As it was the last show on the UK leg of The Wonder Years’ ‘The Greatest Generation World Tour’, it was safe to say that the small crowd at The Haunt, Brighton were expecting one hell of a high-energy pop punk show and fortunately the three bands that played all managed to deliver in one way or another. The audience, made up mostly of guys, all seemed to be clinging to cans of Red Stripe as they tried to find a decent spot so they could see the stage, their plaid shirts relocating to their waists as the room heated up with the amount of people who were trying to pack inside the narrow halls.
First up in the evening of entertainment was buzz band State Champs, for whom it was their first ever tour in the UK. The quintet were formed in 2010, but have only very recently come to the attention of many a pop punk fan who are prepared to plug them hard. From the get-go people were crowd surfing and going insane; screaming back the lyrics to the songs from the band’s 2013 record The Finer Things. Hailing from Albany, New York, State Champs are quite an inspiring group of musicians who had the floor shaking what with everyone in the room jumping in sync as they laid down fan favourites such as ‘Elevated’ and ‘Simple Existence’ – the latter of which has the pretty striking lyric, “I fell asleep in a city that doesn’t.” Brighton was definitely setting up to be one of those cities.
A Loss For Words had the difficult job of keeping the energy high off the back of State Champs, in preparation for The Wonder Years, and they managed to succeed with an impressive flair. The Boston natives have been kicking around for nearly 15 years, but still managed to channel that spirit that keeps a crowd going and the beer flowing. Playing some of their better known tracks such as ‘Distance’ and ‘Raining Excuses’, the real highlight of their set was their reimagined cover of The Jackson 5’s ‘I Want You Back’ that had the audience hooked on every word. After an impromptu appearance from The Wonder Years’ Dan “Soupy” Campbell near the end of the set, A Loss For Words finished on a high note that had the crowd torn – they wanted more, which was evident by their cheers, but on the other hand… The Wonder Years were up next!
It wasn’t long before the main attraction for the night made it on to the stage, kicking off quietly with ‘There, There’, the first track from their most recent album and namesake for the tour, The Greatest Generation. The tempo and noise level were rucked up a few hundred notches soon enough, and the crowd were yelling back the lyrics, “I’m sorry I don’t laugh at the right times!” A spectacular entrance from a band that don’t really do theatrics, and it was settled – The Wonder Years were on a mission to give a damn good rock show for those who had come to see it.
The set that followed consisted mostly of songs from their latest album, but had a few unexpected old gems from their previous works, The Upsides and Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing. It was a pretty short set, made up of only 13 songs including the encore, but the pretty strict curfew given The Haunt’s nightclub status was clearly pretty restricting. Still, the Philadelphia sextet managed to work with the time they had been given and put on an amazing show that had one nervous individual questioning if the roof was going to cave in. The lack of security at the front due to there being no barricade meant crowdsurfers were free to do as they pleased, and many climbed up on to the stage in order to dive back in – showing off their rather interesting art form.
The band’s encore was only one song, ‘I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral’. A pretty long track, its ending is made up of parts from other songs on the record including ‘The Devil In My Bloodstream’, ‘Passing Through A Screen Door’ and their newest single ‘Dismantling Summer’, and the bridge of the song’s guitar part is actually the one from ‘Hoodie Weather’, a track from Suburbia. All favourites cemented together meant it was an excellent choice for a final track, allowing Brighton’s pop punk fans to rock out one last time before the evening concluded.
The Wonder Years and co. were highly successful at staging an excellent show, to the point where some of the audience, as they were leaving the building, had a rather dazed look on their faces. Generic pop punk bands may be a dime a dozen in the music industry right now, but The Wonder Years will always have that streak of individuality that sets them apart from the rest.