Twenty years ago, when Bowling for Soup entered the top ten single charts with “Girl, All The Bad Guys Want”, the British public fell in love with them and vice versa. There was immense sadness in 2013 when they announced that they would no longer be touring the UK. Thankfully the Texas quartet has since found ways to return to the UK.
A few days before the Brixton gig Bowling for Soup stated that drummer Gary Wiseman had fallen ill and had been flown back to the US. Jaret Reddick could seldom recall a show they had played without him in their 28 years of being in a band together. How would the show go on? Thankfully members from support act The Dollyrots and Lit stepped in (as would Jaret) on drums to deliver, as promised, “a full rock show”.
With Matt Stocks on DJ and compare, the gig felt more like a festival by playing pop-punk classics from Blink 182, Green Day and Reel Big Fish and telling people how long they had to go to the bar to buy merchandise and when to return for the next act. Before Bowling for Soup addressed the stage, Jaret entered alone and played an acoustic version of “Turbulence” from their 2011 LP Fishin’ for Woos. Gary’s absence was felt. The Bowling for Soup’s drum kit had “Greatest of All Time” written on it, the opening track from their new LP: Pop Drunk Snot Bread. However, being missed does not mean that the show was either lacking or depleted of energy. Dancing and occasion were moshing (people had had enough to drink by now!) to dig the youthful pop-punk elixirs of classics “My Hometown” and “High School Never Ends”.
With the Gary Wiseman titled Pop Drunk Snot Bread being released, songs from this album were played, including the latest song dropped, “I Wanna Be Brad Pitt”, before playing “Alexa Bliss”, about the current WWE wrestler who appeared in the video for this song. This song will be remembered at the Brixton Academy for several reasons. The band stopped “Alexa Bliss” halfway through. Not because there was a fight (as is usually the cause) or for shock value, but because the band sensed that an audience member was distressed. Bowling for Soup had explained that they had stopped playing in the past as they had sensed people had lost shoes and glasses and then found them. The band provided ample time and got audience members to take steps back so attempts could be made to find the phone. This act of love and kindness from Bowling for Soup added to the atmosphere; they then finished playing “Alexa Bliss”, which turned out to be a modern Bowling for Soup classic.
They didn’t overindulge with new material. They only played two tracks from Pop Drunk Snot Bread even though, judging by the number of Pop Drunk Snot Bread t-shirts alone, the audience would have been receptive to more. Nonetheless, they played all their staple hits, including “Punk Rock 101” and “1985”, and played out with “Girl All the Bad Guys Want”.
Beyond delivering the staples and showing love and kindness, they delivered a performance unique from other acts for a band entrenched in the pop-punk status quo. From playing Wham’s “Last Christmas” during the encore to displaying great humour with jokes throughout and via a separate “Comedy Jam” where BFS members, as well as members from the support, acts offered up jokes. Guitarist Chris Burney who donned a dress, and Alan Ginsberg spectacles, displayed good humour as he turned around to show his posterior during “1985” as Jared sang “, She was gonna shake her ass on the hood of Whitesnake’s car…”. Burney also occasionally led the crowd by chanting for the band. The St George’s day outfit from a crew member was less well-received; this was still a warm-hearted effort from a band trying to connect more deeply and intimately with their British fans. Based on the reaction when BFS announced that they would be returning to the UK later this year for a Christmas show, it’s fair to say that no harm was done.
Love and kindness over attitude from Bowling for Soup, from condemning people throwing beer at the crowds, helping audience members try to find their property, and collective unity with their support acts will ensure Bowling for Soup remain pop-punk pioneers for years to come.