“New York City… goddamn… is it good to be back”. Wonder Years Vocalist Dan “Soupy” Campbell proclaimed this over a visible grin following the wild and energetic start of the band’s 90 minute set at The Best Buy Theater on Thursday, April 17. The excitement and awe was clear in Dan’s sweat-soaked face and in his voice; just a few short years ago, the band was playing to a handful of kids in basements, VFW halls, and small clubs around the New York City and Long Island areas. On this Thursday night, they were playing in front of 2,000 crazed fans in the heart of Times Square at a show that sold out over two months in advance. To mark this special occasion, the band brought along a veritable “who’s who” of trending and popular bands in the scene, helping the show become one of the most anticipated tours of the spring.
Upstart emo band Modern Baseball took the stage at 6:30, and it was clear this was no ordinary opening slot. Whereas most openers are met with polite applause, head bobbing, and toe tapping, the crowd surged forward when Modern Baseball took the stage and sang along to every word. The band ripped through a 7-song set, which mostly consisted of wacky banter and songs from their stellar new album You’re Gonna Miss It All. The band’s youthful exuberance shined throughout their set and they seemed genuinely enthused to be playing music together. The band has been steadily gaining steam since the release of their 2012 debut album SPORTS, and if this performance is any indication, their stock will only continue to grow.
Tears Over Beers
Broken Cash Machine
Two Good Things
Popular pop punk band Real Friends took the stage next to much fanfare from the young audience. Much like when The Story So Far held the second slot on the last Wonder Years 5-band headlining tour (The 2012 Glamour Kills Tour), Real Friends received the largest reaction next to the headliner. The band’s detractors have criticized their lack of creativity and have labeled them a comical stereotype, but you would not have known the hate existed from the crowd’s intensity. They made the most of their 30-minute set, powering through 9 songs spanning their 3 EPs. Vocalist Dan Lambton even poked fun at pop punk conventions when chants of “pizza!” began, saying the band doesn’t approve of the association between pizza and pop punk. The love they received is especially impressive because they have not released a full-length album, but chances are when their debut drops this fall on Fearless Records, their popularity will increase even more.
Home For Fall
I’ve Given Up On You
Late Nights In My Car
Citizen followed and switched up the pace, performing a heavier, grunge-influenced style of music. Though Citizen began as a pop punk band, they have shed that label with resounding force. Their set consisted of choice cuts from their 2013 debut album Youth along with one older song (“Drown”). While the group may appear out of place on the bill, the crowd loved every minute of their set, and sang along loudly from start to finish, even the slower, moodier songs. The band didn’t say much, only stopping to thank the other bands and the crowd for their support; The group let the music speak for itself, and clearly the crowd was listening and enjoying it.
The Night I Drove Alone
Roam the Room
How Does It Feel?
Figure You Out
Speaking With a Ghost
Fireworks were the last band to take the stage before The Wonder Years, having replaced Defeater (who had to drop off before the tour began when their vocalist fell ill). This is the third time Fireworks have toured with The Wonder Years in the past three years, and their close friendship is well documented. Although their sophomore album Gospel is critically acclaimed and their new release Oh, Common Life was a stellar follow-up, they received a disappointingly lukewarm reaction compared to the openers, despite being the most veteran band on the bill next to the headliners. Still, Fireworks seemed genuinely pleased with the kids who sang along and their infectious enthusiasm was notable over the course of their 11-song set. The crowd showed the most energy when the band finished the night with their classic closer “Detroit”.
X’s On Trees
The Wild Bunch
One More Dizzy Creature With Love
Flies on Tape
Oh, Why Can’t We Start Old and Get Younger
When We Stand On Each Other We Block Out the Sun
The Wonder Years finally took the stage at 9:50 to deafening applause and screams from sold-out crowd at Best Buy Theater. They opened the set with the hushed whisper of “There, There”, the first track on their fantastic album The Greatest Generation. The crowd sang along as the song reached a crescendo and exploded into the pure, unfettered emotional climax. From there, the intensity never waned over the course of the night as the band charged through a 16-song set equipped with choice tracks from their last three albums. They had the rare opportunity to play some deep cuts like “Me vs. The Highway” and “Dynamite Shovel” and some new songs like “Raindance in Traffic”, “The Devil in My Bloodstream”, and “Cul-de-Sac”. As always, the group squeezed in the fan-favorites, as “Local Man Ruins Everything”, “Washington Square Park”, and “Passing Through a Screen Doors” inspired the entire audience to jump along, crowd surf, and scream at the top of their lungs.
Dan’s on-stage presence felt like a mixture between a preacher and a professional wrestler as his emotions took center stage and his voice fell just short of shouting. Dan spoke about how fans have gone to eat at Melrose Diner after the band released the song, despite the fact that the food is horrible and the service is terrible. He later asked fans who had their album Suburbia, I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing and, upon seeing the entire crowd cheer, said “well, shit then, I guess this song is for all of you”. He chose a more serious and surreal tone when discussing how the band struggled mightily to book a New York show in 2006 (before securing a basement show in Bushwick) and now the band’s faces are plastered on a billboard in Times Square for a sold out show. Dan seemed on the verge of joyful tears as he looked out on to the sea of faces smiling and singing back at him, and for a moment you could see the immeasurable happiness this tour has brought every member of the band. When the band took the stage to close out the show with the epic 7-minute “I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral”, which closes out The Greatest Generation, the band left every last bit of energy they had left on the stage, and their fans did the same.
The band’s rapid rise in popularity has been a direct result of their sincerity, their tireless work ethic, their down-to-earth demeanor, and most importantly their ability to produce stellar, challenging pop punk music that refuses to conform to conventions and connects deeply with their audience. They have never sounded crisper live, playing through their headlining set with precision and ease. The Wonder Years are still relatively young yet commanded the stage with a veteran presence, and they demonstrated that they are in fact ready for center stage and to take the reins as one of the biggest bands in the scene today. As the American leg of their Greatest Generation tour comes to a close and the band prepares to head to Europe, it’s safe to say that The Wonder Years have a lot left to give.
Passing Through a Screen Door
Local Man Ruins Everything
Woke Up Older
Me vs. The Highway
A Raindance in Traffic
Everything I Own Fits In This Backpack
The Devil in My Bloodstream
Don’t Let Me Cave In
Washington Square Park
Came Out Swinging
I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral