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Real Friends - O2 Institute, Birmingham 20.10.2019

Pop-Punk has seen more than just its glory days, after a decade’s worth of hiding the once underground subculture that peaked at its 90’s mainstream breakthrough has now undergone a renaissance of revival with 2013 new age Pop-Punk bands fighting on the frontline for its revival, bringing a facelift for the ideologies and sound of Pop-Punk.

One band who’d fought on the battlegrounds of change for Pop-Punk’s revival since 2011 is that of Real Friends, who heavily lean into the Emo motherhood of Pop-Punk that made the lyricisms in their 2013 ‘Put Yourself Back Together’ an iconic staple in Pop-Punk/Emo history.

Now their latest offering 'Composure' sets aside the band as more than your average Emo band, with their live performances holding a testament to the talents and changes that Real Friends have undergone in those careers defining years since 2013. Their latest performance in Birmingham, with support from Belmont and Grayscale shows audiences that Pop-Punk isn’t dead, its just begun to change in more unpredictable ways.

Belmont opened with an ecstatic display of upbeat Pop-Punk jams, comforted by a humble collective of members who made their best efforts to get the audience on their feet. Their performance brought reminders of what’s beloved about the new wave of Pop-Punk, with band’s like WSTR, Stand Atlantic, and Hot Milk, seeping from the underground scene into the mainstream spotlight with their original takes that are both catchy and sonically inspiring. Belmont share this trait, bringing a refreshing sound to Pop-Punk that isn’t too “overdone” and performs well live, as most of the audience were on their feet for the second song.

Another example of band’s breaking the glass ceiling for predictability with their unique talents are that of Grayscale, who followed through with a phenomenal performance. Grayscale broke down the doors of genre with their latest album 'Nella Vita', that defy limitations of Pop-Punk, and similar to their live performances, they push boundaries of excitement with front man Collin Walsh pouncing across the stage like a bolt of energy.

The band’s refreshing sound and unique flare made them a beloved winner of the audience who sang along to every word and in typical Pop-Punk style and flooded the stage with an encore of crowd surfers. In the years of seeing Grayscale, I’ve come accustom to their effortless stage presence and lively personas, but this performance was an unexpected twist of the band testing new waters for their new sound that translated a powerful, unfounded confidence within their performance.

In the final triumph of the night Real Friends invaded the stage with a flush of chaotically enthralling energy, front man Dan Lambton brought such heaps of energy that I thought he might explode.

Their crazy onstage personalities were on par with crowd insanity. Bouncing around like the Pikachu of Pop-Punk, Lambton claimed every last inch of that stage as he electrified the songs making it almost necessary for crowd surfers to start flooding in. The band made a cohesive effort to be nothing but outstanding, though Lambton had such a bold personality it didn’t overshadow the rest of the band who ripping guitar licks and drum solos like clockwork.

Real Friends shows hold a really thick, raw energy that’s weighted down even further by the emotional lyricisms from the band. With a set list favorable to their fan favourite hits like ‘I’ve Given Up On You’ and ‘Mess’, two songs notable for their depressing/self-hating lyricisms, the atmosphere was essentially emotional rollercoaster. At high points, songs like their opening ‘Get By’ kicked into a lively atmosphere that called for all kinds of crowd insanities- I’m pretty sure at one point two guys crowd surfing on top of one another. But their deeper points hit with their more emotional songs that, because of their nature, already strike a nerve with fans which only translates into an emotional power ballad of tears and passion amongst audience members that could be felt across the room.

Without sounding like a pretentious 2015 hipster, Real Friends is a “state of mind.” When I think of what makes a band like them so special I go back to the nostalgia of the 2014-2016 Pop-Punk revival that saw some of their best works ‘Maybe This Place Is The Same And We’re Just Changing’ and ‘The Home Inside My Head.’ Their live performances are no different, raking in a crowd of eager Pop-Punk fans who all share the same beloved passion for the band. You feel at home with a Real Friends show, there’s no pretense from the band and no false efforts from the crowd. It’s essentially a perfect show, especially the crowd atmosphere.

Put simply, Real Friends shows are happy-sad shows for okay but also not okay people. The band put out their best efforts and overall it was a phenomenal set that reminded me why I love Pop-Punk as much as I do.

Photos & Review - Yasmine Summan

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