The Starting Line – Sheffield Octagon

By paul

Drive Thru Records has an unfair reputation of solely being a pop-punk label, with all their bands jumping on the Blink 182 bandwagon. It’s a harsh and unnecessary tag, with many detractors pointing to the likes of Allister, Homegrown and New Found Glory as the offending bands. Another group shoved into this bracket are The Starting Line, fresh out of school and onto the pop-punk conveyor belt. Their debut Drive Thru EP is pretty darn good, but would Sheffield be given the same kind of goodness on the band’s first ever UK tour…

The anthemic opening track from their ‘With Hopes Of Starting Over’ EP, ‘Leaving’ kicks things off, and boy do TSL sound good. At first glance this is the identikit Drive Thru band the detractors claim – pop-punk at its singalong best – but The Starting Line do what they do very well. ‘Leaving’ is a great song and it’s belted out with enthusiasm. Vocalist Kenny is a star in the making, both a pin-up for the girls and a bona fide rock star for the boys. He has all the qualities of the perfect frontman, endless energy and a great voice. It certainly seems as though he’s paid close attention to NFG’s Jordan Pundik, as both know how to get the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands. ‘Greg’s Last Day’, also from the EP, is blasted out with confidence and again is a hit in waiting.

The best song of the set award, however, goes to their stonking cover of Jennifer Lopez’s ‘I’m Real’. Featured on the ‘Punk Goes Pop’ compilation, and introduced by Kenny as “the way to cover rap songs,” the foursome burst into a powerful rendition, complete with rap-style verses and Kenny’s classic shout of “holler!” before the first verse. Not an easy song to pull off live, but not only do TSL do it with ease, they make it sound like their own song. They may be barely out of school, but The Starting Line play with a confidence and ability that belittles their youth. Single ‘Three’s A Charm’ goes down a storm, sparking a mini singalong by those at the front who are already familair with the band. Showing a more mature side to their songwriting, the song’s catchier than syphilis chorus sparks a mini riot and a sea of surfers in the crowd.

With their debut full-lengther due out in the summer, a couple of new tracks are aired and they sound great. One in particular sounded very anthemic and will certainly be worth checking out. The new-old song ‘Left Coast Envy’ is also bashed out with enthusiasm, with guitarists Mike and Matt bouncing riffs off of each other as if there is no tomorrow. After the gig Matt told me he thought they sounded bad…I assured him they didn’t. There is even enough time for New Found Glory singer Jordan to appear on stage and join in vocal duties on one track.

Things unceremoniously end with a triumphant version of ‘Cheek To Cheek’ with Nate Barcalow of Finch helping out in the vocal department. At the end of the song Kenny flies into a fit of rage, bouncing around the stage with reckless abandon before ending up in a heap on the floor, bass buzzing with feedback. Quite a way to end a brilliant set.

The Starting Line aren’t quite the real deal, but they certainly are not that far off. After their set they eagerly watched on as New Found Glory strutted their stuff, and under their watchful gaze TSL can go as far as they like. Certainly a band to keep an eye on this summer. And beyond…

Paul Savage