Gramercy Theater in New York City was overrun by young and energetic bands on April 26, 2012 when Bowling For Soup came to town. These pop/punk rockers brought similar sounding bands to a full house of young (mostly mid-20s) girls with a few boys sprinkled in. It was a fun show full of energy and brought me back to those days of high school, where the lunch was bad but guitars were oh so sweet.
First in the lineup was the Pennsylvania-based band Sandlot Heroes. They performed a great set with a bit more of a mainstream & modern pop sound than their punk-ish counterparts later in the evening. They also had a bit more maturity in their style, look, and songwriting. Unfortunately, their stage presence lacked some flair. Nevertheless, the music stood out and were an enjoyable listen.
Next was Freshman15. This 4-piece band came out with great energy but were trying a bit too hard to come across as a band for the young generation. Their banter in between songs seemed scripted, childish, and was not amusing most of the time. Musically they were very tight and their three-part vocal harmonies were the highlight of the set. The singer struggled hitting high notes at times, but overall they played their hearts out and sounded good doing it.
Patent Pending was the followed with the greatest energy of all the bands. Everyone was jumping around, doing flips, and going absolutely crazy during their set. The singer had a bit of a hoarse voice and was a little low in the mix, but he made up for any technical difficulties by singing with passion and giving 110% to the performance. The band did a bit of a choreographed dance during their second song, which came off extremely gimmicky, but soon returned to doing what they do best: jumping around, rocking out, and making everyone in the crowd follow suit. Their drummer was on fire, providing a great groove and monster energy. One of their guitarists even ran to the balcony and performed behind the sound booth, only driving the crowd even more wild than before. They had an epic end to their set and left everyone in the venue prepped for Bowling For Soup.
The headliner came out to a pumped-up crowd and brought what made them famous in the first place: melodic & catchy vocals, fun stage show, and a good sense of humor. Their stage presence was a bit subdued, but their sound and performance was the best of the night. They had the crowd singing along to their hits such as “Ohio”, “A Friendly Goodbye”, and “Girl All The Bad Guys Want”, just to name a few. A highlight of their set was when they let the Patent Pending boys finish their song “Ohio”, which shows the friendship and the bond these bands developed on the road. They also covered the song “Stacey’s Mom”, which was written by Fountains of Wayne (yet many think Bowling For Soup wrote the song). They even brought up a young guitar player named Elan to join them for theit song “Almost”, showing their gratitude towards their fans. These Texas rockers were not gimmicky or cheesy, but were genuinely funny, talented, and great live.
All in all it was a fun show full of youth, energy, and…well, fun! These bands proved that a mix of light-hearted fun with rock & roll make for a great concert going experience. For those who are young, these bands provide an identity; for those who are older, these bands provide a temporary escape to the days of yesteryear, when times were simpler and cell phones weren’t smart yet.