Arguably the best part of Halloween is dressing in costume as somebody new. Apparently, Mom Jeans and Just Friends put on their rock star costumes about a year ago and haven’t taken them off since. These bands from California, along with Retirement Party and Awakebutstillinbed, put on the Halloween celebration of a lifetime at Union Transfer and transcended the labels of DIY music to become true rockstars.
Entering the third month of a tour supporting their newly released albums, you would expect Mom Jeans and Just Friends to have little left in the tank. Both released their albums early in the summer and have been on the road ever since. However, they seemingly have boundless energy and charisma to give back to their loving audience, which has grown significantly over the last few years.
This show was originally slated to take place at the First Unitarian Church, a classic DIY venue in Philadelphia. The last few times I had seen Mom Jeans, they had performed at Everybody Hits, a DIY music space held at public batting cages in East Philadelphia. Less than one year later, they had a show move to Union Transfer due to what the promoter called an “overwhelming demand” for tickets. Union Transfer is one of the best and largest venues in Philadelphia that is not a stadium.
The show began with two wonderful openers, Retirement Party and Awakebutstillinbed. Both are on tour supporting their own records that were released this year, and both played wonderfully entertaining sets with loads of energy. Highlights included the witty songwriting of Avery Springer for Retirement Party and the extremely emotional breakdowns during Awakebutstillinbed’s beautiful set.
The room absolutely exploded when Just Friends took the stage. The proud Bay Area residents took the stage dressed in matching Golden State Warriors gear and immediately got the room bouncing with their unique blend of rap-rock, ska and funk. The tandem duo of Sam Kless and Brianda Leon lead the group vocally and absolutely had the crowd in the palm of their hands. Kless in particular got the crowd jumping, moshing, dancing and even lying on the floor throughout the set. Highlights included the title track “Nothing but Love” from their 2018 record, which began mysteriously and built to an epic climax, and their arguable biggest hit “Welcome Mats,” which saw members of the band’s crew stage diving, chanting and singing along to the absolutely epic chorus.
Just Friends is one of the most unique and compelling stories coming out of rock music today, and they are as taken aback as I am at just how much their fan-base has grown. They mentioned that the last time they were in Philadelphia, they played for around 50 people. This multiplied by almost 20 times in less than a year. I would highly recommend seeking their music and live show out as soon as you can.
Most people were spent by the end of Just Friends, but realized there was still one more epic set to come when the house lights did not come up. Mom Jeans quickly took the stage, dressed in normal clothes with each member sporting fantastically accurate juggalo face paint. Mom Jeans has been taking the emo scene by storm over the past several years, with their 2016 record “Best Buds” skyrocketing the group to DIY fame.
They were just as thankful as the rest of the bands at the absolute size and commitment of the crowd. Lead singer Eric Butler almost did not need a microphone, as it seemed like the whole crowd knew every word to every song. Mom Jeans exploded on the strength of their musicianship and relatable lyrics, and the reception from the fans definitely proved their reliability. People did not just know the words, they sang like they felt the pain and emotion that Butler put in their songs. Highlights included the chorus of “Death Cup,” which saw their friends from Just Friends spraying the crowd with water as they screamed the words along with Butler, and the finale of “Scott Pilgrim v. My GPA,” which honestly gave me chills, and truly needs to be seen to be believed.
In general, the headlining duo of Just Friends and Mom Jeans was one of the biggest and most impactful shows I have been to a long time. It featured two wonderful up-and-coming openers, some of the best crowd participation I have ever seen and a wonderfully emotional vibe throughout the show. These bands are some of the most positive and supportive people in the music scene right now and they deserve every piece of success they have had.