When they first started, Look Back and Laugh came charging out of the gates like a group of rabid pit bulls unleashed. Their first confirmed Gilman show has always been the most memorable to me, simply because of how ferocious they were in comparison to the other bands on the bill. Look Back and Laugh were in the opening slot before Desolation and Deadfall, two bands spawned from the scene revolving around Burnt Ramen Studios. By the time Look Back and Laugh had finished their set, I felt sorry for the bands that had to follow them. Musically, they had their shit together on their first show much more than either Desolation or Deadfall had after more than a year at places like Burnt Ramen. To me, Look Back and Laugh was always about their vocalist Tobia Minckler. Fresh off a stint playing guitar for Voetsek, Tobia had a fire in her eye that was not there previously. It was like she had found her true calling. Tobia left Voetsek in the dust with that one performance. Most of the crowd filed out after their set. The standard had been set, but the rest of the bands were unprepared to live up to it.
You might guess that Look Back and Laugh’s show-stopping performances early on caused a fair amount of jealousy among some of the newer HC/punk bands. After all, they did not have the same longtime background as Look Back and Laugh did. That is all fine and good, but then came the accusations of using friends in high places to get ahead, completely overlooking the fact that they were a good band that people liked. The idea that Look Back and Laugh did not deserve to play good shows was absurd to me. Virtually every member of the band had paid their dues in some form or another. Tobia was a longtime shitworker at MaximumRocknRoll. Bassist Brian Stern had been a part of the local scene for years, working at Gilman Street before helping define what real East Bay hardcore was with Dead and Gone and Talk is Poison. Guitarist Casey Watson was previously in Yaphet Kotto, a band that played more benefit shows at Gilman alone than any other band I have seen before or since. If anything, their accusers were far guiltier of attempting shortcuts than Look Back and Laugh were. You can’t blame a band for having friends and fans, or for being good at what they do.
Ultimately, it seemed like Look Back and Laugh had set the bar so high for themselves that it was difficult for them to reach new heights as a band. For me, it was like going to the circus and seeing the guy get shot out of the cannon repeatedly. As cool as that is to see, it gets old after a while. The same thing can happen with bands, especially when you already expect a lot out of them. Still, I hold Look Back and Laugh in high regard and prefer to remember them as the band that outclassed everyone else on the bill. Perhaps those other bands should have been inspired to step up their game instead of complaining.