BY JESS BECK | Go Venue Magazine
State Champs has easily been one of my favorite pop-punk bands since I saw them live in 2014 when they were opening up for A Day To Remember somewhere in bumfuck Iowa.
“Who the fuck are these guys?” I remember thinking to myself back then. “They’re really fucking good though!”
Then came my love affair with photography and covering live music.
“I’ve gotta cover these guys at least once before I die,” I told myself. But living in the Midwest at the time, you’re more prone to miss shows than you are to get big names coming through your town. But that’s why God invented moving so that we could get to the stuff that misses the Midwest.
So on Sunday, November 27, 2022, at The Van Buren (a day that tragically wasn’t rainy and windy and stormy and so many other things that evenings tend to be during shows) I had the extreme pleasure to cover State Champs again as I had previously covered them at the SoWhat?! Music Festival earlier in the year. But this time was a bit different. During a festival, you really only get so much of the band or artist before the next one has to come up. And rather than a quick 20- or 30-minute set, we got ourselves an entire 90-minute excursion of pop-punk masterpieces.
First up was a band called Barefoot, a local out of the Phoenix Metro.
And for a hot second I thought it was me up there.
Imagine if you will a big bearded weirdo taking control of a microphone – the only difference between us is that Dylan Fey can actually sing. I mean, I can in the shower, but we’re not gonna talk about that here. They had a warm reception from the moment they stepped on stage, and after playing a few tracks, fans started shouting things like, “I LOVE YOUR BARE FEET!” (Fey indeed played the entirety of the set barefoot – we’re still trying to figure out where the band name came from, by the way…more on that story as it develops).
Another fan shouted, “I’m following you on Insta right now!” And it’s always a treat to see a local not only open for quite a stacked lineup, but to end up getting immediate support from an audience. Barefoot just released a new album called “The Whole Year Inn” and you should definitely stream it wherever you can. I just happen to know for a fact that you can stream it on Spotify because of my super-secret network of insider music knowledge people…and stuff…and you should totally listen to it Maybe.Never.Almost.Sometimes.
They’re like if Volbeat was an indie band.
Anyway, another young outfit was up next, this time hailing from Melbourne, Australia. Between You And Me was exactly what this audience needed, and it didn’t even know it. They were infectious from the beginning of their set, and between the jumps and the theatrics on stage, it was quite the performance. They might be fresh off the release of their sophomore album, Armageddon, but their first record has gained over 12 million streams to date. Their single “Dakota” will for sure be certified platinum in my lifetime just from the number of times I listen to it on a daily basis.
If you can, you should certainly catch BYAM in concert. Not only are they one of the more energetic outfits that you’ll find, but the stage theatrics that James Karagiozis puts on are hilarious. They’re not groundbreaking or new theatrics by any means, but they’re enough to put on a great show to keep the audience involved.
Shades on…shades off. Jacket on…jacket…wait…no…we’re not going there.
ANYWAY (you perverts)…hearing “Dakota” live was a dream, and their new material was excellent too. Make sure you stream the new album right away! Oh, and did I mention that eventually drummer (and real life G.I. Joe) Jamey Bowman eventually took his shirt off? Excuse me while I go find my…um…jacket.
Next up was Hunny, a band that comes to us from California, and a band who has been extremely busy during the Covid period that took so much from us. They recorded over 100 demos during that span, and they are slowly releasing that cache of content.
While they did experience some technical difficulties initially with the microphones, vocalist Jason Yarger said, “Fuck it, we’re just gonna start playing!” as the audience lost their ever-loving minds. And while they’ve had some line up changes over the years, you could tell that the band really seems to have found that “thing” that all bands look for. They’ve got a winning formula. They’re signed to Epitaph Records. They’re writing an insane amount of music. They’re on a great trajectory as they move forward with things.
Speaking of moving forward with things, a couple got engaged during Hunny’s set! “You’re sharing that with…US?” Yarger said in astonishment. “Wow…thank you so much!”
And then finally, after a total changeover time of 90 minutes throughout the evening (each band had a 30-minute change over for no reason), it was time for State Champs to do their thing on stage.
A lot of you might be surprised by this, but Derek DiScanio (vocalist) got to meet me at the SoWhat?! Festival and said that it was the greatest experience of his life.
Ok…so maybe that didn’t happen, but you could imagine what it would be like if it did, right?
SC came out swinging and played quite a few from their new record, but also sprinkled in a healthy dusting from their previous records. “This is one of the first times that we’ve gotten to do a 20 something song set, so thank you guys so much!” DiScanio said, as you could feel the heartfelt gratitude dripping off his Piston’s jersey.
The lighting was excellent, and teen fans in the front row absolutely lost their fucking shit. A mosh pit ensued, as well as several crowd surfers. Time will tell if SC will eventually go the ADTR route and start their own slew of crowd shenanigans, but for now I’ll take the involvement from the audience as a positive trend that their new record is being received well. The fog cannons were a nice touch, as was the video board that played behind them, creating a visually stunning performance.
Oh, by the way, the new record is called Kings of the New Age (hence the reason for the title of this article. No word yet on Barefoot though). Containing SEVERAL bangers including, “Everybody But You,” and “Fake It” (they played both, btw) this record is pretty good, and I think it will resonate with fans.
One highlight of the show was when Tyler Szalkowski wore a fan’s LED cowgirl hat on stage for a song or two before he moved around too much for it to stay on. But it shows how much this band loves their fan base.
Other notable tracks included, “Criminal,” “All You Are Is History,” and “Elevated.”
As always, a huge thanks to the incredible staff at the Van Buren. Everything in this venue runs like clockwork thanks to the countless hours your dedicated team puts in, and as a patron it doesn’t go unnoticed. Remember to wear deodorant, take a shower, be excellent to one another, and we’ll see ya at the next show!
Between You And Me