“We’ll never stop making music that we love and means something to us.” This was probably the most compelling conversational-line Joe Taylor shared with the audience for the start of the group’s U.S. and European tour last Thursday, March 8th. After a lively set of 17-curated tracks, the band left the stage with a hungry crowd asking for more. Luckily enough, they returned for one more song, “Twist,” the second track off of the group’s newest release, Shapeshifter.
If there’s one thing this group has done, they’ve left a powerful statement that “pop punk still [lives] after 2009.” And I’ll be quite honest with you; this band isn’t just pop punk. They have a variety of aspects in their sound – chill creating melodies, dual guitar precision, non-stop energy, but most importantly they have true rock roots. In the grand scheme, this doesn’t matter – it’s more so my perception and listening ear of the group (which as of late, has been daily).
Since the release of Shapeshifter this past October, I’ve managed to catch these five great musicians on three different occasions: Riot Fest, The Metro and now, Durty Nellie’s. The remarkable feat for this group is their ability to improve exponentially, every time. It’s not five guys on stage trying to keep up with each other and figure out leads, intros, and improvisation – this group knows each other so well, eye contact is an afterthought. Knuckle Puck’s members know each move, each sound and most importantly their audience.
Let's think about this for a second: how well does the audience know what the band is singing about? After looking at the setlist from the evening, you’ve got 18 songs which glide across Shapeshifter, Copacetic, While I Stay Secluded, and The Weight You Buried. As guitarist Kevin Maida puts it, “we would like people who listen to our band to delve deeper and figure out what we’re trying to say.” If there’s one thing I’ve lacked thus far with this group, it’s this very suggestion from Maida. Do I think the audience is as dedicated to the lyrical value and integrity? Perhaps – but it’s something that many concert-goers today tend to lack – the work, the sweat, the headaches, the stories which craft these pieces of music which we all grow to love so much.
After performances by Jetty Bones, Hot Mulligan, Free Throw and Boston Manor, Knuckle Puck arrived on stage, smiles blazing on their faces, with colored screens ready, amps on and a full backdrop from their recent album, Shapeshifter. The audience was as prepared as ever, and the first strum of the guitar to open with “Double Helix” ignited everyone in an instant charge forward to the stage. The energy was electric and contagious from wall-to-wall. If anything was more apparent than that energy, it was the delight in the eyes of Joe Taylor (lead vocal), Kevin Maida (lead guitar), John Siorek (drums, percussion), Nick Cassanto (rhythm guitar and backup vocal) and Ryan Rumchaks (bass). It was the start of a new and exciting 2018 tour, with spring right around the corner and most importantly kicking it off in their home state, Illinois. They aren’t “nervous passengers,” but instead commanders of their destiny ahead.