Pop-Punk Is Alive And Well- Have Mercy, Boston Manor, Can’t Swim, and A Will Away Prove It


My typical fifteen minute drive into downtown Saint Paul turned into forty-five minutes due to the first “real” snowfall of the year. When I got downtown and to the ramp I typically park in, I realized that they had finally caught onto the fact they were the only ones who weren’t jacking up their pricing for concerts downtown. I’m cheap and I sure as hell wasn’t paying over ten dollars to park my car for a couple of hours so I drove to the other side of downtown and parked in a cheaper lot. My night was shot and I could feel my crabiness taking over as I walked the ten blocks to the venue. I made it inside Amsterdam just in time for the music to start and, within the first note, all of my crabiness fell to the wayside.

The show was opened up by A Will Away from Naugatuck, Connecticut. I was instantly struck by their classic pop-punk sound and the way they made it feel so new. Their lyrical content was exactly what I needed to hear after a week of unexplained anxiety and stress. They sang about real life issues with an infectious amount of energy and love. With upbeat songs and electric energy, A Will Away’s set was the perfect set to kick off the night and, although the crowd was still growing as their were powering through their set, it was as if nobody in the room could take their eyes off the stage. There’s something about this band and, although they were the first of four touring bands last night, I could easily see them headlining a tour sooner rather than later.

Following A Will Away was New Jersey based Can’t Swim. This five piece is a fairly new band having just formed two years ago but it’s clear that they have something that is sure to catch on. Sticking in the vein of the whole nostalgic pop-punk thing, Can’t Swim had a pop-punk sound but a sense of intensity that the audience didn’t get from A Will Away. Singer Chris LoPorto seemed to attack the microphone while still keeping a sense of sensitivity that matched the real life lyrics coming out of his mouth. The band moved around the stage throughout the quick set which caused the quickly growing crowd to finally start getting the blood flowing by moving and jumping around a bit. Just like A Will Away, I hadn’t really heard much of Can’t Swim prior to Friday night’s show but, after seeing them live, my interest has peaked and I can’t wait to sit down with a drink and listen to their debut album from front to back in order to fall in love a little bit deeper with this new band.

Boston Manor was up next and seemed to be a favorite of the crowd. Hailing from England, it was clearly a treat to be able to see a band like this in such an intimate space and the audience was obviously going to take advantage of every second of it. It seemed as if the music of the night was getting more and more intense with every single band making the choice in line-up absolutely perfect. Boston Manor exploded onto the stage and their intense energy never faltered throughout their forty-five minute set. Singer Henry Cox pushed the crowd to move around and get sweaty a bit and the crowd easily obliged. With a couple of stage divers here and a crowd surfer there, the modest crowd that had formed was getting into it and for good reason.

Just like the other bands of the night, Boston Manor’s sound had a nostalgic pop-punk feeling while still feeling new and modern. The lyrics, much like everyone else who graced the stage last night, were about real life issues. Issues that effect everyone especially a twenty-something trying to find their way through life without going absolutely insane. The thing that set Boston Manor apart was the darkness that was felt. I don’t quite know how to expand on that but there was a sense of darkness that Henry conveyed in the way he moved throughout the stage and attempted to amp up the crowd. Even with that darkness, the set was upbeat and had me tapping my toes and bobbing my head. I was shocked as I watch the crowd push towards the front of the stage and, at times, creating a resemblance of a dog pile just to scream the deep lyrics back into the band’s face. It’s clear that this band has had an effect on many people and it made for the perfect atmosphere. It’s what I wish I felt and saw at every show- a connection and true respect between band and crowd, crowd and band. Boston Manor nailed that and I truly can’t wait to watch them continue their climb up the ladder of fame.

Closing out the night was a personal favorite of mine, Have Mercy. Since 2011, this Maryland based band has been releasing emo-infused pop-punk music that caught my ear from the first time I heard them. There’s a sense of intensity behind their sound and their lyrics easily cut you like a knife straight to the core. I thought I knew what their show would be like. Although I love their lyrics, music, and everything else about them- I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from their live performance. Honestly, I was a bit nervous that they may just phone it in and it wouldn’t be anything like how I had pictured in my mind while listening to them at home. Thankfully, I was wrong.

The intensity of their lyrics and music translated perfectly into a live show. Some bands in this vein of new-school pop-punk tend to put on a live show where they make the music heavier than it actually is but not Have Mercy. They stuck to their normal sound and let their intensity come through by way of their energy, not their music which was more than refreshing. Whether they were playing new or old songs, all of the songs seemed to blend together which just proves that Have Mercy have always stayed true to themselves and their music. The honesty and transparency that singer Brian Swindle conveyed was just the icing on the cake for an already amazing show. It was honestly everything I wanted their set to be but never thought I would get. It was almost too good to be true.

Last night could have gone terribly with the way it started but the show completely turned everything around. There wasn’t a bad band on the line-up and I left with a smile on my face and a bounce in my step. Every band that graced the stage last night seems to be on the up and up and I can’t wait to see all of them climb up the ladder and truly make it big.