On an evening where most Houston couples spent absurdly long amounts of time merely waiting to be seated at the swankiest restaurants and hippest bars, you could have taken a romantic risk and treated your sweetie to a night of music at White Oak Music Hall. This would only go over well if you and your Valentine check off some of the following criteria from this nostalgic list:
1. Were you a teenager in the ‘90s?
2. Did you wear a lot of Vans or Doc Martens?
3. Did you channel your teen angst into punk music?
4. Do you know who Trever Keith is?
Did you get three out of four? Then hopefully you were in attendance at the Face to Face show last night at White Oak. The Southern California punk pioneers have released their 11th studio album, Hold Fast (Acoustic Sessions) and played an unplugged show, the first of the tour, jam packed with their greatest hits.
The guys in the band were looking a little bit grayer in the beard and the crowd was definitely more mature and subdued than in years past, but it all felt appropriate for a Valentine’s date night for 30-40 something punk rockers who have perhaps buried that younger version of themselves beneath layers of parenthood, corporate careers, and mortgages. It was a little unusual to have seats only on the floor, although kind of nice, and singer Trever Keith, made jokes and references to it all night. If anything, it felt kind of nice to just chill and sing along to all the classic Face to Face hits the band was handing out all night.
The guys opened the show with the crowd pleaser, “Ordinary” from their 1996 self titled album. The crowd sang every word which is pretty common at a Face to Face show. Keith’s masculine yet youthful voice and clear, direct lyrics make it easy to do so. Keith and bass player, Scott Shiflett who has been with the band since 1995, got the crowd pumped up with a sing off to the opening of “123 Drop” before rolling right into their emotional, reflective fan favorite “Blind” also from their self titled album.
The night was sprinkled with cool surprises, such as the insertion of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven,” at the end of “Shame on Me” from 2000’s Reactionary and a country twang inspired version of “Aok” from 1995’s Big Choice. Two back to back songs from 1999’s Ignorance is Bliss, “Everyone Hates a Know it All” and “Burden” got a few die hard fans to their feet. Keith informed the crowd that it has been 20 years since the release of Ignorance is Bliss and to commemorate the anniversary it will be released on vinyl soon for the first time.
By the time the guys got around to their biggest commercial hit, 1992’s “Disconnected” the crowd was ready to sing at the top of their lungs and everyone in the room knew every word. It really is a damn good song. It’s deep, it rocks, and it speaks clearly to the listener on many levels. Perhaps that is why Face to Face fans have been singing along so steadily for 30 plus years. Every one of their albums shares themes of accepting growth and change, walking away from things that no longer serve you, and trying to be the best person you can be even when that feels really hard. All with kick ass beats, energetic bass lines, and power chords galore. It’s a sound that can follow along with you from high school, to hard partying college days, through long term relationships and marriage, even career choices. Keith’s lyrics resonate deeply and are always easy to decipher. Face to Face is a band to feel.
After only a brief break, the band was back onstage for the loud cheering room to play an encore of “Shoot the Moon” from 2002’s How to Ruin Everything and finished off the night with “Walk the Walk” from 1996’s self titled. Keith thanked the fans and assured everyone that they would be back for a night of pure, unadulterated, traditional, loud punk rock soon.
Ray Rocket, aka Ray Carlisle, formerly of Teenage Bottlerocket opened the show. Rocket put out a solo album in 2016 titled, Do You Want to go to Tijuana? His set included original songs, Teenage Bottlerocket covers, and a cover of “Pet Sematary” by The Ramones. In fact, the guys intro’d every song with a DeeDee Ramone count off of “1,2,3,4!” which elicited endless giggles from the crowd. Something Ray Rocket must be used to because he is one funny dude. He joked about being a dad and not knowing that Minecraft was out and Fortnite is in and joked about growing up a twin and being a better basketball player than his brother, but that he had the smaller dick. Things got serious when he shared with the room that he lost his twin brother and bandmate a few years ago and hasn’t felt the same since. He played a heart wrenching song and showed that he is a well rounded sensitive musician as well as a funny guy.
Was it just me, or was anyone else dying for them to plug in, pick up the pace, and give us the loud, fast, and proud Face to Face that we’ve been blaring on our car stereos for decades? Also, I could have sung along to about 20 more songs had they been willing to play all night.
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