Feature: The Wonder Years at 10 – Pop Punk, Philly and Me

Already Heard writer and Wonder Years superfan Jack Rogers celebrates the Philadelphia pop punks 10th anniversary. Earlier this month Jack travelled to Philadelphia to pay homage to Soupy and company as they played 3 hometown shows across 3 nights.

“I’m nailing these shards of hope together to put something over my head”

We all have those bands that define us and sit head and shoulders above the rest. The ones who you live your everyday by and those you will defend to the bitter end even if they don’t even know you exist. For many, it’s a band that defines an era in their life. A time when they are most vulnerable and manage to find solace in music, or a time when they were at their peak and need a soundtrack to help represent and celebrate this fact. Over time it has transcended that The Wonder Years are that band for me. Coming onto my radar around the time that I was at my lowest, they were able to show me that things do get better and pain is temporary. They showed me that if you can just make it though the year, then everything would be alright. So last week I travelled to Philadelphia, the band’s hometown, for 3 anniversary shows playing an album a night and celebrating 10 years of their existence and 10 years of their varied, inspiring and excellent back catalogue. It was emotional to say the least.

“I don’t think I love anything the way that some people love Morrissey. It’s just that nothing speak to me that way.”

When you think about it 10 years in terms of the life a band is an absolute age. In just a year a group can record and release two albums, tour the world and burn out in a glorious inferno without even a flicker of indifference or worth. To last 10 long years in the competitive blood thirsty tapestry that is the music industry is nothing to turn your nose up and within that time The Wonder Years have left their own deep indent on the pop punk and alternative scene. From their origins as nothing more than a joke band who played ignorant mosh breakdowns and sang about astronauts, zombies and pirates to the modern day where they have earned their rightful place at the top of the tier when it comes to poignant, inspiring pop punk, theirs is a journey of growth, maturity and never giving in. Where it could have been easier to pack things up, pretend the past didn’t happen and start again, they persevered. They waded through the shit and sludge to come out on top with a following as passionate as the music they make.

“I’m not sad anymore, I’m just tired of this place.”

Pop punk in 2015 is a crowded space. As years have gone by since New Found Glory defined the genre back in the early 00’s, band after band have tried to capture the spirit of what pop punk represents while also hoist it to places that it never thought would be possible. Many have tried and few have succeeded. The Wonder Years have honed in on this craft to create music that is fast, relatable, compelling but also hideously catchy. They have made pop punk into something that can trigger all emotions while still being at its core fun and enjoyable. They have found a successful formula and that success was rewarded in the form of selling 3400 tickets in 10 minutes. It was rewarded with crowd surfers and sing-alongs. It was rewarded with bruises and lost voices. Accomplishments don’t come much bigger.

“Just cause we’re down doesn’t mean we’ve got to stay there.”

The actual anniversary shows were unlike anything I had ever witnessed. Aside from the actual spectacle of the occasion this was ultimately a homecoming and the band on their own turf playing by their own rules. Each night was a mass of shirt tugging sing-alongs, sweat riffled push pits, desperate crowd surfing and plenty of head in hands moments. Playing an album a night opened the floor for fans to demonstrate and express their own reasons for why the band’s music means so much to them. ‘The Upsides’ was for the positive souls and those who came back from the bottom to feeling relatively ok again. ‘Suburbia I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing’ was for the dreamers with the ambition for something more than just what their comfort zone dictates. ‘The Greatest Generation’ resonated with the retrospectives and fans with a story to tell and a lot to prove.

Each night everybody let his or her connections to the band and the music flow through the room. Every word was bleated back and every riff was met with full force aggression and sentiment. Electricity and passion pulsed from the floor and transferred to the stage with vigor and triumph. This wasn’t never set or meant to be just a celebration for fans. This was a night for the band as well to let what they have achieved sink in and applaud themselves. Pop punk showed off it’s true power and hit the peak of it’s ability to bring strangers together as one and in a frost bitten Philly unaware of the magic that was taking place within it.

“This shit’s a bust, but we’ll get stoked on it”.

Though my view may be through rose tinted wayfarers, without a doubt everybody has had a moment where they felt truly alive thanks to music. Be it through a lyric that chilled the blood or a passage where everything seemed to mean a lot more, everybody can relate to what I felt on the 6th, 7th and 8th of February. Though my passion stretched across the Atlantic and seemed wild on paper, perhaps the reason I felt the need to travel 4000 miles, go through lost luggage and cancelled flights, brave East Coast winters and unfamiliar streets and see my favourite band celebrate their anniversary in pulsating, spine tingling and awe inspiring fashion was pretty simple. I needed to say thanks. I needed to show how much they have had an influence on me, both in how I have grown to be the person I am today and in my reactions and acceptance of what life can throw at you. They taught me more than anything that things will always get better and that sadness is just a state of mind. Through their own experiences and obstacles they taught me about the true importance of friendship and of living for the moment. I travelled to Philadelphia in the moment, I would do it all over again and I know thousands more who would do the same.

“We all want to be great men and there’s nothing romantic about it. I just want to know I did all I could with what I was given.”

The Wonder Years links: Website|Facebook|Twitter

Words by Jack Rogers (@JackMRog)

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