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Concert Review: Bowling For Soup Take Baltimore Soundstage By Storm!

“I swear, I did not eat the singer of Bowling for Soup”. This is the quote that pretty much sums up the night of April 4th, 2017 … and I mean that in the GREATEST WAY POSSIBLE! I’ve been a Bowling For Soup fan for as long as I can remember. While they reached their peak popularity in the late 90s/early 2000s, BFS has been steady releasing albums since 1994. They just released their latest album, the crowdfunded ‘Drunk Dynasty,’ on October 7th of last year. I can honestly say they’ve continued to put out catchy pop punk tunes record after record. “Pop punk” is a term used loosely here because even that term has become a label for modern “easy core” bands with little to no punk influence. It’s a travesty that these guys do not get the recognition that bands like Green Day or Blink 182 get; two bands that abandoned their original sound to appeal to the masses. Alright, I’m off my “get off my lawn” high horse. Let’s talk about the show!

Doors opened at 6 and after a lengthy meeting after school I found myself leaving the Shore of the Eastern around 4:30. I picked up my buddy Manny from his place of employment and we were on our way. Making great time, “Maps” projected us at pulling up as the doors opened. Ritchie Highway, my least favorite road of all time, had other plans for us. We sat in a 2 mile back up for 30-45 minutes. We didn’t understand! Most of the time Ritchie Highway is stop and go traffic to begin with; what kind of rear ending requires multiple fire engines, ambulances, and police cars. When we pulled forward we saw the damage. A tractor trailer completely flipped over with a pickup truck practically embedded into the bottom of it. Needless to say, we decided to drive with extreme caution from that point forward. We reached Soundstage around 6:45, grabbed my photo pass, and were off to the races. The first band up is one I’m very familiar with: Stacked Like Pancakes.

For anyone who read my Reel Big Fish “Turn the Radio Off” show review you would know that I really wasn’t a big fan of these guys. I can’t stress to you how wrong I was. I don’t know if I was just tired last show or grumpy, but these guys put on a hell of a show! The Baltimore natives, with the only horn section of the night, had the entire crowd “skanking” up and down the venue. As much as these guys “didn’t appeal to me” the first time around, I went right home and downloaded multiple albums of theirs off of iTunes after the show. I’m man enough to admit that when I’m wrong, I’m wrong. They were fantastic, and I still find myself humming the tune of “SFDD” this morning. Thankfully I’m only humming it … singing it could get me fired.

Next up was the band that sealed the deal for me and the main reason I decided to come out to this show, DIRECT HIT! These guys have been dropping fast-paced punk tracks since 2008, and I’ve been a huge fan of theirs since their 2010 split 7” with one of my all-time favorite bands, Mixtapes (RIP). Their 2013 concept album, ‘Brainless God,’ was one of my top 5 albums of that year, and their newest album, ‘Wasted Mind,’ is their first release on legendary punk label, Fat Wreck Chords. They’ve gone through so many different incarnations over the past 7 years but they haven’t missed a beat. I can truly say that these guys did not disappoint.  Led by founding member and vocalist Nick Woods, these guys left it all on the stage, treating every song like it was their last. Kicking off their set, they played a couple songs from their newest album before delving into a track off of their upcoming “Domesplitter” reissue, a collection of tracks from their earliest EPs. I think the only complaint I could have is that their set wasn’t longer, ranging only around 8 songs. This is understandable, but when they were finished … I WANTED MORE! There’s nothing else to say about these guys, except that if they come to your town — GO!

The next group up was the only band I wasn’t familiar with, Runaway Kids. I had listened to only one song of theirs, “Better Days,” on the way to the show and I was pretty psyched to hear some unfamiliar tunes. I think it’s fair to say that they were definitely the most aggressive/heavy band of the night. Their sound blends pure punk with the modern hardcore sound in a way that fits perfectly.

Vocalist, Gage Armstrong, commanded the stage in an almost intimidating fashion. They had the crowd in the palm of their hand. The entire band’s stage presence demanded the audience’s attention. Guitarist: Sean Chamilian, bassist: Korey Keeton, and drummer: RJ Shankle put everything into each intricate part of every song. I was a bit disappointed to reach the merch table to find they only have one 5 song EP. These guys are the next big thing in the scene, I have no doubt!

Alright, it’s time for the main event of the evening! The moment everyone has been waiting for! Bowling for Soup! The opening music kicked on and out they came. “Do not worry. I swear I didn’t eat the singer of Bowling for Soup!” yelled Jaret Reddick, well aware of his weight gain since the early days. It was at this moment where I knew we were in for a good time.

I had seen BFS before on Warped Tour a few years ago, but only got to catch the end of their set. Tonight I got the whole enchilada. I don’t think people realize how many hits they actually have. Besides the song off of the new album, which I picked up at the show, I knew every single track played. As did everyone in the crowd. It was a show full of singalongs, jokes, and the occasional satanic worship. These guys know how to have fun. Their self-deprecating humor really makes you appreciate the work they’ve put in as a band for over 20 years. The set kicked off with my personal favorite “My Hometown”, a song that I’ve always felt highlights Jaret’s unappreciated vocals. He really is a fantastic frontman, the best frontman alive if you were to ask him… and I’d be hard pressed not to agree. These guys killed it, from beginning to end; no other words to describe it.

It was a fantastic night from beginning to end. Each band appealed to the crowd while still providing their own unique sound. It was a fantastic mesh of punk, pop punk, and even a tiny tinge of hardcore. There are only four dates left on the tour but be on the look-out for each of these bands because none of them are slowing down any time soon!