Knuckle Puck and Real Friends’ Dynamic Duel at the TLA

              Theater of Living Arts, it’s been awhile. Reminiscing of my days living on south street, randomly catching a show after drinks and tots at Tattooed Moms. You’ve had some work done: new floors, a paint job, new sound, and what’s this… a Photo pit! I was delighted to see those Chandeliers still hanging in there.

Photos + foreword by Keith Baker (@avgjoe_photo) ; Article by @a.j.kinney

Arm’s Length

              You can always tell it’s going to be a good show when the place is packed for the opener, especially a four band gig. It goes without saying it’s a rookie mistake to miss the opening artists. Every one of our favorite bands at one point in time opened a show. And Arm’s Length rewarded the crowd with some rocking emo goodness.

By the second song they were stirring up a pit and launching crowd surfers towards the stage, including one of the photographers I was there shooting alongside of! No doubt in my mind why these guys went viral on TikTok, they let us know we were in for a solid show.

One Step Closer

              Pennsylvania natives One Step Closer pointed out the number of familiar faces in the crowd staring back at them after an explosive opening.

Their wide variety of genre bending melodies had both the local fans and strangers bouncing off each other in the crowd. It goes without saying give their latest effort “Songs for the Willow” (2023, Run For Cover Records) as spin ASAP.

Real Friends

Real Friends, the kings of heartfelt pop-punk, graced the stage and delivered a performance that resonated with the essence of raw emotion. The night unfolded into a cathartic journey as the band unleashed anthems “Me First” and “From the Outside”, creating an intimate space where fans could connect with the music on a personal level.

The stage setup was unassuming, but as soon as Real Friends kicked off their set, any notion of simplicity vanished. The synergy among band members was apparent, and their passion for the music was contagious. The audience, a sea of eager faces, absorbed every note, every lyric, as if the songs were tailor-made for each individual in the room.

Frontman Dan Lambton’s emotive vocals served as the heart of the performance, channeling the vulnerability and sincerity that define Real Friends’ sound. The setlist was a carefully curated blend of fan favorites like “When You Were Here” and newer tracks “Lost Boy” and “Late Nights in my Car” that showcased the band’s evolution without compromising their signature authenticity.

The crowd, fully immersed in the sonic atmosphere, became an integral part of the show. Sing-alongs, crowd surfing, and even a Jimmy Eat World cover (Sweetness), provided an overall sense of camaraderie within the venue. Real Friends’ ability to bridge the gap between stage and audience created an environment where fans felt not just like spectators, but active participants in the emotional journey.

The venues intimate setting provided the perfect backdrop for Real Friends’ emotionally charged performance. The band’s ability to evoke a sense of nostalgia while remaining relevant to the present was evident, and the audience responded with unwavering enthusiasm.

Real Friends most recent release; “There’s Nothing Worse Than Too Late” was boldly labeled under drummer Brian Blake drumkit on stage. The crowd was most definitely here for the ride, and every lyric belted out by the band was echoed back from the crowd.

Knuckle Puck

Chicago’s pop-punk powerhouse, Knuckle Puck, took the stage and turned it into a pulsating haven for fans of raw emotion and infectious melodies. From the moment the lights dimmed and the first chords of “The Tower” resonated, the crowd was swept away on a sonic journey that left an unforgettable mark on the night.

The band’s tight musicianship and electrifying stage presence were nothing short of mesmerizing. From crowd favorites like “Pretense” to the anthemic “No Good,” Knuckle Puck effortlessly balanced aggression with vulnerability, creating an emotional rollercoaster that connected with fans of all ages. The chemistry among band members was palpable, and their genuine passion for the music translated into a captivating performance.

Frontman Joe Taylor’s emotive vocals on “Untitled” and “Gone” soared through the venue, carrying the weight of the lyrics and connecting with the audience on a profound level. The crowd reciprocated, singing along to every word and embracing the camaraderie that defines the punk community.

The TLA, with its intimate setting, proved to be the perfect backdrop for Knuckle Puck’s brand of energetic punk. The crowd’s collective energy reverberated off the walls, creating an atmosphere of shared excitement and anticipation.

As the set reached its peak, the band seamlessly transitioned between high-energy bangers (“Pretense, “Gone”, “Untitled”) and more introspective tracks (“Groundhog Day”), showcasing the versatility that has made them a staple in the pop-punk scene. The “Untitled” encore left the audience craving more, a testament to the band’s ability to leave a lasting impression.

Knuckle Puck’s performance at the TLA was a testament to the enduring power of punk rock. With a setlist that spanned their storied discography, and a live show that exuded authenticity, the night was a celebration of music that transcends boundaries and resonates on a deeply personal level. If you’re considering a show, and are in the mood for some emo goodness with some close friends, get out to see these guys! And if you’ve made it this far, give their latest album “Losing What We Love” a spin and sing along!

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