The last time that Canadian punk outfit PUP were on Australian shores, they were touring as support for The Smith Street Band. It’s a kind of beautiful irony that they’re back, headlining a sold-out tour, supported by Aussie indie-punk darlings Camp Cope (who have a very intertwined history with The Smith Street Band themselves). We caught their global tour, ‘If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will’, at The Rev, where the packed, humid room was razed by an incendiary, punk-rock set.
I have a friend who has seen Camp Cope ten times, this year alone. Ten. She knows their set-list off by heart and still heads to every show she can wrangle – I now understand the rationale to the borderline stalking. Georgia Maq’s raw vocal energy and candid lyrics, telling stories of love, society, heartbreak, feminism, matched the trio’s emanation of girl power, in their definitive ‘fuck you’ kind of way.
As soon as the opening chords of “Done” rang out across the crowd, the room immediately was a safe space – you know people are going to respect each other when Camp Cope play. The girls are austere advocates of girls to the front, with their recent campaign of #ittakesone gaining momentum throughout the Australian music community.
The set was pensive, emotionally charged, and carried us between well known tracks, and a sneak peak of what’s to come; a new song ‘about rejecting society’s expectations of what beauty is’. We were left with a piece of wisdom from the girl-idol trio, ‘don’t let anyone ever tell you that leggings aren’t pants’, before they rounded off the set with “Lost: Season One”, (and melted my heart even more).
PUP’s energy was present before they even took to the stage, with the crowd jostling in anticipation of the cacophony that was to come. Within seconds of starting, it was a room of people screaming along, moshing their hearts out, and crowd surfers flying overhead. PUP’s propulsive energy, all guitars with catchy rhythms, heavy breakdowns, subtle solos and rollicking bass are carried by Stefan Babcock’s heated, honest lyrics.
Even though the mosh was a slew of thrashing bodies, and the crowd were falling over themselves in excitement (and avoidance of crowd surfers), the entire room was filled with positive energy. Which seems nonsensical – surely punk this good should be inciting rage? Or maybe the rage is channelled into enthusiasm; someone who has been through relatable experiences is there, sharing their experiences with the world? Take “Guilt Trip”, for example – heartfelt lyrics, and the audience had arms around pals, beers slipping from sweaty palms, screams without repercussion, and a whole lot of emotion. Every song was matched with the crowd throwing back as much energy as the band delivered – which is no small feat.
The boys caused mild controversy with claims that a shoey was ‘a waste of good Coopers green’, but all was forgiven when Stefan leapt off stage whilst playing closing track “Reservoir”. Though they were pouring sweat, the band showed their love as they were roused back to the stage, and treated us to two more songs, including a guitar solo that knocked lead guitarist Steve Sladkowski to his back. One encore song was a Weezer cover. Yep. These dudes are legends.
Though they’re in the middle of a 100-day world tour, PUP still tore up The Rev, and provided one of the best punk shows I’ve caught this year. This is the first time that they have headlined shows outside North America, and it’s safe to say that it won’t be their last.
Image of PUP in Sydney by Bruce Baker.