Anna Marketti ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Writer
It’s 8th grade, and I’m in my friend’s basement, clumsily plucking the steel strings on my scratched up Les Paul I should have taken better care of. He’s pounding on the drums, while our singer belts out the stubborn lyrics to some Blink 182 song we’re covering. I felt so cool; I felt understood on a level that Mom and Dad were never able to achieve. Jump forward to Sunday night at the Sinclair, and that feeling was revived in me once again thanks to Joyce Manor’s angst-driven concert.
Joyce Manor is the college age kid’s Blink 182. Emerging onto the scene as a deranged baby of pop punk and acoustic grunge circa 2010, the band is not very old, which grants them a certain plane for fans to relate to that older bands encased in similar genres can find hard to grasp at. Perpetuating that special kind of teen angst and maturing it for a 20-something-year-old crowd, Joyce Manor’s fast paced songs seem to cast a spell over their fanbase.
At most concerts today, cell phones can clearly be seen waving in the air, attempting to capture an otherwise indescribable moment in a pixelated square on Instagram. But that was not the case at this show. From the second they set foot on stage, Joyce Manor’s audience was entirely captivated. Without even bothering to introduce themselves, the band launched into their first song, “Heart Tattoo” which sent audience members cheering, clapping and chanting along at the top of their longs.
They barreled through their humble half hour set (a quirk they’re notorious for) and paused only to laud the opening acts, and to give frontman Barry Johnson a moment to awkwardly smile and nervously giggle like the very insecure adolescent he portrays in his songs.
Carrying an element of almost reckless abandon in his voice, Johnson’s appearance seemed ironically juxtaposed, clad in a baggy green hoodie and jeans. Not entirely exciting to actually watch, what the band lacked in appearance they certainly made up for in the unifying power of each barely 3-minute-long tune.
They concentrated on tracks from older albums, which seemed to please the crowd, especially when about halfway through their meager set they sounded off the opening chords to “Constant Headache” and literally stopped everyone in their tracks. For a moment, the crowd surfing ceased, the moshing halted, the pumping fists were lowered. It seemed as though every audience member who had ever felt uncertain, who had ever felt insecure, thrust their hands in the air as one, singing along to this unofficial anthem. As Johnson crooned the bare bones, almost a cappella verse towards the end of the song, an eerie hush fell over the Cambridge club. “It made me think maybe human is not such a bad thing to be,” he sang, almost painfully.
Despite the fact he seemed as if he maybe wasn’t entirely comfortable being up on stage, there was never a moment where Johnson didn’t seem to be wholly grateful to have a guitar slung across his body, pouring his soul out to the sold out crowd of college kids.
Though the set was short, it was substantial. It was easy to tell each song was chosen and placed deliberately. And as an overwhelming heartbreak settled in over the crowd as Joyce Manor left the stage, it was quickly remedied not five minutes later when they stumbled back out for a two-song encore.
The truly magical moment was when Johnson announced he’d be playing a “really old song,” smirking when the audience cheered and added, “You don’t even know what it is yet and you guys already love it. I love it.” They then began scratching out the frenetic, primal opening notes to “Leather Jacket”, featuring Johnson practically shrieking above the collective voices of the audience shrieking along with him.
So next time you order a pizza, complaining about how much you hate your hometown to your best friend, turn on some Joyce Manor. It might end up making you feel worse, but at least they’ll be right there with you.