Walking through the smoky patio of Velvet Jones into the glowing red club already packed with bodies, I realized that Saturday night’s Strung Out crowd was ready to rock. Anticipation for the band built as the minutes turned to hours, and in typical Velvet style, the band didn’t take the stage until just before the wee hours of Sunday morning. But it was well worth the wait.
With eight studio albums under its belt, Strung Out is one of the hardest working punk bands, period. The boys fuse heavy metal with rock undertones, but what sets them apart are their lyrics and stage persona, both of which spellbind the audience, turning any concert hall into a war zone of stage diving, crowd surfing, and running around the pit. Up at the front, we were packed in like sardines, the majority of the faithful ready to sing every lyric to every song along with front man Jason Cruz. When the black curtain was finally pulled back, Strung Out immediately began playing “No Voice of Mine,” an anti-war song about being asleep with your eyes open. The Velvet crowd responded to Cruz’s anthems with equal parts magnitude and intensity for 20 more songs and 90-plus minutes. Among these were two songs yet to be released and performed live for the first time: “Orchid” and “Downtown.”
As previously noted, Strung Out is a hard band, but their intelligent, soulful lyrics reflect life experience. With “Lost Motel,” a song about discontent and strife- “Nobody wants what they have got and what they got is not enough”-the band again proved that the turmoil and beauty of life can, indeed, be expressed through heavy metal.
Strung Out finished the night with a harder, faster version of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Bark at the Moon,” and as the song wound down, I was lucky to slap hands with them. I told them that they rocked, that I’d see them again Sunday night for their second and final Velvet show, and left the club with a sore body and throbbing eardrums.