My brother and I had come up to Portland to see a couple shows at the Crystal Ballroom, which is just an excellent venue for any type of concert, and this is basically the only place in town for Punk Rock concerts, at least in the past few years. I was pretty excited to see Strung Out as I had really gotten into them in the past six months or so and was pumped to hear all of my favorites performed by Jason and crew. As to the other bands, I really didn't know that much; I had heard one Rise Against song, from Live Fat Die Young (Fat Wreck's fifth compilation), and thought it was pretty good, other than that though, I had pretty much no idea about this young band other than their melodic hardcore stylings. I had seen the Audio Karate video for Nintendo 89 and was generally pretty unimpressed; so far as the Line go, I had never heard of them before, and really wasn't too interested in checking them out.
We got to the Crystal around 8:30 to hear the music already pumping from the third story windows and quickly headed up to see what was happening. The Line were into their last few songs, and I found a generally pretty generic sound backed by a lot of passion, I might check their music out some other time if I'm bored, they really weren't as bad as I'd been expecting from the first of a four band bill. We checked out the free Fat Wreck Floyd comp at the Merch stand and then proceeded to wait out the set-up for Audio Karate. One of the funny things about this show that I saw was that the audience was comprised of a very strange mixture. This consisted of about half hardcore punkers and half Abercrombie pretty girls with purses, which I guess could be used to describe Strung Out's music and lyrics. I was interested to see how this would play out in front of pit-gathering bands like Strung Out and Rise Against.
Audio Karate played a half-hour set in front of a dis-interested crowd, with everyone just standing around, the band couldn't find more than a couple heads nodding from the crowd. They played generally all the same type of So-Cal pop punk that's become so prevalent in the past few years, though I did recognize the one song I had heard before, so I guess that might make them distinctive. Nah. One funny thing came out of this, when they were introducing a song about their home town near Los Angeles (surprising no one), some guy yelled to them, "your home town sucks!" to which the lead singer's only response was, "you think our home town sucks? um, ok." Uh huh...
Next up was Rise Against, who I was quite impressed with. Having only heard Join The Ranks, I was quite impressed with their range, they went from a more melodic tone on their newer songs (which were probably the best) to a more hardcore scream that probably knocked those trendy bitches and their purses back a bit. Anyways, they played a good mix of songs, including Join The Ranks, which I was quite happy about and sang along with. I'll definitely have to look further into their music later on.
There was no sitting for Strung Out's set-up, the crowd was quickly gathering and for a good reason too. When they did come on and started into their set, the pit quickly opened up and they began the ass-rocking. Even though, Jason was wearing a lot of eye shadow (Strung Out weren't goth last time I checked, even though they do sing about bondage), they still managed to rock out with their matching collared shirts and ties. They played a good mix of old songs, dating back to Firecracker, to some of the newer songs like The Kids, Alien Amplifier, and Lubricating The Revolution, in fact the only songs that I was dissapointed to find absent were Scarecrow, Tattoo, and Dig. They definitely got the crowd going, well, the ones that wanted to anyways, most of the people weren't anywhere near the pit, but rather standing on the sidelines. I stayed in the pit for most of the set, except for water of course, 'cause a dehydrated punk is no good at all. In fact, every time I'd leave to get water, I'd see a member of Audio Karate hanging around, which was kind of funny. One of the greatest moments of the entire night was when they started playing Cult Of The Subterranean, which they played the hell out of. In the middle of the song, there is a part where the music stops for a moment, then gets really heavy, at this moment, the crowd went nuts and it was absolute chaos for about ten seconds; very cool. One other very cool moments was when they played Mind Of My Own early on in the set, a lot of people seemed to know the words to the song, and everybody was shouting along, forming a very cool moment between the band and the crowd. Highlights from the set include The Exhumation Of Virgina Madison (my very first Strung Out song), Match Book (I'd been waiting for it all night, and they finally played it as the last song before the encore), Bring Out Your Dead, Velvet Alley, and Ultimate Devotion. Definitely a very good show, one I hope to see again, as it's the best I've seen in recent memory.
Oh yeah, on the way out, I saw yet another member of Audio Karate walking up the stairs. Those guys are friggin' everywhere.