• Charlotte Hardman

Waterparks @ Manchester Academy 3, 27.09.17 / Louder Live

488 days after their first show on UK soil, and Texan pop punk trio Waterparks have returned to embark on their first ever, fully sold out, UK headline tour. Following the success of their third EP ‘Crave’ and with the release of their debut full length ‘Double Dare’ last November, Waterparks have taken their raucous, upbeat pop punk sound and loveable, tongue-in-cheek personas to underground venues and festival stages across the globe. The attraction of these future pop punk heavyweights was evident from the off, as despite the pouring rain, the band’s infamously loyal legion of fans waited patiently outside the doors to Manchester’s Academy 3, confident that Waterparks would bring enough of the bright Texan sunshine with them to dry them all off before long!

Before the pizza and pogoing icons of tomorrow took to the stage, however, London’s The Bottom Line kicked off the night with a fully immersive nostalgia trip back to the 90s- for many, the golden age of pop punk. Their set was a delicious blend of huge, swinging four-chord riffs, an insatiable bounce to every melody, lyrics about hating your ex and friends that screwed you over that spoke directly to the heart of every angsty teenager in the room, and a good dollop of punk jumps and angry finger pointing mixed in there for good measure! Imagine, if you will, practically every pop punk cliché you can imagine thrown into one giant, stupidly raucous blender- when it comes to pure, unadulterated fun, you can’t beat jumping around like a maniac to some old school inspired pop punk in a tiny, packed out venue!

At the other end of the scale, the ultra-modern, smooth gliding synths of second supports Chapel epitomised everything that is great about modern indie pop. Admittedly, the set was a little stagnant in parts where the mellow atmosphere failed to whip the crowd into action, but the cool, floating melodies tinged at the edges with the ethereal distortion of psychedelica, coupled with vocals that drew a faded likeness to those of twenty one pilots’ Tyler Joseph made for a distinctive sound that made it clear why Chapel stand out from the white noise of the new wave alt pop scene.

From the second the lights dipped down low to announce the imminent arrival of the nights’ headliners, the noise in the room hit fever pitch, as screams and cheers slipped seamlessly into a deafening wall of singing- Waterparks had arrived, and fallen seamlessly into their first song ‘Plum Island’ taken from their latest record ‘Double Dare’. The low, undulating bassline from bassist Geoff Wigington built over the rhythmic heartbeat provided by drummer Otto Wood, and the whole track pulsed in time to the electric atmosphere in the room. Frontman and natural showman he may be, but vocalist Awsten Knight proved his song writing calibre with the subversive metaphors and poignant imagery woven into the lyrics of ‘Royal’, while still maintaining his infamously outgoing, devil-may-care onstage persona without missing a beat- epitomised by the detailed recount of his own birth which he shared with the crowd, which was met with equal parts disdain and laughter by his band mates and the fans alike! The intimate atmosphere was undeniable, however, and every corner of the packed out room sang, shouted and laughed along, completely swept up in the charm and sense of dizzy, wild abandon that radiated from the stage!

For the first time in the band’s history, as Awsten gleefully informed the packed out room, Waterparks were joined onstage by a guest vocalist- Chapel’s Carter, who took the lead on the vocals for ‘Gloom Boys’, his vocals blending well with Awsten’s and providing an interesting new twist on the characteristic vocal runs in the chorus and bringing the summery groove of the melody to life. Equally as powerful, however, was the moment where Awsten was left entirely alone on stage with only an acoustic guitar for company as he strummed out the beautiful, painfully romantic ballad ’21 Questions’, which drew a harmonious collective backing vocal from the slowly swaying crowd, and illustrated that behind their exuberant exterior, there is a real heart to Waterparks that few songs can capture more simply or more powerfully.

Despite still being a band in the early days of their career, Waterparks were already being inundated with requests for their older material, and they delivered in abundance! While the cutting of ‘I’m a Natural Blue’ from the planned set due to curfew restrictions was a blow to many fans, greatly received was the inclusion of the single that caught the attention of pop punk royalty in the form of Good Charlotte’s the Madden brothers and established a partnership that has massively boosted the band’s global following: ‘Crave’, with its unmistakable grumbling bassline and interwoven electronic distortion that catches the fringes of the backing vocals that make it a delightfully distinctive, multi-faceted song. Proving beyond doubt that the old stuff can still hold its own in amongst a tidal wave of new material, the unrivalled highlight of the night was the pure punk rock of ‘Silver’ from the band’s first EP, which was met with an eruption of cheers and one of the fiercest mosh pits of the night. Compared to the small cluster of people who stumbled across that little room where a small Texan band were playing one of the first sets of the day at Slam Dunk Festival just over a year ago, the reaction of that crowd was incredible- a stark contrast that stood as a very emotional testament to how far this band have come in such a short space of time.

And with the resounding success of this tour and the dedication and loyalty of their ever growing crop of fans behind them, Waterparks are a band set for the heady heights of worldwide fame- and we’re so glad to be along for the ride.

'Double Dare' is out now via Equal Vision Records.

Check out the video for 'Royal' below: