Punk is a state of mind.
Ryan LOVES punk music, and more specifically Face to Face. He has since he was young. So, when he saw that they were playing here in DC, he gchatted me excitedly in all caps and then we bought tickets. The show, at The Black Cat, was in late May and it was my first foray into the world of punk rock concerts.
Not only am I fairly new to punk music, but I also have not really been to that many concerts of any sort. When I was younger, my parents wouldn’t even let me take my sister to a Backstreet Boys concert because they thought something would happen to us. It was a bizarrely conservative twist in my parents usual parenting ethos, which was fairly liberal and sane. As a result, my first concert (aside from being allowed to go see my uncle’s band, G.B. Leighton) was a Green Day & Blink 182 concert my senior year of high school. They only allowed me to go because my neighbor Drew (whom my mom loved) agreed to go with us. We were also seated in assigned seating. Beyond this first experience, I’ve seen Aerosmith, the Wailers twice, Backstreet Boys (yes, as an adult – I flew my sister out to DC to go and I am fairly certain we were the only drunk people there) and a few outdoor concerts here and there.
Anyways, Ryan and I showed up promptly at 8 and the bands hadn’t started yet, so we went to the Red Room for a drink or two. As you can probably guess, the Red Room is a room with red walls, a chill vibe and plush couches. The best part about it was that they had the newly released DC Brau microbrew that Ryan and I have been itching to try! It was pretty close to a Bend, Oregon beer, which is saying a LOT. Very hoppy and flavorful, which also means filling!
As we sipped our delicious nectar of the gods, the lights started to dim and we could feel the pulse of music throbbing from upstairs. Once upstairs we listened to the spastic and disjointed Cerebral Ballzy. Despite the fact that one of the guitar players had some serious rock and roll long stringy hair, the band was what I do not like about punk music. It was, to me, just a lot of loud noises with a “singer” who was mumbling and screaming unintelligible things into the mic. I was not stoked and wishing I would have remembered to bring ear plugs. Ryan promised the other bands were better. Really, it would be almost impossible for them not to be.
Second in the line-up was The Darlings. They were actually really good. Ryan dug their sound and was stoked on the lead singer’s old school slicked-back hair. PBR tall boy in hand, I was enjoying this much more and we edged closer to the stage. I will say, I could have done without a lot of their commentary and “jokes”. Just play music if you aren’t good at the rest. However, they were good and I’m excited to listen to more of their music later.
A little bit more liquid courage from the fine folks at Pabst and we moved to the edge of the “mosh pit” for the next band – Strung Out. These guys were definitely a little older than the last two, but they didn’t show it. They were every bit as energetic and lively without the horrible sound of the first band and without the semi-douchey talk stylings of the second. They obviously have a serious following in their own right and people were psyched on them. This was the first band that the tattooed, pierced, black t-shirt and chucks wearing mob really got into it and started to ebb and flow as one rolling wave of “outsiders”.
The first band lent itself to people sitting and drinking beers while talking amongst themselves (probably while waiting for the horrible sound to stop – LOUD NOISES!!!). The second band got people up and to the stage area, but in a more calm manner for the most part. With Strung Out it was people singing along loudly and flailing bodies flying all around, which I was confused about. On the one hand I don’t understand why you can’t just dance in your own space. Why is it more fun to sail around the entire area and wave your extremities and head around wildly like a possessed banshee? On the other hand, I admire the free spiritedness and the ability to give yourself over to the music. This sounds insanely lame, I realize, but I have always had a hard time dancing. My friends and boyfriend can attest to this. I like the shameless flailing and am envious. Still….I’m short and I know that even if I dared to enter this crazy circle of whirling dervishes, I will end up with an elbow to the temple. No mosh pit for me.
Then came the main event – Face to Face. For this Ryan really wanted to be up front. In order to make sure he could enjoy the concert as he wanted while also trying to avoid elbow shots to the temple, we came up with Operation Shield-a-Boo. I stood right in front of the stage, with Ryan standing behind me to catch any blows and prevent me from being knocked around. These guys were really good and reminded me of my uncle when he plays – they just look psyched to be there and their love for music oozes out of every pore.
If you ever have a chance to see Face to Face, you won’t be disappointed. As far as venues, if you are in DC and have the opportunity to go to a show at The Black Cat I would definitely recommend it! However, remember the ear plugs, for real. My ears were ringing for two days. One thing punk is not….quiet.