I had the privilege of going through my teens while pop-punk was at it’s peak. Bands like Blink-182, The Offspring, and Jimmy Eat World weren’t just dominating alt-rock stations, they were pumping out consistent Top-40 hits. On my side of the border, Sum 41 were without a doubt, the Canadian kings of the genre.
The Sum 41 show was the first time that I’d seen a band live, and actually known most of their material. No more mumbling through those unfamiliar verses for me. From their first single release in 2000, all the way up to their trip to my hometown, I was a fan. Now, I wasn’t exactly buying all the albums, but I’d at least seen all the music videos, and downloaded a few of their songs with Kazaa.
Around 2004, the band was at the peak of their popularity. Over the course of four years, they’d gone from MuchMusic darlings to collaborating with Iggy Pop, and even showing up on the Spider-man soundtrack. In addition to the commercial success, the band was also showing some impressive creative growth, by introducing a bit of Metal to their already solid pop-punk sound. It might not sound like a huge deal now, but mixing the stylings of Iron Maiden and Blink 182 made for a pretty refreshing sound at the time.
As far as concerts go, this one was a pretty big change of pace from what I’d seen so far. Instead of a late night excursion into some smoky den, this bad boy was an outdoor show in the middle of the day. It had a much more “All Ages” feel to it, but that might have had less to do with the sunshine, and more to do with the fact that I brought my girlfriend’s little brother along to the show.
The concert itself was really fun. Since the crowd skewed a bit younger, the audience was a lot more active than the Sloan or Nazareth gigs. Lots of jumping around, but nobody got too out of hand (again, broad daylight). Knowing all the songs really added to the whole experience too.
Now, it’s not that have anything against hearing new material live for the first time. It’s just that it forces you to dial things back a bit, and switch into move of an observer mode. Whereas, when you know the songs, you’re more free to be an active participant in the whole experience. Not just singing along, but being completely prepared for that special moment where the band stops everything, and lets the crowd take over the performance (A highlight of any live show, and gets exponentially cooler when you add in a few thousand more fans).
Unfortunately the band’s lead guitarist left the band not too long after this show, and Sum 41 never really got that “mojo” back. Well, I stopped keeping up with them anyway. That said, I’ll always have fond memories of this concert, and every high school highlight they provided the soundtrack to.