Punk Tamed On College Street

Brandi Fullwood PhotoOpening act PUP’s performance at College Street Music Hall was the tamest punk show I’ve ever attended—despite the best rebellious efforts of some of the fans.

The popular College Street hall was packed with punks and hardcore fans alike for the band’s show this past Thursday night. The glow of green from atop the stage shone on a sea of people drenched in black clothing.

“Everyone’s really nice here,” Stefan Babcock, frontman of PUP chuckled into the crowd.

“We’re not used to playing in places this nice,” Babcock added. As he tuned his guitar, he sarcastically “thanked” the security guards for keeping everyone safe and stopping the crowd surfing. He said that the band is used to playing in darker, damper, grungier spaces.

“Please stay inside the white lines,” a security guard said, gesturing to a few feet over the edge.

The white lines on the floor securing the crowd, the overly attentive security guards, the beautiful adornments on the ceiling,  the cleanliness of it ... it was quite a contrast to the usually punk show venue.

There is an argument for safe spaces when an event has the potential to be dangerous, with a hall filled to the brim with muscular men and women who just want to mosh.

PUP’s set became an endless cycle of yelling the lyrics, being lifted on top of the crowd, being vigorously handled by security, and then going right back to the center to do it all again.

It was all in the spirit of resistance — the guiding concept behind punk music.

By the time the band finished tuning its instruments, it was clear that the rules and requests for a clean, contained, Tupperware-party-hardcore show were void. The soothing lullaby-like riff from “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” began and bodies swayed into each other. If you know the build to the song, you anticipate crashing into the crowd at the climax.

The evening’s headliners, Thrice, embraced a greater mix of emotions all at once. It became impossible to know when fans would sway or when they would get on top of one another shoulders. Discography preparation would have been helpful, but alas.

Thrice is an American post-hardcore band that mixes in the attitude of punk with a lingering emo-brooding sentiment. The beloved ‘90s quartet has a dedicated fan base, as evidenced at College Street. Many attendees said the show was one of several they’ve attended around the country to support the band. The performance was energetic, bursting with strong vocals and screams.

Eventually, the crowd settled into swaying once more and resisting the rules.

When you’re used to screaming the lyrics at bars with friends, in your home, and in cramp dark spaces — it’s almost impossible to contain that, even at a beautiful venue like College Street Music Hall.

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