Glamour Kills' past holiday celebrations have been restricted to one- or two-day events in the New York area, but this year's A Very GK! Holiday Festival has been spread throughout the country with different line-ups at each date. I was happy to find a stop at the House of Blues in Boston, MA on December 14th. With a stacked line-up of eleven bands (arguably the best of the four shows) with truncated sets, the day felt a bit like a winter Warped Tour.
It has been fascinating to witness The Wonder Years' rise to success. From seeing them play at a local church just four years ago to selling out a 1,000-capacity club earlier this year, they have quickly risen in rank, becoming crown jewels of the pop punk scene. Although they were in Boston recently in support of Yellowcard, they returned to the venue less than a month later as the main draw. With more than a thousand people in attendance, it's the biggest crowd I've seen them headline, and they had every last one of them in the palm of their collective hand.
Although the show was a joyous occasion, it was the same day as the tragic Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut - not too far from the venue or some of the performers' hometowns. The Wonder Years frontman Dan "Soupy" Campbell took time out of their 45-minute set to make a brief but passionate speech about the events, and the crowd was nothing but respectful.
The band's setlist was different enough from the Yellowcard tour but still consisted of the "hits" from Suburbia and The Upsides that fans have come to expect, along with "You're Not Salinger. Get Over It." The songs were performed noticeably faster to fit in as much material as possible. After concluding with "And Now I'm Nothing," Campbell and guitarist Casey Cavaliere lead an acoustic rendition of "Living Room Song" reminiscent of a campfire singalong. (I was hoping for "Christmas at 22," given the spirit of the event, but no such luck.) They were joined by the rest of the band to close the night with "All My Friends Are In Bar Bands." Friends from the supporting acts - members of A Loss For Words, Transit and Hit the Lights among them - came out to sing the song's anthemic conclusion.
Prior to The Wonder Years, Boston's own A Loss For Words took the stage. I have seen these guys play at venues of varying size all over the state, so to finally see them on the grandest stage Boston has to offer was exciting, and the band members were visibly enthusiastic as well.
In addition to the standard favorites (opener "Hold Your Breath," "Wrightsville Beach") and an unexpected inclusion ("The Lost Cause I Used To Be"), they also covered Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody." It seemed like an odd choice at first, but frontman Matty Arsenault can nail virtually any song, and his passion remains unparalleled. (His R&B side project, Class of 92, also played a surprise song - a cover of Miguel's "All I Want Is You" - earlier in the night.)
While guitarist Nevada Smith was in London with his new bride for the holidays, Lynn Gunnulfsen, young frontwoman of the Arsenault-managed Paris, filled in. She meshed with the group well, and it was interesting to hear some female back-ups. Speaking of vocals, Transit's Joe Boynton lent his voice to "Stamp of Approval," returning the favor for Arsenault's earlier guest spot during Transit's performance of "Stay Home."
Transit ages like a fine wine. On record, they evolve with each release, and I'm always left impressed by their live show no matter how many times I see them. The band teased the audience by speaking of their recent recording sessions for their new album but didn't offer any new tracks, instead sticking with the standard favorites.
The set featured many cuts from the band's latest effort, Listen & Forgive, along with some older tracks. Although fans enjoyed the entire set, it was the older, more upbeat songs - "Please Head North" and "Stay Home," specifically - that received the rowdiest response from the crowd.
I'm a fan of The Dangerous Summer, but I'm not sure why they were booked to go on after Hit the Lights. The Dangerous Summer sounded great - no drama there - but their performance elicited little response from the audience. However, I loved seeing them close with "Work in Progress," as it puts a perfect exclamation mark on the end of their set.
Hit the Lights, on the other hand, always brings an excited fanbase, and this show was particularly special because it featured both current vocalist Nick Thompson and original singer Colin Ross. Although they only had 30 minutes, they made the short time count with seven cuts from their first two full-lengths - and nothing from their latest album.
Ross sang the first three songs ("Three Oh Nine," "These Backs Are Made For Stabbing," "Save Your Breath"), while Thompson went back to his original duty as guitarist. Thompson then took the reins for the next three tracks ("Stay Out," "Back Breaker," "Count It") before being joined by Ross as they shared vocal duties for the catchiest song about killing someone, "Bodybag."
I haven't really sat down and listened to With the Punches enough, but their live show was enjoyable regardless. Bursting with energy, they crammed as many songs as possible into their 20-minute set. Obviously not used to such a disconnect between the stage and the audience, vocalist Jesse Vadala spent a good portion of the set at the barricade, allowing kids to crowd surf their way up and sing along.
I've lauded Brian Marquis before, and his performance only reinforced my praise. I've seen him in numerous smaller venues since he began his post-Therefore I Am solo career, but it was an entirely new experience to hear him through a big sound system. He threw in a new song, which sounds just as good as his old material. As is the case with most acoustic performances, some audience members where obnoxious with their chatter, but most were respectful.
Hostage Calm played earlier in the day - a bit too early, if you ask me. They had enough fans singing along to warrant a later set time, and even Campbell came out to sing on "On Both Eyes." Also underrated are I Call Fives, who played right before them. I have no idea why they aren't as big as, say, Fireworks or Man Overboard. For my money, their catchy pop punk jams are on the same level.
The line-up also featured State Champs, who received a surprisingly warm reception considering they went on at 4:50 (and covered P.O.D.'s "Alive"), Kid Jerusalem and local battle of the bands winner Premier. Some attendees stuck it out for all 7+ hours.
The show was originally scheduled to take place at The Royale, a smaller (but still relatively large) venue in Boston that allows stage diving. Although that most likely would have to a more fun show experience, the change was necessary in order to allow all of the bands to play. Besides, it's hard to complain after seeing such a strong line-up. A Very GK! Holiday Festival in Boston is a late but strong contender for the best show of the year.