LIVE: Pup / The Tuts @ Old Blue Last, London

By Ashwin Bhandari

When you think of Canada, what’s the first thing that pops into your head? Maple leaves? Alexisonfire? Tim Hortons? Well if it doesn’t already, Toronto-based punk outfit Pup should also come to mind. Having ventured to our shores countless times since their inception in 2013, today they are hauled in from their homeland to perform two special shows for us Londoners. The first being an outdoor set in the middle of Trafalgar Square alongside acoustic artists, which saw fans crowdsurfing and moshing to them in a very public area. This set, however, is a mere taste of what was to come later that evening at the Old Blue Last.

Because of how late Pup are on at Trafalgar Square, this means that fans wait downstairs for a good two to three hours before doors. The 8 o clock opening time is pushed back another 15 minutes, as more and more fans squeeze into the downstairs of the historic East London pub. Finally, we are let through, and at first, the upstairs venue has a surprising amount of room to fit 150 people. However, once you are let upstairs, you’re not allowed to leave, unless you’re leaving for good.

That being said, this meant that London-based power pop outfit The Tuts have an amicable sized audience watching them, even if it’s because they technically can’t afford to lose their spot in the room. They make no secret of the fact they “slid into Pup’s DM’s” in order to get this last minute slot and make the most of this golden opportunity. The sound at the beginning is muddied and poor, however, the group manages to find their stride as the set progresses. The simplistic beauty of songs such as ‘I Call You Up’ and ‘1982’ are warmly received by fans at the very front, with guitarists Nadia Javed and Harriet Doveton piling into the crowd for some intimate shredding action. Finishing on a brilliant punk cover of ‘Wannabe’ by The Spice Girls, the feminist punk trio ooze with charm and leave a sound impression upon Pup fans.

Pushing the start time to a little past 11 o clock, frontman Stefan Babcock urges fans not to kick any equipment over, to be respectful to one another, and if fans want to crowd surf they’ll be sent back towards the bar. Once that’s all over, its nothing but sheer punk bliss as Pup spring into action with ‘Guilt Trip’. The prominent lead guitar sections on material from their first record is so distinctive that fans end up ‘singing’ the instrumental sections. This is of course when they aren’t singing every word back to Stefan and co and laying waste to everything in sight. As with every show at Old Blue Last, there’s a sizeable but friendly push pit taking place in the center of the room, alongside the eternal struggle to keep crowd-surfers from causing too much damage. Stefan himself even jumps into the crowd a few times, clambering across the room and feeding off the kinetic energy.

The band briefly stop in order to maintain a level of crowd safety, as a few patrons try and stage-dive off the stairs of the stage. At any other non-barrier venue this would be fine, but given how immensely packed the room is, Pup decides not to take any chances and kick out the handful of troublemakers. By this point, a fair few people who had been there from doors onwards decided they had enough, and the room is half empty as we reach ‘If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You’. This of course doesn’t take away from how solid the transition is into ‘DVP’, where the audience shouts along at the top of their lungs. As Pup ring out the last few notes and seemingly everyone in the room screams; “She says I need to grow up!”, we’re let out through the fire exits and cast out into the busy East London street. Exclusive shows such as tonight exemplify our love for transatlantic emo, with a stellar performance on Pup’s part and the utmost adoration from UK fans. This will no doubt go down in history as one of Pup’s career defining shows, and its tough luck really if you missed it.