Tonight was the perfect immersion into the world of pop-punk, with three bands at the top of their game all operating at different ends of that vast spectrum. Headliners Waterparks are enjoying something of a victory lap for their second album Entertainment, a primary-coloured romp through the mind of their much-idolised frontman and lyricist Awsten Knight. Tonight, on the day where prolific tweeter Knight got himself embroiled in a spat with Twitter themselves, the band found themselves back in Brighton for the second time in a year – this time in the larger Concorde 2. However, despite selling out shows all around the country, the half-full room would indicate that Entertainment hasn’t quite clicked with Brighton audiences yet.
First support came from the tremendous Dead!, who blasted onto the stage with the power and energising crash of a nuclear blast. Opener ‘The Boys † The Boys’ was breathless, whereas ‘Enough, Enough, Enough’ ripped through the room in a manner that suggests they were born to play the bigger stages. Although a fair smattering of hands rose when frontman Alex Montford asked who had not heard of Dead! before tonight, few will have left without wanting to check them out further. Montford was in people’s faces right from the start, while Louis and Sam were continuously bouncing onto the amps and leaning deep into the crowd. By the time they closed with the MCR-like ‘The Golden Age Of Not Even Trying’ and ‘You’re So Cheap’, the days of Dead! being anyone’s opening act are surely numbered.
If Dead! were impressive, then Patent Pending took the show to another level altogether. Coming on stage to ‘Boom Boom Boom Boom’ from the one and only Vengaboys, by the time they were 30 seconds into ‘I Already Know (She Don’t Give A Shit About Me)’ frontman Joe Ragosta was several feet deep into the crowd. Self-described as, “The second best pop-punk band in the world”, Patent Pending are purveyors of the Sum-41 or blink-182 form of that genre. Like those bands, live is where they really come to life. Ragosta was a dynamo throughout, instigating crowdsurfing competitions or teasing Dead! for giving them a farewell card as this was the last night before they left the tour. Although very different to the previous band, the two acts together made for a perfect combination and were the perfect warm-ups for Waterparks – and if anything, a tough act to follow.
Judging by the deafening screams that rose as Awsten Knight, Geoff Wigington and Otto Wood appeared on stage, any fears of an anticlimax were truly dismissed. That explosion of noise continued to rise throughout opening tracks ’11:11’ and ‘Blonde’, almost drowning out the trio themselves. Both Knight and Wigington zipped around the stage, egging the audience into a frenzy. “Let’s see if we can beat Patent Pending’s crowdsurfing earlier” Knight grinned at the onset of ‘Peach (Lobotomy)’ before the crowd gave it a good go. After the pure pop of ‘Take Her To The Moon’, he thanked them for not being close-minded – it was clear that any form of criticism or slight pains him deeply, also it is obvious that it is the relationship between band and fans that is key to Waterparks’ success. Musically, there may not be anything blindingly original about them but they certainly know how to deliver polished pop with a rockier edge.
The highlight tonight was undoubtedly ‘Not Warriors’, the track where everything really comes together for them both on the album and live. Joined by Ragosta, it felt like a glorious slice of synth-driven pop-punk at its best. Meanwhile, ‘Lucky People’ and ‘Sleep Alone’ showcased the emotional rawness that much of Entertainment now represents for both Knight and fans (the album is primarily based on a relationship that ended shortly before release but after the recording). Alone on stage for the former with just an acoustic guitar, it was a fragile and yet heart-warming moment.
As a frontman, Awsten Knight is hugely charismatic. Wearing his heart on his sleeve tonight just as in his lyrics (and online), his sheer force of personality meant that even though he sometimes strayed into panto territory with his stage banter, he always just about got away with it. There is something about the sheer adulation on display from his young fanbase, and specifically the way that he wears it and embraces them wholeheartedly, that demands respect from even the most cynical of viewers. Though the audience numbers may have been disappointing, the passion and love bubbling up from them all more than made up for it. If anything, a smaller crowd that into the band was a more positive situation than a room full of fence-sitters. Recognising that, Knight simply stated towards the end that “We couldn’t do this without you” – an obvious point, but one well worth remembering. Tonight was proof that although there is a lot more for Waterparks to do to win over all their doubters, they have everything (and everyone) they need cheering them on to do it.