LIVE: PUP @ Blondies, London

By Ashwin Bhandari

Ahead of their Reading & Leeds performances, PUP announced a one-off show at a 50 cap dive bar just outside of Hackney. Despite the Toronto four-piece punk outfit playing an average of 250 a year on a tour cycle, there’s no time to let sleeping dogs lie here. After everyone is allocated their spaces in the tiny room for this special Kerrang! show, it’s surprising that the bar is able to serve drinks for an audience that can barely squeeze past fellow patrons to get to the toilets.

There’s a strict no phones policy on the door, compensated for by having the set recorded with multiple cameras dotted around the room. The windows are also boarded up, with a sign telling regular patrons of the bar to ‘fuck off until 8:30’. It’s a unique opportunity for PUP to reconnect with their basement gig roots, shutting us away from the outside world.  They’re even selling merch straight out of their van like the good old days.

Before PUP finally start, frontman Stefan Babcock acknowledges that this is most likely the smallest room they’ve played in a long time – urging us to “get weird”. As anyone who’s seen PUP before, their gutsy live performances make it near impossible for fans to keep still for long.

Opening with ‘Morbid Stuff’ into ‘Kids’, the crowd turns into one sizeable pushpit, with participants throwing themselves off anything they can find with a ledge – a sea of smiling punks giving their all to every second of this intimate frenzy is an incredibly wholesome sight to witness. Babcock himself joins in the fun, launching himself off the end of the bar for ‘Full-Blown Meltdown’, their heaviest song to date. By ‘Free At Last’ the air is a fragrant mix of warm Red Stripe and self-loathing, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

For all the deeply relatable quips that PUP invoke on their albums, the passion is heightened in a tiny bar.  They’ve worked their asses off to make their dream work, continuing to thrive with every release. There’s no egotistical rockstar bullshit here – it feels like you’re supporting friends and family you’ve grown up with your whole life.

Ending on ‘DVP’ and ‘If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You’, you can’t help but wonder if this experience was real, or just a teenage lucid dream before being woken up to go to school the next day.

Nope, that really did just happen.