Bouncing Souls, Pears – Fighting Cocks, Kingston

bouncing souls, fighting cocks, kingston

Bouncing Souls & Pears
Fighting Cocks, Kingston – 7.07

I’m not the biggest Bouncing Souls fan in the world but I know enough to know that they’re a big deal. The smooth New Brunswick, New Jersey punk rockers have been at it since 1988 – two years longer than Lagwagon and three more than Rancid – and seeing them in a sweaty little pub like The Fighting Cocks, for the first time, was a treat I couldn’t pass up. Plus New Orleans Fat Wreck newbies Pears are supporting, and I haven’t seen them before either.

It’s not like I’m a total Bouncing Souls virgin. I did get massively into their 2003 album Anchors Aweigh, as well as their 2006 follow up The Gold Record. Of course, I also know classics like “True Believers,” “Hopeless Romantic,” “Manthem” and “Kate Is Great.” And that Bouncing Souls have some of the worst album art and t-shirt and sticker designs in the history of rock ‘n roll. Just look at the cover of their new album Simplicity – WTF? They almost make Strung Out’s artwork look decent.

Before the show word goes around that Pears will be on stage at 8:15pm, so I get to The Fighting Cocks earlier than usual. But already, the place smells like sweat and beer, an odour I waste no time contributing to – on both counts. Two beers later and it’s time for Pears.

The Fighting Cocks is the definition of “intimate venue.” And the place hosts big bands like Against Me!, Strung Out, Slaves, and now, Bouncing Souls. Still, the only thing I can think about walking into the venue section of the pub is the stench of sweat, damp and mould.

pears, fighting cocks, kingston

Pears are already on stage and I’m surprised by their look. I don’t know why, but I was picturing hipper, skinny jeans, Warped Tour kids. Instead, these guys already look like a classic Fat Wreck band; overweight, balding, bad facial hair, baggy shorts. I like them more instantly.

Skinny, mustachioed frontman Zach Quinn throws himself around like a madman, barking words so fast they sound guttural and unintelligible. Without his shirt, he looks like a combination of Gollum and Burt Reynolds. And at one point, he goes full-on Pan’s Labyrinth, covering his eyes with his palm tattoos for dramatic effect.

His melodic bits are spot on as well. And guitarist Brian Pretus provides perfect support with his massive, mega-in-tune backups. The music’s schizophrenic, taking in influences like old Propagandhi, NOFX and Guttermouth, and spitting them out in a frenzy of mad-sounding tempo changes, frantic time signatures, old-school hardcore slam dances and straight up melodic punk rock singalongs.

Current drummer Jarret Nathan, who joined the band in 2015, calls the shots on stage – he’s incredible. And his tight fills and Frenzal Rhomb-ish flourishes help prog up Pears’ otherwise punk rock sound. “This song’s for motherfucking Brandon Carlisle,” says Pretus, before the band launches into a blitzkreig-fast take on Ramones’ “Judy Is a Punk.”

It’s easy to spot that Pears have been on the road for a long time. They’re insanely tight and well rehearsed, replicating their albums perfectly – only faster and with more intensity. On top of that, the new songs they bang out sound even more exciting. Before the last song, Pretus begs the crowd to buy the band’s remaining merch, so he can pay rent. Then he begs for some weed, because him and bassist Erich Goodyear, who joined Pears this year, are all out. And suddenly, it’s obvious that this is a band decades apart from headliners Bouncing Souls. But their time will come, and one day their weed will be delivered, free-of-charge.

Even in the small, damp pub the bands’ polar opposite statuses are obvious. First of all, there’s a new fan for relatively new drummer George Rebelo, from Hot Water Music, who joined Bouncing Souls in 2013. And on top of that, there’s a tech guy with a beard and a torch setting up and checking all their gear for them.

the bouncing souls, fighting cocks, kingston

By the time Bouncing Souls hit the stage The Fighting Cocks is unbearable. Everywhere I look there are fat guys with no shirts and spotty backs, glistening with sweat under the orange lights. Oh man… It’s gonna get all Along Came Polly in here.

The first thing that strikes me is how unlikely frontman Greg Attonito looks. He reminds me of Michael Keaton, or something, holding the microphone like a rat pack crooner in his smart button-up black shirt. His voice sounds awesome, though, flavoured with decades of punk rock.

The band kicks into “That Song,” from 2001’s How I Spent My Summer Vacation. And by song three, “Kate Is Great,” The Fighting Cocks has lost it. I look up and see Banquet Records’ Jon Tolley smiling in the front row. People literally cannot believe their luck.

The first song that hits me is “Lean On Sheena,” which sounds awesome. But halfway through the song the seven-foot giant in front of me starts calling his buddy, who’s just out of shot, telling him there’s space for him in the front. Only he’s pointing exactly where I’m standing. And of course, the new guy is massive. His friend tells him to take off his shirt, but thank God he decides against it.

Other set standouts include “Hopeless Romantic,” “Anchors Aweigh,” “Kid,” “Sing Along Forever,” “The Gold Song” and gig closer “True Believers.” The second they’re done, though, I’m out the door and away. By the end I was battling to even breathe in there. It takes me more than half an hour to realise it’s actually cold out. Great night. But personally, I found Pears more exciting. More vital, I guess. Hungrier. Speaking of which… I stick on my flannel shirt and head towards Five Guys.

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