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Review | A Pup concert makes aging out of your 20s feel like a total blast


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Aging out of your 20s is rough. You might feel mortality nearing from something like a gnarly hangover that wouldn’t faze you in the early half of the decade. You may even be paralyzed by the creeping realization that you’re not necessarily the protagonist of your own story. So many musicians have tried to interpret that rough patch where it feels as if the excuses of youth are quickly fading. Those sounds don’t always roar so loudly, or even feel particularly fun all the time.

But no one told Pup that.

The Toronto punk quartet threw one of their typically raucous ragers Saturday night at the Fillmore Silver Spring for a packed, standing-room floor of young people. There were a brave few who blissfully ignored age (and physics) as they crowd-surfed through the night while sloppily shouting along to standout songs, including mid-set peak “DVP.”

That tight, 149-second mad dash conveys a particularly bad bout of pining for a girlfriend and the self-destruction that makes her not want to be there. “Three beers, and I’m so messed up/Get drunk, and I can’t shut up!” frontman Stefan Babcock wailed, but the messy line of catharsis came a handful of seconds later. “I just don’t know what to do/I’m still [messed] up over you!”

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Babcock, in his early 30s, embodies a class-clown spirit spewed out through a charming nasal snarl. But if you listen to him unspool his witty, acerbic and doubt-ridden jabs, you begin to realize that he probably wrote the best essays in his English classes.

Pup works best when revealing the ever-so-small glimmer of hope between pitiable self-deprecation at screw-ups and understanding how one must reject the void of despair to keep moving on.

The whole aging thing is a lot easier when you have four dudes getting through it together. Babcock spring-boarded around the stage and was joined on singalong anthems by drummer Zack Mykula, whose frenetic rhythms are the backbone of the chaos, and lead guitarist Steve Sladkowski, who ping-ponged riffs with bassist Nestor Chumak. Pup has the same boyish blast of pop-punk fun as Blink-182, if they all went to therapy.

“I guess it doesn’t matter anyway,” Babcock mused in the chorus of the night’s closing song, “Kids,” which is a devotional to a partner who thinks the world is just as dumb as you. “I don’t care about nothin’ but you/I guess it doesn’t matter anyway/‘Cause I don’t care about nothin.’ ”

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It’s a difficult stance to sustain, yet Pup pulls it off. Some fans are drawn to the solidarity found in songs about screwing up and the pithy reactions to one’s mess. But Babcock can’t just keep imploding his life for the sake of some songs. There was a pearl of wisdom near the end of the night’s performance in “Puptheband Inc. Is Filing For Bankruptcy”:

“Too old for teen angst, too young to be washed,” he howled about living in that bummer of a murky maturation phase, where nothing feels quite youthfully poetic or hard-earned. “I used to be reckless and too broke to eat/Now all of my friends have bidets in their en suites.”

Growing up doesn’t mean you still can’t be a little snotty while having fun with your pals about the highs and lows ahead — as long as you can do it together.



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