Published May 29, 2018It's been a couple albums since the Wonder Years last set foot on the Canadian prairies, and with only one stop in Calgary, it's no surprise that a large crowd filled the room with locals and road-trippers alike.
The band essentially just stuck to cuts from their last four records, showing they aren't jumping on the nostalgia bandwagon anytime soon. It's understandable they ditched 2007's Get Stoked On It!, but 2010's The Upsides was the album that put them on the map, and has the strongest pop punk sensibility, so it was actually bit of a bummer to see them discard it.
They opened with "Pyramids of Salt," from their brand new record Sister Cities, before launching into "I Don't Like Who I Was Then," from 2015's No Closer to Heaven. The band wasn't too crazy energetic, but there are six of them and there wasn't a lot of room on the small MacEwan Ballroom stage. Plus, while the Wonder Years will always bear the pop punk label, they've never been that catchy to begin with, and aside from some jumping and the odd crowd surfer, the crowd seemed happy to politely watch.
One new cut that translated really well live was "We Look Like Lightning." It starts off super slow, with singer Dan "Soupy" Campbell singing softly before picking up in the last minute and featuring some guttural screams from bassist Josh Martin. The crowd still seems to dig their new direction and welcomed them back for an encore, one of which was "Passing Through a Screen Door," one of their slightly older classics about being 26 and feeling left behind.
If you really wanted to hear pop punk, Scranton, PA's Tigers Jaw was your best bet. The band have real hooks and sounded pretty much identical to how they do on recordings. Like the Wonder Years they opened with a track from their latest record, Spin, called "Follows," but they did pull out older cuts dating back all the way from their 2008 self-titled album, like "The Sun" and "Chemicals." Ten years, later the band have lost some of their gruffness and adopted more of an indie-rock vibe, but the catchy hooks still remain. Newer material like "Brass Ring" also features more vocals from keyboardist Brianna Collins, who usually just backs up vocalist Ben Walsh's leads. Not a lot of banter, but when you sound as good as Tigers Jaw the music just speaks for itself.
Tiny Moving Parts had a faithful bunch of followers and sort of totally stole the show. The Wonder Years have three guitarists, but Tiny Moving Parts only has Dylan Mattheisen on the axe, who also manages to play much more complicated riffs, sing and scream in all sorts of different keys and tear the place up with energy in a way that few other bands can match. The trio play an interesting hybrid of emo, math rock and post-hardcore, which still manages to maintain some semblance of a hook. "Always Focused" is really upbeat and guaranteed to get stuck in your head, and pretty much the rest of their tracks follow suit. "Sundress" was an upbeat way to kick things off and they ended with "Caution" from Swell, which was just released in January.