Music News Reviews

Around the World and Back: State Champs at Baltimore Soundstage

There was no mistaking that when I arrived at Baltimore Soundstage on Sunday, May 7th, I was completely out of my element. I walked up sporting my Brandon Carlisle (RIP) Teenage Bottlerocket t-shirt and felt completely judged by the countless high school children that lined the outside of the venue. This was a fantastic feeling…I was looking forward to this! Now, those that know me know that I’m a huge advocate for “TRUE POP PUNK”. This includes bands like Masked Intruder, Chixdiggit, Mixtapes, Teenage Bottlerocket, etc. These bands all have punk influence, which is what the entire basis around the pop punk genre began as and should be. Pop punk was formed around the idea of a band playing fast paced punk music while having a vocalist that can actually carry a tune. Early releases from bands like Blink-182 and Green Day helped to bring this genre to the mainstream audience. Sadly, more recent bands have lost this punk influence and have moved towards an “easy core” sound. The fans worry more about how attractive the band actually is versus how they truly sound. Don’t get me wrong, this is nothing new. All genres have those people who worry more about the fashion and looks of the bands rather than the tunes. I guess I should hop off of my soap box.

I came across State Champs a few years ago when trying to force myself into the “new pop punk” crowd. I mean come on, the kids dig it, and I should too, right? I honestly wasn’t a fan, but I blame this on being a curmudgeon “back in my day” kind of dude. Flash forward to last year as I went to see A Day to Remember (for probably the 5th or so time) with Champs as the opener. I’ve always been a fan of ADTR. I, of course, prefer the heavier releases from their first album And Their Name Was Treason, but I enjoy all of their stuff. However, I was not looking forward to State Champs opening. I was pleasantly surprised. These guys killed and once I let my guard down I couldn’t help but rock out to every track played. I went home, grabbed all of their tunes, and became much more familiar with these guys. I then attempted to listen to other bands in the “easy core” genre but none of them grabbed me quite like these guys. When I found out they were coming back to Baltimore I knew that I had to cover it.

As I entered the venue it was pretty much the same scene as outside. Many, many high school kids with parents who were just confused to be out this late on a Sunday night. I made my way to the photo pit and waited for the first act to begin. The first band to play were an English pop rock act named Don Broco. I made sure to listen to each of the bands earlier in the day to prepare myself for my coming experience and I couldn’t quite put a finger on these guys. Their look fits in with the rest of the “modern pop punk” bands but these dudes have an electronic sound that is like no other. Rob Damiani’s vocals stand out above even the most known singers of the scene, almost Bowie like. Stand out track was the group’s newest single “Pretty”. Don Broco leads us through a provocative landscape that only they can provide. I mean these guys definitely had me interested and I’m curious to see where they go next.

The next act up on the stage were Australia’s With Confidence, wow we’re really covering all parts of the world tonight, huh? These guys were 100% what was expected by a band at this show. That’s not a bad thing, the crowd went nuts! It was an extremely attractive group of fellows playing melodic pop “punk”. They aren’t a band that I would personally listen to all of the time but it was great to see their fans have a great time. They’re definitely good at what they do. They had the crowd in the palm of their hands and wouldn’t let up. At one point singer, Jayden Seeley asked if the audience had seen them at Warped Tour the year prior and the place lit up! It made me smile because that is what that tour is all about. Even as a purist I understand that the crowds and tastes change. Good on them for building up an audience through playing music that people enjoy. Great show.

The following act was definitely the most “pop” of the night. Against the Current is a pop rock act out of Poughkeepsie, New York. While each song played did lean more towards the clean, poppy side they did delve into different genres throughout the night. Vocalist Chrissy Costanza definitely had the most stage presence of anyone the entire night; the entire stage, her victim, as she tore it up from left to right. My only issue with this band as that they seemed to have skipped the grittier beginnings that similar bands like Paramore, We Are the In Crowd, or Tonight Alive. They’ve gone straight to the more clean pop sounds of these bands later releases. This is all fine and dandy, it’s the music that they want to play, just not for me. They are fantastic at what they do.

The grand finale of the night was Albany, New York’s State Champs. Fronted by singer Derek DiScanio, these guys are the forerunners of the “pop-punk revival”. In knowing that they gave birth to something that has overshadowed the music I truly love I should outright hate them. That just simply isn’t the case. These guys are amazing. Each track is catchy, has meaning, and will be stuck in your head for hours. Plus, they’re hockey fans, can’t beat that! They kicked off their set with one of my personal favorites “Remedy”. The photo pit turned into a battleground as all of the photographers were attempting to get shots while hundreds of fans were crowd surfing over the barricade. It was a madhouse…it was great! No doubt that these guys are a great time and should be checked out by all walks of life. Give them a listen. They just released the deluxe edition of their newest album Around the World and Back on May 5th.

It was a great night. Most definitely wasn’t my scene but everyone had a fantastic time. I recommend giving each of these bands a chance and keep an open mind. The tour stops in Philly tonight before heading to NY for a couple of hometown shows, one of which is already sold out. If you guys get a chance, go check each of these bands out.