I love it when a truly diverse, yet fun and enjoyable lineup rolls through town. It seems all too easy to get caught up in mundane shows of the same bands that tour with bands that sound like Xeroxed versions of themselves. The current Suicide Machines tour, accompanied by Stretch Arm Strong and Whole Wheat Bread, is anything but.
On its 3rd or 4th name now, the Nanci Raygun (see also Twisters and 929 Café) has become quite the “mini-landmark” for touring punk and punk-esque bands. It seems those who have been around a little longer than others constantly remember playing their early shows in what was once known as “Twisters.” You name them, they played here: Bouncing Souls, Less Than Jake, Dropkick Murphys, the Business…..even the notorious “Banned in the U.S.A.” Luther Campbell (see also 2 Live Crew) recently did a show here. So needless to say, despite bad management, scandals involving underage persons, misappropriation of funds and so on -- Twisters, in whatever form it takes, has always had a luring effect on me for live entertainment.
Whole Wheat Bread kicked the evening off with their infectious brand of fun-loving pop-punk. Say what you will about race, but these guys enjoy every minute of what they are doing and take nothing for granted. They play pop-punk the way it was meant to be: fun, tongue in cheek, fast and melodic. I’ve read a few press releases comparing them to early Blink-182 and Green Day and let me tell you something. I witnessed both bands in their early years, and WWB deserve the accolades they receive. Being that WWB has just one full-length under their belts, Minority Rules, the set consisted of songs entirely from it. There seems to be a lot of people on the fence of Whole Wheat Bread. “Are they just a gimmick?” “Are they just trying to get paid?” “Are they any good?”….NO, YES/NO, YES. WWB wants to succeed, but not because of the color of their skin. I had the chance to interview them prior to their performance and asked their feelings about the claims they are a “gimmick band.” Simply put, they explained that this is just who they are; "Our skin is something they can’t wash off at the end of the day….We’re just as offended if someone likes us just because we’re black, then if someone doesn’t like us because we’re black.” Check them out when they come through your town, you won’t be disappointed.
Stretch Arm Strong was on next, and I was probably the most excited person in the room. I’ve been a fan of their music for years now, but always managed to miss seeing them every opportunity I had -- which is ironic, because they used to constantly tour. The opened right away with “Worst Case Scenario” and Chris seemed really excited and genuinely glad to be performing. He made his way into the crowd hugging everyone up front, thanking them for coming and encouraging them to sing along. Say what you will, but that’s extremely respectable. The rest of the set was heavy with material from the recent Free at Last LP. I was a little cautious as to how it would sound live, as there seems to be a deep production sound to it, but SAS pulled it off, possibly better, in person. "Faces" is possibly the most reminiscent of the band’s prior work and fits in with other classics nicely. Also making its way into the performance, via audience request, was “Outside Looking In,” back from `99’s Rituals of Life. Rounding out the set were the new single “The Sound of Names Dropping” and the crowd favorite, “For the Record.” Personally, I would have liked to see more material from A Revolution Transmission, but all in all, SAS puts on an intense performance with a genuine love for the music they play.
This is the second time this year I’ve seen the Suicide Machines, the first being just prior to their latest release War Profiteering Is Killing Us All, and based on my impression of this fantastic album, I was excited to hear more material from it live. Naturally, with any Suicide Machines show you can expect a slew of songs from the classic Destruction by Definition, and right away they opened with “Islands” to get everyone moving. The entire performance was nothing more than a test of energy endurance for everyone up front. Jay made sure everyone was having a good time, dancing right along with the crowd while singing. This was the first chance I had to hear the new album's title track, which quite possibly (with the exception of maybe “DDT”) could be their heaviest song ever.
Needless to say, their 4 best albums were widely represented, with favorites “SOS,” “Your Silence,” “Someone,” and the new ska-heavy favorite “Junk.” Also, to my surprise, and delight, the now seemingly rarity “Vans Song” made a surprise appearance.
The biggest surprise of the night came in the heavy intro to “Hey,” when Jay called Whole Wheat Bread co-frontman Aaron Abraham up to do what sounded like part of one of the hidden hip-hop tracks on Whole Wheat Bread’s Minority Rules. If this show comes to your town, all I can say is watch for this, because it was pretty fucking rad.
In the end, 1 solid night with 1 solid lineup. You can never ask for more than that. A highly recommended tour.