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The Wonder Years’ No Closer to Heaven Tour at Amplifier Bar

-By Ben Smith

Since they burst onto the scene with 2010’s The Upsides, Philadelphia pop-punk heroes The Wonder Years have become one of most respected and important bands in the alternative scene. Despite being unable to boast the fervent support of many of their genre contemporaries, the sextet have gradually evolved with every album and become mainstays on the Vans Warped Tour circuit. After cancelling their last Australian headline tour at the last minute, the band were keen to make amends with a 10 date run of the country in support of their latest album, No Closer to Heaven.

Despite their status as rank outsiders on the bill, Flowermouth did their best to be noticed in the traditionally hard slot of local support band. Playing to a small crowd, the hometown heroes nonetheless did their best to win over those assembled, and their loud brand of punk rock managed to get fans tapping their feet and nodding their heads in approval. All in all, not a bad showing.

Our Past Days were celebrating their first show in Perth, and made it abundantly clear how grateful they were for being able to be a part of the tour. Despite facing an audience mainly populated by people who had never heard of them before, their brash and edgy sound caught the eye as they ignited the crowd for the first time that night. The likes of Mum’s Song and Mt. Splashmore got the audience moving and meant for a successful show for the promising Sydneysiders.

Chicago upstarts Knuckle Puck were also marking their first trip to Perth (and Australia), but they received a frenzied reception from the crowd. Having built up a cult following off the back of last year’s Copacetic album, the five-piece wisely leant on it to provide the backbone of their material.

Heavy-hitters such as Disdain and True Contrite were met with screams of joy, while Joe Taylor’s rasping voice stood strong amongst the whirling guitars of Nick Casasanto and Kevin Maida. Old favourite Fences was also met with roars of approval, before the closing double punch of Pretense and No Good proved the catalyst for crowd-surfers and mosh pits galore. It’d be no surprise to see them headline Amplifier Bar on their next trip over, and boy would they deserve it.

Walking on stage accompanied solely by lights, their inconspicuous entrance heralded the arrival of The Wonder Years, but they emerged from the dark and made an even bigger statement diving into I Don’t Like Who I Was Then. The high octane energy the band are known for was evident, as frontman Dan “Soupy” Campbell burst passionately through the barrage of guitars. There was no letup, as they launch into perennial fan favourite Local Man Ruins Everything, urged on by the thunderous drumming of Mike Kennedy.

At the core of the band, it’s the lyrics of Soupy which have won the hearts of critics and punters alike. Raw, but brutally honest and emotional without ever sounding sappy, Soupy has become a mouthpiece for those who struggle to express their feelings over growing up and insecurities. Throughout the night,  he confronted the ideology men have to be physical and violent to be seen as worthy I Wanted So Badly to Be Brave, led a rowdy singalong about losing health (The Devil in My Bloodstream) and ignited fervent mosh pits while exhuming his battle with anxiety (There, There).

It was the last date of the tour, and fleetingly, it felt like the band were showing slight signs of tiredness. A Song For Ernest Hemingway and A Song for Patsy Cline showcased slight cracks in Soupy’s voice, lost amongst the un-relenting barrage of guitars, although Matt Brasch’s warm backing vocals added some gloss on proceedings.

While the full-on approach from guitarists Brasch, Nicholas Steinborn and Casey Cavaliere, and the talented bass-slapping from Josh Martin added some juice to the show being served up, it was occasionally hard to distinguish the melody in their songs and made for a vigorous, albeit slightly scrappy, performance. However, the vicious fretting and roaring choruses of Cardinals and Passing Through A Screen Door more than made up for it, both succeeding in causing flying bodies and passionate singing throughout the audience.

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The band closed proceedings with an emotional one-two in the form of Cigarettes and Saints and Came Out Swinging. The former was a rousing ballad which didn’t so much tug at the heartstrings as drag them to the depths of the earth. Soupy exhumed his soul, mourning the death of a friend “(I’m sure there aint’ a heaven, but that don’t mean I don’t like to picture you there”) and attacking the influence of drug companies (we put our faith in you, you turned a profit, now we’re drowning under the waves).

The latter saw a return to the traditional, full-throttle pop punk which heralded the last mosh pit of the night. As the song dwindled into its final moments, Soupy perched himself on the bar at the back and sounded his battle cry (“I spent the winter writing songs about getting better, and if I’m being honest I’m getting there”) before launching himself off the table and onto the audience’s raised arms, crowd-surfing back to the stage and signalling a perfect end to the band’s first headline Perth show.

Photo Credit: Amplifier Bar

 

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