By Josh LaVoie
“Punklet” – 13 to 17 year old punk kiddies willing to buy up broadcast and advertise for any and all things punk. In the midst of teen rebellion, this species will often lash out at its parents and stay out all hours of the night attempting to get one of their older acquaintances to buy them a Big Bear.
On Friday, August 22, these minors overwhelmed the MacEwan Hall Ballroom as they tried to catch a glimpse of their favorite punk bands. Garbed in mesh t-shirts, wife-beaters and plaid pants, these dedicated followers were ready and waiting for the Bouncing Souls and their virtual co-headliners, Hot Water Music. Although content to stroll about and check out the merchandise, they were soon surprised with the opening New Jersey act, Worthless United. Bursting onto stage in front of a skeptical crowd, they exemplified stage presence as the crowd formed a circle pit in their second song “Mr. Telephone Operator.” Plagued by poor mixing that made it virtually impossible to make out the lyrics, the audience was left only with the melody and raw energy born of a band that seems to have built its foundation on live shows. However, this was of no consequence as the audience clearly got a kick out of this dedicated group.
Unfortunately, the second group of the night, The Forgotten, was not a surprise at all. With their entire inspiration apparently drawn from punk rock clichés, the band fed the audience poorly-veiled, recycled ideas with songs like “Forced to Believe,” a mediocre offering about an undesired Catholic upbringing. The upbeat hardcore rockers also seemed to be having a small identity crisis with a lead singer belting out cheerful melodies while scrunching his face and bouncing around as if he was in a thrash-metal band. Uninteresting and generic, The Forgotten were quickly, well, forgotten as the crowd readied themselves for Hot Water Music.
They could do no wrong as they came on stage, illustrating what years of experience and dedication can do for a band. Incredibly tight and energetic, the group delivered their tried and true product to an eager audience. Hot Water Music mixed it up a bit, placing slower songs in the middle of the set, giving the crowd a breather. The song “Jack of All Trades” got the crowd into a frenzy that had not yet been witnessed that evening and was shortly followed by my personal favorite, “Remedy.” After a strong finale, it soon became terrifyingly possible that the end might have come as the lights came on and an announcement notified us that there was a fire alarm in Mac Hall.
After a mass exodus, thwarted attempts at slurpee acquisition from the Cove, and some small scuffles between concert goers and S.U. security, the alarm ended and the crowd returned to the ballroom for the Bouncing Souls.
Opening with their characteristic Old West whistle recording, they started things off right and by the second song they had 12 people dancing around and trying their hands at stage diving during one of my personal favorites “True Believers.” A quick glance at the crowd proved that virtually every person had came for the Bouncing Souls–despite the ridiculously terrible mixing and volume levels so high that I couldn’t hear properly for over a day afterwards, everyone was up front enjoying the show.
After nearly an hour of play the band temporarily left the stage only to come back for a well orchestrated five or six song encore with “Ole!” and “Fight to Live” as highlights. After a tight hour and a half set and over four hours from the time the whole show got started they left the stage for a good ending an amazing sold-out show, hopefully one of many for this upcoming year in the ballroom.