LIVE: PUP/Ne-Hi/Team Spirit/Meat Wave @ Schubas, Chicago

By Jim Howes

Toronto’s PUP dropped their self-titled debut album in the U.S. last spring and met with a whole shit ton of enthusiasm, lining many people’s end-of-year lists. I’ve had a really good time listening to the album, and I think PUP has a cool thing going on. So, when I found out they were playing Schubas as a part of Tomorrow Never Knows Fest, I figured I would kick off my birthday weekend by slathering on a belligerent, empty-stomached Friday buzz and yelling along incoherently to their songs.

And so I did.

A couple old friends came in from Ohio for the Watain and Mayhem show, and showed up at my place and assaulted me with beers before they went. I then hopped a cab up to my buddy Tim’s place in Avondale and yelled about the new Fireworks album while drinking Mount Gay and strawberry Arnold Palmer.

I was now in condition.

We got to Schubas right as Meat Wave were going on, and the place was nuts to butts packed. Everyone was having a blast, though. Chicago’s own Meat Wave are probably the perfect billfellows (that’s a word now) for PUP: Fun, fast, mid-fi pop punk in the vein of Cloud Nothings/No Age/Wavves/etc. Really fun set that people were really into.

Schubas is a really great space, IMO, and they don’t bill the kinds of bands I’m into that often, so it’s always a treat when they do.

Did I mention I made the brilliant decision to start drinking on an empty stomach? Yeah, because I did. Because I make great decisions.

Brooklyn’s Team Spirit took the stage and I did my best to watch as I babbled to Tim’s wife about God-knows-what. In retrospect, and after consulting their studio material, I really dig what Team Spirit are doing. Absurdly catchy power-pop with a healthy dose of synth and octave pedal. Pretty well-billed with PUP if you as me, and they’re touring with Motion City Soundtrack soon if that gives you any indication of how they sound. Gonna probably listen to these guys a lot now.

Team Spirit’s set blurred into Ne-Hi’s set. Ne-Hi are from Chicago, and are huge into the Byrds and Brian Jonestown Massacre if I had to guess. I may have enjoyed Ne-Hi in isolation or on a bill with a band like the Allah-Las or Darker My Love (are they still a thing? Gosh, I hope they are), but in this context they didn’t seem like a good fit, and I didn’t get it. And I got kind of indignant and said a bunch of stuff about Trey Anastasio. A set of songs where the average length surpasses 3 minutes just doesn’t really have a home on a bill this full of fast stuff, I think.

All’s well that ends well, though: PUP took the stage and burned the fucking house down. There’s something magical about seeing a band that only has one album worth of material: There’s a good chance that most people at the show are going to know most of the songs and be obnoxiously psyched to hear them and sing along and jump around. The pit was as fun and friendly as frontman Stefan Babcock’s between-songs banter (how conspicuously Canadian the whole situation was!), and the band ripped through most of their album to the crowd’s shitty-drunk delight. I feel like there are very few sets I watch that feel as explosively fun as this one did. Everyone involved was just so happy to be there, and I’m going to keep that feeling in my heart and mind every time I listen to the PUP S/T album now. To top it all off, they ended their set by covering the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.” That’s fucking amazing. I love that song.

I said “fun” in this review about as many times as Carl Sagan says “billion” in an episode of Cosmos, and I’m okay with that, because that’s really just how fun this show was. Until next time, you fun Canadian bastards.