October 21st, 2016 at The Sinclair
By: Jason Ebbs
Canadian punk squad PUP kicked off the American leg of their current tour at The Sinclair on Friday, October 21st, not only with their own music and energy, but with the contagious chants and electricity that influenced a rowdy crowd as well. The band is currently in the midst of a “100-day tour,” which they claimed, laughing on stage, “is a stupid idea.” However, the guys showed no sign of wavering power or passion as they played to promote their new album The Dream is Over.
First, fellow Canadian crew Chastity kicked off the night with a seemingly dry set. While lead singer Brandon Williams showed traces of passion and raw feeling, which the rest of the band lacked throughout some dreary songs, he appeared as if he did not want to be heard; at times he wasn’t even singing into the microphone. Unfortunately, the pain that he was trying to convey was becoming contagious with the rest of us, especially when Williams entered the rather spacious crowd to start the most polite, Canadian-style mosh pit ever witnessed. A few icy glares from the lead singer and what appeared to be some efforts of shoving resulted in one hopeful man surrounded by many confused looking crowd members. Although Chastity received a few head nods and an array of tame applause from audience members, they certainly were not a tough act to follow.
However, that’s not to discredit the efforts of the Philly-based trio Cayetana who saved us all from an evening of sadness. The band reminded listeners that even songs using the same three chords or the classic “130 song chord progression” can still be effective; why fix it if it ain’t broken? Although they became somewhat repetitive in a few of their songs, the band spread good vibes throughout the modestly sized venue. While each of the three women of Cayetana contributed equally to their enjoyably minimalist indie-rock sound, they also each personally communicated with the sea of Bostonians before them. The temporary connection that they built with us created a positive reception of every song, whether it was finished or not – the band had to ditch a tune after just a few seconds when they became lost, admitting that they had just written it a week before, but the positively-vibed crowd laughed along with an equal sense of enjoyment. They reminded us that music isn’t about perfection. A certain sense of enjoyment was clearly visible while singer Augusta Koch, bassist Allegra Anka, and drummer Kelly Olsen were all looking at each other with huge smiles, even when things didn’t go according to plan. Cayetana drew music lovers to the Sinclair floor with their simplistic indie sound, sense of enjoyment, and ability to communicate with a crowd; nearly every head was jamming up and down during the set.
Finally, the heroes of PUP flew to the stage and rescued us from the growing anticipation spawned from the two openers. I entered this show having only heard a few of their tracks in preparation for the gig, so I was moderately aware of the angsty punk-driven appetite that they can bring to the studio, but was left without expectation of a live performance. The figures of a quartet swaggered to the stage masked by a sudden darkness. The crowd stood motionless until lead singer Stefan Babcock promised us, while blasting their opening jam, “If this tour doesn’t kill you, I will.” Just as promised, throughout the duration of the show PUP did just that; they killed it. Their explosive energy from the first note caused a mob of fans to pile as close to the stage as possible; I felt out of place as an observer but I bit the bullet and accepted my fate that I was now part of this new born monster that was a security guard’s worst nightmare. The band’s set sounded more to me like a “greatest hits” show based on the chorus of fans singing along, of which every member seemed like they had followed the band since day one. Although this probably wasn’t the case in terms of fan loyalty, PUP obviously had the power to bring their lyrics screaming out of nearly everyone on the floor. Each consecutive song seemed to be an anthem for fans, causing everyone to nearly match the energy radiated by Babcock, as well as guitarist Steve Sladkowski. His initially nerdy appearance, complete with thick rimmed glasses and middle parted hair, was quickly destroyed by his throat scarring backup vocals, agile guitar riffs, and gloriously messy guitar solos. Symbolically, his glasses vanished off his face within two minutes of the set.
PUP continued to jam through a fast-paced set list to a sea of mid-twenty-somethings who were probably wishing that these songs were around to get them through their teen years. I was blown away by, and even forced to take cover from the competition of crowd surfers floating over a sea of hyped up crowd members, only to be collected by colossal security guards and released back into the crowd like an amusement park ride. Just as the band’s energy was contagious throughout the crowd, the crowd’s energy became contagious to lead singer Babcock. At the start of the band’s final song, looking up at the surrounding upper level of the venue, he declared, “I’m gonna try some crazy shit right now. I’m gonna jump out to you and you’re gonna somehow get me up there.” He was determined and everyone was immediately in on the mission. While PUP capped their ferocious set with a hectic barrage of volume and head banging, Babcock, as promised, cannon-balled into the sea of fans as the ocean suddenly became a mountain. The rest of the band members carried an equal sense of chaos while Babcock was somehow launched up to the upper level of The Sinclair by an army of musical warriors. I had to resist whipping out my phone to film the miraculous ascension because each person on the floor was lost in the moment and the music, a circumstance that is a true skill of any band. As the front man disappeared to God-knows-where, PUP, a band with a clear knack for angsty anthemic tracks, swift yet intricate drum beats, and an undying sense of vitality bid Boston a good night and left us all with sore necks, raspy voices, elderly ears, and possible minor concussions.