State Champs at the Roundhouse, London 27.10.18 / Louder Live
When the biting chill of the wind is ripping through your clothes and chilling your bones, no matter how many layers you wrap yourself in, there’s only one thing that can stoke that warmth inside you back up again- a packed out, sweaty pop punk show with a stacked line up inside one of London’s most gorgeous venues! And so, genre heavyweights State Champs from Albany, New York decided to do just that: with the help of an international web of support bands that included Canadians Seaway, Australia’s Stand Atlantic and Edinburgh-based Woes.
Scurrying out of the icy cold, the crowd packed themselves into Camden’s Roundhouse to be greeted with the infectiously bouncy melodies of proud Scotsmen, Woes. A band known for the close connection they have with their small but infinitely loyal fanbase, Woes hit the balance of connecting directly with their existing fans while also grabbing the attention of the rest of the crowd and holding it throughout their entire set. The lively guitars on 2016’s ‘Worst Friend’ swept the centre of the crowd up into a rippling sea of bouncing fists, and the unexpected reprise of old favourite ‘Be Alone’ tugged at the heartstrings and roused a wave of palpable fury in equal measure. New track ‘Money Shoe’ may have still been in its infancy in terms of number of live performances, however the blend of electronic influences and the duality of bassist Sean and frontman DJ’s vocals melded seamlessly with their signature upbeat guitar lines, producing a sound that was familiar, yet undercut with a tingling air of innovation and excitement. And with their debut LP already in the works, Woes have proven that they are most definitely a band to watch out for!
A band who are already skyrocketing their way to stardom, having followed up their acclaimed 2017 EP ‘Sidewinder’ with the release of their debut LP ‘Lavender Bones’ barely a few days’ prior, are the night’s next offering, Stand Atlantic. The Australian trio have rocked the pop rock world this year, and evidence of their impact was undeniable from the moment they took to the stage, heralded by a chorus of screams! The first single from their new album, ‘Skinny Dipping’ showcased the power and range of vocalist Bonnie Fraser’s vocal ability, which was only enhanced by the juxtaposition of dynamics when joined for the second verse of ‘Push’ by Hannah Greenwood, a close friend of the band and keys player for Southampton horror punks Creeper. The rousing line that leads into the chorus of ‘Lost My Cool’, ‘Found out you’re full of shit, why don’t you swallow it?’ creates a veil of anger that masks the true depth of the vulnerability that the band explore on this record- a dichotomy of emotions that are universally relatable. That fire burned even brighter on tracks such as ‘Chemicals’- a defiant middle finger to the doubters, and all those that is abundantly clear were wrong to ever question Stand Atlantic’s potential for greatness.
Rounding out the impressive battalion of support acts for the night were Canada’s finest, Seaway, whose bouncy, pop-infused punk sound is used to melting away the ice of those Canadian winters, and so had no problem whipping the Roundhouse up into a hot, sweaty maelstrom of bodies! Their 2017 album ‘Vacation’ was infused with a burst of summer sunshine that could not have been further removed from the current state of the weather outside, however, inside the Roundhouse, the summer beach party atmosphere was in full swing! The laid back overtones of the verses and groovy, grunting bassline of ‘Lula on the Beach’ conjured up memories of late night beach parties, which was balanced by the heartfelt, poignantly romantic lyrics of ‘40 Over’, while the galloping guitars of ‘Shy Guys’ speaks to the comically relatable scenario of being too shy to ask a girl to dance- not that anyone in that venue needed to be invited to dance along with Seaway’s infectiously catchy rhythms! A crowd favourite that night was always going to be ‘London’, with its oblique reference even to ‘Camden Town’ itself, and the unescapably energetic hook into the chorus that caused the mosh pit to implode inwards into veritable carnage!
After such a relentless tirade of stellar performances from the night’s supports, you could be forgiven for thinking that the main act would have a hard time living up to expectation- well, not if State Champs had anything to say about it! Having recently released their new album ‘Living Proof’, the band were here to prove that they were still hungry for progression and willing to explore new avenues- and they delivered in style. Though not favoured by some when the album was first passed over into the hands of the fans, the poppier elements of their newer tracks from ‘Living Proof’ did not work to the band’s detriment: on the contrary, the rousing chorus of ‘Mine is Gold’ played on the pop-inspired structures to carry the crowd through the undulating riot of the melody, while the poppy guitar tone in the pre-chorus of ‘Criminal’ was laid over a foundation of pounding drums that kept the track grounded firmly in the pop punk sphere. The album’s lead single ‘Dead and Gone’ also effectively bridged the gap between pop and rock- a good sprinkling of classic pop punk ‘woah’s’ was enough to balance out the pop-inspired chord progressions and airy guitar tone to make it a fun, danceable tune that still had enough bite to ignite the fury of the swirling mosh pit! This may be a progression towards a more streamlined sound for State Champs, but it is by no means safe or comfortable- exactly as it should be!
Though much as this tour is about progression for the band, on the album’s five-year anniversary, it was only fitting that State Champs took time to remember the record that cemented their place as staple members of the pop punk revival, 2013’s ‘The Finer Things’. The undulating guitars that open ‘Easy Enough’ undercut the fist-pumping chorus, and the riotous ‘Simple Existence’ conjured up the insubordinate teen spirit inside every member of the crowd! The swooping hook that hails the opening of ‘Remedy’ and then cascades into layers of rippling guitars was met with screams of delight from the crowd as wave after wave of crowd-surfers flew headlong over the barrier- having the highlight of the night come in the middle of the set proves that the band’s older songs can more than stand up when nestled amongst their newer material!
The only lull in the relentlessly upbeat pace came in the form of acoustic ballad ‘If I’m Lucky’, which, while it did not capture all of the crowd under its spell, effectively pulled at the heartstrings of many in the audience, rousing their voices in a distilled moment of unity. Building back up the pace with the surprisingly goosebump-inducing ‘Our Time to Go’, State Champs did not waste time in picking the pace back up, crashing into their huge single ‘All You Are is History’, and from there it was an unstoppable upward trajectory towards the night’s crescendo. Culminating in a riotous encore which consisted of the anthemic call-to-arms that is ‘Elevated’, and the crowning glory of the evening, which was, of course, ‘Secrets’, the band’s favourite closer for the past three years. As the final lines rang out, accompanied by an explosion of white-gold sparks from the back of the stage, one thing was certain- the fire had most certainly been reignited in the hearts of everyone in that venue, and one gets the sense that the chilling wind outside wouldn’t bother them quite as much on the way back home…
‘Living Proof’ is out now via Hopeless Records. The ‘Living Proof’ tour continues, with several dates left across the UK and Europe- dates can be found below:
Check out the video for ‘Our Time to Go’ below:
Also check out all the bands from this tour at the links below:
Woes: @woesuk (Twitter)
Stand Atlantic: @standatlantic (Twitter)
Seaway: @seawayband (Twitter)
State Champs: @State_Champs (Twitter)