On Sunday night, Toronto‘s PUP played a scorching set at a sold-out Fine Line, affirming their status as one of the world’s best young punk bands and giving the audience a dose of all there is to love about rock shows in the process.
There are people in this world who will tell you rock is dead. Whether they say it peaked at Woodstock, with Nirvana, or at some other point, these detractors have existed for generations, many claiming to have witnessed the high point of the genre themselves while lamenting the perceived lack of “real rock music” being made today.
While it’s a narrative some subscribe to, it ignores the important fact that there are great rock bands of all shapes and sizes out there to this day. Punk rock, prog rock, country rock, and nearly any sub-genre you can think of have thriving bands and scenes that continue to amaze both diehard and casual fans alike. Though the genre may not have as towering a presence in the commercial mainstream as it once did, there’s no shortage of high-quality rock being made today.
2019 has been a big year for PUP. Though their previous album, 2016’s strong The Dream is Over, did well by many metrics, their latest, Morbid Stuff, has arguably managed to top it.
Critics and fans adore the record, and the band is playing (and selling out) bigger venues than on any of their previous tours. Their momentum is palpable and well deserved, which made Sunday’s show all the more exciting.
Hype alone, however, doesn’t make a good rock show. No, that is left up to the band, their songs, the audience, and the venue. On this night, all would contribute to PUP’s excellent set.
Though PUP only has three albums to date, all are solid, and each played an important role in the show, with appearances from 2013’s self-titled debut (“Reservoir” was great) and many highlights from Morbid Stuff and The Dream is Over.
In a true testament to the strength of the records and their resonance, seemingly every fan in the sold-out Fine Line knew the words to every song. The energy in the room, even by punk standards, was unparalleled in my recent experience.
Though PUP’s lyrics and themes are oftentimes dark (as their album titles would suggest), the melodies to the songs are memorable, and much of the night had a cathartic feel.
The fans treated the songs as the anthems they are, and the band fed off their energy from beginning to end. This was especially true on the closing pair of songs. The two opening tracks on The Dream is Over, “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” and “DVP” are fan favorites and two of their best. Their inclusion in the set was a given but hearing them in sequence at the end of the show capped the night off with a bang, taking the already fervent crowd to another level.
The show had everything you could ask for out of a rock show, in large part because PUP has everything you could ask for out of a rock band. While “rock is dead” arguments are usually ridiculous, it’s always good to remind yourself as a fan why you love it so much in the first place. Hearing these songs in this setting was a treat and a feeling that everyone involved will hold on to for the foreseeable future.