On Wednesday night, the Canopy Club was treated to a hell of a show from Toronto-based punk outfit PUP. Joining them was fellow Canadian band The OBGMs, as well as Brooklyn-based group Palehound (currently signed to Polyvinyl). I came into this show with only the slightest familiarity of these three bands. I knew a few songs from PUP and Palehound, but knew basically nothing about The OBGMs. Unfortunately, I arrived at the show after The OBGMs had started and only caught the last two songs.
That being said, it seemed like I missed a great set. The group, much like PUP, plays loud, fast, in-your-face punk. In the last song, the band had the crowd chanting along with them “OBGMs,” as the group jumped around the stage and got the audience riled up. If they had that much energy for their last song, I can only imagine what the beginning of the set was like.
For only hearing one song from the group, I was intrigued and followed them on Spotify. I was also surprised to find out that their 2020 album The Ends was a shortlisted finalist for the 2021 Polaris Music Prize. So that’s pretty dang cool.
Next up on the bill was Polyvinyl’s own Palehound. I was probably the most familiar with this group out of all of the bands — I’d heard some of their music, and was familiar with lead singer Ellen Kempner’s other band Bachelor (a collaboration with Jay Som).
Palehound is an indie rock trio out of Brooklyn, and after playing a few songs, Kempner took a moment to mention everyone on tour being so kind. She mentioned that on the first show of tour (Urbana was the second show of tour) she was feeling down on herself during the set, but in the crowd a lone Jugalette was shouting at her telling her how amazing she was doing. It was a very sweet, comedic moment and a nice interlude between songs. She also took a moment to shoutout Polyvinyl and how the label has been nothing but amazing to the band, making them feel like family.
Playing in front of an ever-changing LED backdrop of nature scenes, the group powered through roughly 40 minutes of music, which flowed between softer songs and more upbeat punk songs. It felt very well curated, the softer songs giving us a bit of breathing room after a harder song. The group sounded amazing, and I’ll be keeping up with them for sure.
Pretty quickly after Palehound finished, PUP took the stage. The group was greeted by thunderous applause and screaming before going into the song “Four Chords” off of their newest album The Unraveling of PUPtheBand. The track starts with a soft piano before bursting into a wall of sound — a great preview of what was to come.
The band played on, ripping through songs with incredible power. Jumping around the stage, playing guitar behind their heads, and getting the crowd to chant along while the mosh pit formed during the first song. After the second song, someone in the crowd mentioned it was their birthday, so vocalist Stefan Babcock took a photo with the audience member while the rest of the band played a version of “Happy Birthday.”
They played a few more songs until a guitarist’s worst nightmare happened to lead guitarist Steve Sladkowski — his pedalboard power supply went out. Maybe not worst nightmare, but it still sucks, and unfortunately Sladkowski had to troubleshoot with the help of crew members. Babcock and the rest of the band carried on as a three piece while the pedalboard was being fixed, playing old songs that the group hadn’t played in years.
Eventually the pedals were back up and running, and the group carried on as if nothing happened. PUP makes the kind of music that you blast in your bedroom, screaming and letting out anger and frustration, but damn, does it feel good. The music is angsty and relatable and even the songs I didn’t know, I wanted to be screaming along with the crowd to them.
They did play my favorite song of theirs, “Sleep in the Heat,” a song written by Babcock about losing his pet chameleon. It’s such specific writing, but written in such a relatable way —of getting so attached to something or someone (or in this case a pet) and having that massive hole in your life when they pass away. Sometimes all you can do after that is just scream along to some loud punk music and crowdsurf — at least until security stops you. That’s what the show felt like, we were all just screaming our troubles and angers away.
Speaking of security and the crew, PUP gave a shoutout to The Canopy Club and the staff and crew, their touring crew, the opening bands, basically everyone involved. I applaud them for taking time to recognize the behind the scenes folks that make everything run smoothly, as they’re often overlooked. Especially now during these weird COVID times. It takes a lot to put on a show, so maybe thank the venue crew next time you go to a show.
Long story short, despite having only the slightest familiarity with these groups, they put on an incredible night of music. Every band sounded so tight, like absolute pros. I look forward to seeing The OBGMs gain some more traction, and will certainly be on the lookout for more shows from Palehound and PUP. Even for the non-punk fans, there’s a lot to admire about these groups and you’ll no doubt be blown away if you get to see them live.