PUP, The Hotelier at Danforth Music Hall

Read Ava Muir's live review of PUP's first night of three at Toronto's Danforth Music Hall, all photos by Benjamin Bush
All photos by Benjamin Bush

It’s been three years since PUP released their self-titled debut and celebrated it at Sneaky Dee’s, Toronto’s cherished, 200 cap dive bar. By the time the release of their sophomore record, Polaris short-listed nominee The Dream Is Over rolled around earlier in 2016, the self-proclaimed dirtbags had worked their way up to Phoenix stature, selling out the 1350 concert theatre with ease. When word broke that the city’s beloved boys were rounding out their incredibly successful year with a three-night, all ages residency at the Danforth Music Hall, it felt right. When two of the three shows sold out in no time at all, it felt deserved. Add in support performances from The Hotelier, The Dirty Nil, Chastity, PKEW PKEW PKEW and Chris Cresswell of The Flatliners and it felt too good to be true.

“We’ve been on tour for one hundred days,” singer Stefan Babcock told the exuberant crowd on December 14, the first night of the stint. “It’s good to be home.” The man doesn’t lie, either. PUP have practically been on the road for as long as they’ve been a band. It’s this relentless passion and drive that has catapulted the punk act into becoming one of the Toronto music scene’s greatest success stories. “It was the kind of thing where it was cool opportunities,” lead guitarist Steve Sladkowski told me earlier this year. “We just kept saying yes because things sounded cool and we didn’t want to not do cool things.” And why not, right? Isn’t this the attitude that we should all strive to have? Say yes to any and every opportunity that comes your way. PUP are the human embodiment of the cliche quotes that come plastered across the kinds of memes that only a mom could share, the kind of pick-me-ups that have been fed to us since the days of elementary school.

“Follow your dreams”
“If you believe it, you can achieve it”
“If you do what you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life”

PUP make these mottos feel a lot less forced and a whole lot more endearing. They are evolving into the band that young adults will turn to for solace throughout the most trying and formative years of their lives. Comparable to their friends in Modern Baseball, PUP’s untouchable live performances are becoming safe spaces for rooms full of youths, cathartically screaming along to lyrics saturated in every pivotal and turbulent emotion you’ve felt but never been able to describe.

The Danforth was a room full of glowing pride and warmth on that frigid Wednesday night. “This is way nicer than we deserve,” Babcock remarked early on in the set, evenly split between both old and new songs. The thing is, PUP deserve it all. They deserve to play on the stages of expansive theatres that highlight the intricacy of each booming riff, just as much as they deserve to play small, crawling clubs where their ferocious and raw energy drives fans to hang from the rafters. No matter the fan base they garner or the venues they sell out, no matter the records sold or raving reviews from renowned critics – PUP will never lose the vivacious and genuine spark that has kept this ball rolling for them from the start.

Review by Ava Muir
Photos of The Hotelier (1-4) and PUP (5-15) by Benjamin Bush