After recently interviewing Punchline, I was super stoked to see them play their hometown 20th anniversary show, which was sure to be one hell of a party. But when a family obligation dashed those plans, I did the next best thing: scooted off to Cleveland to catch them the night before. The show was held in the cozy confines of the Agora Ballroom, which provided an intimate space for this special affair.

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Darling Waste

Kicking off the night right at 7:30 was local band Darling Waste. The band calls their music “sadrock,” a description that seems incredibly apt; singer Lance Waste seems to wear his heart on his sleeve, and his songs boast emotionally-charged, autobiographical lyrics. The band also shared that they were recently signed to Imminence Records and will be releasing their latest album, “The Skeleton Key,” on August 11th. You can check out their music on their Bandcamp.

I wasn’t quite sure what to think of Master T.C. & The Visitors when they took the stage in the ruffled Victorian shirts and goggles that are hallmarks of steampunk fashion. When the music started, it definitely wasn’t what I was expecting: part funk, part R&B, part rock n roll.

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Master T.C. & The Visitors

The tunes were fun and catchy (although they did slow it down and “got a little sexy” for the song “Do You Want My Body?”), and the singer had a fantastic voice. Honestly, they felt a little out of place in the lineup, but the music was enjoyable. You can find more of their songs on Soundcloud.

Last up before the main act was The Missing, who were a breath of fresh air. It’s not that the first two bands were bad, but I came for some punk rock and I finally got some solid punk rock. They were loud, fast, and definitely amped up the intensity level of the evening.

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The Missing

The group had recently released a new album They Live and played a handful of tracks off that. They also explained their own Punchline connection, noting that they had worked with singer/guitarist Steve Soboslai in the past. You can listen to The Missing’s music on Bandcamp.

It was finally time for Punchline! They took the stage at 10pm on the dot, walking on to Joe Cocker’s “With A Little Help From My Friends.” They opened up with, appropriately enough, “Open Up” from Action and the night took off from there.

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Punchline. They don’t look a day over 18.

Bassist Chris Fafalios noted that they’d be playing a song for every year, and they pretty much did.  The set list included well-known songs such as “Not Afraid” and “Ghostie” as well as deeper cuts like “Express”–the opening track from their 2001 EP Major Motion Picture. On the other end of the spectrum they played “Darkest Dark” from their upcoming album and “No Stopping Us” from 2015’s Thrilled. 

The guys sounded great, absolutely nailing the harmonies that help make up their signature sound. Their set was peppered with stories from their 20 years as a band, focusing in particular on events that happened in the Cleveland area, and they would occasionally recognize and give a shout out to a friend in the audience. Most importantly,  they all seemed to be having a blast, dancing around the stage with big smiles on their faces. Their energy was infectious and the crowd was more than happy to join in the action, shouting along to the songs.

Rather than an encore, the band closed the night by playing their four most popular songs–“Flashlight,” “Universe,” “Caller 10,” and, of course, “Heart Transplant.” With that the guys wrapped it up, fitting 18 songs in a 90 minute set. Within a few minutes they were back out, mingling in the crowd and keeping the party going. One thing that I love about Punchline is that there’s no sign of pretension; they just always seem to love what they do and are happy interacting with the fans who love their music.

In addition, keep an eye out for our coverage of their Pittsburgh show–it should be up within a few days. Punchline will be continuing their 20th anniversary tour with shows in New York (7/21), Philadelphia (7/22), Toledo (8/11), and Chicago (8/12). Their next hometown show will be during the Four Chord Music Festival on November 13th–don’t miss it!