“Eyewear in the pit…don’t mix.” Lessons learned like a G.I. Joe cartoon public service announcement from the 1980’s. I’ve known this lesson ever since I first lost a pair of glasses at an all-ages show when I was 16 years old. I don’t remember the name of the bands from way back then, but I know they didn’t compare to the Face To Face show in downtown Pensacola, Florida.

The first band on the Vinyl Music Hall stage were Blitzkid from Bluefield, West Virginia. With Road Warrior determined touring that has taken them around the world to play intimate stages and large festivals, the group consisting of Argyle Goolsby (vocals/bass), Nathan Bane (guitar) and Ricko Mortis (drums) propelled their horror-punk metal madness on the Vinyl Music Hall crowd.

Following Blitzkid were The Darlings who are led by Buddy Darling (vocals, guitar), Chris Kranes (bass), Josh Fasen (drums) and Zacc West (guitar) have been cranking their Southern California style of rock since their creation in 2005. Winning the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands contest and quickly becoming Vans Warped Tour veterans, the group played tracks from their debut album “The New Escape” to keep the venue jumping.

With the crowd moving and ready for more, it was time for Strung Out to take the stage. Hailing from Simi Valley, California the band was formed in 1992 by Jason Cruz (vocals), Jake Kiley (guitar), Rob Ramos (guitar), Adam Austin (drums) and the late Jim Cherry (bass). The group was one of the early artists signed to Fat Wreck Chords by label founder and NOFX lead singer and bassist Fat Mike (Michael John Burkett). With Chris Aiken on bass and Jordan Burns taking over drum duties, the band hit hard during a heavy set that included a quick splash of Pantera’s “Walk” during a rain shower of sweat, punk and metal.

At this point of the night, my glasses were intact and still on my face, but somewhere toward the middle of Face To Face’s set they were knocked off and lost in a rowdy dark, blurry mass of energy. With a history that began in 1991 when friends Trevor Keith (vocals/guitar) and Matt Riddle (bass) formed the punk band from Victorville, California, Face To Face have been considered one of a handful of early, influential, California punk bands. Through years of recording, touring, lineup changes and a breakup, the band regrouped and are currently touring in support of their recently released album “Laugh Now…Laugh Later.”

During their set, Keith displayed quick humor and safety lessons for those in the pit, giving critiques on a few knuckleheads and encouraging everyone to have a good time. Supported by Scott Shiflett (bass and brother to Foo Fighters’ guitarist, Chris Shiflett), Chad Yaro (guitar) and Danny Thompson (drums) ripped through a selection of Southern California punk rock to cap off a night of music worth every crazy second.

-Michael L. Smith

P.S. Dr. Terrezza, I’ll be returning to your office sooner than I expected.