On Feb. 13, I learned that pop-punk music's appeal reaches far beyond the suspected demographic of brace-faced middle school students. The Corral at Stampede Park saw a crowd of hundreds fighting through a heavy snowstorm on a Monday night to see disgruntled teenage anthem royalty All Time Low, Marianas Trench and Simple Plan. True, this crowd did include the aforementioned wholesome adolescents (in neon skinny jeans and homemade band shirts, no less), but groups of university students and older, heavily pierced individuals also filled the stadium.
Fans packed tightly into the pit had their glow sticks and cameras ready to welcome All Time Low's opening set, which did not disappoint in getting the audience on its feet. Crowd favourites like "Time Bomb" and "Lost in Stereo" had the pumped-up teens waving their arms and singing along to the admittedly catchy lyrics. Throughout the performance, frontman Alex Gaskarth's goal seemed to be to test how loud fan girls could scream -- he took the short breaks between songs as an opportunity to ask how all the ladies were feeling (cue loud cheering), and casually commenting on the sexiness of Calgary girls (cue even louder shrieks). The one-sided conversation seemed like a rather cheap way to get some cheers, but two or three bras were thrown onto the stage and promptly hung from the mic stand by guitarist Jack Barakat, so I guess Gaskarth was doing something right.
Following All Time Low's spirited performance, giant toy blocks were set up onstage to prepare for Marianas Trench's set in support of their latest album, Ever After. An enormous jack-in-the-box was placed last in the rear centre of the stage, and when the handle began to turn slowly I braced myself for a life-sized clown to pop out. Fortunately there was no clown, but after a somewhat prolonged narration of the album's back story, lead singer Josh Ramsay slowly emerged from the box while singing the opening lines to the single "Ever After." The unusual entrance served its purpose well -- restlessness in the crowd caused by the drawn-out introduction built an anticipation that turned into explosive cheering as soon as Ramsay's top hat was in sight. The rest of the band took their spots onstage soon after, each dressed like toy soldiers. Ramsey's vocals were admirable, and though he received strong support from lead guitarist and backing vocalist Matt Webb, bassist Mike Ayley and drummer Ian Casselman, it was Ramsay who carried each song. I gathered that fans of the band felt the same way when a group of girls behind me let out ear-piercing shrieks of "We love you, Josh Ramsay!"
Headliners Simple Plan, stopping in Calgary on their worldwide Get Your Heart On! tour, were preceded by a short video featuring each band member getting ready before the show. It was a bit silly and over-acted but after all, they are musicians, not actors. The band kick-started their set with fan favourites "Shut Up," "Can't Keep My Hands Off You," and "Jump." The energy in their performance clearly transferred to the audience, and at some points it was difficult to tell which was having more fun. Lead vocalist Pierre Bouvier's interactions with the audience, as well as guitarist Sebastien Lefebvre's playful humour, kept spirits lively throughout the show while they played a mix of songs from various parts of their discography. Simple Plan's sound hasn't changed much from the straightforward, emotion-filled songs that began their career, but that was what made them big: lyrics that 13-year-olds and nostalgic twentysomethings alike could relate to.
The concert ended with a literal bang as confetti cannons were fired and giant beach balls were tossed around the pit. Bouvier wrapped up the set with a rendition of the adolescent lament "Perfect." At the end of this chilly February night of pop-punk, even the most angsty of inner-preteens couldn't resist singing along -- no matter their age.