Last week, Real Friends hit the road to play a string of small venue shows in a few select cities. Considering the immense growth that Real Friends experienced this past year, a small venue tour like this is shocking, but nonetheless a very integral part of their careers. Being able to be close to the fans without a barricade allows the band to reconnect with their own fans after coming off of the “From The Screen to Your Stereo to Your Town” tour with New Found Glory. The guys in Real Friends aren’t on the road alone, Keep Flying and Pronoun, two very strong, talented bands are accompanying them on this small tour. I have seen Real Friends multiple times in the past few years and they always deliver a true punk rock show; from their energy on stage, to Dan Lambton’s overpowering voice, to hearing all of their die-hard fans scream lyrics to songs as old as “Floorboards” while moshing, crowd surfing and stage diving, their shows never let their fans, me included, down.
First to hit the stage was the 6-piece pop-punk act Keep Flying. Keep Flying has been hot in the Buffalo music scene ever since their appearance at the final Kill the Clock show about a month ago. Due to their recent exposure in Buffalo, they were met by an energetic crowd with open arms. The success Keep Flying has had isn’t because of nothing, the second they stepped on stage all 6 members started moving and they didn’t stop until they left the stage. The saxophone and trumpet players would even pretend that they were playing their wind instruments like a guitar which seemed to transform their instruments from being traditional jazz instruments into rock n’ roll instruments. There is so much going on stage when they play that you don’t even know where to look. Keep Flying definitely isn’t your average pop-punk band. They headbang and jump like a metal band and have a trombone and saxophone like a ska band while still jamming like a rock band. When Keep Flying hits the stage all the moving parts instantly come together, creating a truly one of a kind performance that can only be seen when their feet hit the stage.
Up next was Pronoun, who I had not yet had the chance to see live. A few months back, we were lucky enough to receive Pronoun’s latest album “i’ll show you stronger” at the radio station. Our music directors were immediately captivated by Alyse Vellturo’s airy, yet powerful vocals that filled the venue with the slightest bit of effort. Even though Pronoun features an indie rock sound rather than Real Friends’ traditional pop-punk sound, I think they were a great addition to the bill. Hailing from Brooklyn, NY Pronoun is an indie-synth-pop project that provided a nice contrast to the heavy-hitting acts that played before and after. Playing songs off her new record, Pronoun filled every corner of the venue with her beautiful dynamic voice. While Pronoun is technically a solo project, I like how she brings a band along to really fill out the live sound. Having mixed-genre tours like this is amazing because it exposes fans to new bands they might have never found on their own.
Finally, Real Friends hit the stage and the crowd went absolutely wild. As I said before, I have seen Real Friends a few times in the past few years. The first time I saw them live was at The Waiting Room (R.I.P) and to this day Real Friends still considers that show the hottest (not “hot” as in “the best”, but hot as in literally blazing hot inside the venue) show that they ever had to play. Despite the fact that it was unbelievably hot during that show, Real Friends still absolutely killed it. It was at that show that I acquired my high expectations for Real Friends. The way that they are able to get everyone in the venue moving and singing along is unforgettable.
As Real Friends was getting ready to take the stage I honestly was a little cold, but I instantly regretted thinking that because halfway through their first song I was already drenched in sweat. The crowd was a constant wave of pushing from front to back and side to side; hands were flying and nearly everyone in the crowd was singing along to songs like “Get By”, “Summer”, and “Mess”, which, in my opinion, were easily the most popular songs on their set aside from “I Don’t Love You Anymore”, which is a slower song that allowed the crowd to rest and get in their feels. Lambton disagreed though saying that just because it was a slow song it doesn’t mean the energy has to drop. On the contrary, I think that song holds a very powerful meaning for a lot of their fans and the crowd just wanted to soak it all in. Nevertheless, as soon as “Late Nights in My Car” came on, the crowd was back at it with the stage-diving and the crowd-surfing (even one of our music directors had to get a piece of the action going up to stage dive when Lambton called for more crowd surfers and stage divers). Another thing that made this tour extra special was that it wasn’t an album tour. This gave Real Friends the ability to play a career-spanning set, even playing their cherished song “Floorboards” off their 2012 release Everyone That Dragged You Here and “Late Nights in My Car” and “I’ve Given Up On You” off their 2013 release Put Yourself Back Together. No matter how old the song was, each was met with roaring applause and a mosh pit. A defining characteristic of a “small venue show” is that there is no barricade to separate the band and the madness in the crowd. While this might intimidate some bands, Real Friends took advantage of the missing barricade and happily greeted the waves of crowd surfers that made their way on the stage. Vocalist Dan Lambton even had to stop a few times to help return some of the phones that were lost in the continual pit. The energy of a small venue show is unbeatable, especially when Real Friends is on the stage. For the short hour that they were on stage, the environment creates a family of people picking others up off the ground in the center of the pit, catching falling crowd surfers and stage divers, and returning lost phones, all of which was an effort between the crowd and the band members themselves. Right now, twitter bio says “currently playing our last shows for a while. come hang” and their small tour is about to come to an end so if you are able to catch one of the remaining dates in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts or Michigan, I urge you to do so.
Words: Chandler Poczciwinski
Photography: Haley Sousa