There is a certain allure to a band’s hometown show. Something undeniable yet unexplainable hangs in the air as the notes, rhythms, and melodies pulsate through the room, connecting all those in attendance into a single pulsating entity.
That’s what Polar Bear Club were able to create on October 20th when they returned to the Lost Horizon in Syracuse, NY to play to a legion of fans that have a special connection to them and have grown up surrounded by the same sights, places and feelings associated with upstate New York.
As lead vocalist Jimmy Stadt said in my interview with him beforehand: “This isn’t really professional for us, it’s just fun, because we’re home and we’re comfortable.”
After appearing all summer long on the ever-popular Vans Warped Tour, Polar Bear Club have been taking a break from touring and have begun to work on a follow-up to 2011’s Clash Battle Guilt Pride. However, they’ve put that on hold to play a handful of shows, including this homecoming.
Their set began the way Clash Battle Guilt Pride did, with the one-two punch of songs “Pawner” and “Killin It” accompanied by a horde of people – assumedly friends of the band – catapulting from the side stage into a tumult of stage dives over the heads of those in the pit. A fitting start to a night defined by a most productive chaos.
Following this energetic opener, the band transitioned into “Our Ballads” off of their first LP Sometimes Things Just Disappear before pausing and fully welcoming the crowd to what was sure to be a special evening. Stadt addressed the crowd with the warmth one feels when finally returning indoors after a long day shoveling snow in the heart of a tough New York winter, announcing that the next song was for everyone in attendance, an ode to the city they grew up in, a tune called “Light of Local Eyes” that reminded the crowd that “There was a time when this city shined.”
Another highlight, although bittersweet, was when Stadt took a moment to announce the special inclusion of the song “My Best Days” on that night’s setlist. The song is one of the
many highlights off of Clash Battle Guilt Pride, yet its inclusion brought a disheartening look across the faces of most in the room, as it was chosen because guitarist Nate Morris will be leaving the band come November and it is one of his favorites. The crowd responded with a round of applause in honor of what Morris has done with the band, a thanks for the songs, albums, and shows he’s been a part of and its performance that night was certainly a bit more special than normal.
Immediately afterward, the band treated the audience to the more reserved yet enthralling song “Drifting Thing” off of their sophomore release Chasing Hamburg. The song, focusing attentively on Jimmy Stadt’s captivating and honest voice, provided the opportunity for an all-out sing-along which at times overcame Stadt’s delivery, although neither crowd nor band seemed disappointed by this phenomenon.
Finally, after a rousing twelve songs, the band was ready for one last go at it. Stadt once again engaged the audience as if speaking to a room of his closest friends, telling them that “We usually close out our sets with this song, not because it’s our hit single, or because it’s the most popular, but because of the fucking words and the meaning behind it.” Immediately after, every voice sang in unison to the lines “We fucked our ears / We fucked our throats / Screaming for the sake of what we love most / These pretty scars aren’t going anywhere” that open up “Most Miserable Life” and the body of energy and electricity took one final breath, escalating the concert, which verged on an almost religious, transcendent experience, to its final peak.
It’s hard to admit that anything is truly perfect and it very well may be that perfection is unattainable, but if there ever was a perfect show, I’d have to say that Polar Bear Club in Syracuse on a brisk October Saturday was it.