I can think of at least a few better times to witness a band’s performance for the first time than 24 years into their career. But that is what recently happened to me with Los Angeles ska-punk legends, Goldfinger. Since I first heard them, while collecting secret tapes in the warehouse of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, an entire generation has been born and came of legal adulthood. Unlike their counterparts Reel Big Fish or Less Than Jake, whom to this day I can’t seem to avoid even if I tried, Goldfinger has eluded me over the years. Typically, news of an older band putting out new material on Rise Records these days isn’t surprising or worth more than a passing listen. The idea of a Goldfinger album featuring Travis Barker and Mike Herrara was enough to at least tickle my nostalgia bone. The Knife turned out to be a worthwhile effort and the more I listened, the more I liked it. I had told my job that week would be my last, but they had other plans that didn’t involve me sticking around so long. Given my sudden availability, how much I was enjoying the new record, and the addition of Much the Same to the lineup, it was not hard to decide how to spend my Monday before Riot Fest.
The folks at Riot Fest put it to a public vote as to who would be kicking things off that night and local hardcore outfit High Wire were granted that honor. Coming fresh off the release of their new EP Different Places, it didn’t take long to see why the people wanted to see them play their second show in as many days. With a sound that melds the intensity of Midwest melodic hardcore acts such as The Swellers & 88 Fingers Louie with newer bands like Knuckle Puck or Four Year Strong, it’s clear that I have been missing out not listening to them as long as I have. They are super and definitely left the crowd wanting more.
Up next was the huge motivating factor for going to this show, Much the Same. Survive was a favorite album of mine when it came out back in 2006. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to finally catch the band’s set. To be fair, an untimely break up followed by many years of limited activity put a unique challenge on that goal. You wouldn’t know that they ever had taken any time off; their stage presence that night could best be described as ‘explosive’. How Franky, the bassist, is able to play riffs faster than Face to Face and still find time to constantly defy gravity, I will never know. Back when I was in a band and I tried that shit, I always fell off stage or into the drums.
Much the Same’s set was largely made up of songs off Survive peppered with a few newer ones. I’m excited to hear what those turn into; they are reminiscent of the band’s old skate punk sound, but turned up to 11. Gunner’s voice was always a big part of what made Much the Same stand out for me and I was impressed when it came off stronger than ever before. They had a few extra minutes in their set and sneaked in in a solid cover of Lagwagon’s “Making Friends” and a dad joke about Goldfinger’s new album The Knife being killer.
Finally, it was time for the last stop on this evening’s nostalgia train and that meant it was time to get out the dancing shoes. I didn’t know what to expect from a Goldfinger show in 2017 that included members of MxPx, Story of the Year, Reel Big Fish, and some random eighteen year-old drummer prodigy who had a day to learn the set, but it was pretty fucking great. They came out guns blazing with “Spokesman” and “Counting the Days” to get the crowd warmed up. I wasn’t until the ska started with “Get Up” that everyone finally woke up.
Singer John Feldman has been doing the Goldfinger thing for a long time, at least long enough for this to be his 38th time playing in Chicago. His experience is evident in his showmanship. From calling for a “girls only” mosh pit to inviting the fans onstage to sing “Mable,” there wasn’t a dull moment to be had. Well, that’s not entirely true. They played four covers that night and that is way too many, especially if your big hit and closing song is a cover. The Ataris and Reel Big Fish do this all the time and it annoys me just the same, but it’s a small enough issue that even two sentences discussing it feels excessive. It was kind of weird going to a show on 9/11. Although it’s been 16 years, I wasn’t sure how solemn the evening was going to turn out. But Goldfinger came prepared, playing and dedicating “The Innocent” to the firefighters and first responders at Ground Zero. It was a nice moment that punctuated the spirit of people to overcome tragedy.
Other than the influx of not their own material, seeing Goldfinger in 2017 is absolutely something I recommend. There were synchronized guitar flips, crowd walking, and non-stop dancing. Put that together and you’ve got all the elements for a successful show. Plus, Mike Herrara being in this band and bringing his harmonies and his bombastic stage presence along makes so much sense. I can’t believe it didn’t happen sooner. It’s clear that Goldfinger may not always be the most active band, but when they do come around, they are still worth checking out. I think being in my 30’s and still being able to see the bands I have loved most of my life put on goddamn killer set is pretty cool.
95/99 Red Balloons
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