All Systems Fail are one of those bands that, had I heard of them earlier, might have changed the course of my growth as a human being. When I was a prepubescent, searching for meaning within the confines of punk rock, I found only Blink-182 and, shit, even knew the words to a couple of Avril Lavigne songs, and that was it. I knew that punks were rallying against something, but I had no idea what. If only I had gotten my hands on a copy of ASF’s self-titled 2004 release, and really learned something about the world outside of cute skater boys and being a teen, what could I have accomplished?
As surreal as it was to watch All Systems Fail shred in the park on a sunny day, in the midst of Earth Jam, a pro-environment and pro-paisley festival, I could still pound my foot against the grass and get into the pure political spite of those years long past. All Systems Fail takes all the best things from the DIY ethic, taking influence from bands like Dead Kennedys and Black Flag, and blends them into something great. With short, fast songs, it’s easy to bob your head along with the beat, take a swig of ginger ale, and keep on bobbing. The lyrics switch effortlessly between Spanish and English, but one doesn’t have to be bilingual to understand the message. All Systems Fail stands for the struggle that unites the world, rather than the differences that keep people apart, and they make awesome music to boot.
After that fun set, watching crust punks swing each other around and one drunken, middle-aged lady hang onto some dude’s leg, I was ready to see more. I didn’t know much about Gnawing Suspicion other than the fact that they had been playing for over 20 years, according to one of the guys standing behind me while they set up. Seeing as All Systems Fail are also a bunch of old timers, I expected a similar set and to have just as much fun.
I was intrigued at first, by their collection of metal pots and tubes, and even the occasional whine of a K-Oscillator. But after a long 25 minutes of sound checking, the slower and more subdued set just didn’t hold me. The music itself was standard, fast punk, with the added percussion that did sound pretty interesting, but I was disappointed to hear somewhat jokester lyrics after the vitriol brought by All Systems Fail. There were songs about unidentified underwear, for Pete’s sake. I wanted to hear insight on the current geopolitical climate, and what I got instead was Ronald Reagan.
It could have been the comparison of the two, like tasting ice cream right after tasting a pickle, but I just didn’t like Gnawing Suspicion quite as much. As the band dealt with more technical difficulties toward the middle of their set, I wondered if I would have enjoyed it more in an intimate setting, like Kilby Court or the defunct Artopia. Maybe with a more responsive crowd, less room for echo, and a couple of bands with similar tastes for light humor, Gnawing Suspicion would have been much more fun.
In the end, I was glad to have gotten out and enjoyed the fresh air, heard some great punk, and watched a couple of bands that have been playing long past the time many others have given up, proving that you never get too old to want to speak out.
You can check out a fan-made video of Gnawing Suspicion at Earth Jam on YouTube at here, or check out some of their music on hand at Raunch Records. All Systems Fail will be playing with Negative Standards and Relief Society at the Boing! House (608 S 500 E) on May 9, and you can follow them on Facebook at http://facebook.com/xallsystemsfailx.