Classic Pop Punk powerhouses The Wonder Years, Real Friends, Knuckle Puck, Moose Blood and Seaway came together for a tour of a lifetime. Their stop in Phoenix was memorable for most fans, in the fact that the show came just a day after the election results, and the men held nothing back. The bands got political and emotional, making this show one of the best Pop Punk shows in a long time.
Most people dread the opening act of a Pop Punk show. They are usually some overzealous teenage band who cares about how their tie-dye shirt matches their khaki shorts more than they care about producing a quality sound. This often leads to a half-assed performance filled with annoyingly cliché lyrics and bad 90s references. Seaway thankfully portrayed none of the aforementioned qualities. Seaway, although very generic in some ways, possessed an immense amount of talent for an opening act. Lead singer Ryan Locke, drummer Ken Taylor, bassist Adam Shoji, lead guitarist Andrew Eichinger, and rhythm guitarist Patrick Carleton played a mix of Emo and Pop Punk that was pleasing. It was not too whiny, the instruments were played with finesse, so overall it was good. However, they played few too many songs for new listeners to get a grasp on their sound. Seaway’s set was appreciated by the audience, and they were a great addition to the tour.
United Kingdom natives Moose Blood brought their English Emo style to the tour, and the crowd went crazy. Moose Blood has a raw quality to their sound that made them stand out from their tour mates. While the frontman of all the other bands are strictly front men, Moose Blood’s Eddy Brewerton incorporates playing music into his performance. Brewerton and his bandmates Mark Osborne, Glenn Harvey, and Kyle Todd slowed things down with their set. Every song seemed calculated and purposeful, which is almost unheard of in bands who have been together for such a short time like they have. The band played with a back drop of pink mood lighting to reflect the emotion and seriousness of their new album “Blush”. Moose Blood was a nice addition to the tour because they served to break up the constant flow of Pop Punk. The group was very skilled and will go far in their musical endeavors.
YouTube | Knuckles – Moose Blood (Official Music Video)
Knuckle Puck have come a long way since they finally got out of their small Illinois town. Taylor had massive amounts of energy throughout the entire set. The angriness and post-teen angst that comes along with Pop Punk was ever-present in Knuckle Puck’s performance. Taylor as well as the rest of the group were highly expressive and jumped around as if the only way to expel their emotions was to aggressively stomp and hop on stage. Their actions got the crowd moving and sparked the heaviest crowd surfing of the night. Knuckle Puck gave the crowd exactly what they wanted, and while that is fine, they need to escalate their performance. Instead of performing the same set year after year, they could at least try to throw in a few songs that they hardly play. Not that fans appear to be sick of jamming out to “Pretense”, but Knuckle Puck could afford to switch up their performance habits. Criticism aside, Knuckle Puck is one of the bands helping the Pop Punk scene make a comeback. They have a dedicated fan base and the ability to produce music in such a way that will keep their career alive for quite some time.
YouTube | Evergreen – Knuckle Puck (Official Music Video)
The legendary Illinois Sad Boys held nothing back in their set. Real Friends put on a performance that will not be forgotten. Lead singer Dan Lambton sported his infamous ‘Things Could Be Worse’ shirt, and his subtle political commentary was not missed. With songs from their new album “The Home Inside My Head”, Real Friends put on a spectacular performance that pulled on the heartstrings of all concert goers. Real Friends new album was well received by fans, so the set mostly consisted of songs from the new record. Crowd favorites were “Mess” and “Colder Quicker”. But a great show was not the only thing Real Friends brought to the tour. During the set, Dan shared his emotional turmoil after the election results came in. He explained how after the Trump presidency was announced, he had a panic attack. Lambton, who has been vocal about his struggle with mental illness, connected with fans on a deeper level that night. He held nothing back, and many fans are appreciative of that. After his speech, the music seemed to mean so much more. The crowd got more into the music and the band became aware of just how much the fans are inspired by them. Real Friends’ set was, in one word, enlightening. It was filled with tiny moments of realization and tons of great music. Real Friend’s ability to connect with audiences shone through at their show in Tempe, and that ultimately makes them one of the most influential bands on the scene right now.
Vevo | Mess - Real Friends
The Wonder Years is everything fans hate to love about the Pop Punk scene. They sing about the most cliché Pop Punk ideologies, but the way they formulate their music sets them apart from the rest of the scene. Rhythm guitarist Matt Brasch, lead vocalist Dan "Soupy" Campbell, lead guitarist Casey Cavaliere, drummer Mike Kennedy, bassist Josh Martin, and guitarist and pianist Nick Steinborn have a certain maturity and charisma that many bands lack. These qualities seep into their sound, which can be heard in their classic song “Came Out Swinging”. While the song is built on the fundamental Pop Punk concepts of leaving your hometown and a break up, their elevated style makes their music enjoyable. Out of all the bands on the tour, The Wonder Years is the most refined, and audiences seem to love it. Not that there is anything wrong with the other bands, but The Wonder Years have seemed to move past their extremely angsty stage, and find new ways to present their emotions. Hopefully, The Wonder Years will spread their gift of unique sound with other bands and change the scene.
YouTube | Stained Glass Ceilings – The Wonder Years (Official Music Video)
This show proved that the Pop Punk scene is more than just whiny men in their 20s singing about pizza, getting out of their town, and breaking up with their girlfriends again. This hard-hitting, emotional roller-coaster of a night created everlasting memories. This scene is not only great because of the music, but also because of their dedication to standing by their fans in their time of need. This tour was created to share music and love, and that it did.
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