Real Friends at Irving Plaza, New York on 2 June 2017

Tonight in Irving Plaza in New York two things are evident: first, pop-punk is alive and well; second, Real Friends’ fans genuinely seem like just that – friends. Throughout the show, the camaraderie in the crowd is endearing and captivating. The five-some from Illinois broke onto the scene in 2014, when their debut album sold 10,300 copies in the first week and debuted at #24 on the Billboard Top 200. Then, with their sophomore album, ‘The Home Inside My Head’, released in May of last year, Real Friends have really grown into their own and nothing showcases this more than their live show.

Before even arriving on stage, it’s worth noting that their set design is a particularly nice touch. Made to look like the inside of a living room, little details like this are often left out when it comes to the rock or alternative world (on a smaller scale, things are different perhaps once bands reach arenas). But, then the wait is over, as soon as Real Friends take to the stage, the energy is immediately through the roof.

With high energy anthems such as Late Nights in My Car and Dead (during which the band get the crowd to do a wall of death) it’s clear to see how Real Friends have made their name. With elements of nostalgia, Real Friends’ set showcases their talents as musicians, songwriters and performers. Moments where just vocalist Dan Lambton and guitarist Eric Haines play a stripped down version of Sixteen or when fellow guitarist, Dave Knox, takes over and performs I’ve Given Up On You with Lambton, are particularly striking as it shows a different and dynamic side to the group. The band successfully make the set engaging by changing up the pace and adding in slower tracks such as these.

Interwoven through the set are speeches of appreciation and calls to action. From thanking fans, to talking about more serious topics such as the recent decision of the U.S. to pull out of the Paris Agreement, Lambton urges fans to get involved in local politics. It’s nice to see a band making a political statement and trying to get their (relatively young) fans politically engaged.

Moreover, the band also approach issues like mental health during their set, talking about their own struggles and making it clear that it’s okay to seek help – another nice touch. Somehow, they still manage to keep the show upbeat, from their interactions with each other and with the crowd, the humour keeps everyone laughing and enjoying themselves, but the message is still there.

All in all, Real Friends not only put on a great pop-punk show, but it’s really the atmosphere and the band’s presence that makes them truly stand out – whilst playing an array of catchy and powerful songs, they also use their platform to start important conversations. Without a doubt, Real Friends’ live show proves exactly who they are and why they deserve their place as one of modern pop-punk’s most talked about bands.