Becoming an adult is a real pain in the ass.
This is the bumper sticker-ized thesis of Pup's new album, The Dream Is Over, the stampeding, self-conscious piston they released on Side One Dummy in late May. Wrapped up in the decline of life in your late 20s, the album uses splintering guitar riffs and fist-up chantalongs to, in Pitchfork's words, "turn self-loathing and self-deprecation into a sort of superpower."
It's really galvanizing stuff. With an ego-less sense of frankness, the Toronto four-piece has tapped into the ennui of post-adolescence, processing it through an overdrive pedal and running it 'til the goddamn axel splits.
Pup's show at the 7th St. Entry on Friday night sold out without any hesitation. Legions of existential dweebs — many of them not yet old enough to experience the dread of a quarter-life crisis — gathered in the gloomy club to exorcise some of their pent-up fatalism.
The set started off with the truculent pair of "If This Tour Doesn't Kill You, I Will" and "DVP" from The Dream Is Over, the latter of which turned the crowd into a carnal whirlpool of elbows and screams of "She says that I drink too much / I fucked up and she hates my guts." Throughout the show, Pup wore their thousands of shows and tens of thousands of miles like a sign of rank.
They knew when to stop the show to protect the people in the front row being crushed by the throbbing mass of youth and humanity behind them. They hipped the crowd to the rankness of their tour outfits, which they reportedly wear every single night. After only touring professionally for less than five years, the band are masters of their craft.
Twice they made the entire room stand still and search for a mosher's glasses. Twice they were successful. They even got everyone on the dance floor to exclaim "sorry!" after running into each other, something they cheekily called a "Canadian mosh pit." Much of Pup's setlist for the night was pulled from their hugely popular (but roundly slept-on) debut, Pup, but the crowd was that dyed-in-the-wool fanatical kind that knew every word to the breath. They made ekphrastic movements to the road hymnal "Dark Days" and moaned every guttural syllable in "Cul-De-Sac."
The sheer bliss of it all was infectious enough to subdue any of the Big Questions of growing up. Is my career fulfilling? Am I dating the right person? Am I boring? These questions were wiped away like a streak of PBR raining from a crushed can held aloft in the triumph of the chaos. Everyone pulsed and yawped with an energy they knew couldn't be permanent.
By the show's zenith, there was no exhaustion. The set moved forward in constant crescendo — "Old Wounds" bled into "Familiar Patterns" with a birthday song for opening band Charly Bliss' bassist, "Yukon." "Mabu" preceded an obligatory hat-tip to Prince, though the band refused to cover The Purple One because, in their words, "no one wants to hear four white Canadians cover Prince."
A snorting turn on "Doubts" kept the energy in the room pushing toward the red line. The encore performance of Pup standout "Reservoir" had crowd surfers clinging to the rafters and stumbling across the stage in a truly ageless stupor as the monitors rained feedback into the room. The crowd: More Hawaiian shirts than you'd expect to see at a Canadian punk show.
Overheard in the crowd: "This beer is really strong!"
Random notebook dump: Pup did a good job making sure a really volatile crowd kept it safe, which is admirable. But how long are we gonna let aggro bros ruin punk shows for the rest of us?
These dickheads need to start a fight club or something to release their testosterone so that the rest of the audience can enjoy the show without getting an elbow to the temple every 80 seconds.
Notes on the opener: If MTV were still in the business of turning bratty garage bands into household names, Charly Bliss would be next on their launch pad. They're just a hellmouth of energy and charisma. They could turn dinner time at a retirement home into a euphoric bout of pogo dancing.
Not so much for Rozwell Kid, who came on second and really hammed up the room. No more guitar windmills in the Entry, please.
If This Tour Doesn't Kill You, I Will
My Life Is Over and I Couldn't Be Happier
Back Against the Wall