Live Report: Fastball @ The Whiskey-a-Go-Go

What I’ve learned during my two shows at the Whiskey is that you should always be prepared to stay late. Unlike most other local venues, where there will be two openers and a headliner, the Whiskey packs in four openers before the headliner comes on after 11:00pm. Is a bit of an endurance test, especially if the openers don’t pass the muster.

On Friday night (9/14), 90’s group Fastball were playing, and the line-up of groups before them was a long list of unknowns. I didn’t arrive until 8:30pm, as first openers Alinea were closing with a cover of “Psycho Killer”. The band were all of high school age and didn’t quite fit in with the classic rock and alcohol paraphernalia of the venue.

Split Second, a pop punk band out of Moorepark, were on next. Though they dressed in black and looked as if they would fall somewhere between Alkaline Trio and Avenged Sevenfold, the group’s sound was classic Fall Out Boy, and would have been in heavy rotation on my playlist back in college. The songs all had catchy hooks and sugary vocals, though only a “#SorryNotSorry” and “Crash and Burn” left an indelible impact.

The following group (I believe they were called “Houseguest” or “Houserest” or something similar) were about as memorable as their name apparently. Their sound also fit in with the 90’s/early oughts vibe of the evening, like a less catchy Counting Crows with an occasional rocker thrown in. Stereo Love then came on, and got more traction than their predecessors, but mainly due to a decent cover of “Flagpole Sitta” (it was a true 90’s night) and a scantily clad girl dancing on stage with them (I should mention the band was female fronted, with only the drummer being of the male persuasion). The group had some decent guitar licks and energy, but I can’t say any of their original material left a mark. In all fairness, I was upstairs saving energy for the headliner, so not in the best position to be won over.

And finally, Fastball. Opening with their classic “Fire Escape”, the group quickly reminded the audience that they were far better than their “one-hit wonder” status given to them. Tracks like that one, as well as “You’re an Ocean”, and ballad “Outta My Head” highlight the group’s excellent range as songwriters, and reminded me how refreshing it was to have rock and roll tracks that were piano driven on the radio back in the day (“You’re an Ocean” really should have been a bigger smash – it hasn’t aged at all).

Since the band is promoting their latest album Step Into Light [Zuni Tunes, May 2017], a handful of new tunes were interjected into the setlist. “Frenchy and the Punk” is a bit of a strange one, but “I Will Never Let You Down” and “Love Comes in Waves” are easy sing-alongs that likely would have done better on the radio in the 70’s than today. Thankfully they also included the best song from the new album, “Just Another Dream”, an extremely catchy earworm that would get the group back on the radio if there was any justice in the music biz.

The initial set closed with their timeless hit “The Way”, opening it as a mournful piano ballad, before kicking it into the familiar beat. The crowd was happily singing along, getting lost in the road fairy tale. The group came back for a quick two song-encore, sadly not including “Better Than It Was” or early single “Are You Ready for the Fallout?”, but still leaving me with a good taste in my mouth as I exited the venue long after midnight.

Listen to Step Into Light here:

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