LIVE: PUP / Sløtface @ Stylus, Leeds

By Tom Walsh

There are many things to love about PUP. Whether its their triumphant live shows, poignant, beautifully crafted angry punk, their brutal honesty, or just their relentless drive to prove every doubter wrong, there’s a reason why they are one of the most exciting bands on the punk scene right now.

However, nothing compares to being five minutes into a show and telling a Leeds audience that their signature “Yorkshire, Yorkshire” chant is “lame”. They even go a step further to allow the crowd to have a 15-second blast of this tiresome drone before banning it from the rest of the set. Anyone that has ever been to a gig in this fair county will no doubt be thanking PUP for eternity.

The Canadians have seen their steady rise surge in recent months thanks to the release of the seminal ‘Morbid Stuff’ which has led to a string of sold out shows across the UK. The performances are chaotic, intense and celebratory, creating a different community each night of the tour.

“Tonight, hopefully you’ll make some friends and not many enemies,” guitarist Steve Sladkowski states. Like contemporaries such as The Menzingers, PUP’s tales of alienation, fucking up, self-deprecation and outright nihilism resonate with an audience of 20 to 30 somethings that have long given up the hope of buying a house.

The warm-up to PUP’s evening of self-flagellation is Norwegian pop punk outfit Sløtface who bring an uplifting support set. Vocalist Haley Shea bounces around the stage as they fire through tracks from their 2017 album ‘Try Not to Freak Out’. Shea also takes a minute to express her love of Los Campesinos! and gin and tonic before the lively closer of ‘Nancy Drew’.

“Nothing changes in PUP land”, lead vocalist Stefan Babcock proclaims after seeing his mic cut out just moments into the set. There is a wonderful sketchiness to the Canadian’s performance, it’s rough around the edges with a sense that anything could happen. They bring the togetherness and community of a basement show at a friend’s house into the lavish surroundings of a red brick university.

It’s a riotous set with newer material of ‘Free at Last’ and ‘See You at Your Funeral’ slipping in next to the older ‘My Life Is Over and I Couldn’t Be Happier’. There is an energy in the room reserved for the kind of homecoming of a more established act but therein lies the beauty of PUP.

They feel like your friend’s band, the band that you used to go and see in your local pub because they happened to be playing every week. While it is not quite cult-like, it is one of the few shows where everyone is mouthing along with the words, hurling themselves into a crowdsurf and a distinct lack of glare from recording phones.

The songs themselves are magnificent in a live setting. The dismal tale ‘Scorpion Hill’, telling of an everyman’s turn to alcohol and spiraling depression, is treated like a live intervention as Babcock climbs onto the crowd and falls into the sea of people, while making the role of hardcore front man an ode to being a “shitty person” on ‘Full Blown Meltdown’

Preaching the need to help refugees in the Mediterranean to registering to vote, they end by pledging solidarity with the Leeds locals of growing up in somewhere “that rains all the fucking time” before launching into the incredible double-header of ‘If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will’ and ‘DVP’.

They may be the most exciting band in punk right now, they may have just released the best album in a generation and their shows may be the most beautiful you attend this year, but if there’s one thing we can really thank PUP for, it’s stopping that awful ‘Yorkshire’ chant.