One of my favourite things in the world is seeing artists who are truly happy to be onstage with their friends playing songs they wrote. I mean the kind of bands who smile at one another, connect with their bandmates, and who jump and spin and celebrate their music naturally and not just because they have to put on an entertaining show.
I was lucky enough to experience this on October 24th under the roof of the Northumbria Institute in Newcastle where Woes, Stand Atlantic, Seaway, and State Champs were gathered to perform.
First up came Woes, who opened the night with just the right atmosphere. They graced the stage with a down-to-earth feel and a great amount of talent. They interacted with the crowd with an ease which created a sense of community and equality. From the start of this night we knew it would be an evening of friendship, fun, and fantastic music. Their performance was emotive and raw while maintaining a level of impressive technical skill, and the sense of freedom they oozed charm. Part of me didn't want them to leave the stage. I wanted to just be in their presence and listen to them play their music and watch them use every inch of that stage and fill the room with a wave of positive energy.
Next came Stand Atlantic who had an established presence in the room through fans who had brought signs, flags, and even gifts for the Australian band. Led by Bonnie Fraser, this band gave further proof that girls can play just as well and hard as any guy. The room was hooked into their emotive performances which were carried out skilfully while remaining passionate and exciting. There's the disadvantage of having a microphone and guitar keeping your front person less mobile than would be preferred, but the energy from Fraser's performance combined with the enthusiastic performances by David Potter (bass) and Jonno Panichi (drums) triumphed over chain between the mic stand and vocalist. While watching I felt such a powerful, genuine energy coming from the trio which me feel (as a music lover and a lady) just a little bit stronger and more empowered than I did when first walking into the room.
Seaway were the final openers and they owned the stage from the second they took to it. Their strong, exciting stage presence had the room on their feet, opening up that pit, and really getting into the punk show spirit. They had a strange charm with their 80's moustaches and uncle-ish fashion sense matched with their young punk attitude. It was really fun to witness their show and be a part of it. You couldn't help but want to join in with them. Watching them I sensed a kind of power from them, the kind you get from someone who knows how to command a room from years of. experience. I'd definitely go and see them again.
After waiting all night, the time for State Champs finally arrived with an unexpectedly flashy opening. The stage went dark, then the platforms began to light up in deep red and white lights as the band took to the stage. They all headed on to screams of excitement and took places on the platforms which was clearly planned ahead but somehow felt natural. In their arrangement wearing their matching "PROOF" jerseys they looked unified, like they all belonged to the same team. I feel like they continued this theme of being united and belonging together throughout the show.
They jumped right in to their song 'Criminal' with an explosion of energy from the band and the crowd - it was like we fed off of each other's energy and powered each others' movement. Champs were totally free and at home on the stage and it was so uplifting and wonderful to see. Every one of them had their own unique energy and stood out as a performer but their bond as a band was clear.
They danced like they were in their bedrooms and nobody else was watching which was endearing and entertaining. Without even rehearsing it they managed to spin around with their guitars in unison and bounce at the same time like they were connected by the music and it was pulling them closer together. It was fantastic to watch them all smiling together, swapping grins, laughing, and acting so carefree.
Still, they performed with a deep passion and great skill and managed to convey the right attitude for each song. Their ability to perform without fear meant they could pour their hearts into each song and play like the wounds being sang about were still fresh.
There was a special moment of calm and intimacy where Derek Discanio (vocalist) took to the stage alone with an acoustic guitar to perform their sad but sweet song, 'If I'm Lucky' to which the crowd responded with excited gasps and respectful quiet to allow for the moment to be appreciated fully. Moments like this can be difficult to pull off at a punk show where people go to dance and be rowdy but this was carried out wonderfully and got the desired effect.
When the show picked up again it was clear that the soft song hadn't put anyone to sleep. The crowd surfers keep security on their toes and earned appreciative looks from the stage and everyone continued to scream, jump and headbang with their whole hearts and souls until the night ended with a bang and real sparks shooting up from the stage.
State Champs give their everything at their shows and perform to studio standards, then they exceed those standards with the extra thrill of being played in a raw setting with people who know the songs and connect to them on a personal level.
Looking up at the men onstage I saw a group of friends who love what they do, believe in the songs they perform, and love their music like they're their own biggest fans. Even when it wasn't their line, every member was mouthing along to the words and dancing like they're in their own personal music video. The vibe coming from them was so warm and welcoming. I personally felt safe and at home at their show.
When they next come to town, I definitely want to see them again. Check out the galleries below!
Written by Meg Campbell
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