The much-anticipated Pop Punk’s Still Not Dead Tour arrived for the first of two nights, Wednesday at the House of Blues, Anaheim. It was a near-capacity house as the Anaheim Garden Walk venue welcomed New Found Glory, Less Than Jake, Hot Mulligan, and LØLØ.
I received an email from Ticketmaster the morning of the show stating that all fans must either be fully vaccinated with proof of vaccination, or provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result before entering the venue. Other than that, masks were not required for entry to the show. Throughout the night, I’d estimate about 25-30% of those in attendance were wearing face masks, including myself. Less Than Jake bassist and co-lead vocalist, Roger Lima, even admirably pointed out during the evening, “Are you guys moshing with masks on? That’s so cool!”
The show kicked off with Toronto’s LØLØ, a relatively new artist with a handful of EPs under her belt. Doors opened at 6:30 and in the hour before she took stage, a pretty good-sized crowd had already poured in, no doubt anxious to see live music again. LØLØ’s set was just under 30 minutes, but it was enough to win over the audience with her energetic stage presence and catchy songs. Her performance was a great way to start the night.
Next up was Hot Mulligan from Lansing, MI. It became quite evident as soon as they took the stage that a large portion of this audience had arrived early to catch the pop punk/emo band. Just halfway into their first song, “OG Bule Sky,” a mosh pit had already formed, and it lasted throughout most of their set. With lead singer Tades Sanville’s screaming vocals, supported by guitarist Chris Freeman’s equally powerful backing vocals, I was reminded of early 2000s bands such as Taking Back Sunday and The Used. There were several fans singing along to their songs, even the newest tracks off of their “I Won’t Reach Out to You” EP, despite just being released a few months ago.
You could feel the energy shift into a frenetic pace as Less Than Jake took the stage and co-lead vocalist and guitarist Chris DeMakes began strumming the opening chords to “Automatic,” immediately giving rise to a circle pit. My first thought as they began playing was how crisp and clean the horns sounded, not always an east feat, but a testament to the great sound system at the House of Blues. The band was a last-minute replacement for original co-headliners, Simple Plan, who pulled out just weeks before the tour was about to start. Although this left several fans disappointed and one could hardly blame them for their concerns, you truly cannot find a better replacement in their wake than Gainesville, FL’s Less Than Jake. Although a shorter set than usual, they made the most of their time filling every second with frenzied hits that you can’t help but sing and dance along to. They would play eleven songs in total, blasting through sing-along hits such as “Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts,” “History of a Boring Town,” and crowd favorite “The Science of Selling Yourself Short.”
Finally, the time came for New Found Glory to hit the stage. Although also hailing from Florida, the band has always been welcomed by Southern California as one of their own. The 80-minute set included 20 songs, spanning their nearly quarter century of a career.
The majority of the set came from the group’s platinum-selling, 2004 release, “Sticks and Stones.” New Found Glory has a popular trio of albums dedicated entirely to covering songs from movie soundtracks entitled “From the Screen to Your Stereo,” so they are no stranger to playing the occasional cover at their shows. However, this was the most I’ve seen them dedicate to those albums, playing a total of four – including “Let It Go” off of Disney’s “Frozen,” which included lead singer, Jordan Pundik coming out dressed as Elsa, blonde wig and all. The quartet came on stage for an encore culminating with “Himalya” from their 10th release, “Forever + Ever x Infinity” (released last year), “Head On Collision,” and finally the radio-friendly hit and their biggest song to date, “My Friends Over You.”
Whether or not pop punk has the longevity to endure “forever + ever x infinity” has yet to be seen, but one thing is for certain: New Found Glory proved that pop punk is far from dead. It was a great night for music at the House of Blues and fans were happy to be back!