Hundreds of flannel-clad college students filed into Union Transfer Oct. 4 to see Massachusetts-based punk rock band Four Year Strong. After releasing their self-titled album this past June, the band has embarked on a North American tour. Their music balances on a very thin line between pop punk and hardcore punk, but their fan base is definitely derived from the latter.
When I heard that Four Year Strong was coming to Philadelphia, I was interested but apprehensive. I fell off the bandwagon after the release of their fourth album, “In Some Way, Shape or Form,” which marked a major departure from their signature sound. When I looked up their newest release, “Four Year Strong,” I was pleasantly surprised with how much it sounded like their older material. In an interview with Kerrang! magazine, lead singer Dan O’Connor described the album as “One of the most raw records we’ve ever made, it’s just us playing. No fancy computer shit. Made for singing along and head-banging.” And they certainly delivered.
Elder Brother, a side project of Kevin Geyer (The Story So Far) and Dan Rose (Daybreaker), was the first band to open. I didn’t know where Dan Rose was, because the performance just consisted of Kevin Geyer perched upon a stool, playing a short set with only his electric guitar. Nevertheless, his performance was very enjoyable, largely due to the fantastic acoustics of Union Transfer. Following his performance was Philadelphia’s very own Superheaven, who really brought the energy up. The deafening volume of the band’s performance set the bar and got the audience ready for the following acts. As loud and intense as Superheaven were, nothing could have prepared me for the next band.
Defeater, a melodic hardcore band from Boston, held nothing back as they took over the stage and plowed through 11 songs, screaming each line more passionately than the last. The most jarring part of this experience for me was the crowd’s reaction to this band.
During their first song, an intimidatingly large fan marched to the center of the crowd pushing people aside. At first I was sure he was trying to start a fight, but then I realized he was making a large open circle. Immediately, excited fans ran into the dance circle, flailing their limbs and jumping around frantically. I’m sure I must have stuck out like a sore thumb among all of the adoring fans who screamed along to every word while thrashing about. The general atmosphere during Defeater’s set struck me as very “Fight Club”-esque. The violent nature of the set was characterized not only by the angsty music and erratic dancing but also by fans climbing over each other onto the stage, and then diving back into the audience.
When the lights finally went down for Four Year Strong, a single man stumbled onto the stage in a zebra-striped leotard and a scary clown mask. The main speakers played the audio from an iconic scene of Stephen King’s “It,” while this man walked around—or rather, crawled around—acting out the parts of both Georgie and Pennywise the Clown on stage. As the final lines were delivered (“when you’re down here, with me… You’ll float too!”), the band emerged onto the stage and opened with a song off their new album, “We All Float Down Here,” whose title references that very scene. As soon as they started playing, the audience erupted with energy. In some ways, the reaction was similar to that of the Defeater crowd, but instead of a large dance circle, everyone was just moshing and crowd-surfing. The amount of stage-diving during Defeater’s set was nothing compared to Four Year Strong; it seemed like there was a fan jumping off the stage every single time I looked.
It seemed like every song was a fan favorite, and that’s because they all were. On their official website, there is a poll asking what songs they should play on the Fall Tour, which would ensure satisfaction among most fans. The balance between old and new songs was perfect; a little less than half of the songs they played were from the new record.
From a musical standpoint, they were remarkably good. They played all of their songs significantly faster than the album versions, which is pretty impressive considering the speed and complexity of the songs to begin with.
Overall, the concert was pretty rowdy but it was a fun experience. I really liked Union Transfer as a venue because it’s big enough to accommodate a moderately large crowd and yet small enough to maintain the vibe of an intimate concert setting. I would recommend seeing Four Year Strong to anyone who enjoys punk music and doesn’t mind bearded twenty-year-old men jumping on them.