New York – The Real Friends show started with a Wentzian voice over. The light rasp of lead singer Dan Lambton’s voice came in over the loudspeakers as the band took the stage. The sentiments, like “I only miss you late at night,” sounded like pop punk lyrics in paragraph form and sent the audience into a frenzy. The crowd, having barely calmed since opener Neck Deep left the stage, cheered uproariously. “Hell yeah. Let’s get weird…” Lambton said and with a jump launched into “I’ve Given Up On You” off the band’s Put Yourself Back Together EP.
The Marlin Room audience sprang to life. Guys and gals of all ages leapt from the stage into the thrashing crowd. The floor swayed, danced and jumped along to the music. During the next song, “Summer,” a mosh pit cracked open. The audience instinctively and collectively took several steps back to make room for the swirl of participants. This evolved into a full-blown circle pit during songs like “Floorboards.” Everyone seemed to know what to do and how to react to every change in the crowd.
The energy only died down during the spoken word voice overs. Often the mini monologues clued in to what was next on the set list. When one ended with Lambton’s voice repeating “I don’t love you anymore” over and over, the audience cheered. The phrase was the name of Real Friend’s single “I Don’t Love You Anymore” and sure enough the band followed-up with it next.
The song was off their full-length debut Maybe This Place Is The Same And We’re Just Changing, which we reviewed earlier this year. Lambton asked the audience in-between songs who had bought the record, which only came out in July, and half the room cheered. He then asked who had downloaded it “for free,” an equal number of people cheered. One way or another the album had spread through the fan base and the band seemed indifferent as to the “how” so long as their music was being shared. Lambton chuckled, “I didn’t pay for it, so I don’t give a fuck.” With a synchronized jump the banter cut and the band began their other single, “Loose Ends,” another crowd favorite.
They then brought the energy down again. Lambton suggested giving the front row, which had been receiving stage divers and crowd surfers for several songs straight, a break. The room quieted and stopped its rhythmic rolling and punching long enough for the band to play through “Dead.” The song’s subject matter perhaps prompted another one of Lambton’s mic monologues. However, this time the banter took a serious turn and Lambton talked at length about depression and seeking help. Kyle Fasel, the band’s bassist and lyricist, has spoken about the nature of some of Real Friends’ songs and his own struggle with depression in interviews, explaining how he found himself “physically and mentally down on [his] knees while going through depression.” Lambton went on to mention that they had postcards on their merch table with information on suicide prevention and depression. He continued, saying, “It takes a little work, but it does get better…If you need a little help there is nothing’ wrong with you getting it.” The audience cheered.
The mood and energy picked back up and the band played through “Lost Boy” and “Cover You Up” next. Fasel stood on the edge of the stage, mouthing along with the audience. His role as lyricist as well as his spoken word career, which perhaps inspired the voiceovers, made him seem increasingly like the Wentz of the group. However, the overlap between the band’s lyrics and the voiceovers make the latter seem more like the connective tissue in between the songs and less like a shameless self-plug on Fasel’s part. Moreover they make an interesting addition to Real Friends’ live show.
The concert was very much a standard pop punk show and the voiceovers made it different. Still it was a pop punk show and thus a good fit for the Marlin Room. The low stage made stagediving easy and moshing almost a must. Songs like “Skin Deep” had the audience in such a fervor that a few moshers went down, but luckily the young crowd (it was a 16+ show) got everyone back on their feet without incident. If someone emerged from the pit holding his head or an arm, they were immediately checked on by fellow concertgoers. Similarly when one girl tripped on stage, whilst zig-zagging behind Lambton to get to the outstretched arms of stage left, everyone took a beat to check whether she was ok. The stage diver immediately popped back up. Perfectly fine, but perhaps embarrassed, she jumped energetically off the stage and continued to do so for the rest of the night.
A song or so later the band left the stage, retaking it after a few minutes of the audience chanting, “One more song!” Lambton and Fasel then talked about the band’s first NYC show in Staten Island. They thanked the fans, the staff and everyone that made their music possible. The two also thanked the audience for approaching their openers, Have Mercy and Cruel Hand, with open minds. Follow pop punk band Neck Deep was an easy band for them to tour with, but the two indie rock acts were perhaps harder for their diehard pop punk fans to swallow. After their Thank Yous, the band asked everyone to put their cellphones away and enjoy the last song without having to worry about capturing a megabyte worth of sound. Everyone obeyed and moshed their hearts out for one last song.
Real Friends’ North American tour ends next week, save for a local year-end gig in Chicago.
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