REVIEW: The Wonder Years lead the UC Theatre through Sister Cities

The Wonder Years

Photos: Chloe Catajan

BERKELEY — The Wonder Years shook the UC Theatre grounds Wednesday with an energized 18-song set. Halfway through its tour, the Philadelphia pop-punk group was in the midst of promoting LP Sister Cities, released last month. Fittingly, the band opened with “Pyramids of Salt,” off the 2018 release.

Under dimmed blue and gold lights, frontman Dan Campbell sung the first lines of the song as an ambient ring filled the space between his isolated vocals. It wasn’t until the chorus that drummer Mike Kennedy, bassist Josh Martin and guitarists Matt Brasch, Casey Cavaliere and Nick Steinborn fully joined in. Fans joined in too, shouting the lyrics to the hearty refrain.

“How you doing Berkeley? Are you ready to have some fun?” Campbell asked mid-song.

The Wonder Years

The Wonder Years perform at the UC Theatre in Berkeley on May 23, 2018.

“Pyramids of Salt,” like much of Sister Cities, reflects an alt-rock shift in The Wonder Years’ longtime pop-punk sound. Its instrumentals swap a fraction of the band’s original rowdiness for refinement, but the lyrics remain as vulnerably candid as ever. This still resonated with fans.

The Wonder Years did not shy away from older material. The group next played “I Don’t Like Who I Was Then,” a staple off 2015’s No Closer to Heaven. Campbell asked fans to scream the lyrics. Tracks like “There, There” off 2013’s The Greatest Generation, “Coffee Eyes” (2017’s Burst & Decay), and Sister Cities’ opening track, “Raining in Kyoto,” followed.

For its encore, The Wonder Years closed with an acoustic rendition of “A Song for Ernest Hemingway,” “Passing Through a Screen Door” and “Cigarettes & Saints.”

With Tigers Jaw, Tiny Moving Parts and Worriers preceding The Wonder Years, the tour’s lineup felt like a tightknit gathering for the pop-punk scene.

Tigers Jaw played a set that featured its recent indie-rock sound, but also revisited its well-beloved roots in pop-punk. The Scranton, Pennsylvania rockers started with “Follows,” off 2017 LP Spin, which instantly riled up the crowd.

Whether through the group’s concentration on its instruments or its dynamic use of stage space, Tigers Jaw played with an infectious, in-sync energy easy for fans to reciprocate. This showed during songs off its 2010 self-titled album, such as “The Sun” and “Chemicals,” whose choruses prompted sing-alongs epic enough to give you goosebumps. The band also threw in some surprise track-to-track transitions, namely between “Plane vs. Tank vs. Submarine” and “Make It Up.” To close its set, Tigers Jaw played “June” and the equally sentimental “Hum.”

Tiny Moving Parts

Tiny Moving Parts perform at the UC Theatre in Berkeley on May 23, 2018.

Over eight songs, Tiny Moving Parts lived up to its math rock reputation. The Minnesota band’s instrumentals were carefully calculated as it weaved through different time signatures and melodic ideas. Songs like “Sundress” and “Applause” juxtaposed screamo vocals with twinkling guitar parts, creating a fast back-and-forth pace. Though Tiny Moving Parts are still fresh off their 2018 release, Swell, the group played an even mix of new tracks and older ones.

Brooklyn band Worriers kicked off the evening with high voltage quintessential punk through straightforward, headstrong guitar parts and raw vocals by band leader Lauren Denitzio. At the same time, the melodies brought in the catchiness of pop, which put an upbeat twist on the personal obstacles portrayed in Denitzio’s lyrics.

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