Date: Monday, March 23rd, 2015
Line Up: Strung Out, Masked Intruder, La Armada, Basic
4/10/15 Location: Hawthorne Theatre. Portland, OR
4/11/15 Location: El Corazon. Seattle, WA
Strung Out Live @ Hawthorne Theater. Portland, OR
Five years have passed since Strung Out’s last record and they have just released Transmission. Alpha. Delta and kicked off a nationwide tour to follow. The new album is everything fans would expect and more from the Fat Wreck vets with a perfect blend of their signature punk and metal with beautiful and relevant vocal melodies, rigorous riffs, and inventive beats. On Friday, April 10th fans gathered at the Hawthorne Theatre in Portland for the second show of the tour in order to hear the new sounds first hand.
There was a light drizzle over PDX before our interview with guitarist Rob Ramos and drummer Jordan Burns to talk about long time producer, engineer, and friend Ryan Greene. Rob and I shook hands and he asked if we had met before. I told him I had been going to Strung Out shows for almost 20 years so he probably saw me in the pit or singing up front in San Diego, Los Angeles, Pomona, Anaheim, San Luis Obispo, San Francisco, Petaluma, or Phoenix.
Rob informed me of the addition of Matt Riddle on bass guitar (Face to Face, No Use For A Name) to his side project Implants, adding a completely new, yet familiar, element to their music. He also mentioned collaborating with producer Ryan Greene for Implants new release.
After the interview, photographer Keoki Badiang and I checked out supporting band La Armada from the Dominican Republic. The fast and aggressive quintet relocated to Chicago due to the prominent Latin punk/hardcore scene. Fans of hard-lined, balls-to-the-wall music would do themselves a favor by checking them out.
Next up was Masked Intruder from Madison, Wisconsin. They are fairly new to the Fat family and are known for always sporting their colored ski masks. The group is made up of Intruder Blue, Intruder Green, Intruder Yellow, and Intruder Red. Intruder Purple is no longer with the band and details of his departure could not be confirmed. I could have been talking to one of the guys before the show, but will probably never know.
Going to punk shows nowadays is a very nostalgic experience. Everyone is mostly laughing and telling stories of their recent experience with the bands. People discuss new music being produced by the artists in a scene that is still very much alive. A few things have changed, instead of skating to shows and talking about our stupid teachers, we are drinking beer and discussing our jobs and kids. Everyone is engaged in conversation and not staring at his or her cell phone.
Strung Out began to play and the Hawthorne Theatre went ape shit. So far, this is my favorite venue in Portland. The rustic brick architecture provides pretty clear acoustics for a band any music lover can appreciate with attention to detail. They opened with “Rats In The Walls,” the first track and the first song written for Transmission. Alpha. Delta.
After the first song Jason Cruz said, “Hey Portland, it’s been a few years. We’re back.” Strung Out is fucking back. They played a diverse mix of old and new tunes. Just like the last time I saw them play, the pit immediately formed and people were singing along with passion. Cruz shared the microphone with those in the front row to assist with the lyrics everyone knows and appreciates.
Strung Out’s energy on stage has not wavered over the years. They are all still extremely ardent with each note and it shines through in their stage performance. Just follow bass player Chris Aiken as he traverses the entire stage and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
With Transmission. Alpha. Delta receiving outstanding reviews and hovering at the top of the hard rock charts, take comfort in the fact that Strung Out is not going anywhere as they continue to push the limits with their music.
Strung Out Live @ El Corazon. Seattle, WA
The tour continued to El Corazon in Seattle and we were not far behind. We met up with the guys who were watching the AMA Supercross championship on their bus. The discussion was on Washington’s marijuana laws as we showed them samples from Cultivate Northwest, a premiere provider to medical patients for the last few years. Jordan looked at us like we were crazy for not watching Ryan Dungey clinch his second 450 championship and turned the volume up to drown out our voices.
Jake Kiley described the new record’s producer Kyle Black as being able to put them out of their comfort zones. A typical album took 4-6 weeks, knowing what they wanted to record before going into the studio was essential. This time they laid down tracks and went off with their separate side projects and had time to reflect, over a span of 7 months with additional time for mixing and mastering. The effort that was put into this new album is easily reflected in the sound and songwriting. The band said in a press release, “we feel this is the most complete and intense music we have ever created.”
Ten years ago La Armada invited Strung Out to their little island in the Dominican Republic. Now they are fortunate to be on the entire U.S. and Canada tour to share their unique, fast, hard, loud, creative, and fun blend of music that I can only describe as “Islandcore.”
Masked Intruder remains on the loose while watched over by an assigned officer for the rest of their trip. I did not hear about any mischief they got into last night. They were probably anxious to get over the Canadian border to wreak some more havoc upon our northern neighbors. We will update you as reports come in.
I was able to snag an interview with Blue Intruder without being stopped by security detail. I said, “nice set.” He replied with, “thanks.”
Strung Out’s road crew is no joke. They are all over the place setting up equipment, selling merchandise, and dealing with us annoying media at every turn. We found out their tour manager Jon Shimer inadvertently threw the social media-sphere into a frenzy with a rumor that Green Day’s Billie Jo Armstrong wears a wig. The post went viral. Look at pictures, you be the judge.
Strung Out’s last tour featured performances of their record’s Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues and Twisted By Design, back to back, so everyone knew what to expect and loved every second of it. Just listen to both of those albums in a row to understand the feat of that hour and fifty minute set. The last two days were no exception. Again, their set was a blended compilation of Strung Out then and now.
As if the weekend could not get any more educational, Strung Out invited us back on the bus to talk after the set. We had some rare time with Jason Cruz, whose vocals are taken to the next level on this new album. “Nowheresville” is one he prefers to sing and the night’s set also included “Rats In The Walls,” “Rebellion of the Snakes,” “Modern Drugs,” “Tesla,” and “Black Maps.”
I asked Jason if he could give me a Strung Out tattoo after the tour. “I’m not a tattoo artist, I’m an oil painter.” His breathtaking artwork graces the cover of the new album and you can pick up his original art and prints at their merch booth before they’re gone. I believe he still has a poetry book in circulation and is making moves with his other project Jason Cruz & Howl.
The humble gentlemen naturally get better with each album and performance. Their songs have been featured in multiple video games including the last Guitar Hero – Rob says he got a high score. Their music has evolved into a nice culmination of the styles each member brings to the table and the sounds they have made so recognizable to all of the grateful fans in attendance in Portland and Seattle.
Word got out they would be on the road with NOFX, Lagwagon, maybe Good Riddance and possibly some other familiar faces in the Fat Wreck Chords family this summer for a Fat Wreck Chords Tour. We will keep you posted as I blow a proverbial load of punk spunk into my hypothetical pants.
Strung Out Set-List:
1.) Rats in the Walls
2.) Rebellion of the Snakes
4.) Velvet Alley
5.) Ultimate Devotion
6.) Her Name in Blood
7.) Animal and the Machine
8.) Never Speak Again
10.) Wrong Side of the Tracks
11.) Modern Drugs
12.) Too Close to See
19.) Black Maps
Strung Out Website
Strung Out Facebook
Masked Intruder Website
La Armada Hardcore Website
Article by: Blake Taylor
Photos by: Keoki Badiang