Strung Out + The Casualties @ Louis’, Saskatoon, Canada

Words: Miljan Milekić

Three amazing punk rock bands on a beautiful Spring evening? I’ll take it any day of the week, even if it’s Tuesday. Well, almost, as we only managed to catch two. Despite our best efforts, we just missed Arizona’s The Venomous Pinks, and I am far from happy about it. They are not only one of the hottest punk bands in recent years, but their most recent album, ‘Vita Mors’ has been on my regular rotation for quite some time now, and I was really looking forward to seeing them live. Hopefully, I won’t have to wait long for a second chance.

Once we finally found ourselves inside the Louis’, it was The Casualties to strike first. It’s been a while since I last saw the New York fourpiece, seven years and one day, to be precise, and a lot has changed within the band since then. While guitarist Jake Kolatis is still the driving force behind the band, they have a new bass player, and more notably, a new vocalist, although “new” is a bit of a stretch here as David Rodriguez took over the microphone merely months after my last encounter with the band in Serbian capital of Belgrade.

Why do I emphasize this change this much? Because I was surprised with how much it mattered, at least for me. To me, personally, it felt almost like it was a totally different band on the stage, and I don’t mean anything bad by it. While I have been a fan during Jorge Herrera’s tenure on vocal duties and absolutely loved every moment of the last show I saw, the vibes with David are completely different. Just by his presence, Herrera made the band look and sound loud and dirty, angry, chaotic, and imperfect. Almost dangerous, in a way that is not often seen anymore.

Rodriguez, however, is a polar opposite. With a big smile on his face, he was all over the place, both on and off the stage, or even stage-diving from the sound system during the legendary anthem ‘We Are All We Have.’ Looking like a genuinely great guy, someone I would like to grab a beer with – and I hate beer, he was constantly engaged with the crowd, from hugs and high-fives to naming people in the first few rows by the bands on the shirts they were wearing, or exchanging dad jokes with Kolatis. Make no mistakes though –  the band is still loud, and they still bring tons of energy. They sound tighter than ever, and instead of looking like they could self-destruct at any given moment, they look like they are here to stay, and ‘Carry On The Flag’ for years to come.

Strung Out came in next, bringing their signature blend of skate punk and metal – the sound they practically invented in the early ‘90s. Three decades later, the band is still going strong, with their brand new album ‘Dead Rebellion’ seeing the light of day just earlier this month. It was, in fact, the album’s opener ‘Future Ghosts’ that kicked off their set, showing how much faith the band has in their new music. From there, the band had a relatively easy task of cherrypicking the songs from their extensive catalogue, seamlessly switching between older and newer, technical or more melodic.

The band offered two more tastes of the new record, with ‘New Gods’ coming in first. Judging by the reactions, both online and at the show, the song is already shaping up to be a fan-favourite, and chances are it will stay in the band’s setlists for quite some time. ‘White Owls’ came in a bit later, followed by ‘Rats in the Walls,’ the only song from what’s probably my favorite Strung Out record, ‘Transmission.Alpha.Delta.’

The highlight of their set, however, came in just before, and during the encore – which consisted of the band letting us know this was the encore, without actually leaving the stage. One after another, the five-piece delivered their heavy hitters like ‘Daggers,’ ‘Razor Sex,’ ‘Bring Out Your Dead,’ and ‘Matchbook,’ each of them being a staple in the genre. Nested between them was ‘Soulmate,’ a No Use For A Name cover the band recorded for Tony Sly tribute compilation back in 2017.

I would lie if I said I could see this tour happening before it was announced. Seeing Strung Out and The Casualties back to back was something I would rather expect on a stage such as one of Slovenia’s Punk Rock Holiday, than on a club show on a Tuesday night, but it actually worked. And on second thought, why it shouldn’t? Both bands have been a staple in the punk rock scene for decades, and have very dedicated fan bases. Both bands have countless shows under their belts and millions of miles underneath their wheels. Add in one of the best up-and-coming bands on the scene, and no wonder people were excited about this one. Even on a Tuesday night.

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