PUP The Phoenix, Toronto ON, May 26
Published May 27, 2016The thrashing beats, screeching guitars and sing-shouted vocals on much of PUP's now two albums belies the deeper, darker lyrics about crumbling relationships, the dangers of over-indulgence on the road (both as a bandmate and as a driver) and maintaining one's state of well-being and mental health. But transferred onto the stage, PUP's M.O. is clear: go hard, help each other out and have a ton of fun.
It's a simple enough punk rock ethos that few bring to the stage better than PUP. Now back and loaded up with a sophomore record's worth of new songs thanks to The Dream Is Over, the band returned to Toronto for a hometown show at the Phoenix last night (May 26). Affably annihilating onlookers from the onset, they kicked off the set with a firecracker combo of "If This Tour Doesn't Kill You, I Will" and "DVP," the latter's lyrical allusion to the "Don! Valley! Parkway!" getting a thunderous response of yells and fist pumps from probably the only crowd that has any idea what PUP are actually talking about. It spoke to the fervour of the band's fans that they knew every lyric to both songs, despite the album's release being a day (hours, in fact) away.
From there, fans were treated to favourites from 2013's PUP with "Dark Days," "Lionheart" and "Cul-de-Sac," sending the all ages audience into a moshing frenzy of flailing limbs and floating beach balls, though it was "Guilt Trip" that provided that album's highlight.
It was their eve of their latest LP's release, though, so naturally the four-piece peppered the set list with plenty of riotous new material. The crowd screamed along to fresh cuts like "My Life Is Over and I Couldn't Be Happier" and "Old Wounds," while "Familiar Patterns" seems to have already stuck with many as an easy new favourite.
Drawing once again from the self-titled debut, the brooding, slow-burning "Yukon" was particularly powerful. Doused in menacing red lights, the band offered the audience a brief moment of respite from an otherwise relentless onslaught of delightfully bratty, fast-paced rock'n'roll — which picked right back up again for closers "Doubts" and "Reservoir."
PUP's triumphant return to home turf wasn't lost on the members of the group, who even paused at the end of the set to capture the moment on camera. Wholeheartedly professing their Torontonian pride, frontman Stefan Babcock managed to generate a "Let's go Raptors!" chant that prompted guitarist Steve Sladkowski to declare "Fuck Lebron James."
After snapping the photo with the sea of supporters, they indulged the eager crowd with a two-song encore, bringing out openers Gulfer and Jeff Rosenstock for a wild rendition of "Factories" (a song Babcock was pleased to announce they only play in Toronto) before an absolutely euphoric, show-closing cover of Weezer's Pinkerton classic "El Scorcho."
Already heralded for their tireless touring ethic — despite the emotional toll it can take, as made clear on "If This Tour Doesn't Kill You I Will" — PUP proved exactly why they're rarely off the road: they're just too relentlessly good onstage.