Punk rock isn’t stupid. That’s not to say it can’t be, but as a whole, I swear that it’s not. Then again, what some people would probably call stupidity, I would call dedication. This is how I ended up at the Agora Theater in Cleveland, Ohio, with a near 100-degree fever.
My buddy CJ picked up tickets to go to the Wonder Years’ Greatest Generation Tour for his girlfriend, two others and us. The concert was on Saturday, and in the tradition of true Mook luck, I found myself either lying facedown on the couch or praying to the porcelain gods for most of Friday afternoon. It was the sickest I have ever been; chills, body aches, fever, alongside other unmentionable symptoms that kept me up all night. But for a short while, I felt better. I sincerely did.
I felt better long enough to argue with my parents over going later that day, until I finally coaxed the “We won’t be mad, just disappointed” argument out of them. In any other situation, the decision would have weighed on my conscience, but in this moment it was all I needed to get myself to Cleveland to see three of my favorite artists play– Citizen, Fireworks and the Wonder Years. I didn’t care about the money, $25 wasn’t going to break the bank. Rather, I was concerned with the principle of it all. I wanted to be there for the story behind it. I wanted to do something punk rock.
Off we were, and on the road trip down, my stomach felt funny– not bad, just funny. Seeing as my body had rejected anything and everything I tried to feed it in the past 48 hours, I was starving. I finally felt confident enough to scarf down food before the show. Unfortunately, the venue had some very atypical food at the Backstage Café, and the least greasy thing I found was a pile of fries (that I still managed to soak a few napkins with). With food gurgling in my stomach, we set out into the theater and I realized just how beautiful the Agora is.
Renovated from an old theater, the seating had been arranged in a downward slope, allowing anyone to see the stage from practically any location in the theater. We caught the end of opening act Modern Baseball’s set, a quirky, yet undeniably charming group, whose latest record I reviewed on this very site. Up next was Real Friends, perhaps the most cliché pop-punk band I have ever heard or seen in my lifetime. I don’t mean to sound rude or extreme, but when you start writing songs about Peter Pan and how nobody understands you, it starts to be less relatable and more…well, sad. I used this time to dip out to the merchandise tables.
Returning with a bargain Fireworks hoodie and Citizen’s first 7,” I ran into an old friend from high school who asked if I’d like to spend a portion of the show from the balcony. I obliged, and at this point in the night I witnessed one of the best (and weirdest) shows imaginable. Citizen stormed the stage with their signature sound of brooding 90s-esque rock accompanied by a light show only comparable to the “Come As You Are” music video. They all looked like regular guys in their baggy hoodies and jeans, and although their singer strained with some of the higher notes, their performance completely made up for it. However, this is when I started to fear that I might pass out.
Fireworks hit the stage promoting their upcoming record, Oh, Common Life. They opened with their first single from the record, “Glowing Cross”, Dave McKinder acting like a front man more so than ever before. They switched between cuts from the new record and 2011’s fan-favorite “Gospel” before unexpectedly leaving the stage after only six or seven songs. This is when I realized that my back was desperately trying to sweat out a fever that I had regained.
The moment that everyone had been waiting for finally came after about a half hour and the Wonder Years took the stage in complete darkness. Front man Dan “Soupy” Campbell’s voice took center stage as they opened with the aggressive, mid-tempo “There, there.” The band put on one of the best performances I have yet to see (and this was my fourth time seeing them). They tore through cuts from the album, intermingling with material from 2011’s Suburbia, I’ve Give You All and Now I’m Nothing and even sprinkled in some fan favorites from The Upsides.
Seventeen songs in total, covering B-Sides and debut live performances with switched-up tempos and rewarding onstage banter led to the set’s fiery conclusion. Everyone in the room knew there was going to be an encore, and if they researched previous tour set-lists, they knew that the encore was the epic seven-minute medley entitled, “I Just Want to Sell Out My Funeral.” The song rolled back through several of the choruses and melodies visited throughout TGG, and by the time Soupy’s voice delivered the final line (sending the crowd into a frenzy), I had trouble comprehending just what I had experienced. This was when I finally realized that I felt fine, at least fine enough to join my friends for a late-night Perkins trip on the way home (a decision that will likely go down as one of the five worst decisions I have ever made). It was an incredible night, but one that made me ready for a short break from the “punk rock” lifestyle, at least until the next show.