The Wonder Years, with Tiny Moving Parts, Trash Boat and PUP – The Ritz, Manchester (5th Feb 2017)

One of the most astonishing aspects of the pop-punk revival, is the willingness of the bands to tour in bulk. The ‘States recently saw The Story So Far head out with Good Charlotte, Hit the Lights, Four Year Strong and Set Your Goals. Similarly, on this side of the pond, fans were recently treated to A Day to Remember’s headline tour, featuring support from Moose Blood, Neck Deep and the mighty New Found Glory. As the latter tour clearly demonstrates, the bands don’t tend to let genre constraints get in the way of a brilliant tour.

This clearly seems to have been the thought process of whoever masterminded The Wonder Years’s current UK and European run. Featuring support from math-rockers Tiny Moving Parts, hardcore-tinged pop-punks Trash Boat, and Canadian punk- rockers PUP; its clear that attendees are guaranteed to be treated to a highly eclectic evening of music.

Due to the last-minute addition of a fourth act, Tiny Moving Parts’ set has been moved forward slightly, and they’re unfortunate to be playing to a modest crowd, as the rest of the audience make their way into the venue. Fortunately, the band live up to their Minnesotan stereotype of perennial niceness, and they aren’t too fazed by the size of the crowd. Even better than this-Tiny Moving Parts are superb live.

Frontman Dylan Matthesien bounds around the stage like a Duracell bunny; somehow simultaneously delivering the yelped lyrics and intricate guitar work that his brand of noodley indie-rock demands. From set opener ‘Sundresses’ to closer ‘Dakota’, the energy and complexity doesn’t diminish in the slightest. The set is over all too quickly, but don’t expect Tiny Moving Parts to be anyone’s opening act for too long.

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Next up, are St Alban’s Trash Boat. Recent additions to the tour, their Dan Campbell produced debut record, ‘Nothing I Write You Can Change What You’ve Been Through’, has received rave reviews throughout the pop-punk community. Similarly, Trash Boat have a reputation for being an energetic, thrashy, but very solid live act.

Delivering on the promise of energy, Trash Boat storm the stage, to the pounding power chords of ‘How Selfish I Seem’, the opening pile-driver from their debut album. The guitars, bass and drums are spot-on, and Trash Boat thoroughly deserve their reputation as a great live band.

Although the instruments are delivered proficiently, there seem to be a few problems with the vocal delivery of frontman Tobi Duncan. The vocals falter in several places, and often sound forced and slightly hoarse. This can be forgiven, however, as the band has toured relentlessly over recent months, and Tobi filled in on vocals for friends WSTR earlier in the week. Despite these teething problems, the band still deliver a set high on fun, angst and passion. Expect Trash Boat to become big players in the pop-punk scene.

This is the last night of PUP’s leg on the tour, and they’re celebrating in style. Admitting to be slightly inebriated on taking to the stage, this is clearly a band for

whom fun is a priority. When it comes to playing their set, however, the band are all business. PUP storm through set openers ‘Guilt Trip’ and ‘Reservoir’ with a delivery that’s loud, fierce and above all professional; this is a band that manages to play the songs almost exactly as they sound on the record. Not only that, they manage to perform with such enthusiasm, that you begin to suspect that they’re used to doing this night after night, and that no amount of alcohol would be detrimental to their performance. Worthy main support; their end of tour party is thoroughly deserved.

Few bands in the pop-punk community have been attributed the ‘cult’ label. However, the devotion that the Wonder Years receive from their fanbase is quite unlike anything else in the scene. The closest comparison, is the worship of Brand New and Jesse Lacey by their respective fans-it’s almost a veneration.

For a band like this, with such a devoted fanbase, no introduction is necessary, and the band begin with the rather subdued ’No Closer to Heaven’-a number from their excellent album of the same name. It’s a poignant moment, and is further evidence of the esteem that this band is held by their fans.

Following this, the band break out the more swashbuckling numbers; playing ‘Local Man Ruins Everything’, ‘I Don’t Like Who I Was Then’ and ‘Washington Square Park’ with passion and commanding stage presence. Unsurprisingly, this gets the crowd even more excited. The set features a healthy smattering of old and new tracks from across the bands four full-length records. Old favourites like ‘My Last Semester’ sound just as at home as new offerings ‘Cigarettes and Saints’ and ‘Cardinals’. The band make full use of three guitarists; bringing added texture to the set. The use of a second drummer only adds to the quality of ‘Cigarettes and Saints’ , and hammers home the message-both emotionally and literally.

The hits come thick and fast, with very little audience interaction between songs- another trait shared with Brand New and Jesse Lacey. The only time frontman Dan Campbell directly addresses the audience is prior to the final track, ‘Came Out Swinging’, where Campbell thanks the crowd for their attendance, and to request their participation in one final sing-along. For lesser bands this would seem aloof and egotistical, for The Wonder Years, it just feels right.

As the final power chords of ‘’Swinging’ ring out throughout the venue, the show comes to a heartfelt, and satisfying end.

If there’s anything to take away from tonight-apart from what a great live act The Wonder Years are, and that PUP can handle their liquor-it’s that the scene is in very rude health. With veterans The Wonder Years, and the upstarts in support, the future of pop-punk and emo is very bright indeed.