First Unitarian Church
After yet another crucial pre-show food outing in Chinatown, a bunch of us made it to the Church right in time to see Higher Giant. This was their third show, but you'd never know it from the tightness of their performance, and how well written the songs were. Of course, this is to be expected when Ernie Parada (Black Train Jack, Grey Area) and Dave Wagenshutz (Kid Dynamite, Paint it Black, etc) are in the band. Basically, they sounded like a third Grey Area record, which is awesome. They played six or seven songs, and despite a few technical problems, sounded really good. Nice, tight song structures, great drum parts (duh!), and Ernie's high pitched vocals. They were a nice start to the night, and I really hope that they stay together. Something tells me that this will be a short lived project, but I'm reallllly hoping I'm wrong on that.
After a trip to Wawa, I caught a bit of the Riverboat Gamblers. I know a lot of people really didn't like them, but there was a small pocket of kids up front who seemed pretty excited. They were snotty, rock and roll-ish punk, but their singer kinda seemed like a total goober. Lots of mic tossing, and Mick Jagger strutting around. He also liked to climb on speakers and amps and whatnot, but then just kind of casually hop off. Lame. They had their moments, but overall I was pretty unimpressed.
The lights went down, and a dark, hip hop beat started over the PA, and Philly's favorites stormed the stage. Paint it Black ripped straight into "The Ledge" from their new record, and kids lost their minds from minute one. Their set had a handful of songs from the new record (mostly ones played at the release shows), and a lot of old favorites like "Nicaragua," "Cannibal", "Womb Envy" and "CVA." "Shell Game Redux" sounded great towards the end of the set (with Mike McKee doing back ups), and "Atticus Finch" seemed like a strange closer after the penultimate excitement, but as usual, kids went nuts and gave them a great response. As usual, Dan spoke a lot about political issues such as the upcoming election, Central American politics, and gentrification of urban areas, and Andy mentioned Ardmore. There's no reason that New Lexicon shouldn't be the best record of the year, and Paint it Black should really start garnering even more attention as one of the best bands playing punk/hardcore.
"We're just the Paint it Black afterparty," were the words of Strike Anywhere frontman Thomas when they started their set. It's been a while since they've been in Philly, and they had some huge shoes (Chucks?) to fill after the Paint it Black set. Unfortunately, I don't think they achieved it. The first sign of this came when they started with "Prisoner Echoes" from Dead FM. Don't get me wrong, I like the album, and it's well written, but it definitely lacks a lot of the energy of early Strike Anywhere. The group of kids piled up front were obviously into the newer stuff, but this didn't really incite much energy. As a whole, the set was a little heavy on songs from Dead FM and Exit English. The first four songs from Exit English were played, but so was "Til Days Shall Be No More" which I've never actually seen them play. There were a few old songs scattered throughout, and I couldn't help but make my way up to the front for "Timebomb Generation" and "Chorus of One." Closing with "Sunset on 32nd" was also a nice touch. While I would've liked a few more older songs, I can't entirely complain about the set.
On large problem with the set was Thomas' voice. It pains me to say this, but it sounded pretty damn bad. He's still an energetic frontman, and one of the most passionate players in the game, but he was shrieky and his voice kept cracking from the get-go. I've heard that he sounded stronger at other spots along the tour, but it was really tough at times. There would be moments or lines where it sounded good, and then it would kind of fall apart. It was kind of sad to watch a band that meant so much to you over the years turn in such an average set, but that's how I felt watching them. I traveled all over PA watching for the last few years, and last night was definitely the weakest set I've seen from them.
The show was a good time, and seeing so many great friends was awesome. I have high expectations for Higher Giant, and hope to see Strike Anywhere put on a better set next time I see them. Paint it Black killed it, as expected, and if I never see Riverboat Gamblers again, I'll probably live.