Face to Face / Pegboy / Polar Bear Club - live in New York (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Face to Face / Pegboy / Polar Bear Club

live in New York (2009)

live show

Face to Face and Polar Bear Club book-ending a show in New York City promised to be at least a pretty good time. I hadn't seen the latter all year -- a practical drought for a band whose hometown(s) is/are 5-7 hours away. And I'd never even seen the former, though admittedly, I own a single Face to Face album, and not even a highly lauded one. But why not check out one of my favorite bands, as well as some '90s punk legends to see if they still had it?

A dingy basement; a community center floor; a VFW stage of sorts -- these are some of the past places I've seen Polar Bear Club play. So I knew it would be a little awkward watching them on a pretty huge stage, with a barricade no less. But it wasn't too bad. The floor was empty just before the quintet walked out on stage, but the eight or nine people that would be singing along to every word from their own respective standing spots, as well as a few dozen onlookers, filled out the space quickly. The band launched into "Living Saints," and despite their sizable half-hour set time, would only play one more song from the album they were on tour supporting. It was a little weird that they played double that amount from Sometimes Things Just Disappear and a pleasant surprise to hear two from The Redder, The Better, but as a slightly bigger fan of those two releases, I can't complain. The sound was a little clustered and crunchy, and Jimmy Stadt's vocals were unfortunately not too audible, but their energy was good -- from Stadt's flailing, weird high knee raises to bassist Erik "Goose" Henning's similar jumps and leg pumps. PBC churned out eight favorites, thanked the few of us for coming out and the rest in attendance for checking in and called it a night. There's a few on Sometimes I would've preferred hearing in place of "Burned Out" or "Bug Parade" ("Eat Dinner...," "Hollow Place" or "Convinced I'm Wrong"), but I was happy to see them get just about a full half-hour in the number three slot. Hopefully they made a good impression on the elder crowd; for the first time in a while I was feeling pretty young at a show.

Set list (8:00-8:28): Living Saints Election Day Another Night in the Rock
----- Boxes Parked in the Parking Lot of Your Heart
----- Burned Out in a Jar The Bug Parade Our Ballads

Pegboy was more comical than musically enjoyable, but the Chicago outfit played their worn brand of adequately poppy punk decently enough. Frontman Larry Damore strapped on his guitar for a few songs and drunkenly stumbled around the stage fist-pumping otherwise. He talked a lot about how old he was, which in itself got a little old; his age showed, as during a few of the later songs, Damore merely crouched down besides one of the monitors for a song's entirety. For real. The band also trimmed down their set (seemingly voluntarily) by 15 minutes. But he was an amusing character and the vocal issue was fixed, as his raspy shout was totally clear for the set's duration; he also engaged what few fans the band had in attendance way better than either Stadt or Trevor Keith would do, coming down into the barricade and wrapping his arms around stoked nostalgia trip-takers. A decent interlude of a set that may not have inspired anyone running home and pirating their Touch & Go discography, but hardly an abysmal affair, either.

Set list (8:45-9:25) (I may be off...): Superstar
----- Not What I Want
----- Locomotivelung [?]
----- ?
----- Still Uneasy
----- ?
----- ?
----- Strong Reaction [?]
----- ?
----- Field of Darkness
----- ?

The sound checks, instrument swaps and banner raise took a little longer than desired, but when Face to Face took the stage, all was forgiven. I mean, I know the band's pretty much been back in commission the last year or two, but I was still shocked at how absolutely tight they sounded. All those fast punk songs of theirs were lightning-quick, and they kept the tempos just consistently driven and speedy. Danny Thompson was a goddamn animal on the skins and I think the reason everything moved along at such an excellently urgent clip. Hearing just fast punk songs in this day and age was actually kind of a refreshing treat, especially since they were played so well.

The band put on a show, too. I'm talking all the silly "ohhh-ohh" call-backs and audience participation sing-alongs that seemed to keep everyone's attention in check ("Disconnected" must've been like seven minutes long between the mid-song delay where Keith asked fans to vote on whether they wanted to sing along or not, and the song's fake ending). Keith would often jog around the stage and hype the crowd, too, even as the band bustled through steady quartets of songs that, to the audience's delight, spanned their whole catalog. His vocals sounded great, and it seemed like the band barely missed a note. Total mid-'90s Warped Tour mosh pit action, too, but that wasn't too surprising.

Set list (10:05-11:19): You've Done Nothing In a Big Country Bill of Goods ?
----- Ordinary Blind What's in a Name Disconnected
----- Resignation The Devil You Know (God Is a Man) I Won't Lie Down Pastel
----- Take-Away I'm Not Afraid Velocity Complicated
----- ? I'm Trying -or- Don't Turn Away
----- I Want A-OK
Encore (11:21-11:29): Big Choice It's Not Over

Even for fairweather fans, this might be worthwhile to check out.