Show Review: PUP At The Phoenix Concert Theatre

By Grace Guimond, Feature Photo via MusicNerd

PUP may be the most relevant band in Toronto right now. Formed in 2013 by childhood friends Stefan Babcock, Nestor Chumak, Zack Mykula, and Steve Sladkowski, the band played anywhere and everywhere –  from spaces as public as the Toronto Public Library’s Yorkville branch to the city’s underbelly, in spaces such as the excellent, now defunct DIY venue Siesta Nouveaux. Formerly known as Topanga (a Boy Meets World reference – the change was because of the series’ reboot*), the quartet self-released their self-titled debut online in 2013 under their new name, PUP, an acronym for ‘Pathetic Use of Potential’. In true mythical Toronto punk folklore, (unconfirmed) rumours have circulated that inspiration came from Sneaky Dee’s bathroom graffiti.

Following the release of their debut – which blew up very quickly – and nearly non-stop touring, PUP dropped their sophomore album, The Dream is Over on May 27 (2015). The Dream Is Over is a verbatim quote from lead singer Babcock’s doctor – apparently, touring for three years straight can make your vocal chords hemorrhage. The damage done was extensive and forced the band to cancel some U.K dates in order to give Babcock the necessary recovery time. In the meantime, they hit the studio. Thanks for the album inspo’, Doc! If you’re at all familiar with PUP you’ll know that this type of sassy snark is exactly what you can expect from their music.

Last week, I was lucky enough to see PUP at their very, very sold out album release show at the Phoenix (technically luck didn’t really have much to do with it though, considering I got pre-sale tickets in like, January). Besides being an album release party, the show was kicking off the “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You Then I Will” tour, supported by Montreal locals Gulfer – whose set I missed – and Jeff Rosenstock, who I care very much about. PUP’s set however, managed to raise the bar in every way possible with aggressively danceable punk overlaid with poppy gang vocals, insanely tight instrumentals, and blink-level catchy riffs. Being the first stop on a 17-stop tour and a hometown album release show, the atmosphere felt electric. Halfway through their set, they stopped for a selfie with the crowd, thanked us, and reminded us we were the reason they exist – as if any of us could forget! Shortly after, we began chanting “Let’s go Raptors!” *clap* *clap* *clapclapclap*. They lol’d. It felt organic – hometown team; hometown band. Set-wise, they played a solid mix of old and new songs. Album-wise, they somehow managed to surpass the supreme tightness of their self-titled with a ten song, 30 minute powerhouse that includes not-so-subtle nods to their Southern Ontario roots on songs like “DVP” (“I’m driving fast to get away/doing 180 on the Don Valley Parkway”) and “Pine Point” (this one I had to Google– north of Oshawa and just east of Uxbridge). This effortless combination of cut and dry power-punk and unsolicited local pride makes it evident why over a third over their tour dates have already sold out. A few days later I was in a rural Michigan high school for an emo/pop punk festival and the hallways were plastered with posters for upcoming shows in the area. PUP was one of them.


*If you happen to be really into bands with Boy Meet World references, check out Free Throw from Nashville at


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: