Tuesday, June 19
Almost all pop punk and emo trades, in large part, on feelings of nostalgia. The really good bands manage package that nostalgia with enough force or conviction that it transcends all or most of the cliché that usually comes with the territory. The Wonder Years are one of those really good bands. Headlining a show at the Emerson on Tuesday night, they ripped through their relatively brief set with unparalleled panache.
The show kicked off with Long Island's Daytrader, a pop punk group with definite strains of '90s alternative rock (especially The Foo Fighters) buttressing their arrangements. Following Daytrader was Cincinnati's Mixtapes, who sounded a bit like Dillinger Four if the palpable anger was switched out for a type of bemused depression. Maybe the strongest thing Mixtapes have got going for them is the dual male/female vocal approach. It lends their songs a unique texture where otherwise they might be lost in the shuffle.
From the sudden hurried influx of smokers during what felt like an interminable soundcheck it was pretty clear that The Wonder Years were the main event of the evening. With about as little pomp as is possible, the band leapt into "Washington Square Park" from their 2010 album The Upsides with a vengeance.
In highlights such as the sing-along peaks of "Melrose Diner" and the high-speed rollercoaster of "Coffee Eyes," the band showcased an actually pummeling sound. A good amount of this came from the seriously almost terrifying assault of drummer Mike Kennedy who, no joke, played like he was fighting for his life. That's not to say the rest of the band wasn't great- any haters looking to cast aspersions on musicianship within the contemporary punk idiom need look no further than The Wonder Years.
Before the final song of the night ("All My Friends Are In Bar Bands"), singer Dan "Soupy" Campbell lead the crowd in a rousing chant of "USA! USA!" As he initiated the chant he said he was afraid it would end up being hackneyed or corny. Like so much of The Wonder Years' music, it managed not to be basically through sheer force of will.