Review: Gameface performs at the Rock and Roll Hotel

Gameface. (Courtesy of the band)
Gameface. (Courtesy of the band)

WASHINGTON, August 19, 2014 – Gameface was a band that never quite seemed to fit in with its contemporaries. It’s not as if they were putting out a sound that was totally different from their peers. It’s just that their sound felt a little left of center from the bands they were generally associated with.

There modest individuality within their mainstream made it rather surprising when they stopped playing in 2003. Even more mystifying, however, was that they suddenly appeared once again, picking up where they’d left off in 2012, recording new material later that year and then commencing a new tour, which included their recent stop here at the Rock and Roll Hotel.

The oddest part about Gameface was that they broke up or went on hiatus at all. By the time they had stopped playing, they had been a band for over a decade. 2003’s Four to Go album seemed like a culmination of their efforts as a band and was poised to signal their breakthrough. At that point, their sound seemed to have matured, gearing up for bigger things than the post-hardcore community had to offer.

But Gameface was a band deeply imbedded in that scene even if their sound never felt like it was ever molded by it. Their output was closer to a straight hard rock sound than anyone else in the punk/hardcore scene was offering. But when Gameface would perform, their riffs were a little too crisp and front man Jeff Caudill’s seemed too sharp. As a result, their approach never quite coalesced with anyone else’s within their genre.

None of this should be construed as criticism. Gameface was a band that appeared to pride itself on their craftsmanship. As musicians, they weren’t a chaotic or loose band. Rather, what they performed was tight, hard rock, with an endless supply of catchy, hard rock pop numbers at their disposal. That didn’t stop them from playing loudly or aggressively. But they always had a polished sheen to the surface of their sound.

As a result, in a genre that took pride in setting itself apart, Gameface didn’t sound like anyone else in that entourage. So in a way, that gradually made them seem like outcasts, or at least like a band that was shooting for a larger audience greater than what the genre might offer..

That still hadn’t happened, though, when Gameface broke up in 2003. In hindsight, the break was probably necessary for the surviving members to get their bearings. So when they reformed in the wake of so many of their contemporaries doing the exact same thing, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Yet they probably shouldn’t have left 11 long years go by before re-forming, re-appearing, and releasing new material. That’s a long time to be gone from today’s rapidly changing music scene.

Here’s the surprising thing about Gameface though. Having heard their recent live set here, in spite of the elapsed time and cast changes, they’ve retained the same approach, the same sound as always. Their sound doesn’t necessarily have a timeless quality to it. But their consistency and quality sometimes makes it seem as if they’d never left.

Indeed, as they stood on stage at the Rock and Roll Hotel playing through much of their new album Now is What Matters Now, the Gameface felt the same way it always did. Stranger still, there was nothing particularly unusual in Gameface’s live show: it was just straight ahead hard rock. Everything ranging from the riffs, fills, and vocals was clean and tight. They were consistently on target and they never let up for the entire time they performed on stage.

What the audience gets out of Gameface is almost something they can set their musical watch to. It’s the same kind of consistent pop hard rock sound that’s totally earnest, and the craftsmanship with which Gameface approaches their live set is straightforward and refreshing.

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