LIVE: The Movielife / PUP @ The Dome, London

By Jack Hadaway

On the back of a couple of storming UK reunion dates and a set at Belgium’s famed Groezrock festival, legendary underground punks, The Movielife, return to London alongside their new Canadian buddies and fellow Groezrockers, PUP.

PUP meander onto stage and speak to the crowd for a few moments, amusingly announcing that playing tonight’s venue, The Dome, has a similar feeling to “playing a high school dance.” However, as lead vocalist and guitarist Stefan tells the half-full room, “we are always up for trying new things” before introducing their incredible ‘If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will’.

They hurtle into debut album-opener ‘Guilt Trip’ and it is here that we see how in sync PUP are as a unit. The quartet flawlessly utilise a mob-like gang vocal approach to bounce off one another with sheer energy. Although due to their heavily layered vocal sound they stay largely glued to their microphones, their passion and record-perfect resonance making for a truly thrilling experience. PUP are incredibly exciting without having to move around the stage.

They continue their layered approach on both ‘Back Against the Wall’ and ‘Dark Days’, the latter seeing the band doused in a blue light which compliments the smooth bassline groove presented by Nestor Chumak. Chumak and drummer Zack Mykula sound super tight against one another whilst guitarist Steve Sladkowski lays down some intricate, and at times almost math-rock, licks over their solid backbone. PUP work incredibly well at creating a large sound from many sources without making it sound too overpowering.

This dynamic almost shifts during ‘Mabu’, a song about Stefan’s old car, as the group seemingly go into overdrive with Zack providing some impossibly fast beats for his colleagues to follow. The vibe then morphs once again as PUP edge into the slow-burning ‘Yukon’, accompanied by suitably empowering orange lighting. The five minute ballad allows for the band to move around the stage and to add some experimental mini-improvisations to their performance. It is completely enrapturing. Something which the band take note at the end of the track by joking that “if you’re confused about what is going on up here, think about it like the time you lost your virginity: It’s not what you expected but it’ll be over soon.”

PUP manage to squeeze in ‘Doubts’, a song which was released a few days prior into the set before commencing the deliciously fuzzy ‘Reservoir’ which is rapturously received by the entire audience with its irresistible building introduction. PUP then leave the stage acknowledging that much of the audience knows very little about them stating that “you’ve been exceptionally polite.” As a parting gift to cement their status as one of the nicest bands around they announce that their merch guy will trade t-shirts for a beer or two. “It’s a definite barter zone,” Stefan announces, as a mass exodus from the dancefloor occurs, it seems those who knew nothing of PUP are thoroughly converted and keen to spread the word.

After a short bar break and with the room nearly at capacity it is time for legendary Long Island skate-esque punks The Movielife to hit the stage. From the outset the vibe is completely different with the entire room enthralled by the band that they never thought they would have the chance to see again. Frontman Vinnie Caruana opens the set by declaring that there is no barricade at the show “so come forward and sing along” before catapulting into ‘Walking on Glass’ and then ‘Face or Kneecaps’, the opener of ‘Forty Hour Train Back To Penn’ which was The Movielife’s last studio album, way back in 2003.

Seemingly, the crowd have been waiting 13 years to catch The Movielife live as they sing back every single word to Vinnie as he darts around the stage whilst intermittently pushing the microphone into his audience. This notable response is even present on the staggeringly short ‘I Hope You Die Soon’ which is bellowed back to the stage, despite only clocking in at 27 seconds. What is really inspiring is how excited the band look on stage and how much this reflects in their performance. With so many reunions afoot as of late, it can seem that many of them are purely financially based and joyless. With The Movielife however every member of the quintet can be seen enjoying their performance.

Non-musical highlights of The Movielife’s set are also very frequent with Vinnie explaining that this three date UK tour is “the most shows The Movielife has played consecutively since 2003.” Caruana also directs the audience to his colleagues when joking about things that have been discovered on this tour such as “god, growth and sunday roasts.”

The band spend much of their setlist focusing on tracks from their ‘This Time Next Year’ era with the titular track going down particularly well alongside ‘Pinky Swear’, as well as playing material from ‘Forty Hour…’ including crowd-favourite, ‘Hey’, which induces the biggest singalong of the night so far. Throughout the evening any blips are easily laughed off, such as the false start on ‘Ship To Shore’ where Vinnie slightly misses his a cue. This in turn provokes a tongue-in-cheek heckle from an audience member which is swiftly replied with a joking response of “hey fuck you! We are semi-retired.” Judging by the age range in the audience, it is also apparent that this may be the case for some of the fans.

The age of the crowd is also addressed during ‘Jamaica Next’ with the band musing that “it is crazy that you are all having fun as adults” which once again can be said of both the band and their audience. It is heartwarming then that new track, ‘Future Feeling (Afraid of Drugs)’, holds up in a setlist which is otherwise entirely a decade old.

Instead of choosing to leave the stage for an encore, The Movielife hang about and introduce the crowd to the final three songs of their set in a relaxed fashion. The band take some time to thank PUP for stepping in as support on a couple of these shows before they set the building off with ‘Hand Grenade’ which prompts the debut of tonight’s crowdsurfers.

The guitarist duo of Dan Navetta and Brandon Reilly then meander into the ballad ‘Sailor Tattoos’ which as Vinnie comments is a “deep cut” which many fans are really happy to see make an appearance. The Movielife then conclude on “their only hit single” ‘Jamestown’ which once again ignites an absolute flurry of crowdsurfers and a frenzy of forward movement. A fitting end to a varied evening.

Through watching both the audience and the reaction of the band, it is clear that The Movielife mean a lot to a significant number of people. With the band taking such a lengthy hiatus, it is certain that in the case of The Movielife, absence has most definitely made the heart grow fonder and that the band will receive another rapturous reception when they hopefully return to the UK in 2017.