PUP returned to Cincinnati. Thank F*cking God, the name of their tour exclaims. Rightfully so.
When last these young Canadian upstarts graced the stage of Bogarts, we were almost a full year away from the start of the pandemic - which I think is incredibly important as it provides a tangible frame of reference of time and place, and lends itself to the buzzing, excited energy of Sunday night’s proceedings. The world was still very much chaotic - 2019 wasn’t an easy year for anyone. So when I talked to vocalist Stefan Babock in May of 2019, that was a lot of what we discussed. Who knew how weird, bad, and exhausting it was yet to get…
To make music, to tour, and to play to crowds like Sunday night’s is a privilege, and one that every band on the bill acknowledged and played for. It was a thrilling experience from start to finish.
Starting the evening off in celebration of the release of their latest, Nothing’s Ever Fine via Polyvinyl Records, and fresh off their tour with Pedro the Lion, Oceanator was, quite simply, one of the best opening acts I’ve seen on any show in my 25 years of concert going. Led by mult-instrumentalist Elise Okusami, the band tore through a set of emotion-drive indie rock rife with infectious guitar lines, earnest lyricism, and - maybe my favorite thing - so many smiles. This is a band clicking in every way, and having a damn good time doing what they’re doing. What a way to kick it all off - I can’t wait for them to come back through.
After some technical difficulties, Angel Du$t - a group comprised of members of Trapped Under Ice and Turnstile, and the biggest surprise of the night, if I’m being honest - made their way through one of the strangest sets I’ve witnessed in quite a while. Having no prior knowledge of what they were bringing to the tour sound-wise was certainly a factor, but the dad cap, sunglasses, highwaters, and, well, every aspect of what they looked like didn’t really prepare me for what they do. Post-punk? Aggressive indie rock? Garage rock with some hardcore punk rock thrown in? No idea. But, by the end of their set, I was glad to have seen them and appreciated the weird energy they played with between Oceanator and PUP.
“Celebratory” was the vibe as soon as the stage was cleared and the four members of PUP bounced out. While the tour itself is in support of their latest, The Unraveling of PUPTHEBAND, I was surprised and appreciative of how much they attention they paid to their first 3 albums and EP. If a band like PUP has “hits,” they played them, but every song they played elicited excited yowls and some of the absolute biggest, loudest singalongs I’ve heard in a long, long time. The crowd was young, and rowdy, but the love and support for each other, and the band, was obvious throughout. A special shout out to the dudes next to me who were just as excited for all the kids who were crowd surfing as they were for the band. It made me smile all night.
Some other highlights:
Grace was an amazing stage manager.
Stefan really did nail that “Hotel California” solo and Steve did his best not to show him up.
Cincinnati’s a “Steve Town,” and that seemed only fitting as his fiance’s dad was watching from one of the VIP boxes. I hope Gary had as good a time as the rest of us and enjoyed the “Hotel California” solo.
No encore. They just played. For like an hour and 10 minutes straight. Damn.
If the nice young person who asked me about taking photos is reading this, I hope you had a great time and enjoyed the show as much as I did!
“Morbid Stuff” is such a ridiculously good song. I’m glad I got to hear that one live.
Also shout out to the Bogarts security folks - y’all did good, and I especially appreciate that you were handing out water and making sure everyone was hanging in. Bravo.
My sincere thanks to all the bands for an outstanding, frenzied, and most importantly, fun night of music. As I mentioned above, it’s a privilege for bands to get to do this, and for us - the fans - to get to, as well. Much like PUP, that’s not something I’ll ever take for granted. So if you’re reading this and the tour is coming to your town - just go. It’ll be good for the soul.