with The Flatliners, Pour Habit, A Gentleman Army
The Social, Orlando, Fl • October 10, 2009
On a Saturday night with plentiful entertainment options (Insane Clown Posse concert, RumFest, Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights, ’80s New Wave night at Independent Bar), skate punk veterans Strung Out still easily filled The Social to near capacity. What does this teach us? No matter how broke Orlando punk fans may be, they will always find money for two things: cheap concerts and cheap beer!
Orlando’s A Gentleman Army and Fat Wreck Chords’ Pour Habit had already finished up their sets by the time I squeezed my way through the stench of oniony PBR breath and the funk of cigarette smoke. The crowd was expanding into every nook and cranny of the club as The Flatliners, Canada’s answer to Hot Water Music and NOFX, were setting up to play.
The young Canucks yap a whole lot about not much onstage, vocalist/guitarist Chris Cresswell doesn’t do much beyond standing, playing, and scream/singing into the mic with his eyes pulled tight and their lyrics are mostly indecipherable, and yet I’m oddly drawn to these guys. They play ska/punk without the fallback crutch of a horn section. They’re hardcore enough to get the tough guys in the crowd in a tizzy, but melodic enough to keep their dragged-to-the-show girlfriends nodding along. Even though their set went on a little longer than it needed to, much like Cresswell’s running jokes about how we all should crash the Insane Clown Posse concert, I’m a hopeless fan. Their Clash/Rancid approach to modern punk rock was not only satisfying, but it laid a good foundation for the eruption that came with the appearance of Strung Out.
Wearing matching t-shirts and arriving fashionably late to the stage, the California band lost no time warming up to the water — they dove in head first and barely came up for a breath for the remainder of the night. Accelerating on classic punk rock and metal, Strung Out treat their music, and the stage, like a skatepark — abusing, shredding, and grinding the hell out of every inch of it. The audience react accordingly — stirring the floor up into a nice big, friendly pit. Had the venue not had a strict “no stage diving” policy the air would have been filled with flying shoes and body parts. One fan, who was being invited onto the stage by bassist Chris Aiken, resorted to begging a bouncer to let him get up there to take a dive. “Don’t even think about it,” was the answer, sending the bummed out fan back into the likes of the pit.
The band was road testing songs off of Agents of the Underground, the band’s 7th full length album since 1994, and keeping with their Bad Religion on steroids sound, but weren’t stingy about throwing in the old songs — the ones that really got fans’ heads spinning. Front man Jason Cruz sounds a bit like Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath and embodies the same spirit when it comes to stage presence and the absence of fan/band separation. Throughout the set Cruz never left the edge of the stage or the outstretched arms of those at the base of it — except to accept a shot from Pour Habit front man Chuck Green, who came onstage bearing the gift of alcohol. The fans down front frequently leaned their heads against the front man, singing along to any and everything he threw their way.
The setlist was a blur, as one song ran into the next, but hollers and hoots hinted that the fans were being thrown a bone here and there in the way of a favorite old song. Strung Out gave every beer swilling, body flingin’ fan in the venue their money’s worth and then some. Theirs is a show worthy of a Saturday night on the town… or any night, for that matter.
To see more photos from this show, and others, go to www.jencray.com.
Strung Out: www.strungout.com