Face To Face / Strung Out / The Artist Life / The Darlings @ Phoenix (Toronto)

Review done by: Julian Warme
It was a hot night at the Phoenix that fabled Thursday night. Not only were there flaming birds at the show, but also really hot ones! Lyss and I got there a few songs into Artist Life's set. As they're my peers, and both a wicked band and awesome dudes, it’s hard for me to actually provide a critique of a specific performance. However, from a musician's perspective, they persevered through a really tough set that left me with a new found respect for them. Although they had to deal with multiple strings breaking and a whole other barrage of technical bullshit beyond their control, they kept rocking out and doing their thing, sounding a lot tighter than one might have expected, considering all he obstacles throughout their set. 'd like to see another band play a set with razor blades instead of picks and still rock as hard as they did.

After Artist Life were finished we really realized how …old the crowd was. The front area (barricade-less by the way, as per F2F's request) had barely any people in it, while the drinking section and patio had 10 minute waits at the bar! I spent most of The Darlings there, catching up with people I hadn't seen in a while and pounding beers. I did however hear their Op Ivy cover, and it was sweet.

There was to be no more fucking around that night, as Strung Out were getting on stage. For being around as long as they have, it was awesome to see how hard they still gave it. Jumping, dancing, SMILING, singing, headbanging as fast as possible, they had it all. They were particularly on par with their banter that night too, including heckling an unfortunate girl who decided to stay on stage after a song was done, waiting for another to start so she could stage dive. Their set was comprised of a great mixture of old favourites and newer material, which ended up a perfect mixture for the crowd, who were slowly filtering into the front area of the floor. It also helped that around this time the promoters seemed to have noticed the same problem we had, and has moved the barriers up closer to the stage. Of course his was also the point there people decided they were drunk enough to abandon their drinks and join the pit, which was (as Lyss found out) super rough, but also full of courteously and mutual respect; something lacking in a lot of pits at punk shows in the last little while. Also notable was the incredible amount of die-hard Strung out fans. At least half the people we overheard talking weren’t even there to see Face to Face, but were there to see Strung Out. Lots of Strung Out tattoos, let me tell you. They really helped the club live up to its name that night. After they played their last note everyone realized how FUCKING HOT it was in there, resulting in a six minute line-up to get outside to the smoking area. It amazes me how many people they can cram into one drinking section.

Face to fucking face. For an hour and a half these badass motherfuckers rocked the shit out of the Phoenix. They said themselves it had been the best show on the tour (as I’m sure they said every previous night…oldest trick in the book) but by golly gee willickers, it was a hootenanny of a good time. Think 5 old F2F songs for every new song they played, of which I'm pretty sure they played 5 new songs. After the first 3 songs had finished, Trever Keith invited everyone up on stage, making sure to point out that anyone who hits his microphone into his teeth would be indeed dead. They had specifically requested to have no barrier, as this was indeed a punk rock show. I got a really big kick out of their stage-straggler rule: anyone caught on stage after a song receive a punch from a band member. Really hard. You could tell it was truly hot on stage too, especially when they started making fun of us for not having water. "Its hot, I bet everyone's thirsty. Well sucks to be you!" was Trever's jab, as the best bass player in punk rock, Scott Shiflett threw out bottles of water. It truly was an amazing set that represented what punk rock is all about; having fun to loud rocking music. The only weak part was a particularly tall punk rock super-jerk with a blue tank top and a red hat. He was so Punx he decided to 'dance' on stage for 25 seconds. Trever had none of it, and after calling him a dick, told him his 10 seconds were up and then kicked him in the legs. Well, more of a push-kick than a shin jab, just so you understand what kind of kick I'm talking about. That guy was a douche. When all was said and done, I was kinda sad. I knew it'd be a while until I got to see them again, as they had to go show the world their new record and go visit all their old friends that thought they were never to return after breaking up all those years ago. I'm glad I got to finally see them play though. Next time I hope they play something…ANYTHING from Ignorance Is Bliss.

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Julian