To End 2017, We Followed PUP On Tour

As I’ve said before, 2017 was pretty much a garbage fire. Personally, it was wonderful, but globally, it was a hot mess. In the spirit of ending the year on the best note possible, Reed and I decided to take a trip with one of our favorite people, Laura, and follow Toronto-based punk band PUP through four states.

Since we first saw PUP open for The Menzingers in 2013, we’ve seen them almost every time they’ve come through New England. Typically, we stand stage right in front of guitarist Steve Sladkowski and fight against the tide of the pit to keep the venue’s monitors from crushing his pedalboard. It’s always a damn good time and we always go home sweaty, exhausted, and glowing.

Multiply that experience by four, add in a whole bunch of driving, weird Vine references, and a “snowstorm” that accumulated a whopping 1″ of precipitation but made traveling through Connecticut last three times longer than it should have, and you can probably imagine how it felt to follow PUP on tour.

Honestly, the experience was rad and ringing in 2018 with this band was perfect, even though the trip itself was really physically taxing.

Thursday, December 28, 2017: Huntington, NY

Laura drove us down to Long Island to see Frank Iero and the Patience, PUP, and Thursday — though admittedly, we left after PUP’s set (I know), because we’re old, tired people and Friday meant work for some of us. The venue in Huntington was sort of cavernous and weird. That being said, the crowd was small, but energetic. We were not the only ones who left after PUP, which was unexpected, but I’m certain that Thursday put on a killer show — the two nights we saw them, I was blown away.

Seeing PUP in a larger venue is always strange because a lot of the intimacy is lost. I love this band best in dirty bars and tiny indie spaces. Although it’s killer to see them playing larger spaces because it means they’re doing well as a band, it also makes me itch to get back to those tiny, crowded, body-odor-scented shows where I fell in love with their sound.

Seeing Frank Iero again was also cool, if only because I’ve followed his career for so damn long. Watching younger fans have the time of their lives every night when he took the stage was fun as hell. I love that enthusiasm — it’s what makes going to live shows so awesome, even if it can sometimes be overwhelming coming from people who are so much younger than me.

Laura also drove us home from Long Island, and we spent Friday at home, which was a good breather.

Friday, December 29: Worcester, MA

Wait. Have I mentioned how cold this tour was? I must have updated my Twitter with Weather Underground screenshots more often than anything else during this trip. Living in New England means getting used to 0º weather (insofar as one can get used to that), but going out in it night after night after driving for hours was almost painful. It made everything more tiring, and we opted against waiting outside venues because we simply didn’t want to stand in the cold for too long.

(Hello, old age, it’s me, Samantha. I remember waiting in line for 12 hours in the freezing cold once and thinking it was totally fine and normal. How did I even manage that?)

Worcester was, hands down, the coldest night on this tour. We got to the venue just as doors opened, picked up our tickets and went inside — but the cold had still managed to creep into my bones in just those few minutes. Once we were in the pit, the temperature didn’t start to climb until the crowd started to fill out. After the show, when we stopped to talk to Steve Sladkowski for a bit, the cold was even more apparent. I guess the Palladium doesn’t bother cranking the heat in the winter, which makes sense, but… I’ve never wanted to keep my jacket on in a venue before. Oof.

The crowd in Worcester was significantly more rambunctious than the crowd in Huntington, and the bands definitely noticed. Frank Iero flat-out told the crowd that they were way better than Long Island and it was obvious that the energy pouring out of the pit was affecting the bands on stage.

We stayed for Thursday’s set in Worcester and it blew my mind. I’ve never really listened to their music (shame on me), but Reed is a fan, and I know Thursday’s import in punk canon… Seeing the band live made me realize how much good shit I’ve been missing out on for the last 20 years, and their hometown show in Jersey just solidified my desire to listen to them in 2018.

Saturday, December 30: Sayreville, NJ

After Worcester, we spent the night at home again, then left early Saturday morning for New Jersey. Our plan was to hit the Punk Rock Flea Market in Asbury Park, then grab food and head to Sayreville for the last night of the Thursday tour. Instead, we got stuck in Connecticut (a.k.a. American Azkaban, because we spent 12 years of despair driving through it) because of snow and missed the flea altogether.

Luckily, Reed — the only one of us familiar with the drive to Jersey — told us to leave hella early. So we did. And that means we made it to the show with some time to spare, rather than rushing to get to the venue after the traffic in Connecticut. Thanks, babe!

Anyway. Starland Ballroom is one of those notorious venues that it seems like everyone has heard of, and I loved the sound quality. However, the layout left a lot to be desired — the show was packed and there just didn’t seem to be enough space for everybody. Bars were placed in weird locations, people were allowed to stand on stairs, and the location of the bathroom meant no one was allowed to tinkle between sets until the previous band had finished unloading… which was especially frustrating.

That being said, I loved PUP’s Starland Ballroom set. They played first, since Jersey is also Frank Iero’s home state, so their set was shorter than it had been in Huntington and Worcester. I would have preferred the longer set, but the energy they imbued in that half hour on stage was palpable. The crowd was super into it, too, and I loved feeling just a little bit closer to the stage than I had the two previous nights… even though Starland still very much had a barricade and security in place.

Thursday blew the Sayreville show out of the water. They played for so long and the crowd was obviously stoked to welcome them home. Reed and I left the pit for sheer physical exhaustion and pain after sitting in the car for so long, but even from the back of the venue, they killed it. I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed seeing them.

Sunday, December 31: Philadelphia, PA

We stayed with friends in Jersey Saturday night, enjoyed a pancake brunch with them Sunday morning, then hit up a Target for snacks and went on our merry way to Philadelphia for the final night of our PUP tour. None of us had been to Philly prior to this, which was fun, because we got to experience Boot & Saddle together for the first time.

This venue — which is a tiny, hall-like space with an occupancy of 150 people in the back of a country western-themed bar — was perfect for a New Year’s Eve show with PUP. Remember how I said that seeing this band in dirty bars and tiny indie spaces is my fave? Boot & Saddle fit that description to a T.

Kississippi and Jeff Rosenstock opened the show, which kicked the night off beautifully. Kississippi was adorable and Jeff Rosenstock had so much stage presence I couldn’t even handle it. By the time PUP took the stage, about 15 minutes before midnight, the room was buzzing. It was fun as hell to watch them blast through as many songs as they could before the countdown to 2018, and the fact that they fit in “Dark Days” just before midnight was just. Perfect. [Chef’s Kiss]

After their headlining set, PUP invited some friends from other bands — including The Menzingers and Cayetana — to perform cover songs with them. Everyone was absolutely blasted (as is usually par for the course on New Year’s Eve), and supposedly PUP was having the show recorded to release a live album, and it was just. Fun. It was so fun. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to say bye to 2017 and welcome in the new year.

(Also, Philly has fucking amazing vegan food, in case you were wondering. We ate dinner at Blackbird Pizzeria before the show (and had cheesesteak, because of course) and I’m still thinking about it days later. Yum, yum, yum.)

We chatted for a while with Steve and his partner after the show, which was delightful (all of the dudes in PUP are so super down to earth and cool, seriously — it’s awesome to see a band just be chill with their fans, especially in this scene), and then we committed to the five hour drive back to Rhode Island…

Which was exhausting, and filled with a lot of pop music, and at a certain point I was tired enough that I was hallucinating giant black spiders running under the car. But we got home safely, and Laura got home safely, and we all had a goddamn amazing time.

If you’ve read this far, I applaud you. TL;DR: Following PUP through four states for the last four nights of 2017 was the best decision we could have made to close out the year, and I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m still tired two days later, but I’m gonna blame it on the cold rather than the trip — it really does just drain a person, you know?

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