On Wednesday the 16th just under two years since State Champs first played Dublin supporting The Wonder Years in Fibber Magees the pop punk band, from New York, returned to Dublin to play a sold out headlining show in The Academy 2 with support from Knuckle Puck who are also from the states and Roam from the UK.
Doors were early, only 17.00, but despite this plenty of teens qued early in anticipation of the show. As a live music venue The Academy 2 is normally fine as most shows that take place in it are only 25% to 50% full, however for sold out shows like this one the stage can be difficult to see as the crowd blocks it out as the stage itself is very close to the ground and very little of the room is in anyway raised. Surprisingly despite sitting at the back near the bar for the entire show this did not bother me anywhere near as much as it normally does.
The Academy’s Facebook page had posted confusing Stage Times earlier in the day, stating that Knuckle Puck would go on first and at 5.30, however Roam went on first in the end as was to originally expected but this was not until 6.20, 80 minutes after the doors opened. Personally I found this to be pretty annoying as I turned up early expecting the show to start promptly at 5.30, I do not think I was the only one annoyed by this as other people rushed over from work or school or college to make it on time for the promoted first set time.
Roam kicked things off with ‘Warning Signs’ to a pretty full room and got a good crowd reaction with almost the entire crowd jumping along to it. I caught Roam back in May with Man Overboard and they are honestly one of the most exciting new bands I have seen live since Major League with their old vocalist Nick Trask back at the start of 2013. Frontman Alex Costello oozes energy and is everything a good front man should be, the on the spot stage banter is appreciated by the crowd. Surprisingly only a handful of people raise their hands when asked if anybody had seen them play Fibbers in May, possibly a sign of who people were there for. Their set was mostly all of their two EPs put together but a few songs in Alex says that they have been finishing up their album and announces that they will be playing a new one next called ‘Cabin Fever’ which takes the place in their set that ‘Sticker Slap’ previously had. Ending with ‘Head Rush’ they leave the stage to appreciative cheers. The mosh pits and circle pit were sadly missing this time but Alex did his best to try and win the crowd over with jokes about potatoes and discussions about Irish food towards the end of the set. A solid 8/10 that makes me look forward to their debut album even more so than I already was.
Next up was Knuckle Puck, their first time taking to the stage in Dublin and it was obvious from the crowd reaction that they had a relatively large fanbase that had been waiting for them to finally play a show here. They kicked things off with ‘Disdain’ off their recently released debut album ‘Copacetic’. The set was a healthy balance of old songs off their various EPs and new songs off ‘Copacetic’, however at only 7 songs the set felt very short. ‘No Good’ comes across particularly strong despite being the oldest song in their set, the crowd spent most of the song chanting the lyrics back at frontman Nick Casasanto. The set finishes on another strong note with ‘Pretense’ off ‘Copacetic’ which is sure to be a crowd favourite once fans have had more time to familiarize themselves with the album. In comparison to Roams frontman Alex’s on the spot stage banter Nicks comes across as rehearsed, like something out of ‘Every Pop Punk Vocalist’ by Jarrod Alonge, like it is fine to want to plug your new album as much as possible during a short set but it can feel like trying too hard to sell it, the same goes for the lengthy ‘buy our merch’ plug. The songs are very strong, the crowd interaction was too but the stage banter needs to focus less on selling and more on actually talking to the crowd: 8.5/10.
And finally the band the 200+ person crowd had been waiting for all evening State Champs took to the stage. Opening their set with ‘All You Are Is History’ off their upcoming album ‘Around the World and Back’ out October 16th the crowd surged into life. This was quickly followed by ‘Remedy’ off ‘The Finer Things’ then they played another off their upcoming album ‘Secrets’ before playing more tracks off ‘The Finer Things’ for most of their set. Declaring that they would play two more songs they said this is when they would normally leave the stage before returning to it but this is not an easy thing to do in The Academy 2 (but I have actually seen Tonight Alive do it), jokingly they said they could hide behind the speakers to the side before thanking everybody for coming and playing ‘Losing Myself’ another new one. After they had finished playing ‘Losing Game’ they said that the crowd’s reaction to it was the strongest they have had yet live. They finished things up with an energetic ‘Elevate’ to applause. The band seemed genuinely happy to be there and thankful for it this was especially evident when they were handed a large flag with the design from the cover of ‘Around the World and Back’ drawn on it, they said they this was the first time they had ever been given such a large drawn on flag. The new tracks come across incredibly strong, which in turn has made some of the older cuts seem weaker and dated, these tracks will hopefully be cut from the set once the new album is released in a few weeks but for now they show how much this band has progressed over the course of the last two years since ‘The Finer Things’ was released: 9/10.
Despite the confusing set times, early doors and the long wait for the first set – strong sets from all three bands made for a very enjoyable show!