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Bamboozle Left Hooks
Face to Face come back to maul mall punk
The Inland Empire, a mysterious territory set an appreciably "too the fuck far" distance from the established punk enclaves of Orange and Los Angeles counties and the Bay Area, isn't known for its contribution to California's punk-rock tradition. But its city of Victorville, surely a crown jewel of San Bernardino County, spawned the much-loved (and much-scoffed-at by tough leather types) Face to Face, who were part of the ubiquitous crossbreed genre of pop punk. Kinder than the bloody hardcore before it, but still goofily serious, pop punk occupied an era when the Warped Tour was emperor of summertime and rock radio, not the Internet, told zitty teens what to like. In the gloriously simpler times of 1991, Face to Face were born, and they lived until 2003. Now, joining scores of other punk bands no longer in their first or third bloom of youth, Face to Face are back for a reunion tour.
We asked band founder Trever Keith why now seems an appropriate moment for a return and why the upcoming Bamboozle Left fest seems the right venue for a return.
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"Our manager began calling me with offers for Face to Face shows almost right after we broke the band up," the guitarist says. "There has been a very steady stream. I think after four or five years, [bassist] Scott [Shiflett] and I realized that we really didn't have to completely kill Face to Face in order to pursue other creative and musical endeavors. So it's really just a matter of timing. Everything feels right; we're all ready to get back out there and play live again, which is what has always been the strong suit for Face to Face."
Those other endeavors include Keith's solo work and his band Legion of Doom with Chad Blinman, as well as Shiflett's own unit Viva Death and touring enterprises with Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and Jackson United. The other dudes involved in the reunion are Pete Parada (who drums with the Offspring) and Chad Yaro.
The current cast of aging punks is the same group that put together Ignorance Is Bliss and Reactionary, two of the solid yield of albums that Keith et al. have released. The reunion promises no new material (yet, anyhow). However, Keith says, "I have a few other things I've been developing in the time that Face to Face has been inactive, and I plan on continuing to work hard on them. Neither [Shiflett nor I] see this Face to Face reunion as a full-time pursuit. It's really the live aspect of Face to Face that we want to continue to do."
The live arena has always been punk's raison d'être, and Keith echoes this sentiment when considering the fate of the industry. "As recorded music continues to become devalued, the live performance remains the thing that matters," he says. "That's just fine with me. You have to get out and play live. If you're worth a shit as an artist, you should be able to make money at this because people will want to pay for the experience. The rest of it is all a bunch of crap run by people who aren't musicians, but who are business people and marketing people."
That said, Keith (also a producer and label owner) doesn't consider most new punk music to be worth the effort. "I'm not sure if it just isn't very good anymore, or if I just stopped really connecting with the younger movement," he says. "But it really doesn't resemble anything I have ever loved about punk rock."
He goes on to more succinctly describe the current state of American punk as "crap" and "overcommercialized mall-punk garbage." Wisely, Keith is listening to good older stuff such as the Smiths and Morrissey, the Cure, My Bloody Valentine, Echo and the Bunnymen (among them, experienced men of the comeback), and random newer artists such as Battles and Boards of Canada. While the Face to Face variety of punk may be something lighter and less for-forever than what those lords of the dark are selling, it's but a dream for those who remember the pre-disaster waves of Californian punk, and a solid—if fleeting—experience of that halcyon era is maybe enough for now.
Bamboozle Left with Face to Face (playing Sat.), the Bravery, Bouncing Souls, Dillinger Escape Plan and others at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, 8808 Irvine Center Dr., Irvine; www.thebamboozleleft.com. Sat.-Sun., noon. $39.50; two-day pass, $75. All ages.