On Saturday, November 15th, I had the immense pleasure of seeing one of my most prized recent music discoveries – TO punk-rockers PUP – play a highly anticipated, sold out show at one of the best venues in the city – Lee’s Palace. With it’s high stage, sunken dance floor (read “mosh pit paradise”) jet black décor, and charmingly grungy ambiance, I knew this show had the potential to be one of the best live shows of the year – and friends, it did not disappoint.
I had first heard of PUP (an acronym that supposedly derives from lead singer Stefan Babcok’s mom telling him that he and his friends/band mates were a Pathetic Use of Potential) when they were called Topanga. However, besides a slight (ok, a level somewhere above ‘slight’) erotic nostalgia from my Boy Meets World days, I really can’t say I gave them much of a listen.
It wasn’t until a year or so later, when I heard their anthemic song “Lionheart” on the radio that I started to really pay attention. Reminiscent of Pennywise’s frat boy ballad “Bro Hymn”, PUP’s music made you feel like you were at a high school party with all of your best friends, drinking your own weight in beer and yelling the words to all the songs your generation grew up on – rife with unspoken sentimental meaning and getting better every time you listened to them. I bought the full self-titled album shortly thereafter and have since funneled their keg-party-punk rock into the thirsty ears of all my friends.
Before the show, I met up with some friends and started to have a few casual cocktails, but as it usually does, anticipation and excitement got the best of me and I arrived to the show with a (more than) respectable buzz… what can I say, PUP really brings it out in me. After filling my fleshy five-finger cup holders with a couple of Labatt 50’s, I made my way to the front-right of the stage and settled in for the show, amongst throngs of 20-somethings, wearing anxious smiles from ear-to-ear – they too knew what was to come.
True to their party-hard personas, PUP warmed up the crowd with Danny Brown’s “Smokin & Drinkin” over the PA’s (an homage to their fondness for the hip-hop) before they took the stage to an eruption of raised fists, deafening howls and a sinister mist that slowly filled the entire room: Game Time.
They opened their set with “Guilt Trip”, an in-your-face ode to young love gone wrong and from the first chord the crowd was like the 6th man in a basketball game, adding unseen force to their teams performance through good vibes and raucous noise. PUP then powered through the next hour playing all 10 songs off of their Full Length (except, to my dismay, ‘Cul-de-sac’), while soaking the stage in sweat and talking to the audience between every song as if we were all just pals hanging out listening to music in the basement.
The show culminated with a cover of the Beastie Boys’ hit “Sabotage” – which was apparently the cue for everyone in the crowd to get on stage and fire themselves head first into the crowd, while security helplessly looked on in stunned (and jealous) disbelief. I restrained myself… barely.
When all was said and done, I left the show beyond impressed, completely fulfilled and incredibly proud that I was from the same city PUP called home. They are unabashedly aware that they are just four hard-working dudes from Toronto that are quite quickly being thrown into the lime light by loyal fans who truly want to see them do well and a live show that can rival anyone in the industry. If you get the chance, do yourself a favour and introduce yourself to PUP… here’s a warm intro:
‘Reservoir’ – Live @ Lee’s Palace
‘Lionheart’ – Official Video