Concert Reviews

Last Night: Face to Face, Strung Out, Blitzkid and The Darlings at the Granada Theater

Face to Face, Strung Out, Blitzkid, The Darlings
Granada Theater
June 5, 2011

Better than:
punching a hole in your TV after the Mavericks' game.

Face to Face didn't hit the stage until late in the evening (five minutes after 11, to be exact), but the large crowd that gathered in the Granada hung in there.

And, for the faithful and the newbies, the 70-minute performance the band ended up performing was exactly what the doctor had ordered, and something the band perfected long ago -- a quality, worthwhile set filled with classics along with a few new tunes.

Led by vocalist-guitarist Trever Keith, the band was in fine form. Performing songs from every one of their albums except Ignorance is Bliss and Reactionary, there was very little disappointment coming from the crowd.

Sure, most of the attendees looked above the age of 21 and probably had to work early on Monday, but Face to Face is not some band to take for granted. The band had been broken up for a few years and, the last time they headlined in Dallas, it was at Deep Ellum Live. (Fun memory about that Deep Ellum Live show: It was sponsored by Napster and there was a small little band named New Found Glory that opened.)

If you've followed Face to Face over the years, you've seen them with various lineups. Starting out in the early '90s as a trio and then becoming (and remaining) a four-piece for many years, the band was awkwardly forced back into trio status when guitarist Chad Yaro quit and was not replaced. Now, though, back as a four-piece with Yaro and Danny Thompson replacing Pete Parada (now of The Offspring) on drums, the band truly sounds as good as they were in the '90s.

Keith knows how to engage a crowd with his style of positive enthusiasm and humor. Addressing the crowd on the subject of band's previous trip to Dallas, Keith asked who saw the band at the Warped Tour last year, and only a small amount of arms went in the air. As an odd band out on that bill in a sea of baby bands straddling the line between the screamo ghetto and U2-like aspirations, it was not surprising what Keith proclaimed next.

"The Warped Tour was lame," he said. The audience cheered.

Rightfully: Keith knew how to handle stumbling blocks that could derail a show by a lesser band.

For starters, there were various technical issues. For the first handful of songs, any time Yaro sang into his microphone, it fed back. And there were mixing issues throughout. Sometimes Yaro's guitar was distant while Keith's guitar was in the forefront. Other times, it was the opposite. Yaro's vocals were heard sometimes, meanwhile, as bassist Scott Shiflett was always heard.

Then there's the fact that the show was almost hijacked by a deluge of audience members getting on the stage. During "Blind," a few folks reached the lip of the stage and tried jumped back into the crowd. With these divers staying a little too long on the stage, it made for a somewhat comical sight. Two songs later, during the usual improv section in "Pastel," Keith pointed out how small and tame the mosh pit was, as well as how the stagedivers got back into the crowd. Comparing the show to the kind of bro-fest you see at a Pennywise show, the joke was that they were playing punk rock in a home for geriatrics.

A great show overall -- although it would have been nicer if things started a little earlier.

Then again, there were three bands before Face to Face.

Strung Out was highly lauded with their blend of pop-punk and metallic crunch. Performing a number of well-loved songs from their first three albums as well as material since then, the quintet was as good as their contemporaries in Face to Face. Frontman Jason Cruz still sings his head off while the rest of the band makes complicated material look like it's easy to play. And bassist Chris Aiken was an entertaining court jester with smiles throughout and even a dance break with his version of The Robot.

Fellow openers Blitzkid and The Darlings were worthy as well. Blitzkid played speedy pop-punk with a tinge of metal and classic Misfits. Zipping through eleven songs in 30 minutes, the band sounded polished and well-rehearsed, but not in a way where they had eyes on a prize.

The same could be said about The Darlings. Looking like the kind of band that could open for Social Distortion and The Gaslight Anthem, the quartet sounded like those bands -- and yet they didn't sound generic. Recalling a sound not really heard since Automatic 7 and Welt, this band is promising. And they knew how to have fun with a crowd that's never seen them before. They asked if they should play an Operation Ivy cover or a Misfits cover, and the crowd roared for a Misfits song.

So "Astro Zombies" came out and sounded great.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I'm a longtime Face to Face fan and this was my fifth time to see them. My first time was at The Abyss in Houston in '97, then Liberty Lunch in '99, then Deep Ellum Live in '01, and last year's Warped date.

Random Note: "Help us, we're old," said Blitzkid's bassist, mentioning how the band's latest record (their seventh in 14 years) was on sale at the merch booth.

Face to Face's set list:
"You've Done Nothing"
"Should Anything Go Wrong"
"Walk the Walk"
"Bombs Away"
"I Won't Lie Down"
"Bill of Goods"
"You Lied"
"I Want"
"It's Not All About You"
"All for Nothing"
"Big Choice"
"It's Not Over"

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Eric Grubbs is a Dallas-based writer who has published two books, Post: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore 1985-2007 and When We Were the Kids. His writing has been featured in Punk Planet, Popdose, Fort Worth Weekly, The Dentonite and LA Weekly. He supports Manchester City and will never root for Manchester United.
Contact: Eric Grubbs