PUP, Rozwell Kid and Pkew Pkew Pkew @ PhilaMOCA.
PUP frontman Stefan Babcock looked out over the sold-out crowd of raised hands, drenched T-shirts and smiling faces in front of him at PhilaMOCA last week.
“Congratulations, Philadelphia, this is the most disgusting I’ve ever felt in my life,” he said.
It was a full night of guitar-heavy punk, gang vocals and so much sweat that the air was heavy and tough to breathe in. And it reminded everyone there why they started going to these shows in the first place. It was loud, it was crowded, it wasn’t perfect and it was fun as hell.
The night started with Toronto’s Pkew Pkew Pkew, a four-piece punk band whose set consisted of sing-along punk songs, usually featuring three singers at once. The band’s debut album just dropped this month. It clocks in at about 21 minutes long and features songs about drinking beers to suppress the fear of skateboarding when you’re in your 20s, pissing off your neighbors by playing music too loud and ordering pizza to soak up some of the beer you’re about to puke up.
It wasn’t a perfectly polished set. The band had a slight hiccup during “Bloodclot,” the first track off the album, but recovered pretty seamlessly and the crowd played right along. It’s fun and easy punk. No frills. No gimmicks.
West Virginia’s Rozwell Kid, who recently became SideOneDummy colleagues with PUP, followed. Rozwell Kid fills the Weezer-sized hole in the world. The combination of harmonized guitar solos, the occasional gratuitous shredding and themes of early adulthood lethargy and confusion (usually with some humor thrown in) would make someone who constantly talks about how much they love Weezer’s Pinkerton forget all about it completely.
Their set featured songs spanning their three full-lengths and latest EP, including “Van Man,” “Halloween 3.5,” which discusses the merits of DIY Halloween costumes, “Baby’s First Sideburns,” a tale of the hardships of growing facial hair mixed in with heavy riffage, and “Kangaroo Pocket,” a hopelessly catchy ode to the simple things in life, like Simpsons reruns and hummus.
They even took the time to freeze mid-outro, letting the crowd take some blur-free photos of frontman Jordan Hudkins holding the neck of his guitar high above his head with a high, bent note “ringing out.”
Finally, PUP took the stage, and the crowd surged forward. Fans started yelling back to Babcock at the first syllable of “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will,” the first track off their new album, The Dream Is Over.
It’s fitting that the chorus of that song is “Why can’t we just get along?” because getting along was a theme of the set. Before they even started playing, guitarist Steve Sladkowski, clad in a Toronto Raptors jersey, explained the ground rules for the night.
Basically, don’t be a dick.
Babcock chimed in by asking the crowd to please direct crowd surfers toward the back, rather than to the tiny stage.
Through a blistering set that mixed songs from both of their LP’s, including “Mabu,” “My Life Is Over and I Couldn’t Be Happier,” “Guilt Trip,” “Sleep in the Heat” (aka the only song about a Chameleon that can make you cry), the crowd was in a constant state of motion. The weird time signatures, switches and acrobatic guitar riffs their songs are known for on the album played out perfectly on stage. The vocal cords that Babcock shredded in the past—an episode that prompted a doctor to tell him to call it quits (the new album’s title is the doctor’s exact wording)—were doing their job. They absolutely are not the product of studio magic.
The already warmed up PhilaMOCA became a sauna. Sladkowski commented on the literal puddle of sweat at his feet and Babcock said even he was never crazy enough to be in a crowd that sweaty. He also complimented the group of women in the very front who made sure his monitor stayed in place.
In keeping with their own rules, the band stopped in the middle of “DVP” when a circle opened up in front of them and people started scanning the floor with iPhone flashlights. After someone found their glasses (unfortunately smashed), the song continued. Afterward, Sladkowski recommended he buy a pair of Croakies, like the ones he has to keep his own glasses on.
If the smiles and looks of amazement at the crowd’s devotion weren’t enough to show that PUP was happy to be in Philadelphia, they straight up said it.
“One time, we played to about 30 people at Golden Tea House,” Babcock said. “And that was the first time that we were like, ‘Holy shit. We made it!’”
They also took time to thank their Philadelphia friends, like Cayetana, Modern Baseball and The Menzingers, many of whom were in attendance.
Babcock said that Philadelphia has always felt like a second home to them. If the brutal winters of the Great White North become too much, the fans at PhilaMOCA showed that we’d be happy to take them in. They’d sure be among friends.