Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Heaven on Earth

Wednesday June 10, 2009
Ogden Theatre, Denver, Co

For years, it seemed as if Strung Out came through Denver every six months. Last spring they supported Pennywise on a large-venue tour that stopped at the Fillmore (boo). Thanks to Live Nation and their inability to make up their fucking minds, we strolled into the venue only to hear "Matchbook", a sure sign that Strung Out has just completed their set. Now it's been 13 months and I am exploding at the seams. The icing on the cake? Death by Stereo is opening. No two bands have made such an impact on my life. It makes me randy just thinking about it.

Photo courtesy of Live 'n Loud Magazine

Our immaculate timing brought us into the Ogden just as Death by Stereo began to destroy the crowd. Their set consisted of a surplus of Day of Death tunes (my fav), including "Porno, Sex, Drugs, Lies, Money, And Your Local Government" and "Desperation Train". After celebrating drummer Chris Dalley's birthday with a My Little Pony cake in the face, it was on to new tunes. Guitarist Dan Palmer took opportunity to show off his finger-tapping skills with "I Sing for you", followed suit by "Emo Holocaust", a new version of "Hippie Holocaust", a pit-friendly hate song. :)

Photo courtesy of Stephen McGill

With the energy at max levels, Strung Out's Chris Aiken joined the crew on bass for a speedy rendition of "The Curse of Days" as guitarists Palmer and JP Gericke joined force in dueling solos. Frontman Efram Shulz dedicated the next song, "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Salvation", to all the assholes trying to sell us God. This track was supported heavily by the crowd chanting "Die, die!". A typical skeptic of crowd participation, I found myself abiding by every one of Shulz's orders . His performance empowers every member of the audience while strengthening himself and the music. Ironically, Death by Stereo finished their set with "Wasted Words", a plead to listeners to open their ears and minds to what they are actually experiencing.

Photo courtesy of Stephen McGill

A little sidenote: I recently read a review of this show by local writer Andrew Brand. Here's what he had to say about Death by Stereo: "Synchronized and obviously choreographed guitar-swinging motions combined with matching outfits to make it feel like the band worked more on planning their stage personas than writing songs" ( What this author failed to grasp is that their stage personas stem from their passion for the music, from Shulz's windmills to Palmer and Gericke's synchronized guitar lunges.  I have never seen a band whose music, and performance, is so true to their characters. What other hardcore band takes the stage and informs the crowd that we are all here to celebrate ourselves as individuals? I encourage everyone to experience Death by Stereo live for themselves to see what the hub-bub is all about. And spread the good word.

Now that my heart is pumping and blood is boiling, it's time to get Strung Out. With nearly 150 songs to choose from, waiting to hear the opener is always a nail-biting situation. This year, the first track from Twisted by Design, "Too Close to See" was the chosen one. Guitarist Rob Ramos' twangy riffs accompanied by legendary drummer Jordan Burns' triplets threw the crowd to the dogs as the pit exploded with energy. The spaghetti western intro to "Calling" gave way to sweeping Spanish guitar and string-bending solos from Ramos and Jake Kiley as they redefined the word teamwork. "Mind of My Own" followed close behind, complete with singer Jason Cruz's growling cackles as he crouched in a dark corner, causing every woman (and most men) in the house to cream their panties. Whew.

Photo courtesy of Live 'n Loud Magazine

The steadfast aggression continued as Strung Out blitzed the crowd with "Bring Out Your Dead", complete with new lyrics and extended instrumentals. "Velvet Alley" was sandwiched nicely between two Exile in Oblivion favorites, "Vampires" and "Scarlet", fabricating a lyrical triple play depicting romantic and cultural atrophy, coupled with fantastic transitions and experimental guitar. Strung Out kept it going with a two song set chronicling the undulation of the American youth and ideals through "The Kids" and "Blueprint of the Fall", between which Cruz appropriately shared a joint with crowd members.  Welcome to Colorado.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Thackeray

Before heading on the road, Strung Out had spent the last few months in the studio, and everyone expected a little taste of the new album. As Cruz juiced up the crowd, I noticed guitarist Kiley and bassist Aiken switch instruments.  A true sign of a well rounded musician. The prog-metal newbie (featured on their studio diary) incorporated the creative construction seen in Element of Sonic Defiance with heavy, crunchy riffs. "Matchbook", Strung Out's coup de grace, followed close behind. Although it's not my favorite song, you can feel the emotion tingle your skin as everyone in the venue throws their heads back and sings as if no one is around. We had the honor of chatting with Ramos after the show, and spoke our displeasure on always ending the set with "Matchbook". He shot me his most sincere look, and told us that the song means something to them as a band. Need he say more? I can once again appreciate this tale of a corroding relationship.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Thackeray

After a booming chant from the crowd, aided in part by the members of Death By Stereo, Strung Out re-appeared for their encore. The haunting hit "Cemetery" set the mood with Aiken's hypnotic bassline and Cruz's thunderous voice.  It was during this song I realized that the sound at the Ogden was immaculate, the levels perfect, allowing each instrument to speak for itself.  Strung out immediately jumped into Ozzy Osbourne cover, "Bark at the Moon", which never fails to get the testosterone flowing.  With gratitude, the band exited the stage, sweaty, exhausted and accomplished.  

In the 15+ years Strung Out has been performing, Colorado has been fortunate enough to play host to these punk-rock-legends-in-the-making numerous times.  Each performance shows their musical advancement as they push the boundaries, setting themselves apart from what one typically expects from a dying music industry.  Strung Out and Death By Stereo continue to astound me, both as musicians and as every day people.  I believe these two bands will never loose their passion for what they do, and I consider it an honor to be a part of it as a fan.  Thank you.

Photo courtesy of Stephen McGill

Like that shit? Here's more!
Ten Foot Pole - DBS's drummer Chris Dalley's and SO drummer Jordan Burns' old band
Straight Faced - DBS touring partner and fellow Cali hardcore crew
Zero Down and Pulley - featuring former SO bassist Jim Cherry

1 comment:

  1. I'm disappointed that I missed this tour. I love both those bands. It's good to know that both DBS and Strung Out are still both rocking hard!