by: Peter Keough ’20 A&E Staff
At their headlining show at Providence venue The Strand this past Friday, Philadelphia born-and-bred pop-punk band The Wonder Years opened their set with the title track from their most recent album, Sister Cities. The chorus of the track finds front man Dan “Soupy” Campbell belting out the lines, “I’m laying low/A stray dog in the street/You took me home/We’re sister cities.” This chorus accurately captures what may have been the most integral part of their entire show: the band cares about its fans.
One way this was exhibited was in the composition of the set list. Through their hour and a half performance, the band played 17 songs and a two-song encore afterwards. Not only is this a relatively large amount of songs to include on a set list, but it was also extremely varied. This variety showed care for both old and new fans with carefully selected songs from their latest album, as well as its predecessors.
Campbell mentioned at one point during his time on stage that this is The Wonder Years’ 13th year of creating, producing, and performing music together. It also signifies a 13-year-long relationship between the band members and their fan base. For The Wonder Years, this relationship is what makes their work so fulfilling for them.
Another way that they exemplified their relationship with fans during their set was through explicit concern for the audience’s well-being. As may be expected at a pop-punk concert, the fast pace and high octane music was accompanied by a raucous crowd presence. This chaos included moshing, jumping, pushing, and most visibly, crowd surfing.
While this is very normal for such a concert, what was somewhat unorthodox was Campbell and the rest of the band’s caution regarding it. The musicians were constantly checking in on members of the crowd, often pointing out crowd surfers to the venue security in order to ensure their safe return to the ground. Campbell himself maintained this role of guardian throughout the entire show, reaching into the crowd to assure the safety of his fans on multiple occasions.
The penultimate display of The Wonder Years’ ability to care for and connect with their audience came about two-thirds of the way through their set. While reaching the climax in their song “Cigarettes & Saints,” Campbell held his mic up in the stand and turned it towards the audience, prioritizing their singing over his own.
After this song came to a close, Campbell stopped to speak to the crowd for a moment. He highlighted how caring, genuine, and empathetic he knew the band’s fan base is, and thanked the crowd for maintaining that attitude for the duration of the band’s existence. In this moment, Campbell and The Wonder Years proved what their concert and tour as a whole were really about. It was not about promoting themselves and performing to make money, but instead a chance for them to do what they love, with people they love, each and every night.
It is in this way that they lived the true message of Sister Cities. Just as actual sister cities are meant to be linked to one another to provide support and exchange, The Wonder Years are linked to their passionate fan base for the same reasons.