Strung Out playing Exile in Oblivion plus hits
w/ Night Gaunts and PEARS
San Fran, Wellington
Friday 1 April 2016
Albany act Night Gaunts started the night off with their upbeat high-pitched ska. They bounced around and got the small crowd grooving along to dub styled offbeat strumming, complemented by saxophone. I’m not sure why I was surprised, but they were far more polished than I expected. Their chirpy happy-go-lucky sound didn’t quite match the tone on the other two bands of the night, but they played well nonetheless.
PEARS have been through a lot on this tour, so we were lucky to even have them. Their bassist had dropped out of the tour mere days before the tour, leaving them scrambling to find players to fill in. Hayden from Night Gaunts obliged for most of their set, with super-smiley Strung Out bassist Chris Aiken taking over for the last few songs.
Vocalist Zach Quinn had recently bust his fist PUNCHING THE STAGE on the Australian leg of the tour, resulting in pricey hospital bills and leaving him in a wrist brace/cast that you can see in the picture below. I recently broke a few bones in my wrist and I can tell you straight away that there is no way I would have been attempting half the stuff Quinn was doing on stage. He threw himself about with abandon, like violent interpretive dance. He jumped down into the audience and walked around – you know, just because – before climbing back onstage and writhing around on the floor.
When bands have members like this it always makes for a captivating show. It was so unpredictable. I don’t think the band members themselves even know quite what to expect.Guitarist Brian Pretus played front man, and rather than just rattling off obligatory nonsense to fill time between songs, he actually was worth paying attention to. He told stories, cracked jokes, and had the crowd chanting.
The date actually coincided with the release of the second PEARS album, Green Star, which meant that the band were in good spirits. I guess that this, combined with the show being the last of the tour, meant that the band really wanted to give their all. This was great to watch, with the performance being super high energy and frantic. As chaotic and wild as it seemed, there was still evidence of talent beneath the whirlwind. Quinn and Pretus shared some great vocal harmonies when they weren’t launching about the stage. Pretus displayed great abilities and drummer Jarrett Nathan kept them on their toes with his lightning beats. It looked like loads of punters were already loyal fans of the band and there were singalongs aplenty, especially when PEARS covered The Ramones’ “Judy is a Punk”.
As always, when bands play an entire album you know what to expect [examples: Nas performing Illmatic, Jimmy Eat World playing Futures], but also hope to hear handful of hits from other albums as well. Strung Out have been playing a selection of their albums start to finish over this Australasian tour. Last night was Twisted by Design in Auckland, and tonight they played Exile in Oblivion.
After a sound check the band kept us in suspense by playing a handful of old jazz numbers through the public address system, knowing that we were expecting one such song to be the intro to”Analog”, to first track of Exile. When said track finally played everyone cheered, knowing that this signaled the start of a brilliant set to complete an already-great night.
They’re tight, and play rippingly fast. And you can tell that they’re on top of their game. Exile came out 11 years ago, and they were able to play it through without a hitch. And on top of that, they’ve been playing many of their other albums in their entirety at other stops on their tour, showing that they are exceptionally rehearsed. They ripped through Exile, and followed up with half a dozen tracks from the rest of their catalogue.
Sweat dripped and the audience swarmed as fans rocked out and sang along to favourite tunes from one of their most beloved bands. Strung Out reciprocated, clearly appreciative that their fans enable them to play music for a living. Singer Jason Cruz told about how the band got a bit tired and jaded when they were first touring Exile on Warped Tour in 2005, until a crew member had told them to suck it up and take a reality check. This made an impact on them, and it is clear that they make the most of their opportunities and give back to the fans who support them to get where they are now.
This was the last night of the tour, and you could tell the PEARS and Strung Out had built a special camaraderie over the course of their time together. Throughout both sets, band members and crew from side of stage would throw bananas and potato chips at the band playing. During the last song – a cover of “Soulmate” by late No Use For a Name singer Tony Sly – members of PEARS and the crew started stealing away pieces of the drum kit one by one, making drummer Jordan Burns work extra hard as he tried to improvise with less equipment at his disposal. Somehow, by the end of the song the drum kit was scattered around the stage, with Strung Out singer Cruz stuck underneath a pile of the drums.
Although we have had punk bands like GBH and The Buzzcocks come recently, it is a rare treat to have more modern international punk acts make their way to Wellington. Thanks to Chicks That Scream for organising shows like these. For me personally, gigs like this one are often key highlights of my year.
Special mention to Jordan Burns’ mother, who passed away three years ago. This show was dedicated to her.