Albany locals State Champs take over Bar Sub to make their Belfast debut during the first stop off on their current UK Tour.
Expecting it to take a while for the night to get going (7.30pm on a Tuesday evening not proving to be ideal time for anyone to take to the stage) the explosion of energy that occurs when first support Roam make an appearance takes me completely by surprise. The crowd don’t hesitate to join in with the mandatory Pop Punk bounce and respond positively to every prompt from the band to ‘get the party started’. After making it through the opening numbers and some banter concerning Nandos we are treated to the short punchy track ‘519’ of the latest EP, Viewpoint. The track induces a great reaction from the crowd who already seem to be familiar with many of the songs featured on tonight’s set list.
Next up are the slightly edgier Knuckle Puck. The five strong Chicago-based band seem content in keeping the party going. With plenty of encouragement from front-man Joe Taylor to keep moving and sing along the band succeed in doing what any good support band should do, managing to get the audience warmed up and ready with no problems. Perhaps the highlight of their set is new song ‘Pretense’. The track is well balanced between quality sing along moments and moments that allow for the crowd to go categorically nuts which they have no problem doing quickly indulging in whatever type of movement the intimate venue (and no nonsense bouncers) allow for.
The top notch Pop Punk playlist going on in the background gives the illusion that the turnaround between Knuckle Puck and State Champs takes only an instant. With immediate confidence the band launch into the infectious ‘All You Are Is History’ turning Bar Sub into an absolute sweat box. The hook-laden ‘Secrets’ promptly sends the crowd into frenzy demonstrating just how carefree and easy to enjoy State Champs tracks are.
With the only real pause in the set being for someone to recover from fainting, the brilliant onslaught of upbeat bouncy tracks keeps going with a firm pace. The brief pause gives front-man Derek DiScanio a chance to introduce his self-proclaimed favourite song ‘Simple Existence’. The track has somewhat slower moments that gives the audience a breather and a chance to fully appreciate the melodies and heart-felt lyrics that can sometimes be overlooked in the more up-tempo parts of the set.
After the quintet take a break to figure out what day it is, final track ‘Hard to Please’ is unleashed invoking everything from singing, air-drumming, fist-bumping and crowd surfing from the eager audience. The track encompasses the essence of the Pop Punk attitude perfectly. Before the final songs of the encore begin, the band thank the crowd for the final time and give some details of their new album that is due next month. ‘Elevated’ proves to be the perfect choice to finish the evening, mostly down to the chorus that is sure to be stuck in your head for days. As cheesy as it is for me to say, if this evening has proved anything, it’s that Pop Punk is alive and its defiantly kicking. Pamela Anderson, GiggingNI.com