Austin has a fickle kind of love when it comes to opening bands. I’ve tried to consider why this is, but it came to me all of a sudden when lead singer Jason Cruz of Strung Out said, “Thanks for coming out when I know there is a lot of stuff going on tonight.” In a city that is so alive, where people are constantly moving from one club or venue to another on any given night, do people make time for new music? At Friday night’s Face To Face concert at La Zone Rosa , it was clear that some people do.
The two opening bands, The Darlings and Blitzkid, were really good matches for this tour with Face to Face. The Darlings are a working-class-influenced band with hints of rockabilly. They play the kind of punk rock we can all appreciate. They have a solid live set and you can tell they are passionate about what they do. They earned another battle scar by playing a huge room like La Zona Rosa that was only about a quarter full during their opening set. Blitzkid was also a fun band because they don’t take themselves too seriously, given their older Thin Lizzy kind of vibe. They definitely had the energy needed to get the crowd going.
After the first two sets, La Zona Rosa started to really fill. In between Blitzkid’s and Strung Out’s sets, there were huge lines at the bar with people getting ready to pre-drink for the Strung Out set. The crowd was like a revolving door of various punk rock fans, older and younger. The clothing, hairstyles and different age groups made the divide between Strung Out fans and Face to Face fans evident. Even in passing you could hear people talking and getting excited about one of the two bands, but not the other. I found that strange because both are great punk rock bands in their own right, despite the style difference, but that’s so typical in punk rock circles.
Before Strung Out even took the stage, lead singer Jason Cruz was out in the audience watching the opening bands with the fans. Their set also had a personal touch. They wanted their set list to reflect their best-of, coming out. They performed classics like “Blueprint for the Fall,” “CrashCarRadio” and the “Calling.” Besides performing all these great songs, they had an 8 year old boy named Nicholas play drums with them during the song “Scarecrow.” He could barely see over the drum kit but he nailed it. He might be the biggest new fan punk will ever have. It was also the bassist Chris Aiken’s birthday and they did the whole cake thing for him. In true rock star fashion, he did an official birthday crowd dive.
After Strung Out’s set there came a whole new crowd. It seemed many who were there for Strung Out left to finish their party elsewhere. The tried and true punk fans remained (or just arrived) to see Face to Face. I was lucky enough to see this band before their split in 2004. Through a miracle given to us by the punk rock Gods, they were brought back to us with a new album in hand. They played a good amount of songs from their new album Laugh Now, Laugh Later. They also played favorites such as “Disconnected,” “Ordinary” and “Debt” which got every one going in the pit and singing. It was great to see and feel that the punk rock icons have not lost a step.
It has been too long since Austin has had a punk rock concert that was this good. The headlining bands have been touring for over 10 years and they just wanted to have fun with it. I wish I could say the punk rock fans of Austin were a bit more diehard because many missed the show by showing up late or leaving early. We all need to remember why we go to concerts in the first place: to drink beer, run into old friends we haven’t seen in a while, to represent the scene we love so much and to discover great music together.
(Face To Face performed at La Zona Rosa in Austin, Texas on June 3, 2011)