Face to Face to Push the Limits of Nostalgia with a Three-Night Stand at Gas Monkey

Starting on Thursday night, legendary punk band Face to Face will do a three-night residency at Gas Monkey Bar N Grill. Each night, they will play a full album from front to back: Their classic debut Don't Turn Away comes tomorrow, Big Choice on Friday and their self-titled record on Saturday.

Dallas is lucky to get this, as it doesn't often attract a residency of this caliber. Usually towns like Chicago, New York or Los Angeles do, but Face to Face is doing this here, along with residencies in New York and Denver in the coming weeks. But it also raises an obvious question: Doesn't a multi-night stand like this take the playing-a-whole-record-live thing a little too far?

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This is of course all about the hardcore, loyal fans. These bands do things like this all the time, so it's OK for the casual fan to sit this round out. Face to Face is not the first band to do this, by the way. Coheed and Cambria played their first four albums years ago in New York, and Motion City Soundtrack did something similar. Local H played their entire catalog, along with a night devoted to rarities and covers, over the course of a handful of nights in Chicago. And Alkaline Trio will soon tour, playing all eight (!) of their albums over multi-night residencies in various towns (none in Texas, though).

I count myself in the legion of Face to Face fans who wants to see all three shows this week. The band has been one of the most dependable bands, and not just punk bands, in my life since high school. I still count the Beatles, Wilco, Metallica and Ben Folds Five as all-time favorites, but Face to Face is a band that connects with me in a way that no other band does.

They aren't a pop-punk band that sings about masturbation, girlfriends on methadone or Ronald Reagan's policies. Frontman Trever Keith sings about life struggles in a way that a teenager, a 20-something and an adult going through a mid-life crisis can all relate to. They're a thinking-man's kind of pop-punk band that you can keep coming back to, even if your desire to listen to pop-punk has waned over the years.

As someone who has seen Face to Face six times before, I look forward to seeing a few songs played live that I've never seen before. Songs like "You've Got a Problem," "Complicated" and "Resignation" are high on the shortlist. Still, it seems this band can't escape their first three records no matter how many more records they put out.

I distinctly remember the time between the release of their self-titled record in 1996 and their fourth album, 1999's Ignorance is Bliss. Though they never officially announced it, the band broke up for a while after touring extensively, before regrouping with new drummer Pete Parada. Feeling stifled by the parameters of their style of pop-punk, along with the expectations of punk fans in general (there are 15-year-olds in every city in every country in the world), the band decided to take a darker tone influenced by the Cure, the Foo Fighters and the Pixies. The response was met with a degree of hostility, but for people like myself and many friends of mine, we loved Ignorance is Bliss (and still do).

Not too surprisingly, the band kicked out another record the following year in the style of Don't Turn Away and Big Choice, with lyrics mainly about the negative reaction to Ignorance is Bliss. Its title? Reactionary. After another record -- '02's How to Ruin Everything -- the band called it quits again. But the band came back a few years later with yet another new drummer (Parada had landed a gig with the Offspring by then and was replaced by Danny Thompson) and have released two albums and sporadically toured ever since.

Given my lack of enthusiasm for the rougher, less anthemic Laugh Now, Laugh Later and British punk throwback sound of Three Chords and a Half Truth, I'm more than happy to see shows that don't feature that material. I'm all for Face to Face releasing new music, and I hope I can strongly get behind a new record someday, but when it comes right down to it, those first three records set the template.

I'm not someone going into these shows to revisit glory days. Instead, I find the music they released back then as relevant now as when I first heard it. I recognize we're still in a state of rampant "retromania," as journalist Simon Reynolds dubbed it in his book of the same name, but I see shows like these as special celebrations of where a band comes from. If Face to Face only did shows like these, then I'd be less interested to see them every time they hit town. But that's not the case, so I find it much more forgivable.

Is a three-night stand a little too much? Maybe, but given the rarity of it, I'd be foolish to skip out on this for purity's sake. The purist can stay home and project about a better life on his or her terms. Me, I want to have fun and experience something I might not experience again.

FACE TO FACE plays Gas Monkey Bar N Grill on Thursday, April 23, Friday, April 24, and Saturday, April 25. Radioactivity opens on Thursday, From Parts Unknown opens on Friday and Sons of Bitches opens on Saturday.


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