The Wonder Years and Mayday Parade seem like a slightly strange pairing for a co-headline tour. Although from the same world, they occupy different spaces within punk and pop punk music. Over the past few years, The Wonder Years have steadily been moving away from the positive leaning pop punk they originally came up playing alongside contemporaries like Man Overboard and The Story So Far. More recent albums have seen The Wonder Years broadening their horizon and arguably following a similar musical path to Brand New (apologies for the unfortunate reference). Mayday Parade, on the other hand, are something of a poppier and cheesier version of Taking Back Sunday. To see these two bands headlining a tour together at this stage of their careers, is therefore something of a surprise.
This past Saturday The Wonder Years and Mayday Parade played The Troxy in East London, a step up for both bands in terms of venue size for a London headlining show. Along on this tour were also opening acts pronoun and Movements.
Given doors open at 6pm, pronoun have an earlier set time than they perhaps might have chosen. When they take the stage, the room is not yet half full. This is however to be expected for a band playing first on a four-band bill, and at least the front floor is more or less covered. Alyse Vellturo is the sole official member of pronoun, she takes the stage with her backing band in what look like mechanic jumpsuits. The atmosphere in the room suggests that not many of the crowd are familiar with Alyse and her music, and she seems humbled that some of the crowd have made the effort to catch the early set. Their second song ‘A Million Other Things’ (from the 2017’s EP ‘Use Passport To Choose A New Location’) is a great driving pop song in a major key that is reminiscent of The 1975. Much of the set continues in a similar vein and it makes for an enjoyable listen. The songs feel more indie-pop rather than punk, the guitars aren’t too heavy and there isn’t a palm muted verse in sight. By the second half of the set, the venue is beginning to look busier and pronoun have the attention of all who are there. The set finishes with two songs from the upcoming full-length ‘I’ll Show You Stronger’ (out in May). Whilst both songs are strong, the prominent backing track is somewhat distracting and takes away any energy the songs might have otherwise had live.
Next up are Caliifornia’s Movements. The room is filling more by the time they take the stage and jump straight into the opener which is textbook emo-tinged post-hardcore with driving palm-muting guitars. The four-piece look the part in their long-sleeved streetwear t shirts and chinos. One thing that iss immediately noticeable about their live sound is the significant amount of reverb on the vocals, this could have been dialed back somewhat. It’s obvious from the start that a lot of the crowd are here to see this band as a moshpit breaks out fairly quickly. The songs, however, feel like they’re missing the big choruses that would make the set a lot more entertaining. The band are also very static on stage, but one could argue that is often the style for many of these modern post-hardcore pop punk bands. Despite their lack of stage presence,some of the audience begin crowd-surfing a few songs in. It is difficult to share the enthusiasm of the fans at the front of the room, as Movements subject the crowd constantly to Nirvana-esque riffs and predictably dull choruses.
By 8pm, it was time for the first of tonight’s co-headliners. The Wonder Years take the stage and burst into the title track of last year’s ‘Sister Cities’. There is an abundance of energy with this opener and most of the crowd are singing along. The venue however, does not look particularly full, perhaps this due to the fact that 8pm is a comparatively early slot for a headliner. The band then jumps straight into ‘Local Man Ruins Everything’ which sounds huge with the three guitars on stage and the Troxy is singing every word. The Wonder Years are not afraid of a bit of pogo-jumping (and rightly so) as they get the room jumping for ‘Dismantling Summer’ from 2013’s ‘The Greatest Generation’. This song also showcases the impressive harmonies the band are capable of, which appear to be more prominent with guitarist Matt Brasch seeming to add more vocals than he has done previously. ‘Raining In Kyoto’ is a strong song from their most recent record, and they execute this well with lead singer Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell grabbing a drum stick and hitting an extra crash cymbal. They continue mixing songs from their last three records well with the crowd enjoying them all equally. One problem with The Wonder Years, however, is how seriously they take themselves. Whilst of course it is a good thing to believe in your art, the pretentious tendencies of this band can sometimes feel a little bit uncomfortable. The more recent slow rock songs, whilst mostly well-written, feel like they are by band that ‘thinks’ they are writing a masterpiece. Also, Soupy’s interaction with the crowd sometimes feels cringe-worthy, he constantly speaks in a theatrical over-emotive voice that makes one think “just talk normally dammit!”. Soupy also takes a moment to say that the band are ‘bruised’ by being on tour and doing press. It’s understandable that tour can be grueling and hard work, but this sentiment feels slightly crass given they are co-headlining a big tour which is likely to not be paid poorly.
Despite these hang-ups, the Wonder Years remain engaging. They throw the crowd off guard by playing old classic ‘Don’t Let Me Cave In’ at what feels like twice the normal pace. It cannot be denied how many good songs they have written over the past few years as the room explodes for ‘Passing Through A Screen Door’ and ‘Cardinals’ reminds us how strong its chorus is. They finish up a primarily impressive set with fan favourite ‘Came Out Swinging’ which is delivered with lots of energy and is great fun, even though the lyrics feel a bit stale and dated eight years after its release.
Florida’s Mayday Parade have a had a steady career since their first EP in 2006. They have played increasingly bigger and bigger venues each time they have visited the UK, and the Troxy seems like a good step after they headlined The Forum in Kentish Town 18 months ago. Their sound of emo pop rock, whilst cheesy, is both charming and catchy if one accepts them for what they are. Tonight they open with ‘Never Sure’ from their 2018 album ‘Sunnyland’. This is a solid pop song with an excellent middle 8, but the crowd is yet to be grabbed in the same way they were instantly by The Wonder Years’ set. It’s when Mayday go into ‘Jersey’ from their 2007 album ‘A Lesson In Romantics’ that the audience really gets excited. The singalong this ignites is arguably more intense than anything The Wonder Years inspired. They continue the first half of the set by mostly interweaving songs from ‘Sunnyland’ and ‘A Lesson In Romantics’, this works well as the latter is their most popular album. Songs like ‘Black Cat’ are irresistible to those familiar with ‘A Lesson In Romantics’ and ‘Piece Of Your Heart’ was a well received single last year.
Before going into their biggest song ‘Jamie All Over’, Mayday Parade treat the crowd to a medley of songs by the likes of New Found Glory and Taking Back Sunday. They then follow with their cover of Gotye’s ‘Someone That I Used To Know’ and several songs from their self titled album, all of which are received enthusiastically by the crowd. The band leaves the stage before returning for their encore song ‘I’d Hate To Be You When People Find Out What This Song Is About’ to the delight of the audience.
Mayday Parade are a strange beast. To the eye, they seem to be stuck in 2009 with their long hair and ultra-skinny jeans (singer Derek Sanders looks overly-comfortable in bare feet!). They have music that can dismissed as ‘sappy’, but yet there is something wholly appealing about them and many of their songs. Whilst they may never reach the heights of some of their contemporaries, there is no reason why they cannot continue to build upon their rising career.
The Wonder Years seem set on continuing developing their musical sound and message. They have a huge, loyal following that will no doubt embrace whatever direction they take their band in the coming years. After watching their set, however, it is hard not to ignore the overheard sentiments of one American fan commenting midset “I get that they are an important band for this scene, but their shows can be annoying with the singer going on like he’s fucking Axel Rose”.