‘Twas a cold and shitty winter’s Friday night. February the 23rd of 2018, and my big grumpy ass was laid up in bed with the plague and subsequently suffering from a FOMO the likes of which you’ve never seen. All hope had been lost until I decided to crack open my Spotify for something gloomy with which to fade into the afterlife with, when suddenly, my spirits were revived. That night was the first time I sucked down the entirety of Lost Touch by Ottawa-based pop punk powerhouses in We Were Sharks like it paid the rent. Alas, this is not an album review, but I did have to wait a year and a fucking half for these dad bod motherfuckers to let me enjoy these banger tunes in a live setting, and this past Thursday, July the 4th, I was able to do just that.
Like any self-respecting pop punk gig, the night started with a plethora of local support crying about how much you broke their hearts and how much they hate this town. Reign the Sky brought a more relaxed yet slightly green attempt at the genre, sporting a whole lot of nerves and a few missteps in their performance, but overall, a lot of potential for growth. A little pitchy on the vocals and a little too standstill visually-speaking, but still an act to pay attention to.
Crown Vic took a near opposite approach, floating more towards the newer age take on pop punk (almost à la Neck Deep, if you will). Where this act brought enthusiasm, and maybe half the room, they sadly lacked, in my opinion, on the execution of their very rehearsed stage antics and banter— not to mention the use of backing vocal tracks and potential guitar layering in such early stages can only come off as overachieving.
Lastly, Taken for Granted felt a little off the deep end entirely. Where this act was most definitely tight in what they brought, it was the product itself that left me a little distraught. Try to picture your buddy’s high school band doing their very best Linkin Park impressions without the nu metal aspects. I’m not saying they’re garbage, but I am saying that the overly angsty stage presence and musicianship all showed a little less than to be desired in terms of creativity and prowess, all of which I’d gladly see growth in.
Valiant efforts are made every day, especially in music, and although a straight drive from Raleigh, NC to Montreal, QC to kick off a tour might not seem heroic by any means, it’s still definitely worth the tip of the hat. Summer Wars can be described in one fashion; Fun. Are they shattering the mold of what we know as pop punk? No, but they’re fucking fun. Are they these mind-bending musicians? Not really, but they’re fucking fun. Did I feel utterly compelled to dump my wallet out on their merch table immediately after their set? Nope, and even though their switch-over time was teetering on ridiculous, I can still say they were a fucking fun. One can never get enough pop punk, and having an act like this around just helps keep a shat-upon scene lively.
We Were Sharks are a band that had me wrapped around their fingers long before this particular performance, before Lost Touch graced the internet, and thus the resonance of setlist opener “Hotel Beds” kicked me in the dick like an angry Bobby Hill. Before this turns into too much of an old man pop punk bukakke with me sitting in the middle, I will say there were some perplexing moments in this performance. Member changes aside, there was a definite air of stage rust lingering, which is always mildly understandable on the first day of a tour. It’s not to say they weren’t tight and it’s not to say that I wasn’t swallowing that shit up, it is to say that I’ve seen them do better. That being said, this is one of the most amazing things about WWS and their tunes is that, subpar performance or not, they somehow manage to transcend any lingering bullshit. These songs rise above to captivate in a fashion I can only describe as pure banger euphoria. You might not like pop punk. Hell, you might not even like rock n’ fuckin’ roll, but you can’t tell me you don’t love a solid groover the only way We Were Sharks knows how. Meandering through the set with ragers and anthems alike in “Stay,” “Ashley,” and finally “Without You,” they brought this evening to a close, with one particularly emotional pundit in desperate need of a few new shirts for addiction’s sake, a face towel, and a stiff fucking drink.
Written by Jason Greenberg
Photography by Marc-Antoine Morin
*edited by Chris Aitkens