Review by: Courtney Solloway
Photos by: Scott Smith Photography
The streets of Reading are lit up with Christmas lights and decorations and it’s fitting considering I’m on my way to the Almost Christmas Tour. I’ve never been to Reading before and there are so many wrong turns, and for whatever reason Google Maps doesn’t recognise a walking route there. Thankfully a really friendly couple who I thought might be going there showed me the way as I walked with them. Outside the Hexagon is a beacon of colourful lights and inside is warmly lit up too.
I make my way to the seated area and the room is slowly filling with noise before the first band Not Ur Girlfrenz take to the stage.
These girls blew my mind. Consisting of three very young members, Liv Haynes (14), Maren Alford (14) and Gigi Haynes (12) make a whole lot of noise for musicians so young – and it’s excellent. Most kids this age don’t have as much talent as these girls, much less the confidence to play a venue of 1,200 people with what seemed like such ease.
I had only heard about the girls when I was confirmed as going to the show but I like to leave new bands as surprises if I know I’m seeing them live, and then listening to the album afterwards. I’m so glad I did this, as when I went and listened to their tracks they sound just as they do on stage and that is a magnificent feat for even some big bands today. The best way I can describe these girls right now with what they do is early Paramore meets Sum 41 with just pure badassery. I’m still totally blown away by the trio and boy oh boy, do they have a set of lungs on each of them. They were no stranger to high or long notes, much less when they rapped on stage with such bravado.
I’ve never seen so much talent on one stage in a group so young. To be as young as they are and touring the world with bands like Patent Pending and Bowling For Soup is beyond incredible. I fully dub the trio the princesses of modern pop-punk.
A short and sweet break between bands as little things change on stage and Patent Pending arrive like a tornado of energy. Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like it. I think the only thing I’ve seen remotely close to this was The Prodigy a couple weeks back, but they are a totally different kettle of fish. I’ll be honest, I came to this gig for the nostalgia reasons with Bowling For Soup. When it comes to pop-punk I haven’t heard anything that struck me as new in recent years and it hadn’t interested me. My tastes had moved more to heavy metal over the last 7 years, so I can’t say I’d listened to much pop-punk and I had missed these guys entirely. I wish I hadn’t.
This band totally re-ignited the love that I once had for pop-punk music. Not only do they have their jokey songs such as Douchebag and Hey Mario, but they also have their more meaningful songs too, such as Brighter. From their pure and vibrant energy comes comedic dance moves and brotherly love between them all. Although, a big ol’ smooch on stage between singer Joe and bassist Corey had most of the crowd in total fits. Brotherly love taken too far? Not at all, I think it’s bloody hilarious and a testament to the jokesters the band seems to be.
After their set, I wandered around the venue to take a little walk and ended up seeing singer Joe in the crowd upstairs where I was seated. However brief our conversation was, I expressed my gratitude for re-igniting my love in pop-punk. He was incredibly friendly and still just as energetic and more than happy to agree to take a picture with me and others who approached to see him. There is no better marketing than being genuinely friendly and interacting with fans. I really hope I see more of them from now on.
A longer break this time as the stage begins to have things added, removed or moved around for Bowling For Soup, and by this point, the standing area appears totally packed and you can begin to sense the energy in the room rising. The lights go down and the room erupts with cheers and screams as each member makes their way onto the stage.
Opening their set with Corner Store on Christmas, which earned itself a few chuckles, the cheeky lads continued by saying hello to everyone. The night was full of their hits like Emily, Almost, Life After Lisa and, of course, Highschool Never Ends, Girl All The Bad Guys Want and lastly 1985. However, it wouldn’t be an Almost Christmas Tour without more Christmas songs. During a short break, the speakers played Wham! Last Christmas, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many rockers sing Christmas songs in one spot before. Truthfully, it really did kick start my Christmas spirit, and of course what Christmas punk show is complete without a punk rock rendition of Frosty The Snowman? The stage is filled with busy lights and then they bring out a big red button. Who could resist that? Well, as Erik hits the button all the lights in the room go out. Every single one. And then a twinkling of lights starts to appear. There are fairy lights strung across the stage that are brightly lit and some small Christmas trees just off to the side of the stage. It’s beginning to feel a lot like…well you get the theme, so you get the reference.
Now, of course, the music of Bowling For Soup is important, it’s what we go to concerts for, but the banter between the guys on stage is one of the best bits. From the jokes between each other, to poking fun at themselves and the audience, the room was always filled with fun and laughter and that’s what it’s really about.
Musically, they haven’t changed. They sound just as great now as they did when they started and not everyone can uphold that kind of standard. And just as I said with Not Ur Girlfrenz, they sound exactly as they do on the albums.
One of the funniest moments in the show is probably when they spotted a girl in the audience on her boyfriend’s shoulders. They told her to put her skirt over his face as they had a surprise for him. Little did the poor guy know that it was, in fact, Chris’ man titties (their words, not mine!). There were other incidences where a beer (or at least what I hope was beer) was thrown on stage and hit Jaret. He wasn’t too impressed, to say the least, but with that being said, he said that whoever throws any drinks to just, well…punch them. But let’s be fair, you shouldn’t be an asshole and throw your drink or anything at a gig. If you want to get rid of it then do so, but don’t ruin someone else’s night, so I get it. I fully support punching whoever throws something over the crowd. Just do it. They’re a dick. They’re basically asking for it.
Something else I loved was the fact that there was just a bar on the side of the drums, you know, as every band does…not. But again, I support this. If you want to drink on stage and you can still play just as well, go for it. During a little drinking break, Joe of Patent Pending and the girls of Not Ur Girlfrenz took to the stage to continue the bands’ song for them.
This gig was a fun one all round. After the show, I bumped into Not Ur Girlfrenz at the merch stand and it was nice having a quick chat with them. I really hope as they grow up that they continue making music, I’ve never met such kickass kids in my life. Patent Pending re-ignited my love of pop-punk. And most of all I got to relive my nostalgic childhood with Bowling For Soup whilst having a barrel of laughs.