The Suicide Machines/Stretch Arm Strong - live in New York (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Suicide Machines / Stretch Arm Strong

live in New York (2005)

live show

Due to a weather-delayed train schedule I arrived at the tiny Tribeca Rock Club shortly after Fordirelifesake had ended their set and Whole Wheat Bread began theirs.

This was my third time seeing Whole Wheat Bread, and yet again, they were opening up for a ska-punk band (or at least in this case, one oriented enough with the genre). I suppose it's because their general nature is that of "fun" pop-punk with their awfully tired gimmick. They did seem tighter in their playing than usual though, and as they just released an album earlier this year, I doubt they were playing new songs, but a few sounded much more mature for them. It was good to hear the one or two early Bigwig-sounding songs and to hear their skatepunk influences shining brightly on a few numbers. They did definitely flaunt their "Hey, we're black!" thing at several points per the usual. Their busting into a freestyle did actually seem to differ in some material from the last few times I'd seen them. All in all, I wasn't as annoyed as last time, but I suppose that'll happen when a crowd's average age is several years older and you're well away from the pit area as opposed to right at the outskirts. A few people definitely were flailing their arms and excited for them.

Stretch Arm Strong was next, and delivered just what I expected: Half a set of pretty good melodic hardcore and another half of bad, melodic borderline hardcore (see: their new album). I'm not totally familiar with the band's material prior to their new album, Free at Last, but I already like it better than the disc in question. It just seems too conventionally melodic as opposed to cleanly integrated, and the guitarist's near-falsetto backups sound like Brett from the Juliana Theory is guesting on all tracks. Numbers like "The Hardest Part" and "The Sound of Names Dropping" didn't seem to garner the biggest reception for their entire durations. The other material did get a few of their fans to practice some trademark Kung Fu sessions. What I can give Stretch is that they were extremely tight and energetic even if their newer songs weren't faring as well as other songs like powerful closer "For the Record."

Set list (from the paper):

  • Worst Case
  • Faces
  • Outside
  • -----------------
  • The Hardest Part
  • We Bleed
  • Sound of Names
  • Sorrow
  • -----------------
  • Hearts
  • 4 tha [looks like 'Lip']
It was then time for the Suicide Machines. And while I figured a band of their longevity and decent fanbase could draw a venue much bigger than the one they were in that night, I wasn't complaining with a 4-foot-high / 15-feet-or-so-wide stage, no barricade, and an area no bigger than 30 x 50 feet (total guesstimation here). It was an intimate show that thrived off the audience's energy, and here it was tenfold in the Machines' set. After an excruciatingly long setup time, the wait was rewarded with a 20 song set drawing from Destruction by Definition, Battle Hymns, A Match and Some Gasoline, and the newest effort, War Profiteering Is Killing Us All. This means, yes, the band completely left the less-favorable-among-fans self-titled and Steal This Record efforts off the set list, which was marginally disappointing for myself since several of the latter's tracks would work wonderfully in the live setting I'd imagine (an abbreviated "Steal This Record" anyone?). Still, that meant a pure, blistering near-hour of punk rock (with some slowed down ska grooves mixed in). Jay Navarro made sure to give plenty in the audience brief mic time for songs and made quick mention of how he believes the corporations (i.e. Haliburton) are responsible for the ongoing war on Iraq, and made a (at least somewhat joking I'm sure) suggestion to bomb the offices after hours when there are only 2 security guards present. An apparently new bassist was with the band as well, but no mention was made. However, Vinnie Nobile was, of course, announced. The bald fellow, who had played trombone on two of Destruction's tracks, was present at the show and thus took to the stage to play his parts on both those songs, played conveniently back-to-back. New album highlights included "Junk," dedicated to fellow ska-punks the Arrogant Sons of Bitches, and "Capsule," inarguably the heaviest song the band's written to date. Mention was also made of the infamous ice cream truck incident of Warped Tour 2003 prior to the song in which it took place ("DDT"), which the band claimed was the craziest occurrence of their career ("We'll send this [song] out to the kid who was dancing in the pit with the stop sign"). They also made sure to constantly let us know how great a crowd we were as well; fair enough, as sing-alongs and, though I didn't see it I'd certainly expect, circle/mosh pits were abound going on behind myself. Overall, the Machines managed to avoid sporadic sound problems to deliver a powerful, non-stop onslaught and the audience, including my nostalgic self, ate it up. Great band and great set, and one I'm intensely glad I was able to see in such a small setting before they call it quits.

Set list (from the paper):
  • Islands
  • Someone
  • S.O.S
  • ------------------
  • Capitalist
  • Too Much
  • Did You Ever
  • ------------------
  • Hey
  • Vans
  • War Profit
  • ------------------
  • High Anxi
  • Step 1
  • BTG
  • ------------------
  • Junk
  • Capsule
  • Burning
  • ------------------
  • 17%
  • No Face
  • Your Silence
Encore (not originally planned / not on paper):
  • DDT
  • New Girl