Review: Motion City Soundtrack, the Wonder Years Lead Five-Hour Punk-Pop Endurance Test

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A hazy rock club thick with cigarette smoke is the last place anyone would expect a marathon, but Thursday night, Revolution Live was the site of more cardio workouts than any gym in Fort Lauderdale.

A horde of Converse-wearing punks and emo kids descended upon the venue for a five-hour punk-pop endurance test featuring a quartet of bands: opening acts You Blew It! (Florida natives from Orlando), State Champs, and the coheadiners, Motion City Soundtrack and the Wonder Years. Headline acts doubling up and sharing the spotlight on tours together isn't new, but it seems we're in the midst of a trend. South Florida has seen its share of quality two-for-ones over the past year, including Fall Out Boy/Paramore, Marilyn Manson/Smashing Pumpkins, and recently, Yellow Card/New Found Glory.

Even though it was their first visit to Fort Lauderdale, New York-based State Champs were greeted with warm cheers, and a good portion of the crowd knew every note and lyric, a testament that like-minded bands attract like-minded fans, regardless of fame or longevity. During their set, the pit was reserved for only the bravest, happiest, and sweatiest of souls. For the most part, the fans moshing came across like a bunch of tipsy teddy bears (although things got a little rougher once the Wonder Years took the stage; one first-timer injured his hand, but he seemed to be the only casualty).  
With flashing red and white lights signaling the arrival of either Jedi or Sith, Motion City Soundtrack stepped onto the stage to the music from the latest Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer, acknowledging their often nerd-tinged brand of punk-pop. The quintet began with a classic, “Everything Is Alright,” their breakthrough hit from 2005's Commit This to Memory, which celebrated its ten-year anniversary in June. Although the band is touring its latest album, Panic Station, another excellent collection of jubilant and thoughtful songs, plenty of the show was dedicated to their past. Songs such as “When You're Around” and “LG Fuad” sounded as fresh as the day they were first laid down.

Motion City Soundtrack is what happens when intelligent, cartoon-loving, comic book and film geeks pick up instruments and sing catchy punk songs about love, heartbreak, and all the important minutiae of everyday life. At this point in their careers, lead singer/songwriter Justin Pierre and company approach their music from the viewpoints of practical, responsible adults that most of us eventually evolve into. However, they never lose sight of the clever, whimsical, teenage introspection that's always energized their songs. Speaking of which, there were likely plenty of fans at Revolution last night who, a decade ago, were getting escorted to Motion City Soundtrack shows by their parents. Not much has changed in 2015. A few cool mom and dads were onsite, doing their rock 'n' roll parenting duty.After three rousing acts playing the length of one Lord of the Rings film, most people would be exhausted. Not Fort Lauderdale, and not last night. The crowd still had something left in the tank for the Wonder Years, and it was a good thing too, because frontman Dan “Soupy” Campbell was bringing it. From the moment he leaped onstage, clad in a jean jacket and full-on logger beard, Campbell exuded the vitality of a supernova. He worked himself into such a frenzy throughout that every time he paused to address the audience, he was completely winded but showed no signs of slowing down.

As for that audience, about a quarter of them left after Motion City Soundtrack finished its set, which was unfortunate, because the Wonder Years tore through the room with a muscular catharsis. This was the band to rush into the mosh pit for, and a fierce crowd responded in kind to all his calls for dancing, jumping, and singing. They truly became part of the band and its quartet of shredding guitars and four-part harmonies. The Wonder Years are a different band live than they are on record; they’re grittier and more furious, largely thanks to Campbell, who performs every song with the zeal of someone who’s playing his last-ever concert.
The complementary yin-yang dynamic that Motion City Soundtrack and the Wonder Years share, the former offering more charm and bounce on even their saddest songs and the latter taking a darker, heavier approach, was a topic Campbell addressed onstage. He congratulated Motion City Soundtrack on the anniversary of its hit album Commit This to Memory, and paid the band the ultimate compliment by saying, “Without that record, without that band, this band wouldn’t exist.” An homage that fans of both these fans in Florida and beyond can appreciate fully, especially after such a strenuously rad show. 

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