Show Review: Sorority Noise At The Virgin Mobile Mod Club

By Grace Guimond, Feature Photo via Stereogum//taken by Jonah Rosenberg

North-East emo revival band Sorority Noise can play energetic pop-punk, loud and dancey emo, and minimalist, gut-wrenching acoustic-guitar songs about dead friends while still managing to keep a distinct, cohesive sound. Formed in 2013, the Connecticut four-piece borrows members from Old Gray and Prawn and released their debut LP Forgettable in 2014, followed by their sophomore Joy, Departed in 2015.

I caught the Toronto leg of their tour last month supporting two Run For Cover Records bands, Citizen and Turnover, and promoting their latest release, the EP It Kindly Stopped For Me (name inspired by this Emily Dickinson poem). Sorority Noise isn’t the kind of band to shy away from making music about real issues – the group is no stranger to writing honestly about dealing with mental illness and addiction – and It Kindly Stopped is their most personal and vulnerable release yet. Each of the four achingly honest, stripped-down songs on the EP are dedicated to vocalist Cameron Boucher’s late friends. Cam writes and speaks for himself and his own experiences; in a genre filled with bands attempting relatability – to the point of impersonality – Boucher’s intensely personal writing stands out in the best way.

This was my third time seeing Sorority Noise, my first time seeing them play a sold-out show, and my first time seeing them play a space bigger than the Hard Luck. A supporting act every time thus far, they nonetheless always manage a significant draw, with tonight as no exception. Usually Sorority Noise brings an intensely optimistic-for-a-pessimist energy to the stage, playing like a pop punk band covering emo songs. Although Boucher eschews the label, admitting he “doesn’t want to play in an emo band anymore”, he says he has “no problem” with others putting Sorority Noise under the genre’s umbrella. It Kindly Stopped For Me’s melancholy acoustic guitar tracks take on a significantly different tone than the upbeat, self-deprecating pop punk of Forgettable or Joy, Departed, which their achingly vulnerable – and rightfully so – performance reflected. Boucher gave a chillingly intimate performance; lyrics like “you saw your life / saw your life and you took it” (“Either Way”) and “so I went up out to California / to find the proper way to mourn you” (“Fource”) captured a hauntingly personal pain that was sometimes hard to watch but even harder to ignore.

That’s not to say that the band has totally abandoned their pop punk infused roots. Old favourites from their debut gave the audience what they came for (judging by the shouted requests from the crowd) while probably garnering at least a couple new fans. Like he does at every show, Boucher broke up the bands set with honest monologues about his own personal struggles with mental illness, speaking freely about living with bipolar disorder and the need to eradicate stigma, telling the audience, “if someone doesn’t believe your mental illness is real or support you, then fuck them.” Boucher’s openness was a breath of fresh air in contrast to the stale and standard quips about Trudeau/Weed/Weather that touring bands tend to rely on for between-song banter.

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Turnover, taken by the author

Headliners Turnover and Citizen were unsurprisingly boring after the unplugged emotions and raucous, sing-along, mosh-along riffs Sorority Noise played. The slightly stale, overdone shoegaze of both bands paled in comparison to their support. Not bad, just not very interesting either.

Having a cigarette outside between sets, my friend and me got talking to Cameron (fun fact: he’s roommates with Brendan Lukens of Modern Baseball). We complimented him on his PUP! hat and he complimented us on our respective I Hate Myself and The Wonder Years shirts before proceeding to chat about 90s skramz, Michigan’s Bledfest, and his other band, Old Gray. Bands who make awesome music are cool, but bands who take the time talk with fans about it are even cooler.

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The author with Cameron Boucher after the show

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