Mini Show Reviews: October 2016

Bastille – October 5

bastille

I’ve seen Bastille twice before this (and have tickets to see them next March) and they never fail to put on a fun show. While their most recent album Wild World is fairly mellow, they’re so full of energy on stage. Singer Dan Smith was especially impressive this time – they’d cancelled their New York show the night before ours because he strained his voice, but he was still able to perform for us, hitting all the high notes with minimal effort. The first 3/4’s of the show was basically their album (minus a handful of songs), including “Send Them Off!” and “The Currents” (both of which I really like) and it was cool to hear because it gave me a better appreciation for their new material. Of course, my favourite part was when they broke into their last three songs,pulled from their debut album, Bad Blood, including my fave “Pompeii“.


This Wild Life – October 8

this-wild-life

I’ve seen This Wild Life before (briefly at Warped 2015 and then opening for Mayday Parade), and, while their songs (which are mostly acoustic) can be very mellow, they put on a really fun show. Lots of energy and sing-a-longs, and the band members seem like genuinely nice dudes (we saw them hanging out outside the venue before their set). Opening bands Movements and Have Mercy were pop punk-y fun (I realized belatedly that I actually know a Have Mercy song, “Two Years“). This Wild Life’s set was just over an hour long, during which they performed some of the new songs from their recent album, Low Tides (such as “Hit the Reset“), as well as fan favourites from previous releases like “Pink Tie” and “Concrete” (which is really good live). My sister compared them to an acoustic version of twenty one pilots, which is accurate, and I hope more people start paying attention to them.


Sum 41 – October 18

sum-41

Even though I JUST saw Sum 41 at Warped this summer, I was still pretty excited to see them headline. Opening band As It Is was as energetic as ever (I still can’t take Patty Walters and his constant tongue-sticking-out move seriously, but they were fun), and Senses Fail was also pretty good (their songs tend to blend together for me, but that’s just because I’m waiting impatiently for “Can’t Be Saved“). Sum 41 burst onto the stage and played for about an hour and forty minutes (longer than I expected), with a set that was a nice mix of new songs from their recent album, 13 Voices and “classics” from their 15+ years as a band (“Motivation“; the heart-breaking “Pieces“, which I forgot about but still love; opening with “The Hell Song“). Deryck Whibley has a surprising amount of stage presence which I didn’t really feel at Warped, probably because the stage was so far away, but in a sweaty venue, it was exactly what you want in a punk show. Obviously the highlight was “Fat Lip” (which they closed with) because MAN, that’s such a good song!


The Wonder Years – October 24

the-wonder-years

Our last show of the month was super pop-punk – just the way I like it. Seaway opened the show, and, even though I just saw them at the end of July, they were still very entertaining. I had been looking forward to Knuckle Puck’s set, but, unfortunately, they couldn’t make it across the border after getting into a fender bender (with a DEER)…instead, I put all my energy into jamming the heck out to Moose Blood (they played my two favourite songs – “Gum” and “Knuckles” – back-to-back, which means I almost died). I don’t know what it is about RealFriends, but I just can’t get into them (I’ve tried like 4 times), so I didn’t really pay attention to their set.

The Wonder Years is the type of band that I forget I enjoy until I randomly hear a song or catch them live. They have such great lyrics – my fave off their recent album, No Closer to Home, is “I Don’t Like Who I Was Then” – and, especially now that I’m 26, I love screaming along to “Passing Through a Screen Door”. They put on a solid performance (not every band can get away with starting a set with an acoustic song), and their encore of “Came Out Swinging” was everything a pop-punk fan could want.

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(Un)Covered Round-Up: March-May 2016

I may have mentioned that I write a column for idobi about song covers. Here are the ones that have been posted since March!

AND, even though I wrote a review of V.E. Schwab’s A Gathering of Shadows here, I also wrote a review for idobi, which you can check out here!

 

I’ve been moving mountains that I once had to climb

Last Thursday, we attended the Toronto date of the AP World Tour featuring Neck Deep, State Champs, Knuckle Puck, and Like Pacific.

neck deep

I found out about a week before the show that Like Pacific is from Toronto, so that’s pretty cool that they’re opening for some of the biggest names in pop-punk right now. They’re good – more Knuckle Puck than Neck Deep – and I’m happy that Toronto is being represented on this tour!

Next was Knuckle Puck – I’ve seen them a couple of times, and their live shows are really tight. They bring a lot of energy on stage and get the crowd moving whether they’re playing older songs (“Gold Rush”) or singles from their full-length debut last year, Copacetic.

I’ve heard a lot of buzz about State Champs and I even know a couple of their songs, but for some reason, I just can’t get into them! I don’t know why – they have all the elements of other pop-punk bands I love – but I sort of zone out when I’m listening to them. They’re not terrible, and I think I like them live better than recorded (similar to how I feel about As It Is), but they weren’t my favourite part of the night.

Finally, the moment I was waiting for: Neck Deep thundered out to the sounds of “Citizens of Earth” from last year’s stellar Life’s Not Out to Get You. I’ve only seen them play a short set at Warped two years ago, and I LOVE the new album, so I was really excited to see them headline. They made the most of their set and while there was some on stage banter (mostly between lead singer Ben Barlow and bassist Fil Thorpe-Evans), they didn’t talk forever or pause for too long in between songs.

Their set was a great mix of “old” and “new”, including my favourite song, “Kali Ma”, which was as high energy as I’d imagined. I was also thrilled to hear “A Part of Me” which is my 4 year old niece’s current favourite song (I’ll give you one guess who introduced her to it. Spoiler alert: it was me), and I’m thankful that she’s made me sing it to her so many times so that I knew all the words.

Another highlight of the set was the “jazzed up” version of the normally acoustic song, “December”. As pretty as it is when it’s acoustic, it sounded amazing with the full band. I just found out that it was released on the Target deluxe edition of the album, and now I’m even more annoyed that Target failed to take root in Canada.

Overall, it was a great show! Despite the freezing temperature outside, the venue warmed up once everyone started moving. I’m looking forward to the next time Neck Deep heads to North America.

Top Ten Albums of 2015 [+ link to Mind the Gap]

As usual, I’ve made my list of the best albums of the year, including links to any reviews I wrote on them. You can click here for a playlist featuring two of my favourite songs from each release!

top ten of 2015

1) That’s the Spirit – Bring Me the Horizon
2) American Candy – The Maine
3) American Beauty/American Psycho – Fall Out Boy
4) Future Hearts – All Time Low
5) Life’s Not Out to Get You – Neck Deep
6) Blurryface – twenty one pilots
7) Life in Real Time – Paradise Fears
8) Automatic – Don Broco
9) Sounds Good, Feels Good – 5 Seconds of Summer
10) Vikings – New Politics

There was lots of other good albums this year, including Knuckle Puck’s Copacetic, The Wonder Years’ No Closer to Heaven, Young Guns’ Ones and Zeros, Muse’s Drones, We Are Harlot’s self-titled debut, and Nate Ruess’s solo release, Grand Romantic.

What made your list of best albums?

I’ll be the empty canvas if you be the paint

Few things in this world make me feel more pop-punk than listening to Knuckle Puck (except for listening to Neck Deep. Or eating pizza while avoiding a circle pit, which is what I did at Warped).
Knuckle_Puck_-_2015_(620-400)
We’ve seen Knuckle Puck two other times, and I even reviewed their debut album, Copacetic for idobi this summer. When we saw them on Wednesday, it was on their first ever headlining tour, which they decided to kick off in Toronto (this rarely happens, so it’s exciting when it does!).

I felt bad for the first opening band, Head North, because the Blue Jays game was on at the same time and more than half the crowd was watching TV instead of listening to them (it was the game we actually won). The second band, Sorority Noise, was good. Honestly, I can’t really remember what they sounded like (I should have written this review earlier!), but they were sorta emo-meets-pop-punk, I think.

Next up was Seaway. The last time we saw them was when they opened for Bayside in March, and I know I enjoyed them. They’re Canadian (from Oakville!), which is awesome. And they’re super pop-punk, which is also awesome. I liked that they had their new album, Colour Blind, for sale, even though its official release date is this Friday.

Finally, Knuckle Puck came out. One of the best parts of being the first date on a tour is hearing certain songs live before anyone else. This show, they played “Ponder”, “In Your Crosshairs”, and “Untitled” (minus the 8 minute outro, which was good because it was so hot in the venue) live for the first time!

I was also glad they played some of my preferred songs early on in the evening, which got me pumped for the rest of the set, including the single, “Disdain”, and “Your Back Porch”.

Something about the Hard Luck Bar makes me sleepy (probably the extreme heat), so it was occasionally difficult to pay attention to them, but, watching Knuckle Puck go from an opening band to a headliner is really cool. I think they’re really starting to make a their mark in the scene – their friendship with Neck Deep probably doesn’t hurt – and I expect great things from them in the next few years.

If you’re looking for an up-and-coming band who plays unapologetic pop-punk, check out Knuckle Puck!

Different tie, but I’m wearing the same suit

One of my favourite things in the world is going to a The Maine concert. I know, it’s awfully specific, but I love those guys so much, and they always put up on an incredible show.

We saw them for the seventh time on Saturday (technically eighth, since we attended an acoustic session/meet & greet with them in the morning).

The-Maine-band-2015

Garrett, Pat, John, Kennedy, Jared

I have to confess, we missed the first band, The Technicolors, because we were next door at Factory Girl eating chicken wings (highly recommend, by the way). But we saw The Technicolors in November when they opened for Nick Santino, so we didn’t feel too bad (plus those chicken wings were really good).

Next up was Knuckle Puck. We saw them last year (opening for Man Overboard), and I remember enjoying them. They’re like a non-Welsh version of Neck Deep – pure, unapologetic pop-punk. I think I downloaded them a while ago, but I’m definitely going to give them another listen!

They’re friends with Neck Deep, which makes so much sense.

The other opening band (and, arguably, a draw for a quarter of the crowd) was Real Friends. We’ve seen them too, when they opened for The Wonder Years last year (on my 24th birthday!). They’re like an angstier (angstyer?) version of The Wonder Years, a bit more whiny, and honestly, their songs all start to sound the same after a while. I don’t mind them, but I probably wouldn’t see them on their own i.e. if they’re not touring with another band I like.

The best part was when they played “Loose Ends” with Kennedy (from The Maine) joining them on guitar and the singer from Knuckle Puck came out for a verse. I love when bands join each other on stage!

Sidenote: both Real Friends and Knuckle Puck are a bit more “punk” than The Maine, who, especially in recent years, veer more towards the “rock” end of the spectrum, but I found it interesting that a) these bands were touring together and b) both opening bands emphasized how different their sound is compared to the headliners. I guess it was an “explanation” of sorts for people who aren’t necessarily pop-punk fans and were maybe thrown off by the openers, but I thought it was great that The Maine was bringing out a variety of bands and giving them a chance to play “bigger” venues.

Finally The Maine came on stage. This tour is in support of their new album, American Candy, so they played quite a few new songs. At the same time, they played some of their “classics”: John played “Into Your Arms” acoustic (and cracked jokes the entire time), and two of the songs near the beginning – “Run” and “Growing Up” – were reworked so that they flowed better with the new material.

One of the first The Maine songs I really loved.

They also played a cover of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (by The Rolling Stones), and it was incredible. I’ve heard them cover many random songs, but this one really fit with their current sound, and they did a fantastic job. It was also impressive that they managed to segue seamlessly into “Love & Drugs”.

Like I said, seeing The Maine live is one of my very favourite things in the world. They’re always so full of energy, they’re surprisingly funny (looking at their serious promo shots, you wouldn’t really think that they have a sense of humour, but they do), and of course, the music is always amazing. They’re one of those bands that I start missing as soon as the last chord fades out. If you’re into pop rock with meaningful lyrics, give these guys a chance. You won’t regret it.

Get it together, get a grip, take a breath

Surprisingly, we haven’t gone to the Mod Club so far this year, but we went yesterday to see the most pop-punk show of the year since The Wonder Years last month: The Heart Attack Tour featuring Knuckle Puck, Forever Came Calling, Transit, and (headlined by) Man Overboard.

Man Overboard: the one with the glasses and hat is Zac, the singer. The one is the middle is Nik who also sings. I don’t know the other dudes. 

The first band to go on was Knuckle Puck. I didn’t realize it until later, but I’ve actually heard one of their songs before. They’re fun, generically pop-punk (that’s mostly a compliment), and I respect the singer for keeping his glasses on while head-banging/jumping around the stage (it’s not easy, trust me).

Next was Forever Came Calling who was also good, but honestly, their songs all sort of blended together so I can pick one particular one to include here.

Transit and Man Overboard are apparently really close friends (they’ve done at least one split EP), so it made sense for them to tour together. They also have a very similar vibe and I don’t know how to describe their sound apart from saying POP-PUNK over and over again. Transit was good, the crowd was insane (so many crowd-surfers, which was absurd because the crowd was not big enough to support more than two people at one shot), and the singer continued to sing while flailing in the pit, which was impressive.

You know Boston never drinks alone.

I’ve listened to most of Man Overboard’s songs, but I’m not overly familiar with their first two albums. Luckily, this tour was in support of the third album, 2013’s Heart Attack, which I have listened to several times and therefore knew a lot of the songs (even though I can’t tell you the names of said songs). I was very happy (ironically) when they played “S.A.D.” because it wasn’t on the setlist from Montreal (the tour kicked off in Montreal on Tuesday, so we were the second date – that so rarely happens!) and it happens to be my favourite Man Overboard song.

I hate me, so unoriginal. No other feeling could feel so traditional. 

I don’t know the lyrics to many songs, but I did enjoy them. If anything I think like – with The Wonder Years – I now like them more after seeing them live than I did before (though Ro said she might not be able to listen to them any more because Zac has an incredibly high-pitched voice in real life and it was driving her crazy). I’m glad we saw them – at $20 a ticket, it was a small price to pay for us to “Defend Pop Punk” for one night.