I found it odd that when PUP announced a string of West Coast shows for September, they originally skipped Los Angeles, instead performing at the High And Low Festival in San Bernardino. Sorry, but San Bernardino is not an adequate substitute for Los Angeles.
Luckily the band announced a show in Los Angeles proper, just a few days before it was supposed to take place, at new venue called the Moroccan Lounge in downtown. Perfect! (Later on the band would announce that tickets sold out in thirteen minutes which was the fastest that one of their shows had ever sold out).
On September 19, 2017 Side One Dummy Records “took over” LA. The same night PUP played the Moroccan Lounge, the band’s labelmates Chris Farren and The Smith Street Band were playing the Hi-Hat. I was definitely faced with an interesting problem. I wasn’t going to miss PUP though.
The show started off kind of slow. Local band Dimber opened, and they were not all that impressive to say the least. They came off as insecure, and they didn’t have a very good stage presence. They played about a half-hour of generic melodic pop punk songs including “Dogs” and “Sons And Daughters” which weren’t bad, but they came off as a bit amateurish. This issue really can only be fixed with more experience, so the vibe of the set was totally understandable.
Then, the cringe of the night happened. Their lead vocalist and guitarist introduced the cover song that they played as “the theme song to one of the most anti-corporate movies” ever — “Three Small Words” from the 2001 film Josie and the Pussycats.
Now, there were a few possibilities in my mind as to why a band would play such a song a punk rock show. Was it to be ironic? Maybe. Was it to troll the audience? If so, bravo! You got me. Was it just a joke? Perhaps, but if it was a joke, it didn’t land well. Was it genuine? I hope not.
On a rare occasion the line up at a punk show will include a comedian. I think it happened at one other show that I went to about three years ago. This PUP show was one of those rare occasions. The comedian’s name was Dave Ross.
I’m not really an expert on comedy, but he was funny and the crowd seemed to really enjoy his act. In fifteen minutes, he managed tell a wide range of jokes from politics to high school to the Food Network. Once Dave finished, he introduced PUP and that was when the utter madness began.
Not only did PUP announce how fast the tickets sold out, but they also mentioned that this was the first public show at the Moroccan Lounge since it opened as well as the band’s last show of their tour. So, PUP’s performance was one hell of an inauguration and conclusion.
PUP spared no time and jumped right into their set. They started out with “Doubts” and then “My Life Is Over And I Couldn’t Be Happier” from their 2016 (and most recent) album, The Dream Is Over. Just as “Doubts” began, someone immediately sprayed beer all over everyone. After, the band performed some older tracks from their 2014 self-titled record such as “Back Against The Wall,” the mighty “Guilt Trip,” “Dark Days” and “Mabu.” At this point, the windowless room was easily twenty degrees hotter than it was outside. The audience was a sweaty mass swaying like a wave pool from all of the pushing, shoving and climbing on top of each other. Braver audience members were extremely comfortable running onto the barricade-less stage and dove onto the crowd — a move which happened pretty consistently throughout the hour-long set.
That wasn’t the extent of the crowd surfing, however. Lead vocalist and guitarist, Stephan Babcock, took off his guitar during one of their more hard-hitting tunes called “Old Wounds” and crowd surfed to the soundboard at the opposite side of the venue and back — all while still singing into the mic. It was pretty incredible. Soon after PUP calmed things down a little bit with “The Coast” and then they brought the energy right back up with their riff-driven, mega-anthem “Reservoir.”
Towards the end of their set, PUP was very candid with crowd. They said that they are not fans of encores. So instead they told the audience that they would play two more songs instead walking of stage only to come back a couple of minutes later. Fine by me! I still couldn’t get enough at that point.
PUP ended the show the best way that they could have and that was by playing “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” and then immediately following it up with “DVP” — exactly the way their album, The Dream Is Over, begins.
I am a seasoned PUP fan. I saw them on their first North American tour at The Milk Bar in San Francisco in 2014, just as their first record was released in the US. I reviewed it for another publication and couldn’t get enough. That summer I saw them open for The Menzingers at The Roxy in Hollywood and then I saw them headline at The Echo in Echo Park in late 2015. Remarkably, PUP’s live show gets better and better every time I see them and this show at the Moroccan Lounge (a very cool, little venue) was no exception.