There’s a zillion things you could be doing in Philadelphia on a hot September night, like dipping in a fountain or filling your stomach with a monster of a cheesesteak, yet, 2000 people decided to make their way to a converted factory in the outskirts of the city; the famous Franklin Music Hall.
Accompanied by the Californian punks Illuminati Hotties and the legendary AJJ, PUP kicked off their big Falls Apart tour in the city of brotherly love, where they were also happening to be playing their biggest Philly show to date. Appearing with an improved stage setup, including a crazy cool light show, Pup are one of those bands who still make you think “woah”, even after seeing them several times, because that’s what they just are: “woah.”
This year is all about ‘Morbid Stuff’, Pup’s latest album, they’ve been relentlessly defending on stage since its release early in 2019. An album that might sound jolly and uplifting, yet goes deep in the dark alleys of the human mind. It is actually morbid. Singer and lyricist Stefan Babcock explores in several numbers the in and outs of feeling miserable and living existential crises and that’s probably what caught the attention of many, many listeners, new and old. It’s relatable in many ways and it’s put out simply: finally someone understands! Confirmed, when decibels increase as the whole room shouts «Used to say, “Don’t quit your day job” / Well guess what, I never had one! » (iconic)
There’s also a sense of brutal truth, honesty and transparency that Pup never seem to let go of, just like when Stefan explains on stage that Sleep in The Heat is always an uplifting moment in the set because it’s about his pet « and she’s dead.»
Pup probably write their music for themselves first and foremost, but art is meant to be shared and if anyone can find help in it, then they’re all for it. The Torontonians are one of those bands who make music with a purpose and they also use it as a tool to reach out to people who need help, those who are marginalised or whose issues are ignored. This is why you’re very likely to cross paths with a local charity at the merch booth at pretty much any Pup show you’ll attend. From Toronto to Milan, Pup aim to use their platform to help and give back to the community and in Philly, they put forward Bread and Roses‘s work, fighting for social justice.
Songs follow up, with many fan favorites such as Back Against The Wall and its infamous «ooh ooh ohooos» or Mabu, which seems to have made the night for so many of the listeners around me, early on daring the performance. New songs such as Free At Last («Just cause you’re sad again / It doesn’t mean you’re special at all» always works) even feel like they’ve been around forever. For a little over an hour, Pup unveiled both their softer and heavier sides, peaking when Babcock lets off the steam and jumps in the crowd, shouting in the mic during the heavy Full Blown Meltdown, once again proving « Morbid Stuff »’s efficiency on stage. Mid-set, Pup also tempered things with a cover of the greatest bands out there, The Weatherkans.
And what is a Pup show nowadays if it doesn’t finish in apotheosis with the magnificent sequence of If This Tour doesn’t Kill You into DVP? Everyone goes nuts and all sweat at this point – Or was it when they pulled out the grand Reservoir? But what is even more palpable is the smile that is put on all these kids’ faces. A good night you tell me?
No matter where they go or how popular they are becoming, it’s worth noticing how grounded the group is and has always been. Steve Sladowski keeps defending his basketball wherever he goes, even though rumor has it, it makes everyone else embarrassed in the band. But most importantly they remember where they come from. For this tour, they have invited AJJ to share with them the stage, a band with a long history of making music and touring, that Babcock refers to as role models in their career, whose songs they have covered many times: « AJJ has shaped us entirely as a band and we ripped them off so many times. » he said.
It’s funny because later that night, someone who had just figured I was from Europe assumed that this must have been a small show for me. I don’t know where they got this idea from, but this was actually a big darn show for me and that’s when I figured that people in North America probably think that bands who make it overseas must be big to make that move there. Spoiler alert: they’re not. Not all of them at least. I’ve seen Pup many times at festivals and headline shows back home, which were all excellent and tons of fun, however, they all happened in small, sweaty clubs; nothing to see with the Franklin Music Hall. At all.
Punk is still very small and kind of a “niche” in France and in many places Europe. We are lucky enough to still be able to live and feel the intimacy and the sense of community within this genre in sweatboxes. Sometimes, we all discuss how bands like Pup deserve to be way bigger over here, but then again, would it still be the same feel, that we love about punk – our home, in big popular venues, barricades and such? Well, I was surprised enough to realize that looking back, there’s not a single second I felt at a BIG show that night in Philadelphia, and boy it was a big one! Pup always manage to recreate this atmosphere, whether they’re playing to 100 or 2500 people. The relationship they’ve built with their audience keeps growing stronger. This is where their power resides and the reason Pup are going to be big.
Pup are bringing this tour to Europe in November, so be prepared for the Falls Apart Tour, Chapter II.