Strung Out, Stretch Arm Strong, and A Wilhelm Scream all on one tour? How could I ever miss this? I couldn’t, so I made a long drive out to see this tour (which wasn’t stopping by my city) at the Ogden theatre in Denver. Now, admittedly, I’m not the biggest Strung Out fan. I got into them a little late and only own two albums. They’re great live though, and I’d take their punk-meets-metal sound any day over some of the other crap that’s real popular now. As far as Stretch Arm Strong goes, I’ve been a fan since Rituals of Life and I got hooked on A Wilhelm Scream when they released Mute Print last year.
The Odgen Theatre, for those unfamiliar, is an old moviee/play theatre with all the seats gutted out. There’s a balcony and upon getting past the concession area entrance, the floor slopes down towards the stage with 2 or 3 different floor levels, each getting lower until the concrete floor at the bottom meets the stage. Unfortunately, there’s a stage barrier and security that sit between the stage and the barrier, and several signs reminding everyone not to stage dive or crowd surf.
The advertised opening band was Session 9, who I have no idea are, but they didn’t play anyways. The band in their place was Valiant Thorr. When they took stage, I think that not only I, but everyone else wondered what the hell was going on. The band dressed like something right out of the `70s. The drummer was first to come out to stage in a sleeveless jean jacket and tied a bandanna with sequins on around his head. The rest of the band followed and had everything from long hair, leather jackets, leather pants, jean jackets or big ass bushy beards. Musically, they sounded like a rock and roll band with metal influences, worlds apart from a metalcore or hardcore band; this was just a rock band. I can’t say this band has any gimmick, which at first seemed that way, but upon playing, it appeared that these guys were having fun and were sincere about their music. The vocalist was hilarious. At various times throughout the set he talked. Most of the time, like when talking about something that had to do with "Planet of the Apes," I had no idea what he was saying or where it was going. Other times, he talked about his stance against our military being in Iraq and the war. Then he went on about the power of music, at which point he had everyone at the floor level sit down on the ground and lectured about the power of music and how we were all connected in that. This came after wringing out his shirt and trying to drink the sweat from it, commenting that it was better than any energy drink. The band played a pretty long set and I definitely recommend going to see them live. The entire band had energy during their set and the vocalist stole the set with his comments and antics.
A Wilhelm Scream came out next and started setting up. When the band began to start off with "Killing It," there were obvious sound problems and the band stopped. Trevor went off to the side to the sound guys while vocalist Nuno commented on the buildup. Things got fixed quickly and the band tore into the aforementioned song followed right by "The King is Dead." The band played a tight, energetic set of a good mix of songs off both albums (although it won’t beat the time I saw them play everything off Mute Print). There was a pit all though out the set and even a sing-along moment during "Me vs. Morrissey" when Nuno got up to the barrier and fists went in the air. Before going into "The Kids Can Eat a Bag of Dicks," Nuno yelled out “this song isn’t for anyone here” and he and Trevor both mentioned later that it should be the music that matters, not fashion and really expensive jeans. The band closed with "The Rip" and said they’d be back in December.
A giant banner for Stretch Arm Strong was dropped and the lights went out while the piano track off Free at Last was played. A pit opened immediately as the band started off their set with "Worst Case Scenario" and the pit kept up through the entire set, even with newer material like "Faces" being played. Despite the large stage and barrier, the pit lasted, fists were thrown into the air and words were shouted towards the mic. I even saw a small pile-up towards the stage at one point. Vocalist Chris McLane spoke briefly between some songs during the set. In keeping with the posicore label the band has acquired, McLane said he wanted everyone to enjoy themselves and that there should be no violence. Ironically, a guy or two was kicked out by security by the start of the next song. They covered all their releases with the set and ended with "For the Record," which McLane dedicated to everyone there; all the people drinking, all the people not drinking, the straight-edge kids. He mentioned that he’s never had a drink in 32 years, but he’s not judgmental, admitting right after “Okay…I’ve judged some people.” A great set by a band of really nice guys who’ve been around for a long time and never put on a dull live show, completely without macho tough guy posturing or any “emo” writhing about and microphone twirling, check these guys out live (someone on punknews.org has compared Stretch Arm Strong to bands like Atreyu and Hawthorne Heights…how?).
The floor became completely packed as everyone waited for Strung Out to take the stage. After what seemed like a while, Strung Out came out and played for almost an hour. Like I mentioned above, I’m not all that familiar with the entire Strung Out catalogue, but I do know that songs off Suburban Teenage Wasteland, Exile in Oblivion and Twisted by Design were all played. There were at least two pits the entire set, and despite rules and signs all over the place, someone even stage dove. The band did very little talking, as they played so much material, but vocalist Jason Cruz stated that while on tour the band doesn’t always hear much that’s going on in the world, but dedicated the song "Blueprint of the Fall" to the current political happenings in the world. Cruz also commented on the reaction of the crowd, stating “this is better than Warped Tour.” In terms of energy, the band was no comparison to the others that played, but they didn’t need it with how much the large crowd simply fed off on the songs played alone. The entire band wore black and were visually soaked in sweat by the time they finished.
If you like any of these bands, definitely check out this tour. I’m not sure if Valiant Thorr are on any other dates, but the three bands on the bill are worth anyone’s admission, if not just for their solid performances alone. In fact, like I mentioned with Stretch Arm Strong, none of the bands on this tour seem to front anything about their band with image or style over substance, which is highly admirable in a scene where, lately a lot of it seems to have gotten to be about a style or this annoying, dark and evil emotion, “I’m so dark and depressed and want to slit my wrists because my girlfriend and I are androgenous assholes.” Every band was spot on with their material and the combination of the three bands for a tour really turned out to be a great idea.
I’ve included a few videos of each band’s performance with the exception of Valiant Thorr (person filming didn’t get film them) and Stretch Arm Strong because I don’t have room to upload it. If anyone wants the Stretch Arm Strong videos (faces and outside looking in) or has a place to upload them let me know.
Set Lists (not all of it is in exact order):
A Wilhelm Scream
Stretch Arm Strong
- Killing It
- The King is Dead
- Famous Friends and Fashion Drunks
- Anchor End
- The Soft Sell
- When I Was Alive: Walden III
- The Kids Can Eat a Bag of Dicks
- Me vs. Morrissey...
- Mute Print
- The Rip
- Worst Case Scenario
- Outside Looking In
- The Hardest Part
- We Bleed
- For Now
- The Sound of Names Dropping
- When All Else Fails
- For the Record