Written by: Jared Burke
Photographed by: Dakota Arsenault
2019 has proven to be a rather eventful year for PUP. On July 21st, the punk rock outfit played the biggest show of their career to a packed audience at RBC’s Echo Beach in Toronto. This highly anticipated homecoming show was in support of the bands third LP entitled “Morbid Stuff”. Chicago Indie-Rock band, Twin Peaks, opened the show.
Having first saw PUP perform at the Danforth Music Hall nearly six years ago when they opened for Hollerado on their So it Goes tour, this was not my first rodeo. I’ve seen them play several times in venues ranging from mid-sized theatre halls and festival grounds, to a secret barn show in Whitby, Ontario. No matter the venue, PUP never fails to exceed my expectations. Seeing PUP play one of Toronto’s biggest stages was both awe inspiring and sentimental.
PUP opened the show with the title track of their new album, Morbid Stuff, followed thereafter with Kids and My Life is Over and I Couldn’t be Happier. While you’d expect familiarity not to be so well established with new songs, the audience clearly couldn’t get enough. The band then launched into Back Against the Wall, their high-energy crowd pleaser from their debut self-titled LP. This was their first time performing the track throughout the entire tour. Each song came off like an anthem, as the hometown crowd belted out every line that came from singer/guitarist Stefan Babcock’s mouth.
One of the distinct pleasures of seeing a band breaking out into the big stages is the enhanced special effects that follow suit. PUP incorporated a large display screen, featuring bright colours and what I’ve been told are original animations illustrated by Babcock himself. Babcock, who is PUP’s primary lyricist, is known for penning lines that lack the typical subtlety or mystique we’ve often come to expect from artists. During tracks, Sleep in the Heat, and Mabu, PUP opted for graphics featuring Babcock’s now deceased lizard and car, as each song is dedicated to their memory respectively.
PUP’s stage presence consisted of a moderate degree of banter. The band offered humble sentiments, describing the tremendous gratitude they have for their hometown fans. Towards the end of their set, lead guitarist Steve Sladkowski embarked on what began as an impassioned plea for his audience to become civically engaged in their communities, as Canadian’s will soon head to the polls for the 2019 federal election.
While his remarks began with noble intentions, his speech devolved into vulgar obscenities, directed at Ontario’s current premier, Doug Ford. While PUP is most certainly entitled to use their earned platform to freely express their views, I found the band’s remarks to be somewhat sanctimonious. Considering the fact that PUP has directly and indirectly received financial support from the federal and provincial governments to aide their career, I could’ve done without the partisan divisiveness.
Notable performances from the show included a cover of Canadian rock band The Weakerthans’ track entitled Plea From a Cat Named Virtue. PUP later welcomed onstage friend and labelmate Jeff Rosenstock to perform his song Hey Allison! Finally, the band wrapped up their set with the singalong, If This Tour Doesn't Kill You, I Will, followed immediately by the raw fan-favourite entitled DVP.
PUP’s Echo Beach performance was downright spectacular. The band brought their infamous blend of infectious hooks combined with their technically accomplished musicianship, to rock the biggest stage of their career (thus far). It only goes up from here!