Unless you’re living under a rock or you’re one of those guys who finds music news from Metal Injection (that’s a thing, right?) and CMHWAK (look it up. Actually, don’t.), chances are you’ve been flooded with news about this year’s Glamour Kills Tour. After all, it features three of the most hyped up bands playing pop punk right now in The Story So Far, Transit and The Wonder Years. Rounding out the package is the insanely talented Evan Weiss’ Into It. Over It. and one of the best live shows around in Polar Bear Club.
At present, every single show has been sold out, including those in Canada, a traditionally weak market for this type of music. I was super bummed when I found out this tour would not be hitting my hometown of Montreal, but I was more than happy to make the two-hour bus ride to Ottawa to catch what would probably be the show of the year for me.
Without The Wonder Years, this show would still probably be one of my favourite shows of the year, if not the past few years. Seeing The Story So Far somehow play the crowd into a frenzy without actually moving onstage was a sight to behold. The band is currently one of the most hyped bands in the pop punk scene right now, and they’ve gone from playing basements to receiving, by many accounts, the second best reception on the tour behind the headliners.
Transit surprised me live, managing to bring energy throughout their set, even during their more mellow songs from their Rise Records debut, Listen and Forgive. Plus, seeing Joe Boynton smiling from the first chord to the last note of the set was really awesome. But the biggest surprise of the night was Polar Bear Club. My second time seeing them, I forgot how great they are live. Tight as the record, the band powered through their set while keeping the audience jumping the whole time. I was shocked at the crowd reception, and at the fact that I had a much tougher time holding my front row spot during their set than I did during The Story So Far’s. Jimmy Stadt is definitely one of the top frontmen in the game.
Now, while The Wonder Years are my favourite band and have been for nearly two years, I had mixed emotions during their set. From the recorded Ginsberg intro to the wall of boutique guitar cabinets to the weirdly placed barrier between the stage and the crowd (Get it together Ottawa, barriers suck), it was clear that this was not the same band that I saw this time last year in a Montreal club with 60 other people. Gone were the mic tosses and post-set hangouts by the stage. Gone was the struggle to help the band push the stage monitors back so kids could get up on stage. And this bummed me out. So much that after five songs, I decided to go sit at the bar and watch the rest of the set from the comfort of what appeared to be a couch (it was like, stuck into the wall and wasn’t very comfortable). But after a while I realized that it was pointless to waste my money and watch kids go crazy from afar.
And when I got back into the thick of the audience, that’s where it clicked. During the second to last song of the set, which happened to be the older “You’re Not Salinger, Get Over It,” something special happened. While there wasn’t any kind of mic toss during the classic “chin up, and we’ll drown a little slower” gang shout, I began to see kids raise their hands, putting one on top of the other. There I was, my hand between others, some belonging to a friend, and some to other dudes and girls, none of whom I had ever met. It was as if we were a sports team pumping each other up before a championship. There were complete strangers putting their arms around each other, screaming lyrics to each other, people putting others on their shoulders, kids hugging other kids, and just a general sense of community. After the show, I spoke to and laughed with about ten different people who I had never met, something the incredibly shy me would never dream of doing.
I had never seen anything like this at a show, regardless of how punk or underground it was. And at that moment, I realized that this show wasn’t about connecting with the band. It wasn’t about weather Soupy would target me out of the audience to sing a line or not. It wasn’t about being close to the band I and many others had watched grow so quickly. It wasn’t about stage dives, call-outs or mic tosses. It was about connecting with other people, members of the crowd who had all come to the same show at the same time to do the same thing. It was about having the most fun and celebrating music with complete strangers, having a sense of community with people who there’s a strong chance you will never see again.
The Wonder Years might not just be my band anymore, but I’m okay with that. They’re our band, and regardless of how big or how distant they become, the message is still the same. If any other band can bring people together the way this band did, I would say they did their job extremely well.