I arrive at the Scarborough Spa Grand Hall, in the seaside town of Scarborough, pronounced “Scar bru,” not “Scar boro,” most of the artists tonight will mispronounce the local dialect. A triple bill of US Punk Pop bands, headlined by Bowling For Soup but including the return of Lit, a group I had thought had disappeared around 2015, and yet now I discover have new material to play alongside “My Own Worst Enemy.”
First up, though, are The Dollyrots, who have their own promo sales boards on either side of this stage. The husband and wife duo of Kelly Ogden and Luis Cabezas have known each other since being at school in Florida and the chemistry shows as they rattle through a bunch of pop tunes whilst most of the audience are still queueing up at the door. It is a little slow in getting folks in tonight. They save the most unusual and the best till last though as a version of “Brand New Key” made famous by ’60s flower power girl Melanie is butchered into short punchy slices of stuttery guitar and chorus. However, the final tune of theirs, “Because I’m Awesome,” is 100 times better and if you had just arrived at that point you would think you had missed a great full-on energy set, which sadly it wasn’t.
Lit is a different beast, on the other hand, and they definitely upped the energy levels and performance tenfold for the next 50 minutes. The Popoff brothers Jeremy (guitar) and A.Jay (vocals) were in control, and bass player Kevin Baldes was like a spring chicken in Dr. Martens, bouncing all over the place. Kicking off with “Four” and “Zip-Lock,” two tracks from the A Place in the Sun album – just brought memories of 1999/2000 back, all baggy shorts, baseball caps and converse boots – looking around the room I see a few are still living in that era, it’s a good opener, but the best is yet to come.
A.Jay is everywhere, on the speaker stack on the front rail, in the audience and he and they are loving it – “Miserable” it isn’t, and then even the very new track “Kicked Off The Plane” went down so well, they could potentially have walked off without playing the big hit with everyone happy.
They didn’t of course and “My Own Worst Enemy” had the entire place rocking, A. Jay once again had to get in the audience one last time. Lit is definitely back with a bang.
Follow that, Bowling For Soup! They did but not before a solitary plastic beer glass just skimmed past Jaret Reddick’s head bringing the opener “My Hometown” to a complete standstill. “You see anyone throwing beer at us, kick their f##kin’ asses” and with that, they jump back into the song where they left it. That’s a gift they have, well-rehearsed no doubt, but they stop a song to tell a joke or do an audience photo session and then return back to rocking the same song. You have to accept that this is all part of “The Show” with BFS and it’s now part comedy and part punk-pop, with the main jesters Reddick and Chris Burney trading jokes like a double act.
“I never thought I’d be 50 still singing about High School, but here I am,” Reddick drawls before they burst into “High School Never Ends,” they have a songbook fit for those times and many here were happy to be nostalgic with them. Newest song “I Wanna Be Brad Pitt” is already deemed a classic as the singalong chorus is loud from Scar ‘boro’ and after they admit that “If it wasn’t for the UK, who got us way before the US, we wouldn’t be here right now,” a heartfelt moment right there in the midst of the comedy is a nice touch. But back to the action as it’s the Phineas and Ferb theme tune next, where BFS actually become cartoon caricatures of themselves. Chris Burney spends most of his time juggling guitar pics and pulling faces.
The setlist is a run-through of the best hits from the last two decades and ends with their greatest moments “Girl All The Bad Guys Want,” “Emily” and “1985.” Pop Punk with a smile on its face is just what we need right now. Nine years ago they had a “Farewell UK” Tour, but they show no signs of stopping, and they can keep coming back to these shores anytime soon.
Bowling For Soup Set List:
1. My Hometown
2. Ohio (Come Back to Texas)
3. High School Never Ends
4. The Bitch Song
5. I Wanna be Brad Pitt
6. The Last Rock Show
7. Punk Rock 101
9. Today Is Gonna Be A Great Day
10. Two Seater
11. Alexa Bliss
12. Girl All the Bad Guys Want.