Gig Review: The Wonder Years at Le Poisson Rouge
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When I was first introduced to The Wonder Years in high school, The Upsides was the only thing I blasted on the bus to school in the morning. Angry, sad, angsty and relatable lyrics allowed me to not feel so alone in feeling like an outsider in my town. That’s the beauty of most pop punk bands – they vocalize the feelings many are too afraid to talk about. However, a lot of these feelings about hating your town and the people in it, but having that core group of friends who are like family, is something people grow out of as they mature and grow older.
This can be seen in The Wonder Year’s discography – The Upsides was released in 2010 and their most recent full length, No Closer To Heaven, was released in 2015. In those five years, there was much room for new experiences and growth, and that can very much be seen in the band’s songwriting. In those 5 years between records, frontman Dan “Soupy” Campbell got married, experienced incredibly difficult deaths of close friends, and simply, grew up. No Closer To Heaven tackles these topics with the incredibly powerful ‘Cigarettes & Saints’ and the love song ‘You in January.’ It’s been clear that The Wonder Years weren’t a pop punk band since “No Closer To Heaven,” and the new acoustic EP “Bust & Decay” along with their current stripped down, intimate tour has only further proved this.
The opening bands, Jetty Bones, The Obsessives, and Laura Stevenson all established the mood of the night: Jetty Bones declared that the shitty things people have done to you in the past do not define you. The Obsessives encouraged people to be helpful through their story of helping a blackout drunk man on the street that day. Lastly, Laura Stevenson shared that this tour had been particularly hard on her mentally, and she was very grateful for how supportive everyone was. This was demonstrated in her bandmates surprising her with roses after her solo songs and The Obsessives, dressed in a gorilla and banana costume, along with Jetty Bones, came on stage to dance with her and give her a bouquet of flowers.
The Wonder Years ended their intimate tour with two shows at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City. Originally, it was only supposed to be one show at night, however due to how fast the show sold out, they added a matinee. Additionally, The Little Kruta String Quartet joined them on stage and the show was livestreamed worldwide via Facebook Live to raise money for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico. They surpassed their goal of $5,000 by $250, and it’s still increasing.
Soupy began the set establishing that “we’re just like, a band called The Wonder Years,” and then played Dismantling Summer. Immediately, the crowd burst out belting every word of the song. This was apparent throughout the whole hour and a half long set – fans of The Wonder Years are some of the most dedicated fans I’ve seen. The Little Kruta String Quartet first came out on ‘Palm Reader,’ and people around me, including myself, went “Oh shit!” at the sound of the first string. The quartet brought a warm and heavy feel to the songs, and it was absolutely incredible. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, Laura Stevenson joined in singing for ‘There, There’, and the stage had reached 11 people. Soupy joked “Were at full strength now. 11 people on stage. What’s up now, Slipknot?” With the band at max capacity, everyone wished they were wearing waterproof mascara for ‘You In January’, for the sheer beauty of the song, the string quartet, and harmonies from Laura Stevenson produced the most heartwarming, emotional love song.
The encore consisted of ‘Passing Through a Screen Door’ and ‘Cigarettes & Saints,’ though I’m going to go straight to the latter. Arguably being the band’s most powerful and heart wrenching song of their entire discography, fans knew it was going to be the closing song and didn’t even need it to be introduced for them to sing the first word with Soupy. Fans lost their voices singing “we’re no saviors if we can’t save our brothers” over Soupy belting “drowning out under the waves.” In closing, Soupy took the plastic flowers taped to his mic stand and leaned out into the crowd with it, everyone in the sold out Le Poisson Rouge chanting in unison “you can’t have my friends, you can’t have my brothers, you can’t have me.”
Unfortunately, that was the last night of their tour, so I hope you were able to see them play elsewhere or watch the live steam, because it was truly a night to remember.
– Rebecca Kavaler