Photographs by Katrina Lat
Waves of pop punk rolled into Toronto on Tuesday night when We the Kings brought their 10th Anniversary Tour (aptly named WTK 10) to The Mod Club. Armed with a pre-performance playlist of anthems and deep cuts from the likes of The Maine, Forever the Sickest Kids, and Alexisonfire, the evening easily had an air of nostalgia about it. The effects weren’t lost on the sold-out crowd of predominantly twenty-somethings clearly game to celebrate a milestone release from their younger years.
While the show originally boasted pop punk veterans Cute is What We Aim For as second billing, lead singer Shaant Hacikyan’s laryngitis sidelined the set leaving guitarist Jeff Czum on a solo endeavor armed with only a guitar and the crowd’s willing voices to kick off the evening. Sandwiched in the middle were Astro Lasso and Plaid Brixx, a duo and trio respectively, representing a newer life blood to the scene. Despite the crowd’s fairly subdued reception, both acts showcased alt-electro-pop stylings with their own unique flair.
However, it was without question We the Kings’ evening. From the lighting design to expressive backdrop to pre-recorded announcement detailing out rules including encouraged posting to social media, it was evident that the band has come a long way from their debut album ten years ago. It was that self-titled first album that spawned a run of tours with the likes of pop punk royalty through the years that transformed We the Kings into the mainstays that they are. Mainstays clearly adored by the Toronto crowd who had waited years for the band to return to the city.
Oddly enough We the Kings tossed the usual format of playing anniversary albums front-to-back out the window and opted for their own arrangement of the eleven tracks. In what some may call a bold move, the band opened with “Check Yes Juliet”, the arguable album standout and contender for set closer. The beloved “Run baby run!” chant was merely the beginning of crowd participation as the band steadily worked their way through other singalong worthy tracks including “Secret Valentine” and “Stay Young”. Front man Travis Clark’s vocals were as strong as ever despite the juxtaposition between the teenage lovelorn lyrics that at times border on the mundane, with the grown married man who is also the father to a 14-month-old baby girl.
Perhaps it is there in that drastic contrast where the beauty of these anniversary tours is found. Whether it be a ten, fifteen, or twenty-year anniversary it never negates the fact that something once existed physically as well as emotionally. New singles and albums are written and released all the time and tours are constantly booked and played. Then for one evening that piece of history gets unabashedly resurrected and a group of people otherwise not connected come together to celebrate it. And that is a beautiful thing.