March 4, 2008
STRIKE ANYWHERE/PAINT IT BLACK LIVE IN NEW YORK
I'd seen the Riverboat Gamblers once before -- at Bamboozle 2006, and they'd really impressed me. Vocalist Mike Wiebe was a one-man show, frequently strutting around the concrete floor below the stage and interacting with the audience. Aside from falling forward into his excited fans in the front rows a few times, the argyle sweater-clad Wiebe didn't really seem to have to resort to such theatrics for attention this time around. The Gamblers had a dedicated group singing along to their punked-up rock'n'roll tunes. They were a bit sloppy towards the beginning of the set, but they sounded much tighter and in sync as they went on. Both guitarists and the bassist helped with charged backup vocals that helped out Wiebe when he would miss an occasional lyric from his convulsing dance moves and constant mic throws. I don't know how he managed to keep up such energy for 35 minutes with only one real break in the middle of the band's mostly non-stop set. Despite not really being familiar with material released prior to 2006's To the Confusion of Our Enemies, it was a fun set.
Set list (7:23-7:58):
Don't Bury Me...I'm Still Not Dead
The Song We Used to Call "Wasting Time"
On Again Off Again
Black Nothing of a Cat
When Paint It Black opened for Strike Anywhere in December 2005 at this very venue, my strongest memory that remains from the set was the magnanimous pile-on that spilled over onto the stage during the gruff sing-along ending of closer "Memorial Day." The band had a pretty excellent reaction then, but I think even the crowd here outshone them. Paint It Black is gaining a particularly strong fanbase in the tri-state (plus Pennsylvania, of course) area that seems to grow with each passing mini-tour.
The band sounded pretty on-point, as usual, and garnered the response you'd expect: plenty of stage divers, growlers and unfortunate push-pit action. But what was noteworthy was the hilarious shit-talking that went on. I've never seen the band so vicious. Granted, Yemin's vehement railing against organized religion was nothing new, but he also made sure to spit a little hate towards Christian hardcore -- no, make that any religiously-inclined hardcore ("What about Jewdriver?" inquired Yemin's bandmate, inciting more hysterics). And quickly following his mention of a "tough-guy show across town" (the Earth Crisis show taking place that same night at the Blender Theater at Gramercy with Terror, Shai Hulud, Sworn Enemy and Down to Nothing...something I'd perhaps have gone to for two acts), a joke was made about "making an entire career out of the open E-chord." But all this was only a continuation of the show at Generations record store earlier in the day, where the band threw a few jabs at the Knitting Factory and involved Yemin questioning if he should purchase a Comeback Kid LP for stomping purposes.
But analyzing the actual performance, the set list was very agreeable. It was an even split among their three albums, and the more dynamic songs from New Lexicon sounded predictably wonderful in the live setting, setting off the room. With another half-dozen songs or so I still haven't heard from the album live, it should be cool to anticipate each new set list and hope the band tries out some of the other stuff from it -- and maybe even the long shot of having them try and integrate the industrial interludes and overtones somehow.
Set list (8:22-8:49):
Past Tense, Future Present
So Much for Honour Among Thieves
We Will Not
I'd like to end on a mostly positive note with Strike Anywhere, so I'll get the major negative out of the way: Some of the older gentlemen in the crowd were incredibly fucking irritating. PIB's set was one thing, but this just took it to the next unfortunate level. From thrashing about wildly on the edge of the pit into people who clearly did not want a part of it to randomly shoving nonparticipating/idle bodies, it was kind of bumming me out. It was really only a minority of the audience, so I can't generalize the entire crowd as being annoying.
Whatever. I managed to catch Strike Anywhere four times in 2006, but due to limited U.S. east coast touring last year (if any at all?), I haven't really seen the band since the last of those four times (their Fat Wreck showcase). So it had been a year and a half, and thus it would take much more than overenthusiastic mosh to get me down while I got to catch arguably one of my favorite bands of the past few years.
The band themselves? They actually sounded fantastic. Strike Anywhere is closing in on a full decade in the melodic hardcore/punk game, and while they've certainly received their fair share of criticisms over the release of their last two albums for supposed quality deterioration, it's hard to deny they still have it live. Their delivery of pitch-perfect, passionate punk rock paeans like "Modern Life" and "You're Fired" was still punctuated greatly by the tiny firecracker that's Thomas Barnett and the rifled chords of his compatriots. Barnett even passed the mic between songs to let crowd members announce their various demonstrative rallies.
The set list certainly could have been a bit more fluid, though, as there were breaks between nearly every song. Sixteen songs isn't bad, but if not for so many pauses they probably could have played a few more. I'd also have loved to hear the incredibly urgent "Laughter in a Police State," or any of the various requests the band ignored for Dag Nasty and Gorilla Biscuits covers (seriously, how good would "Two Sides" be?) the crowd were routinely shouting. However, they did play "Question the Answer" (off 2000's Chorus of One EP and, consequently, 2005's rarities comp To Live in Discontent) for the first time in five years (according to Barnett), and they offered a neat surprise with "Amplify" and "Blaze," as they actually created a gap between the songs that was filled with the opener of 2006's Dead FM ("Sedition").
If you're still keeping up with the band, the tour is definitely worth checking out. And if your date has Paint It Black too, there's really no excuse.
Set list (9:06-9:57):
To the World
Question the Answer
'Til Days Shall Be No More
Sunset on 32nd
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