The Wonder Years

with Tigers Jaw, Tiny Moving Parts, and Worriers

Doors: 7PM

Taking its name from the TV show The Wonder Years, the Philadelphia punk pop band was formed by guitarists Matt Brasch and Casey Cavaliere, vocalist Dan “Soupy” Campbell, bassist Josh Martin, drummer Mike Kennedy, and keyboardist Mikey Kelly. The sextet got its start in 2005 when previous combo the Premier split up. Regrouping under the new name, the band began playing shows and released two split singles that year (with Bangarang! and Emergency and I). In late 2007, the Wonder Years self-released an album, the emphatically titled Get Stoked on It!, and quickly caught the eye of California label No Sleep, which signed the band. Their first record for the label was the EP Won’t Be Pathetic Forever, which came out in June of 2008. Following a split single with All or Nothing, Kelly left the band. After a year spent recording its second album, the group released The Upsides in January of 2010. The record made a dent in the lower regions of the Billboard charts, and gained the Wonder Years a deal with the larger indie Hopeless, which reissued the album in September with four bonus tracks.

In the time between releases, drummer Kennedy quit the band and was replaced by Nick Steinborn. Kennedy soon returned to the fold and Steinborn bounced over to play keys and guitar. With the lineup solidified, the Wonder Years got to work on their next album with producer Steve Evetts. In 2011, they released their third album, Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing, followed by the arrival of a B-sides compilation, Sleeping on Trash, as well as their fourth full-length album, The Greatest Generation, in 2013. The following year, lead singer Campbell released his first album with his solo project Aaron West & the Roaring Twenties, We Don’t Have Each Other, with Campbell adopting the persona of Aaron West in his songs. After Campbell returned from a tour with the Roaring Twenties, he began working on songs for the next Wonder Years project, but suffered a powerful case of writer’s block that triggered a severe bout with depression. Campbell eventually channeled the emotions stirred up by his struggles into the group’s fifth studio album, 2015’s No Closer to Heaven, a concept piece about coming to terms with the death of a loved one. The Wonder Years’ next release, 2017’s Burst & Decay EP, offered acoustic versions of songs from their three previous LPs. The group re-entered the studio later that year with producers Joe Chiccarelli and Carlos de la Garza to record their sixth album. The resulting Sister Cities was released in 2018 and saw them shifting their sound away from their pop-punk roots.

Motion City Soundtrack and The Wonder Years

When Motion City Soundtrack formed in Minneapolis in 1997 there was a sense of fun that threaded through everything that involved the band. That youthful glee, the feeling that everything was exciting and anything was possible, has been inevitably dampened over the years. On their sixth album,Panic Stations, MCS found that feeling again. The process of creating the new songs, which open a new chapter in the band’s storied career, was based on instinct and openness, a methodology that resulted in a buoyant, impassioned record.

“When we were all younger it was like we just wrote and made music,” frontman Justin Pierre says. “We would get together in the practice space and just start playing. Somebody would start and everyone else would join in. And we started overthinking everything slowly over time. This was about trying to forget everything we’d learned and going back to the fresh, new feeling. Once the music is written and recorded, you can get back to the other, more complicated aspects of being in a band.”

Panic Stations was recorded in June of 2014 after MCS finished touring on their last album, Go. The band had begun writing the music while on Warped Tour, initially just for fun, and eventually found themselves with a collection of songs. There was no preconceived vision or theme, just the underlying goal to create music the band enjoyed playing together in one room. To help capture the energy of MCS’ live show, the band enlisted producer John Agnello, who’s helmed albums by Dinosaur Jr., Jawbox, Walt Mink and Sonic Youth.

“John made records that caught our attention decades ago and have continued to inspire us to this day,” Matt Taylor says. “From the first conversation that we had with him we were excited and intrigued by his energy and ideas. He was able to remove us from our comfort zone and encourage us to track our album live in two short weeks.”

Agnello suggested the band record the tracks for the album live – something the band had never done before. “Even fans have said we sound better live than we do on record,” Pierre says. “So we decided to try it and capture that kind of feeling. We rehearsed the shit out of these songs. We knew them and we played them over and over again. We recorded them in 14 days, which is the shortest amount of time we’ve spent on a record.”

That experience, which took place at Minnesota’s Underbelly North recording studio (formerly known as Pachyderm Studio where Nirvana recordedIn Utero), was like a catharsis for the band, liberating them from any stagnancy that has built up in the past few years. “Going forward I hope to record everything live,” Pierre notes. “It was so much fun. And there are lovely mistakes that happen – they sound so good you just want to keep them.”

The final album, named after nautical structures that act as warning posts in the oceans, centers on not overthinking, something Pierre and his bandmates have a tendency to do. The singer wasn’t necessarily trying to convey anything specific in his lyrics, which are typically insightful and narratively wry. Instead, he wrote whatever came to him and then looked backward to see what topics arose. Many of the songs reference water and the ocean, and there is an overarching idea of letting go and not being immobilized by your own thoughts. Pierre also drew on an array of literary influences in his lyrics. Rollicking number “Heavy Boots” pulls from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and A Million Little Pieces, and if you listen closely to the album familiar aspects from pop culture are apparent.

The music itself is invigorated and propulsive. “Lose Control” builds into an intense, emotionally raw chorus that mirrors Pierre’s plea to relinquish control while “TKO” pares the music down to its lively rock ‘n’ roll core, focusing on the deft combination of guitars and rhythms and revealing the fervor of MCS’ live performance. “Over It Now,” a raucous standout, amps up that performative energy, reminding fans of the band’s infectious enthusiasm for the stage, which the band bought on tour recently for their successful 10 year anniversary tour of Commit This To Memory.

Panic Stations is as exciting to listen to as it was for the musicians to make. The feeling of their renewed pleasure for the craft resonates through each note and lyric, leaving you just as inspired as they sound. “We realized this is so much fun,” Pierre says. “We’re just having fun again. It’s not that we weren’t before, but everything seems so fresh and new on this album. I feel like Go is the end of one thing and Panic Stations is the beginning of another, and it’s exciting to get to open the next chapter of Motion City Soundtrack’s career.”

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