After spending the fall as direct support for Yellowcard, pop punk heroes The Wonder Years were eager to return to more intimate settings. For their current headlining run, they called upon some of their best friends (and common tourmates) in Fireworks, Hostage Calm and Misser to hit up smaller venues in B-markets (so as to not interfere with their main stage slot on this summer's Warped Tour). I attended the second date of the tour, which took place at Pawtucket, Rhode Island's The Met on March 9th.
Having seen them threetimesat larger locations throughout 2012, it was thrilling to see The Wonder Years back in a small club. Upon selling out the 600-capacity venue, the band had the option of upgrading the venue to the significantly-larger Lupo's in Providence, but they chose to keep it intimate. As a result, stage dives, pile ons and sing-alongs were in full effect throughout the hour-long set, even with six musicians crammed on the little stage.
Since the band had just announced their highly-anticipated new album, The Greatest Generation, a few days prior, I was hoping they would preview a new song. They chose not to, but it's hard to complain after such a strong performance. The set featured most of the fan favorites they've been playing since the release of Suburbia, along with a few deep cuts ("I Won't Say the Lord's Prayer," "It's Never Sunny in South Philadelphia," "Summers In PA") to keep things interesting.
The band exited the stage after "And Now I'm Nothing," an apropos closer, but they weren't finished yet. Frontman Dan "Soupy" Campbell and guitarist Casey Cavaliere returned to perform "Living Room Song" (electrically, for a change) with lively crowd participation. The other members then reappeared for "Came Out Swinging" and "All My Friends Are in Bar Bands." For the latter, Fireworks' Dave Mackinder and A Loss For Words' Matty Arsenault (who was there as a guest) joined Campbell, as they do on The Upsides, to sing the closing. They also allowed the crowd to join in, and the rabid fanbase enjoyed every second of it.
Fireworks came out strong with two of my favorite tracks, "When We Stand on Each Other We Block Out the Sun" and "The Wild Bunch." This energetic opening compelled the previously-apprehensive audience to ignore the venue's "No stage diving" signs. (Thankfully, the threats of being thrown out proved to be untrue.) The crowd continued to go hard for the entirety of the band's 45-minute performance.
Although he's not listed as an official member, Fireworks were once again joined by an additional musician, Adam Mercer (who was also with them on last year's Warped Tour). His contributions included keyboard, guitar, percussion and vocals as needed, adding an additional dimension to the group. Meanwhile, Arsenault joined the band for their performance of "Come Around." The set culminated with "Detroit," an anthemic number that makes for a perfect closer.
Although not everyone in the room was familiar with them, Hostage Calm's half hour set provided plenty of crowd sing-alongs. The audience was particularly emphatic for into to "The M Word," the catchy "Woke Up Next to a Body" (for which Tym of Some Stranger/ex-Daytrader sang guest vocals; an unexpected treat) and set closer "Patriot." The band just started playing the latter live for this tour and, based on fans' unanimously positive reaction, they'll be keeping it in their set.
I'm a longtime fan of Transit and also enjoyed This Time Next Year, so I was excited to see Misser opening the tour. The project was created by Transit guitarist Tim Landers and former TTNY guitarist Brad Wiseman, and their live line-up also features Torre Cioffi (Transit), Mike Ambrose (Set Your Goals) and John Dello Iacono (Code of Kings). They received a strong reaction for openers (even bigger than that of Hostage Calm, although that can be attributed to the fact that 3/5 of the bi-coastal line-up is from nearby Massachusetts).
Their half hour performance kicked off with the killer intro, "Permanently." It seemed like a missed opportunity not to play "Time Capsules" immediately after, as it follows on the album, but they did play it later in the set. In addition to material from their full-length debut, they also busted out an older track ("Just Say It") and a new song ("Gaddamn, Salad Days"). They ended with "I'm Really Starting To Hope The World Ends In 2012," which transitioned into a unique take on Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" (perhaps ironically, considering the song's subject matter) followed by a bit of jamming.
The Wonder Years put forth all of their energy at every show, but there's something special about seeing them in a small club. Both the band and the fans relished the intimate setting. Adding a strong line-up of genuine musicians - really, any band on the show could have headlined to a solid turnout - was merely the icing on the cake. Don't miss this tour if it's coming anywhere near you, because The Wonder Years probably won't be playing venues this small for a while.
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.
After a year in which we've seen so many beloved bands call it quits, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that 2011 saw a number of great reunions as well. One of the most exciting, for my money, was The Early November. The New Jersey-based group is one that meant a lot to me during my high school years and, even beyond nostalgia, their songs remain impressive. I caught the band's "final" show at Bamboozle in 2007, and while I am grateful to have witnessed the event, seeing them play a short set in the middle of the day at a big festival never sat right as an appropriate sendoff.
All of these feelings, coupled with the fact that the band is back in action with a new album due out on Rise Records in 2012, made me highly anticipate attending the first of their four holiday shows. The brought their friends in Man Overboard and Hostage Calm to the Paradise in Boston, MA on December 26 for a late contender for one of the year's best shows.
It was the day after Christmas and jubilance remained in the air. Hostage Calm came out to a warm reception and wished everyone a happy holiday before heading into "War on a Feeling." The band played for nearly 25 minutes, with the majority of material coming from their self-titled album. A highlight of the band's set was their rally cry for equal rights for homosexuals, "Ballots/Stones." The venue unfortunately has a policy banning moshing and stage diving, but vocalist Chris Martin found a loophole: "You guys can't stage dive, so I'm gonna!" he said before hopping into the sea of people as their final song, "Jerry Rumspringer," kicked in.
I've had the pleasure of seeing Man Overboard around 10 times over the last three years. They have always been good, but their live show has improved a lot over the years. Seeing them is reminiscent of a Blink-182 show: they may not hit every single note, but you better believe that both they and the audience are having a great time. (They also share a penchant for changing select lyrics to be raunchy.) Their set, almost 45 minutes long, was a healthy mix of all of their material, from their debut demo to their new, self-titled album. They also included a few surprises, namely their holiday song, "Decemberism," and a full band version of the previously acoustic "Dear You."
The band's line-up currently has three guitarists, but most of the time two of them are playing the same chords. I wouldn't mind seeing co-vocalist Zac Eisenstein set down the six string and focus on singing at shows, as he is full of energy and it would allow for more crowd interaction. Regardless, he and co-vocalist/bassist Nik Bruzzese complement each other well. The band's set ended perfectly with the fan favorite "Love Your Friends, Die Laughing," which, in my opinion, should always be their closer.
The supporting acts were good, no doubt, but everyone was excited for The Early November to hit the stage in Boston for the first time in nearly five years. They entered with little fanfare. Instead, frontman Ace Enders merely asked the elated audience how they were doing before beginning to sing "Baby Blue." Enders had to cope with technical problems; the power on his guitar didn't work for the first two songs, so he set it aside and just sang. He looked a tad awkward (one person used the term "New Jersey fist pump" to describe his actions) but also seemed to relish the rare opportunity to get closer to the audience. After a lively rendition of "I Want To Hear You Sad," he apologized and said, "It wouldn't be a classic Early November show if things didn't break every 30 seconds."
The musicians seemed to have bottled up their energy during the band's hiatus. Bassist Sergio Anello was particularly enthusiastic, playing every note as if he were performing to a sold out stadium. The vigor peaked on "The Mountain Range In My Living Room," during which he jumped off of his cabinet, while guitarist/keyboardist Joseph Marro managed to break his guitar strap and inadvertently knock over his amp. After about an hour of playing, the band claimed "Figure It Out" would be their last song and briefly left stage, but the fans knew it wasn't over yet. Anello was the first to return to the stage, stating "I think encores are overdone, so we're just going to keep playing." He was joined by the rest of the band and they performed "Decoration" and "Every Night's Another Story" to end the night.
In the unlikely event that anyone had any doubts, I am happy to report that The Early November are back and better than ever! They sounded great and, more importantly, looked as happy as ever. They were very appreciate of the crowd, constantly thanking them while the audience reciprocated with cheers. I was unsure if the fanbase, the majority of which is now in their 20s now, would be jaded, but you would have thought it was 2004 in there. Enders also gave his bandmates their due (but not without ridiculing guitarist Bill Lugg's ugly, oversized sweater). They proved without words that they have reunited for the right reasons: to come together as friends and create music that they and their fans enjoy. And it's great to have them back.