It was warm and beautiful night in OC, but it was also anything but another Friday night at the House of Blues, Anaheim. The marquee read; Tonight NEW FOUND GLORY!
Formed in 1997 by vocalist Jordan Pundik and bassist Ian Grushka, New Found Glory rode the wave of the pop punk explosion of the mid to late ‘90s. Their music arose at a time when fans were ready to embrace their brand of music, and their debut album, “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” became a big underground hit, selling out copies at every show they played.
Capitalizing on the success of the record, the group went back into the studio and in 2002; they released “Sticks and Stones,” which would be their biggest hit to date. If the “New Found Glory” album was their introduction into mainstream success, “Sticks and Stones” would be the one to put them on the map and make them a household name with songs like “My Friends Over You.” Their music continues to be played at local radio stations KROQ and ALT 987.
The opening band is a relatively new hardcore band, Be Well. Musically, I really enjoyed their sound. They have a very heavy, melodic sound that is marked by their throbbing bass thanks to Aaron Dalbec. You could hear every note he played as his bass thumped across the entire venue, accompanied by drummer, Shane Johnson’s double bass pedal.
Lead singer Brian McTernan is a well-established member of the hardcore scene in Maryland, having previously fronted hardcore punk band, Battery. At the end of their set, he announced that this was their last show of the tour and he would be taking a redeye flight back home as he had just found out that day that his mom did not have much time left. With that the band closed with an emotional rendition of their song, “Confession.”
Four Year Strong is a band that saw big success in the early 2000s with the rise of pop punk, melodic hardcore and scream, and they played several shows on the Vans Warped Tour. Lead vocalist and guitarist, Dan O’Connor greeted the crowd before leading into “Wasting Time (Eternal Summer).” A circle pit immediately opened up as there is a large crossover audience for both Four Year Strong and New Found Glory.
The band then played “Heroes Get Remembered, Legends Never Die,” then a pair of covers from Green Day, “Brain Stew” and “Jaded,” the song that immediately follows “Brain Stew” on the album. The band showcased songs off their last album, 2020’s “Brain Pain,” including the title track and “Seventeen,” a song that co-lead vocalist and guitarist, Alan Day shined on vocally. The band closed with “Go Down in History.”
In between bands, the venue continuously played songs from the early 2000s: from “Mambo No. 5” to “Damn, I Feel Like a Woman,” and everything in between. When the lights went out and Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” began playing, it seemed to transport the sold-out crowd back to 2002, when a young band from Florida was getting ready to release “Sticks and Stones.”
On that note, the band took the stage and immediately launched into the album’s opening track, “Understatement.” This is such a fantastic song, one of my favorites to hear live and often kicks off their setlists, so it fit right in to get this packed crowd into a frenzy. They followed up with the band’s biggest hit and therefore, one that they usually reserve to close their shows. However, sticking true to their word of playing the album front to back, the guys then went right into “My Friends Over You.”
Just as fans felt like they could barely breathe having been overtaken by a wave of energy and music that washed over them, the band came up to the next song from the album. “Sonny” is a melancholy song that guitarist and lead music composer, Chad Gilbert wrote about lead singer, Jordan Pundik’s grandfather passing away. It’s a beautiful tribute that over the years depending on what I was going through has hit me, and I could tell it connects to others when the band plays it live. However, people got just a few minutes to catch their breath as the band then played “Something I Call Personality,” a fast-paced pop punk song.
I’ll probably mention this every time I write about New Found Glory: drummer Cyrus Bolooki is the heart and soul of the band, if not on the albums themselves, then at the very least any time they perform live. Just a masterclass in musicianship and professionalism, it’s always a pleasure watching him work his magic, especially on an energized song like “Personality.” But even on slow songs like “Sonny” or “The Story So Far,” he will still manage to make his presence felt, and maybe even more so in some ways on those songs as while the music is melodic and easy, his booming snare and cymbals hit that much more.
Many years ago after a show I was fortunate enough to meet and speak with Cyrus for a few minutes. He was unbelievably kind and generous with his time and I told him, “I love watching you play. You always have this huge smile on your face like you’re having a great time up there.” He replied, “Do you know why that is? Because I am.”
The band has been a four piece since 2014 when co-founding member and guitarist Steve Klein left. Since then, they have brought along a different touring guitarist to fill the second guitar role, which in the past has included Ryan Key from Yellowcard and Martin Stewart from hardcore band, Terror. Dan O’Connor, fresh from playing with Four Year Strong, took on the second guitar duties and I have to say he was by far my favorite of the touring guitarists they have used. Not only a well-established guitarist and vocalist in his own band but you could see how much he enjoyed playing with New Found Glory. He brought a ton of energy, jumping up and down and even when not providing backup vocals, he was singing along to every word.
As expected, the band closed out their regular set with “The Story So Far” the last song off of “Sticks and Stones” and a song that would later inspire a California band to use as their own name. New Found Glory came back on stage with a pretty impressive encore. They began with the popular “Hit or Miss,” followed by “Hold My Hand.” They played their fun cover of the Disney “Frozen” song, “Let It Go.” Before all was said and done, the band wrapped up the evening with “Intro” and “All Downhill from Here.”
Although not natives to California, New Found Glory’s sound has always been akin to Southern California pop punk of the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Their music continues to get played on local radio stations and their shows always sell out. The 2,200 rabid fans certainly welcomed them like they were “Coming Home.”