ASBURY PARK, NJ—Down by the beachfront of The Stone Pony where the boards are slowly but surely being rebuilt, a distinctive pop punk energy was flowing throughout the area. The Wonder Years were in town, ready to embrace a sold out crowd in Asbury Park. The line was wrapped around the building, horns were in the air, colored vans were on the sidewalks, and merchandise was ready to fly off the shelves. I had always heard of this band, but I’ll admit openly I had never seen them live, nor tried to purchase a ticket. However, I am a firm believer that for both the music fan and critic, the most exciting live music experience is the great unknown. Well, it’s safe to say that this was one unknown I am so thrilled I solved, piece by piece, song by song.

Fireworks got the show underway, and what an incredibly large fanbase they had at The Pony. The crowd sang each one of their songs as if they belonged on the record, and to be quite honest, they could have. They truly got the crowd ready to rock with their flashy, contagious pop punk sound, which had my head bobbing. This was another band I had been meaning to check out for quite some time, and they set the tone perfectly on this bill. They have a sound that one can definitely grow into, especially if a fan of the genre. I would love to see them in a headlining setting, but, in this case, they did exactly what I wanted them to: warmed us up with a pre-Wonder Years workout explosion.

The Wonder Years hit the stage sharply at 9:30 p.m., opening with “Local Man.” With dimmed lights, flaring guitars and a great introduction, they kicked their set off with a bang. The pit had opened and crowd surfers extended their stretched-out arms just to get a piece of the band. To say the place was going ballistic is somewhat of an understatement. The surge at the stage had taken effect when they played hit after hit. This was easily one of the most insane pushes I’ve seen, and trust me, that’s saying something. I honestly have not seen a crowd this packed since Sum 41 a few months ago, as you could not move. But the beauty of it was that you did not want to go anywhere. The energy was infectious, and even if you didn’t know each song, it was easy to learn with the whole crowd singing it simultaneously. Energy levels continued to rise as the night progressed, with the band performing hits from Suburbia I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing, as well as their breakout album, The Upsides. I thoroughly enjoyed every song until the very end. They left no stones unturned, covering everything the fans wanted to hear, interacting with the crowd throughout the set, and completely dominating The Stone Pony as if it was their own living room.

The Wonder Years gained a new fan that night. I bought two of their albums upon getting home, and it was nice to see what a strong following they have. I was even more impressed that they had only been back in the States for less than 72 hours after playing in Australia. However, their energy seemed as if they had been rested for days. Having personally been to hundreds of live concerts, there are many memorable moments, but each of my favorite concert experiences have been great for completely different reasons. This time around, there were various elements contributing to the enjoyment: a great venue, an amazing crowd, a stellar sound, and an overall mind-blowing experience. I wish this band the utmost success, and hope they will be back on our turf again sooner rather than later.

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