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  • Megan Garzone

Review: Real Friends at The Kelsey Theater 5-26-17

The strongest pop-punk tour of the year, Real Friend’s The Home Inside My Head Tour, powered through Lake Park, Florida at the Kelsey Theater on the last Friday in May. This marks the Illinois Sad Boys only US tour this year, bringing the kids out in droves. Supporting their sophomore album, The Home Inside My Head, Real Friends brought some of today’s strongest bands in the genre along for the ride.

The Kelsey Theater was quite possibly the best venue for the night. With a long room, and a low stage, there was nothing separating the fans from the bands which created an intimate atmosphere for the show. The crowd was already packing in as Baltimore’s Have Mercy took the stage. Singer, Brian Swindle, had the crowd singing along from the moment he took the stage and kicked into “Smoke and Lace” of their newest release Make the Best of It. Their thirty minute set spanned eight songs that heavily favored the latest album with half the set dedicated to it. Other notable songs included “Coexist” and “Good Christian Man.” The crowd front and center were wildly singing along to every note with Swindle, and air guitaring along. The band finished out their set with the fan-favorite “Let’s Talk About Your Hair,” which had the crowd moving, singing, and dancing till the last note.

The “math rock” Minnesotans Tiny Moving Parts played direct support on this stop. I hadn’t had a chance to see the band perform live until this point and was blown away by the performance. With minimal set up (just a sign over the drum set reading “The Parts”), the trio came out to an already frenzied crowd with “Good Enough.” Remember the low stage and lack of separation between the band and fans? Well the crowd used Tiny Moving Parts’ set to test the limits. A constant stream of crowd surfers barraged the stage, knocking into vocalist/guitarist Dylan Mattheisen, knocking over mic stands and rolling around trying to catch their bearings. Those same crowd surfers turned into stage divers, and then back to the crowd to do it again. The band, however, did not miss a beat with their complex rhythms and serious finger tapping. Bassist, Matthew Chevalier, even caught a few fans and helped them to their feet while the songs played on.

The sad boys of Real Friends came to a stage set up like a home living room from times past. With lamp shades, table cloths, a sick CRT TV, and framed photos, it was one of the coolest niche set ups I’ve seen in a while. With the band supporting last year’s The Home Inside My Head release, the stage definitely added an intricate element to the show. The twenty song set kicked off with “Empty Picture Frames” which were decorated on the wall behind them. The crowd surfing started immediately (security seemed much more ready this time) and the room exploded with energy. Despite the album being supported, the setlist spanned across their entire discography over the years and only featured a handful of songs off the new album. Going back to their first single “Late Nights in My Car” and “Floorboards” the band kept the fans wildly engaged with quite a few of older songs. Singer, Dan Lambton brought the mood to a more somber tone towards the middle of the set with an acoustic rendition of “I’ve Given Up On You.” The band finished the set with the newer single “Mess” and then returned to the stage for an encore of “Summer” off their 2014 release.

My feelings after this show? Clearly I’ve been under a rock and pop-punk is alive and well. These bands showed me the resurgence of the genre, and the fans are just as dedicated as they were in the early 2000’s. The Kelsey Theater offered the perfect space for this show, as the intimate setting and fan acoustics just added to the ambiance which made it truly feel like a house or local show from back in the day. Everyone at the show, both fans and bands, were having a blast and each band made the crowd feel connected, you could see every fan in that sea of crowd surfers sing along and having a great time.

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