‘young renegade’ heartache

The air was thick and stale in the Uptown Theatre; the smell of sweat, smoke, and beer heavy. Bodies were everywhere, hair constantly tossed over shoulders, phones and hands tangled above heads.

Concert night.

A tech made his way onto the stage only to be applauded wildly. It was minutes later when the first act brought their talent to the floor.

Yeah, they brought it.

The Wrecks opened their set with vocalist Nick Anderson piercing aforementioned thick night air with a wild scream, proving right from the jump that they had something beautiful to share. It didn’t take long for the crowd, although the majority was unfamiliar with the music, to be completely immersed in the sound that The Wrecks had to offer. Drummer Billy Nally and bassist Aaron Kelley had the venue shaking while, inversely, guitarists Nick Schmidt and Weston Weiss made an unshakable statement with their mastery over their instruments.

Nothing beat the moment when Anderson left the stage behind in favor of allowing a more than willing crowd to lift him as high as possible.

The Wrecks left a gorgeous first impression on the hundreds of people in the crowd.

With the end of their set came tense anticipation for the upcoming performances. Fans congregated, discussing the set prior and their high expectations for Waterparks, SWMRS, and All Time Low.

The wait wasn’t long. The stage, once again, was a space owned by techs until, finally, Waterparks came on. Vocalist Awsten Knight, drummer Otto Wood, and guitarist Geoff Wigington took over, bringing lighthearted pop punk to life. It felt more airy than the heavy, tight sound brought by The Wrecks, but still maintained the traditional vibe only brought by our scene. Wigington had the left side of the crowd (that was me!) engaged like none other while Knight’s impressive vocals rang out clearly despite the sub par sound quality to be expected by openers. Wood had the beat down pat, and clearly, the crowd agreed. Heads nodded, arms waved, and fans screamed the lyrics at the top of their lungs.

“Crave” was clearly a fan favorite; Knight backing off the vocals to allow the audience to fill in for him.

Six songs after arriving, Waterparks were gone, only to be replaced with SWMRS.

The crowd was… hype, to say the least.

A girl who had stood in the crowd, rather reserved for the sets prior, let loose. Singing (read: screaming) every lyric to every song, the influence that SWMRS have on their dedicated fans was more than obvious and, quite honestly, a beautiful testament to the power of punk rock.

Their music brought back the hardness introduced by The Wrecks and momentarily left behind by Waterparks. Bassist Seb Mueller, guitarist Max and frontman Cole Becker (brothers), as well as drummer Joey Armstrong (yeah, Billie Joe’s kid) rocked the stage with their self proclaimed ‘modern rock n roll.’

After their set, the crowd was energized yet restless, waiting for the main event.

Again, not too long of a wait.

A video intro prepared the audience for All Time Low‘s presence. The band emerged, the opening riffs of “Last Young Renegade” shaking everyone to the core. Guitarist Jack Barakat was only feet away from me as the music took control. I leapt into the air over and over. My stomach ached, my heart pumped erratically but still somehow in beat with smooth drummer Rian Dawson. Alex Gaskarth’s voice flowed over the music like an angel… yeah, like a literal pop punk angel. Zack Merrick kept the right side of the audience cool and steady with his reverberating bass lines.

The banter between Gaskarth and Barakat was as real as ever, shouts of “Jalex!!” sounding through the venue. Bras, as is the norm, were flung toward the guitarist before eventually making their way onto his mic stand and becoming his favorite sweat rags. All the while, the audience laughed, cried, jumped, danced, screamed, sang, and ultimately rocked their night away.

“Something’s Gotta Give” had people sitting atop others’ shoulders, then, a few songs later, the set list called for fans to be invited on stage. Of course, it was “Time-Bomb.” Fans crowded to the front, pushing me onto the barricade.

In the quiet moments as the song concluded, Barakat heard my scream of his name, averting his attention to me and generously accepting my request for a pick. It took a few tries and very close proximity, but eventually, I caught the guitar pick I had so fearlessly asked for. It went directly into my fanny and my hands, like those of the rest of the crowd, were flung into the air for “Good Times,” the last song before the encore.

“Kids In The Dark.” “Drugs and Candy.” “Dear Maria, Count Me In.”

And that was it.

After waiting for merch and meeting the lovely men of Waterparks, I was on my way home. My body was sore, my eyes tired. My throat burned and my voice was gone. The smile refused to leave my face as I reflected on my night.

Yes, the four bands who graced the stage did so in a way that revived the energy of live music and pop punk in the hearts of the audience.

Simply put, pop punk is so not dead.

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