Sunday, 4 October 2015

State Champs - The Hippodrome, Kingston, 03/10/15

I have a strange relationship with pop punk bands. I either love them instantly (Seaway, Forever Came Calling) or it takes me a very long time to really appreciate them (Neck Deep, Real Friends). Because I bought my tickets to this show the day before, I didn't have time to listen to any of the bands - it meant I went into this concert knowing one State Champs song, and having no idea what I really thought of Roam and Knuckle Puck. 

Because of seeing No Devotion beforehand, I was certain that I was going to miss the beginning of Roam, but thankfully I managed to walk in as the opening chords of 'Warning Sign' started. It was actually lucky that the guys made it too - the band had had trouble with getting through the Eurotunnel, apparently only pulling up half an hour before their stage time.
Hailing from Brighton, Roam are one of the standout bands in the UK pop punk scene - their debut album isn't out for another few months, but with their first two EPs they've gathered quite a loyal following.
Roam are one of those pop punk bands that you have a lot of fun listening to, but after a while you notice that most of the songs sound exactly the same. The one exception to this rule was 'Cabin Fever', the song they performed from their upcoming release. I can't exactly put my finger on why it was stood out - the chord structure was a bit more developed, and the drum line was markedly different (potentially because their photographer, Elliot, stepped in on the track), but other than that it still sounded like Roam... It just left me feeling excited for what they could potentially do in the future.
I think Roam are a band that could grow on me, because I did really enjoy their live show: the crowd was going absolutely insane, and it was the best reaction for an opening band that I think I've ever witnessed. They might have had a better reaction because they were the only UK act on the bill, but it was inspiring to see them flying the flag for our brand of pop punk (even if they do sound rather American in their music!). Being able to perform a nine song set as a opener is also extremely impressive - most smaller bands only play five or six songs in a half an hour, but because Roam's songs are so speedy they managed to squeeze in many more songs. If this is the kind of show that they can put on at this early stage of their career, the album release is really going to catapult them to new levels. The band shared the fact that they have a music video for another new song coming out in the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye out for that. 

Warning Sign
Over Your Head 
Nothing In Return
Cabin Fever
You Never Said
Head Rush

I'd seen Knuckle Puck before - five minutes of the end of their set at Slam Dunk this year. I wasn't too impressed, but I was also rushing between PVRIS and Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties, so I didn't have too much time to stop and appreciate them. I'd always intended on seeing them again at some point, I just hadn't expected this point to come so quickly!
I had the same problem with Knuckle Puck that I had with Roam. Their songs just seemed to blend together, and I couldn't really differentiate between them towards the end of the night - it's been less than 24 hours and I already can't really recall what any of them sounded like. It was a shame, because I'd been really pumped about seeing them, but alas it just didn't really do anything for me.
I know I really enjoyed 'Gold Rush', the song that they released on a split single with Neck Deep - throughout the performance I realised that the show couldn't have possibly been any more pop punk, because there was a ginormous inflatable floating penis bouncing over the crowd. You can't have pop punk show without some inappropriately large genitalia making an appearance!
If there's one thing I can say about Knuckle Puck, it's that they're dedicated. When discussing the Eurotunnel problems suffered by the band, they admitted that they'd actually forged their passes to make it back into the country because "there was no way in hell that we were not going to show up to play some songs with you tonight". They also seemed so humble and appreciative of the crowd that they'd attracted, thanking everyone multiple times - for an American band who have only been together for five years, it is impressive that they're taking our country by storm so easily.
Because it was the last show of the tour, there had to be guest appearances, so after Ryan from Knuckle Puck went on stage (briefly!) with Roam, Alex Costello decided to repay the favour. His appearance on 'No Good' definitely added another level to the show, and it was so much fun - I do love spontaneous collaborations.
I'm going to listen to Knuckle Puck some more, because I think it might take me a little while to get into them; at least I know if I see them live again I'm bound to have fun.

But Why Would You Care?
Oak Street
Gold Rush
True Contrite
No Good (ft. Alex Costello from Roam)

You'll remember earlier than I said sometimes it takes me a long time to love pop punk bands, and sometimes I love them instantly - State Champs are definitely in the latter camp. I am absolutely in love with singer Derek DiScanio's vocal tone; he has a clear tone that makes it easy to understand all of the lyrics, and lyrical content is something that matters a lot to me: it's one of the reasons it can be difficult for me to really adore a band if the first time I really encounter them is in the live environment.
The only song I'd ever encountered before was opener 'All You Are Is History' - I heard it on the radio once, fell in love with it, and ordered State Champs entire back catalogue and pre-ordered their new album on vinyl five minutes later. Yeah, it was a bit extreme (and I've had no time to listen to them since...) but after seeing them I know that it was a good call. Derek said that the band were calling this their album release show, as it's the show they're playing closest to 'All Around The World and Back' launching (it comes out in two weeks) but he also said that it was a farewell to 'The Finer Things', their debut album. Because the new album isn't out quite yet, they only played two new songs - the aforementioned track and newest single 'Secrets', but they both stood out so brilliantly. All of State Champs music is fast and easy to dance to, but the newer songs really hook their claws into you and don't let you go. With the experience that State Champs have gathered over the last couple of years, playing multiple supporting slots and a few festivals (Slam Dunk here in the UK, and Warped Tour in America) you can tell it's been good for the band - they've honed their songwriting skills and are really standing out in their field for this point of their career.
In all honesty, there wasn't a song of their set that didn't impress me. This is State Champs third time in the UK but is only their first headlining tour here, and they also seemed very humble - Derek said they "never thought it would come to a place where we'd be halfway across the world" and thanked the crowd profusely for their support over the last few years.
No, I didn't have my socks knocked off by either of the supporting bands, but overall this was one of the most fun shows I've ever been to. It's certainly the most pop punk lineup I've seen! The bands all seemed like they'd had a blast on the tour, with every band saying that they really didn't want it to end - State Champs called it "one of the coolest tours we've ever done". When the bands on a tour get along well it's really easy to see, because everyone is so relaxed - it makes for a great environment, because the joking between the bands really livens up a show. With State Champs joking about the height of Roam's Alex ("I was going to do guest vocals, but Alex from Roam stole my spot! Where are you, Alex? No, you're way too tall to be Alex!") it really did get the whole crowd laughing - banter between bands is much funnier than banter with the crowd, because you feel as though you're among friends. Because this tour has been going on for so long, it's pretty certain that lifelong friendships have been cemented - I wouldn't be too surprised if these guys play more shows together before too long.
Just before playing their encore, Derek asked the crowd "if we come back next year after the album comes out, will you come hang out again?" and after the roar of cheers quietened a bit, he laughed and said "we're gonna announce that next week, keep an eye on the internet" - there are more tour dates coming, and they're coming soon! I'm hoping I'll be able to see State Champs again, because it would be great to see a show at which I actually knew the songs - I really enjoyed the music, but I think it would be better if I could more fully appreciate their live sound. I, for one, am extremely excited for the release of 'All Around The World And Back' - I can't wait for it to hurry up and get here!

All You Are Is History
Prepare To Be Noticed
Deadly Conversation
Simple Existence
Easy Enough
Nothing's Wrong
Hard To Please
Losing Myself

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