Bowling For Soup, G Live

Good old Bowling For Soup, the Texan pop-punkers who just wouldn’t let 2002 go – and are still steadfastly refusing to do so if their latest How About Another Round? tour is anything to go by.

“I read an article recently that said pop-punk was DEAD,” muses frontman Jaret Reddick during the band’s typically playful show at Guildford’s G Live on Wednesday night (February 10).

He’s barely changed a jot since the band got together in the mid-90s, save for the paunch – that’s new: “I have to share the fat guy jokes with Chris [Burney, guitarist] now,” he jokes.

“Well we’re here to show pop-punk is NOT dead – it’s just on viagra,” roars Reddick mid-set, launching into a medley of classics from Blink 182, Green Day, New Found Glory and Jimmy Eat World, not to mention a full rendition of Fountains of Wayne mega-hit Stacy’s Mom.

The band’s high-octane show is, however, tempered throughout by their impeccable stage patter – and the fact they have a fully functioning bar up on stage with them.

Indeed, the whole show is set in their very own Ye Olde Soup Inn, complete with darts board and beer kegs that shoot flames 20ft into the air. Cerebral it is not, fun it most definitely is.

While it would be easy to dismiss the band’s puerile musings (expect knob jokes and fart gags) and childish antics (Reddick announces himself by belching into his microphone) as crass, it’s impossible to fault the band’s infectious enthusiasm and lust for performance.

The show has more than a whiff of cabaret about it, which is all-pervasive from opening act Lacey through compere MC Lars, who does his best to get the crowd onboard by rapping Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven (“who’s that rapping, who’s that rapping, who’s that rapping at my chamber door?” – you get the joke) and finally main support The Dollyrots.

The trio bound onstage with all the gusto you would expect of a band who have long been touring partners with the Bowling For Soup guys.

Almost completely hidden behind her faintly ridiculous over-sized bass guitar, diminutive singer Kelly Ogden yelps and wails like a banshee through the band’s short and sweet set alongside partner and guitarist Luis Cabezas.

Introducing a punked-up cover of Melanie’s Brand New Key, Odgen jokes: “In our country, this song is about sex – not farmyard machinery,” referring to The Wurzels’ classic “Combine Harvester” cover. It’s a remarkably acute reference, particularly for an American act.

They make a decent racket though, and even bring their young son River on for a quick word with the Guildford faithful. It’s that kind of show, although River is far more interested in licking the microphone than chatting with the audience.

After another slightly laboured stint by MC Lars, Bowling For Soup – Reddick, Burney, bassist Erik Chandler and drummer Gary Wiseman – take to the stage and tear into The Bitch Song, followed up by Emily – two of the bands biggest hits.

“I know we’re just two songs in, but would you agree Bowling For Soup are already the greatest band you have ever seen?” asks Reddick. G Live largely agrees.

Fan favourite Punk Rock 101 soon follows, sped up what feels like ten times, as does the band’s cover of SR-71’s 1985 and the aforementioned pop-punk medley.

They’re joined by The Dollyrots on Love Ya, Love Ya, Love Ya before closing out their main set with High School Never Ends, culminating in a slightly demented singalong as the crowd bellow the main riff back at them.

Rather than disappear back stage for a breather ahead of the customary encore, the band instead simply sidle over to their stage bar for a beer and a few shots.

“We’ve solved the encore,” claims Reddick, and he’s right, to an extent, as any Bowling For Soup fan worth their salt could tell you what was coming – a twin sucker-punch of Shut-Up And Smile followed by Girl All The Bad Guys Want, without a shadow of a doubt the band’s finest hour.

It would be churlish to call it an anticlimax in much the same way it would if you didn’t expect Wheatus, for instance, to close out their shows with Teenage Dirtbag.

The first note of Girl… alone sends everyone bananas. Writhing mosh pits seethe with sweaty, smiling Guildfordians while the pyrotechnics lick at the rafters.

It may well have been the finale everyone was expecting, but it’s nonetheless absolutely the right one.

Not much has changed about Bowling For Soup since they rode the wave that was pop-punk the best part of 15 years ago.

They’re fiercely proud of their Texan roots and it’s heartwarming to see the band met with such affection, albeit despite not quite managing to sell-out G Live tonight.

Bowling For Soup certainly achieve what they set out to show. Pop-punk is most definitely not dead; in fact, it doesn’t even need viagra yet.

James Chapple

Pictures by Sophie Garrett.

Originally published on Get Surrey, 11/02/16