Westward Music Festival second night: PUP and more show they belong

PUP, Touché Amoré, BRASS, and Sightlines at the Vogue Theatre, 9/15/17

Photo courtesy of NPR
Photo courtesy of NPR

There’s nothing like your first time watching a band you’ve followed for years play a big stage. Last Friday at the Vogue (Sept. 15), I got to see two such bands as part of the second night of Westward Music Festival: Sightlines and BRASS. They opened for L.A. post-hardcore outfit Touché Amoré and Toronto headliners PUP.

Sightlines jumpstarted the night by speeding through power-pop cuts from their debut album North like the Skytrain in their video for “Commiseration”. At no point did that song or any other – including “The Idea of North”, “Tent”, “Hospital”, “Parts Per Million”, and “Life and Death of a Star” – sound out of place in front of by far the largest crowd they’d ever played in front of.

Despite the large digs, BRASS stuck to the DIY commandments of leaving the crowd wanting more and not overstaying their welcome. (Although, the former likely had more to do with the festival’s strict scheduling than upholding DIY ideals.) After tearing through a handful of unreleased songs and non-album track “Sweat Equity”, a circle pit revved up amongst the all-ages crowd. When fumes began running high amongst the audience, BRASS ripped out ragers from their only LP, No Soap Radio, which more familiar: “Talking Like a Idiot”, “Reading Faces”, “Monolithic”, and set closer “Plane’s That Never”.

Touché Amoré came in like a house of fire. Against a burning red backdrop, beneath mostly red lighting, vocalist Jeremy Bolm screamed against slasher guitar riffs and hard-hitting precision drums. Think Alexisonfire if George Pettit was their only vocalist. By the time Touché Amoré got rolling, the floor was filled, riled up, and officially ready to combust for PUP.

There’s something to be said for hanging back and watching an enthusiastic crowd. My view, from between the back row of audience members and the foremost row of seats, was spectacular: a vista of near-total silhouettes upside down 180° while crowd surfing, soaring cans leaking twisting streams of beer like chemtrails, aerial shoes, and surfers seemingly gliding over other crowd members. Best of all was watching and listening to the swell of synchronized sound and movement as everyone, and I mean everyone, sang and chanted along to every word. Japandroids are reputed for their heart-on-the-sleeve, life-on-the-line sing-alongs, but PUP threaten to steal that torch from them. The audience’s singing and chanting grew louder and louder with every song until by the end. By then, during “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will”, the crowd had somehow grown even louder than it had been and was even louder than on PUP’s biggest hits, “Guilt Trip”, “Dark Days”, and “Reservoir”.

No doubt, Vince Staples, Charlotte Day Wilson, Busty and the Bass, and Ralph will bring a different energy tomorrow. But I’ll see what wins the hype war at Westward Music Festival: punk rock or soul & hip hop.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu

Contributor