REVIEW: Facing New York reunites for hometown show at Bottom of the Hill

Facing New York

Eric Frederic of Facing New York performs at the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco on Dec. 14, 2018. Photos: Shawn Robbins.

SAN FRANCISCO — Ten years ago, Facing New York released the genre-bending Get Hot. It was completely different from its post-hardcore roots and flew under the radar with self-aware themes of living in the modern world as a 20-something. The band subsequently split up and lead singer Eric Frederic (aka Ricky Reed) went on to become the Bay Area’s version of super-producer Jimmy Iovine. When Facing New York stepped onstage at the Bottom of the Hill Friday to once again get hot in front of a hometown crowd, it was still a force to be reckoned with.

Facing New York was all smiles but had a confident stance on stage. The band launched into the explosive “Dogtown,” the first song off the album of the same name, released earlier that day. Frederic’s voice was crystal clear and familiar to those who have grown up with the band. Bassist Brandon Canchola mounted his leg on a massive toolbox that sat onstage as he crushed into the song’s explosive rhythms.

Facing New York

Facing New York performs at the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco on Dec. 14, 2018.

Facing New York proceeded to play most of Dogtown. The band blazed through “Big Rev” and “Shame” in its trademark bombardment of power chords. After two or three songs, Frederic mentioned that it had been five years since Facing New York last played at Bottom of the Hill. He explained that shortly after that show, he met his wife, about whom he wrote the sweet “Birth Of Venus.” During “All A This,” Canchola and drummer Omar Cuellar fed off each other’s energy in a way that made it seem like these guys never split in the first place.

The album’s best track, “Hail Mary,” had a sharp pop-rock feel that was reminiscent of Facing New York’s last work on Get Hot. The song detailed a Thanksgiving game of touch football where a bunch of 8- to 10-year-old kids triumphed over the band.

Frederic and crew then played one last older cut, the anti-establishment “Cops On Bikes.” While this was a welcome addition to the set, the skipped all songs from its first album, such as the post-hardcore “Javelina” or math-rock banger “Full Turn.” Even the glorious and self-aware “Me N My Friendz” was absent.

Facing New York

Facing New York performs at the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco on Dec. 14, 2018.

While this hometown show marked the last night of Facing New York’s reunion, Frederic said that his bandmates had “dusted off their shit” and were ready to play more shows.

Earlier in the evening, Unconditional Arms laid down slabs of heavy atmospheric instrumental rock that sounded like it was inspired by road trips through mountains and Point Reyes cliffs. The band bashed its way through a set of doomy movements and quiet moments of serenity from its recently released Universal Completion. Its long and dramatic songs acted like symphonic pieces, with intricate narrative arcs, instrumental discoveries, dovetailing arpeggios, expressive eruptions and unexpected rhythmic changes. They were a welcome addition to the diverse lineup.


Gnarboots performs at the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco on Dec. 14, 2018.

Friday’s bill kicked off with Gilroy band Gnarboots turning in an energetic performance of electronic freak-punk. The duo summoned darkly intoxicating techno, while lead singer Adam Davis grooved and stripped—part James Murphy, part Mr. Bungle. The band engaged in electro-punk rock party rhythms that sounded like Dan Deacon met Death Grips. The performance was complete with mic-swinging drumming, a parachute straight out of kindergarten and an all-out dance fest with audience participation. Gnarboots then launched into a cover Wallpaper’s (Eric Frederic’s other band) “T. Rex,” with Frederic joining in on part of the chorus.

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