Tales from the Tour: The Wonder Years

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, April 27th, 2016 at 10:45 PM
Tales from the Tour: The Wonder Years by Kimberly Firestine

Everyone likes the music they do for a reason. Whether it’s because they just like to dance, or because they were raised on a certain genre, or it reminds them of a fond memory — the possibilities are endless.

The bands that I listen to now, I do because they write music about things that I’m currently going through or recovering from. They generally cover the entire spectrum of my inner thoughts in a way that nothing I could ever say or write does.

This is especially the case with The Wonder Years. The sixpiece band of Philadelphia suburb natives is often heralded as king of the current pop-punk scene.

The first time I saw The Wonder Years was on the Vans Warped Tour in 2013. I remember watching their set, but I hadn’t listened to them much at all, so I wasn’t really into it. A few months later, at Riot Fest in Chicago, I saw them again. I had listened to their music a little bit more before that, but I really only knew their most popular songs. My friend Megs and I walked across Humboldt Park to catch their set while waiting for Bayside to take the stage on the other side of the festival.

I distinctly remember during their last song, crowdfavorite “Came Out Swinging,” singer Dan “Soupy” Campbell decided to climb a nearby tree. He dropped his microphone and jumped off of the stage, scaled the tree and let the crowd take control. That was really the selling point for me: to see a frontman so willing to be part of the crowd and take a chance to let them steal the show. I watched and listened as everyone finished the song for him, then he jumped out of the tree to crowd surf and was pushed back to the stage.

The next time I saw The Wonder Years was on their tour for their album “The Greatest Generation.” By this time, I had fallen in love pretty deeply with the band’s music. “The Greatest Generation” resonated with me in a way that no album I’d ever listened to had. Touching on topics like missing your family while you’re away, hardships your family faced growing up, battling your inner demons and so on — they all were things that I related to strongly: things that I never talked to anyone about because I was embarrassed, but now had the means to do so through music.

Following that tour, I saw The Wonder Years on the Acoustic Holiday Party tour with Vinnie Caruana and Young Statues and once again at Warped Tour. I then had the privilege to travel to Philadelphia in February 2015 to see them perform each of their full-length albums in their entirety for three nights at Union Transfer, thanks to the generosity of my friend Megs, who bought the tickets for me.

The first night, they played their first full-length album “The Upsides,” along with some deep cuts from previous EP releases. It was at this show where I met people from Nova Scotia, Atlanta and one of my closest friends, Jude.

The second night, they played their album “Suburbia: I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing,” also followed by more songs off of previous releases that rarely see the light of day. My friend Emmy — who graciously let me stay at her off-campus apartment near Drexel University — got to come to the show that night as well. While “The Upsides” is my favorite album out of the three they were playing, getting to hear “Suburbia” played from front to back was a lot of fun.

The final night, my friend Brittany joined me to see “The Greatest Generation” played in its entirety. I walked the short distance to get Brittany at the bus stop and then we spent the morning wandering around Drexel’s campus for food and to kill some time.

For each show that weekend, the openers were never announced. We both had our suspicions that a band called Modern Baseball — who we both are avid fans of — was going to make an appearance at some point. It was fitting they were one of the openers at the show we both were there for. When doors opened and Modern Baseball took the stage, all hell broke loose.

The crowds had not been too rowdy all weekend, but it was as if Modern Baseball had flipped a switch in everyone. I’m sure it was mostly because they are also from the area, but also because they’re a great band and a lot of fun to watch perform.

When The Wonder Years took the stage for that final show of the weekend, all I could do was stand and take in the set. I had seen this album performed in its entirety on their tour for The Greatest Generation and all I wanted to do was take it in.

Before they played their last song — a previous release called “You’re Not Salinger, Get Over It” — Soupy climbed down from the stage and on top of the barricade directly in front of me. He addressed the crowd, saying that he wanted to end the weekend like they started as a band: playing floor shows. That was when Soupy told the crowd to back up from the barricade and he climbed over it. The song started and suddenly he was lost in the sea of kids pushing and shoving, trying to get close to him and trying to keep themselves on their feet. It was rough, but made the experience even better and reminded me of their Riot Fest performance and the moment that I fell in love with their music.

I’ve seen The Wonder Years perform quite a few times since then and I know that I will never get sick of them.

Kimberly Firestine is a Senior Staff Writer for The Spectator.

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