We at The Aquarian feel confident in stating that this was one of the best pop punk tours of the year. Every single band on this bill is currently making big waves and are all the next potential arena headliners. Spanish Love Songs, especially, have written two of our favorite albums: Schmaltz (2018) and Brave Faces Everyone (2020). Their new record, No Joy, is out now and the band completely reinvented their sound on it while still keeping their signature profound lyricism. Heart Attack Man, also on the lineup, released Freak of Nature earlier in the year, as well, and it is a masterclass on how to write aggressive pop punk riffs with snarky vocals and witty lyrics. (It’s quite honestly everything people come to the genre for.) Hot Mulligan, the headliner on this night in NYC, dropped Why Would I Watch this year – their magnum opus. From Tades iconic vocals, Chris and Ryan’s signature guitar work, and Brandon’s absolutely vicious drum fills, it’s perfect.
Spanish Love Song’s set was incredible to no one’s surprise. They are so engaged with the audience and really rock out to the songs, and even though the new album was a vast departure from anything the band’s done in the past, it felt more alternative in nature than punk. Live, the songs blended perfectly within the career-spanning set. My only complaint is they didn’t play the album closer, “Re-emerging Signs of the Apocalypse,” but hearing any tracks off of Brave Faces Everyone is outstanding. The band’s main selling point studio-wise is their unique perspective on the world. They’re able to describe emotions and issues plaguing them in original ways. The band themselves even acknowledged this, stating “We’re the older sad band on the bill. Now’s a good time to have a margarita and think about your parents dying someday.”
When experiencing Spanish Love Songs live, it’s almost easy to forget the weight of their music because of how fun they are. I found myself happily jumping up and down screaming, “Don’t you know you were born to die poor?” This dichotomy is part of the reason the band is so important in the music scene right now; listeners consume the music with all its themes, messages, and powerful lyrics about the state of the world. They can also crowd surf and just have a fun time. Since Spanish Love Song’s last headlining USA tour was cut short due to COVID, we were extremely excited to see them and already look forward to seeing these songs come to life again soon.
Heart Attack Man’s set made us love them even more. They alternated between goofy dancing, punk jumping, and heavy screaming. Heart Attack Man is a group that we’ve always been following, but have paid even more attention to lately as it seems that they really found their sound on their new album. Not to mention that they just looked like they were having a blast on stage. Their sound was so tight and well rehearsed that they were able to let loose and have fun. It was extremely engaging to watch and to be a part of.
Hot Mulligan’s self-proclaimed title as “The Number 1 Hot New Band” is a whimsical joke to themselves as they poke fun at the egos that other bands have. To us, though, it’s no laughing matter. They really are one of the hottest new band. Their music is so unconventional and that’s what makes it good. The riffs are noodly and complex while the vocals layered over them alternate between raw, somber, and upbeat. I first saw Hot Mulligan in 2019 when they were touring on their debut album Pilot and opening for Senses Fail. They immediately won me over, and over the last four years, their live show have done nothing but skyrocketed. They fulfill such a niche in the scene that can’t be described to people who don’t understand it. Either you get it, or you don’t. When the band played “It’s A Family Movie She Hates Her Dad,” every single human being packed tightly into Irving Plaza was off their feet. It felt like being inside of an MTV music video.
The pit this night was one of the most friendly experiences I’ve had at a rock show, as well. Despite it being extremely energetic and wonderfully chaotic, everyone was just there to sing along. There were not too many crowdkillers or barricade hunters that would claw you to get in front. Everyone seemed just stoked to be there. Hot Mulligan’s onstage banter was hilarious, too – there were moments that the audience was keeled over laughing. Like when Tades randomly said, “Do you guys like Hentai? Here’s a song about my grandmother dying.” It felt like a complete show on all accounts: good laughs, great mosh pits, stellar talent, and a fun crowd. What more can you possibly ask for?
In conclusion, every band delivered their absolute best and made for one of the most memorable shows of the year. Spanish Love Songs took their melancholy sound and amped it up to 100 for all of New York. Heart Attack Man’s typical charisma performance embedded themselves into the lives of every attendee. Hot Mulligan delivered their most exciting show yet. Every time we think they’ve found their sound, they hone it even more.
Irving Plaza was electric on November 15. It was like watching a rotating gallery of today’s best new acts.