Sunday, 25 June 2017

Gig Review: PUP at Spirit, Pittsburgh 13/6/17 (by Lauren Stein)

I like going to all kinds of shows. Six bands, starts at 6pm at Roboto? Sure. Four bands, starts at 10pm at Gooski’s? Iʻll be there. All day music festivals? Count me in. Iʻm typically down for whatever. But now, at my advanced age (said only slightly tongue-in-cheek), I hold a special place in my heart for the two band early start show. On a Tuesday night after a rough weekend, this was exactly what I was looking forward to: two killer bands, minimal downtime, and a chance to be home by a reasonable hour.

I was clearly not the only one who thought this way, as an eager group of fans was waiting outside Spirit for the doors to open at 7:00 pm, and shortly afterwards the area directly in front of the stage immediately filled up. All-ages shows shows are pretty hard to come by, but a quick glance at the crowd showed that many youngins were taking advantage of this opportunity. Antiquated Pennsylvania liquor laws meant that drinkers were sequestered to a roped-off area in the back, but itʻs good to see the younger generation coming out in full force.

First up for the night was Charly Bliss, a four piece indie rock band from Brooklyn. They are touring in support of their album Guppy, which was just released in April and is a must listen. Their sound is a mix between bubblegum pop and grungy rock, which sounds weird but works remarkable well. On the album and on stage, singer and guitarist Eva Hendricks steals the show. Her voice, with occasional endearing squeaks, perfectly complements her lyrics, which typically revolve around the themes of youth and growing up. The other band members are solid as well: the music works well here, always accompanying the vocals and never overshadowing them.

Eva Hendricks of Charly Bliss. Photo by Joseph Craft.

Listening to Charly Bliss is like thinking back to your teenage years, that fuzzy reminiscence punctuated by the occasional memory that sticks out strongly. At one point in the set, when introducing the song DQ, Hendricks asked the crowd, “Has anyone here ever peed on a trampoline? Has anyone here ever been dumped on their birthday? I have!” The lyrics are not necessarily the deepest or the most poetic, but they feel incredibly familiar. Itʻs fun, itʻs quirky, itʻs real fucking life.

Charly Bliss - Black Hole (live 6/13/17)

The set included a number of stand-out tracks from Guppy, including “Westermarck” (which they just released a music video for), “Black Hole,” “Glitter,” and a new song “Heaven” (declared by Hendricks to be the first Charly Bliss love song). For the final song Hendricks put down her guitar and raged along to the music, bouncing about the stage, head banging, flailing around for a minute or two before picking up the mic to start singing. It was impressive as hell and a fitting way to end.

We barely had a chance to rest from the amazingness that we just witnessed before PUP took the stage. These guys from Toronto are one of my favorite newer bands: their music is catchy and intense, their lyrics are clever, and they always put on a crazy show. The crowd got moving right away as they launched into their set with “Doubts,” and things stayed moving the whole night long. It’s been less than a year since PUP was here last (a sold-out show at Cattivo in November), but the crowd was as enthusiastic as ever.

After a few songs the guys took a break to introduce the band and make the obligatory Canadian hockey joke: “We come from the full-time home of the Stanley Cup” — a reference to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ recent victory, which led a member of the crowd to note their drummer’s uncanny resemblance to Penguins forward Phil Kessel.

Does this man look like a two-time Stanley Cup champion? He doesn’t think so.

Hockey aside, they jumped right back into it with songs two songs from their self-titled first album, “Guilt Trip” and “Dark Days.” By the time they reached the midpoint of their set with “Reservoir,” the crowd was going absolutely crazy, with crowd surfers constantly being thrown on stage and diving right back into the madness. The band noted how nice it was to play a crowd that was so enthusiastic despite a number of weird tracks and deep cuts being thrown into the mix.

As the night wound down, lead singer Stefan Babcock explained that he thought encores were stupid, and as such the band would not be playing one. Instead, they would close out their set with two final songs, the opening tracks to their most recent album, last year’s The Dream Is Over. The night ended on a high note, with the pit raging and a couple even getting engaged. After PUP put down their guitars, the crowd stumbled out, somewhat disoriented by the chaos and sauna-like heat, but wholly satisfied.

PUP - If This Tour Doesn't Kill You, I Will / DVP (live 6/13/17)

And I was in bed by 11. Canʻt argue with that.