high-energy shot in the arm in recent years, at one point diving atop the crowd while still wielding his Telecaster.