TVD Live: Joyce Manor at the Great American Music Hall, 10/5

Torrance, CA’s Joyce Manor took the stage at the Great American Music Hall on a crispy autumn night in San Francisco’s Tenderloin for the first stop on their US tour. With the release of their 4th studio album, Cody on October 7 and the hype that ensued with the releases of its first two singles, “Fake I.D.” and “Last You Heard of Me,” pre-show anxiety was heightened by the tenor that Joyce Manor is on the verge of something big.

Their matured, yet still emotional pop-punk sound, which was made a daily part of the average 80s baby’s life by artists like Saves the Day, Brand New, and Alkaline Trio during the early 2000s, is back in a big way with bands like Touche Amore, Modern Baseball, and The Hotelier (one of tonight’s supporting acts) rising to prominence as we speak.

The sold-out crowd packed the creaky oak floor and left no elbow room to spare underneath the grand columns and ceiling frescoes of this hallmark tenement of the city’s rich music history. Great American’s relatively ancient (built in 1907) structure stood in stark contrast to the young crowd bullying their way to the stage front and center. One female fan who looked to be about 19 inquired publicly, “Why is everyone jockeying? Joyce doesn’t allow any stage diving!”

While the band has taken flak within the punk community for this stance in the past, I was skeptical of her claim for this event. I first saw Joyce Manor in 2012, opening for Desaparecidos at the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, NC. You often don’t get to make the rules when you’re a supporting act, and that night’s crowd was, let’s say, active. Given tonight’s room, gushing crowd, and stage devoid of front security or a barrier, the notion of keeping fans off the stage seemed unlikely.

The band immediately ripped into the high-tempo cracker “Constant Nothing” off their 2011 self-titled LP. Guitarist and singer Barry Johnson shouted through their pop-punk hooks with the vocal help of bassist Matt Ebert and guitarist Chase Knobbe. They quickly jumped into the equally pacey, but more anthemic “Heart Tattoo” off 2014’s Never Hungover Again. The blast of guitar and drums that enters the song at the end of the first verse proved too much for the cagey crowd, as two fans crawled onstage and lept back into the fray. Not even a raised eyebrow from anyone in the band seemed to prove a change in protocol.

The next 6 songs bounced between Cody and Never Hungover Again, before breaking into some of their early material like “Drainage” and the chaotic but catchy “Orange Julius.” Drummer Jeff Enzor thumped out floor beats hard enough to force the oldest and grumpiest audience members to headbang a little, even if they didn’t want anyone to catch them doing it.

The band continued to bounce between albums before taking a short break and resuming with an encore of “Christmas Card” and the classic “Constant Headache.” The highlight for me came just before the encore, with the rolling “Schley” off Never Hungover Again, which crescendos throughout its existence ending with Johnson belting out the song’s namesake with the brevity and some animosity that’s become part of the band’s modus operandi.

The low point of the night for me came when Johnson and Ebert (whose birthday had recently occurred), joked around on the mic between songs about their late night nasal exploits during Ebert’s birthday celebration, proclaiming ironically that there certainly wasn’t any cocaine involved, and that only a monster would do such a thing. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and it’s my humble opinion that publicly bragging about the drugs you’re doing is quite lame.

That aside, these guys bring the heat. Although their songs average just under two minutes in length, Johnson and Co. strung together a coherent set that lasted over an hour. The band seemed tight, together, and enthusiastic about their upcoming tour and album. I’d definitely recommend catching them this October as they cover the Western U.S.

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