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State Champs bring “Living Proof” of Pop-Punk Perfection to Burnsville

Albany-based band returns to The Garage

Derek DiScanio of State Champs 9/25/18 at the garage burnsville Minnesota
Derek DiScanio of State Champs - By Katie Ahrens

It’s been four years since the Albany-based pop-punkers in State Champs have played The Garage in Burnsville, Minnesota. They returned this time to kick off a short headlining tour with support from Homesafe and Keep Flying.

Since their last visit to The Garage in 2014, the guys have dropped two new albums, traveled “around the world and back,” and even closed out the final Vans Warped Tour on the main stage over the summer. They’ve definitely been busy!

 

Luck in the Local Scene

Shortly before this small tour kicked off, State Champs announced that they were inviting local bands to apply as potential openers for them. When I heard this news, I low-key wanted to reach out to The Millenium to tell them to give it a go, and high-key didn’t end up having to, because they were chosen anyway. (Score!)

I haven’t seen The Millenium play since 2014, but despite the time that has passed since then, they still stood out to me as locals who deserved that chance to open up for one of my favorite bands.

They certainly did not disappoint, and from what I could see, they still clung tightly to the same velocity and verve that caught my attention four years prior.

I absolutely adore watching Matt Hasenmueller as a frontman. You can tell he’s lost in the music and enjoying himself by the way he joyfully dances around on stage, all the while remaining very aware of what’s happening in the audience.

Matt Hasenmueller the millennium 9/25/18 at the garage burnsville Minnesota
Matt Hasenmueller of The Millennium – By Katie Ahrens

In an exceptionally intimate and exciting moment, he pointed back at a young man in the crowd who was belting out the lyrics. Hasenmueller then made sure to get in close on the thrilled fan’s camera while continuing to sing to him, to ensure he would go home with a memorable video capturing the moment.

If you enjoy solid alternative pop rock and an abundance of positive vibes, then The Millenium is a group that you’d regret sleeping on!

The guys will be returning to The Garage on November 19th in support of The Wrecks.

Don’t miss it!

 

Outlandish? Outstanding.

I didn’t do any research on Keep Flying before the show, however, that ended up working out in my favor. If my first exposure to them would have been a casual Spotify stream, I wouldn’t have been near as authentically excited about them.

They started off in a huddle, six guys on a tiny stage. I could feel the rush of confusion spreading throughout the room. Suddenly, we were hit with a fervent burst of what I’ve deemed as “chaotic charisma.”

To put things in perspective: there was a saxophone, a trombone, a ska-punk/semi-hardcore energy, and to top it all off, those light up shutter shades that your local scene kids tried to popularize back in 2010.

John James Ryan Jr Keep Flying 9/25/18 at the garage burnsville Minnesota
John James Ryan Jr. of Keep Flying – By Katie Ahrens

Absolutely ridiculous? Maybe. But ultimately, undeniably effective.

Keep Flying did not have to convince anyone they were enjoying themselves, as the playful way they interacted with one another was highly telling of that. I loved the signals they’d send to induce genuine laughter from their bandmates.

I don’t know where they got their name or what it means, but it’s beyond fitting since they did indeed keep flying all over the stage, leaving no ground uncovered throughout their performance.

I’m not convinced that anyone in the crowd knew any of the words to Keep Flying’s songs, but that didn’t seem to matter, as everyone was beaming with excitement while enjoying something interesting and new.

Moments after their set ended and they left the stage, one of the younger fans in the front row turned around and yelled, “I don’t know what the f*ck that was, but it was awesome!”

Honestly, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

Winning without the Home Advantage

The Illinois-based band, Homesafe, played next. Before the screen had even been fully raised to reveal the group on stage, someone in the crowd called out, “Is that Knuckle Puck?” Which if you didn’t know, was in reference to frontman Ryan Rumchaks also being the bassist in another band.

Overdone and rude? A little. I’m all about artists being able to be exactly that, artists. If creativity spreads to multiple platforms, all a fan has to gain is exposure to more art.

Besides, no one called out asking if Speak Low If You Speak Love was taking the stage during the State Champs set. But, I digress.

Ryan Rumchaks homesafe 9/25/18 at the garage burnsville Minnesota
Ryan Rumchaks of Homesafe – By Katie Ahrens

Homesafe was at somewhat of a disadvantage when it came to the lineup since their sound is slightly more of a mellow grunge punk. Though they weren’t lacking in energy, things felt slower in comparison to Keep Flying and the show as a whole lost momentum.

I’ll admit, it was hard to calm down and focus on them since my brain was still sorting through what I had experienced in the previous act. That’s not to say that they weren’t enjoyable, just that they would have been more enjoyable under different circumstances.

I wasn’t able to dwell on the slight change of pace for too long, since about a ten seconds into Homesafe’s song “Guts” I almost lost all of mine as an overzealous stage diver began running towards the pit.

Before I knew it, it was the apology scene in Mean Girls where Gretchen Weiners falls into the group of women that at the last moment, parts like the Red Sea. I was Karen Smith.

Oof. But hey, it comes with the genre. And who doesn’t love a little bit of roughing around in the pit anyway? As it turns out, her swift dive into the crowd was exactly what was needed in order to once more spark enthusiasm among concertgoers.

I brushed myself off, checked my camera for damage, and got right back in it. It was great to see circle pits starting to open up in the center of the venue, and more people starting to sing along and pick things back up again.

Something unique that we as fans got to experience was the playthrough of “Suits and Ties,” on the same day as its official music video release. The song talks about corrupt politicians and government policies, so dropping this video on the same day as voter registration was a strong move. (Go Vote!)

Despite taking an immediate hit from hecklers, having to reinvent the energy style occupying the space, and some technical difficulties with one of their guitars, Homesafe brought a vivid zest to their performance.

Filled with encaptivating purple hues, continuous strobe-light effects, and fantastic harmonies, as the voices of Ryan Rumchaks and Tyler Albertson blend extremely well, Homesafe was a resilient and great success during their time on stage.

I’ve been meaning to check them out more thoroughly after they were recommended to me by a friend, and now after seeing them live, I’m more than convinced.

I look forward to seeing these guys in the future, until then, be sure to check out their newest album, One.

 

Return of the Champs

tyler szalkowski of state champs 9/25/18 at the garage burnsville Minnesota
Photo of Tyler Szalkowski of State Champs by @_braydenmills on Instagram

After Homesafe wrapped up their set, the audience became much more restless, stirring about the room, eager for the headliners to take the stage.

When I first heard that State Champs was going to be playing at The Garage I was half expecting my neck to be broken .02 seconds into their opening song.

Think about it, a band that people go absolutely nuts for, in a venue that isn’t all that much bigger than my apartment, could only end in a trip to the emergency room.

Though everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves throughout the night, the start of the State Champs set, in particular, brought a clear shift in energy and provided a unique feeling of solidarity among eager fans, as they called out together in anticipation.

To my knowledge, no one broke any bones, but everyone definitely broke loose.

State Champs 9/25/18 at the garage burnsville Minnesota
State Champs – By Katie Ahrens

State Champs took the stage promptly at nine and without hesitation, kicked into Dead and Gone, the first single released from their newest album, Living Proof.

This song got a lot of immediate attention, as it was seen as somewhat of a “transformative” piece. (Meaning, this was the first time they were freely dropping several f-bombs, *gasp*). “Risque” or not, it made for an extremely strong opener and started things off right.

I didn’t really know what to expect as far as a setlist for this show, since it is separate from the rumored 2019 tour, promoting the release of Living Proof. But with favorites selected from across all three full-length albums, I was beyond content with the end result.

One of the obvious highlights of the night was getting to hear Hard To Please, the third track off of their debut full-length album, The Finer Things. This song is an absolute gem, and I’m honestly surprised that it doesn’t make it onto their setlists more often.

What I’ve always loved about this band how upbeat and energetic they are, which is something that reflects in both recorded and live performances, and remains constant throughout their shows.

Between Tony Diaz headbanging and dancing, Tyler Szalkowski strumming the melodies we adore, Evan Ambrosio hitting you with a quick two-step, Ryan Scott Grahm spinning in circles and projecting his smile out to all, and Derek DiScanio trying to kick the ceiling, it is non-stop energy from these guys, and the fans return the favor effortlessly.

Tuesday night’s performance was no exception, as everyone jumped, crowd surfed, danced, and sang as if their synchronized reaction had all been rehearsed to perfection.

Derek DiScanio of State Champs 9/25/18 at the garage burnsville Minnesota
Derek DiScanio of State Champs shares an intimate moment with fans – By Katie Ahrens

They continued to play one upbeat jam after another, covering anything from Simple Existence to Crystal Ball. The energy didn’t die down until the encore, where, after the band had left the room for several moments, DiScanio came out on stage alone holding an acoustic guitar.

Immediately fans started crying as he began strumming the opening chords to If I’m Lucky, their staple slow song. Maybe I’m jaded because I’ve seen them perform live so many times, but I’d love to see a change up in this part of the show from them in the future.

I’ve always thought that Leave You In The Dark deserved more recognition, and more recently had hope that Our Time To Go could transform into the song that took up this space in the setlist, (which could still happen once the Living Proof tour is in full force).

One thing I will say is that regardless of the song choice, DiScanio’s ability to shift seamlessly from growly and aggressive vocals to tender acoustics is something that makes him stand out in the pop punk genre. He has one of the most distinct and best sounds in the scene, no question.

Once eyes were dried and the rest of the band had rushed back out on stage, the night ended with classic pop-punk necessity, Elevated, followed by the more recently added closer and undeniable favorite, Secrets.

Derek DiScanio of state champs 9/25/18 at the garage burnsville Minnesota
Derek DiScanio of State Champs helps a crowd-surfing fan to the stage – By Katie Ahrens

The most redeeming quality about State Champs is how accessible they are; which in relation to their sound might not seem important, but in relation to their ability to grow and maintain meaningful relationships with a fan base, it is far more advanced than many other bands in the scene.

In alignment with this, most of the guys came out to chat with fans after the show, giving hugs, taking pictures, and making sure to spend sufficient time with each person. It was very relaxed and casual, and I appreciated the intimacy of it all.

State Champs are kind and humble, and they care about their fans and their well-being. This is something that was made evident in a conversation that drummer, Evan Ambrosio, and I had after the show, where he expressed his concern for the large number of older stage-divers that were continuously jumping into a younger crowd.

Its always so refreshing when a band that you care about, demonstrates that they care about their fanbase just as much. And its even cooler when they are personable and can talk to you about authentic things that matter, instead of a seemingly shallow and rehearsed conversation about whether or not you enjoyed the show.

It’s genuine interactions with the members of State Champs along with their ability to put on high-energy, addictingly enjoyable shows just as this one, that keeps fans traveling great distances to see them and always craving and coming back for more.

Whether you’re looking for a new band give your undying support to, high-quality video shorts from guys who don’t take themselves too seriously (see, Shot Boys), or electric pop-punk rhythms that will make you want to two-step and angry point for no good reason, you’ve come to the right place.

At the end of the night as I was catching up with bassist, Ryan Scott Graham, I told him to expect a concert recap from me in the near future.

His response was simple and straightforward; “Make it a rave review”.

Check. ✅

 

Be sure to check out Living Proof here and to brush up on the words to your favorite songs in time for their (hopeful) return to Minnesota early next year!

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