Saturday, September 29, 2012

Strung Out at the House of Blues San Diego


Strung Out have long been one of my favorite bands. Their unique fusion of metal and punk immediately made me a fan when I picked up their debut record Another Day In Paradise in 1994. My first concert for Strung Out happened while vacationing in London in 1996,  my brother and I happened upon a flyer saying Strung Out was playing a local pub in support of their sophomore album Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues. We immediately knew what we were going to do that particular night and were blown away.

The Sheds
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With an early start of 7:30, I had walked into the House of Blues San Diego after the third song by punk upstarts The Sheds. Sounding like a more metallic version of Lagwagon, The Sheds had some good melodic punk songs and their drummer was going bonkers on his kit. Their latest album is Self/Doubt on Rite of Passage records.

Such Gold
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Tapping into a more technical melodic metallic punk vein akin to Strung Out, Such Gold whipped through a ferocious set led by vocalist Ben Kotin. Their debut album Misadventures was just released on Razor & Tie records.

The Swellers
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Churning out a more straight up meat and potatoes punk rock, The Swellers showed their off their years of touring with a finely tuned set backed by brothers Nick and Jonathan Diener. Their new EP Running Out Of Places To Go will be out on October 16th.

Strung Out
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Strung Out have always put on phenomenal shows. It is exhilarating to see the frantic dueling fretwork of guitarists Rob Ramos and Jake Kiley as they are the Dave Murray and Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden) of punk rock. The factor that made this show special was the band was going to play their second and third albums Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues and Twisted By Design in its entirety.

Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues was one of the soundtracks to my college life. The hyperkinetic guitars backed by Jason Cruz's rapid fire vocals with a not so subtle injection of their heavy metal influences showed Strung Out refining their trademark sound. A smile hit my face as the blazing bass line of "Firecracker" ignited the mosh pit at the House of Blues San Diego.

Knowing they would play the album in its entirety took the surprise element out of a show but it also led to a building of excitement as they plowed through "Better Days" and "Solitaire". Ramos and Kiley are still fast as ever navigating their fretboards propelled by the unheralded drumming of Jordan Burns. "Gear Box" was blazing fast as the band was hitting their stride.

One of the heaviest songs on the album "Bring Out Your Dead" was thick and crunchy as I had flashbacks of seeing their old bass player Jim Cherry scream out the title of the song on background vocals. "Rottin' Apple" was another favorite as I remember hearing the song on a Fat Wreck Chords promotional sampler prior to the official release of the song.

It was hard to concentrate on the show when I wasn't headbanging along and throwing my fist in the air for the supersonic version of "Speedball". Cruz would occasionally jump down to the rail and give the microphone to rabid fans in the front to have them sing along. It seemed like seconds had passed when they closed out the first half of the show with "Wrong Side Of The Tracks".

Twisted By Design is a masterpiece. Strung Out had refined and honed their sound for their triumphant third release on Fat Wreck Chords. The sliding pick scrape and furiously drumming by Burns kicked off "Too Close To See". Throughout the evening I could hear various members of the crowd singing along word for word. "Mind Of My Own" was one such song with Cruz still sounding great on vocals.

"Crosswords" was another barn burner with its palm muted power chords serving as machine gun fire for the bazooka blasts of drums. The highlight of the set and my all time favorite song from Strung Out is "Iceburn" which veers into Slayer territory with its terrifying vocal delivery and nervous tension surrounding the entire song.

A sledgehammer bassline signaled the started of "Ultimate Devotion" and comes crashing down to razor sharp ending. "Tattoo" might one of the more melodic songs on the album but still retains the patented Strung Out crunch. Another crowd favorite "Matchbox" closed out the album in grand fashion. While I doubt they will ever repeat this tour, it was a very special evening to witness and I only wish I could catch more of these shows.