Nine years ago, I lived every pop-punker’s dream. I was on my way into my first New Found Glory concert and one of their crew members stopped my cousin, asking her if we wanted to go onstage with the band. We did, of course, and watched NFG perform from bleachers on the stage, in front of the thousands of people at Giant Center. During the last song (“My Friends Over You”) we were encouraged to literally go nuts, running around and dancing and head-butting each other while the band members swapped instruments mid-song.
Although I didn’t go onstage at their most recent show, I could have if I’d wanted. New Found Glory’s Sticks and Stones (home of “My Friends Over You” and “Head On Collision”) turned 10 years old in June this year, and to celebrate they hit the road playing the album in its entirety. They kicked off the tour with two nights in San Francisco (the first being at Bottom of the Hill). I caught their second show on November 24 at Slim’s—an intimate, grimy, punk-perfect venue. Throughout their set, crowd-surfers were dumped onstage, running to hug lead singer Jordan Pundik or posing for their new Facebook profile pic before plunging back into the crowd. (One girl actually stood there and did the, “What next?” shoulder motion to her friends before hopping gingerly into the audience.)
A few hours before the band even took the stage, Pundik tweeted, “It's a good thing I have food poisoning. Ya know, because how else would I play a show tonight?” Despite being sick, he delivered an impressive performance, albeit slightly less energetic and vocal than usual. He couldn’t hold all the long notes, but the crowd and his bandmates were quick to fill in. Normally hyper and almost monkey-like while performing, Pundik (who attributes his stage energy to ADD in NFG’s The Story So Far DVD) did little jumping around. Clearly frustrated by his limitations, he exercised his pent-up energy by pacing across the stage, sharing the mic with the occasional crowd-surfer. As they wrapped up Sticks and Stones and launched into the encore, Pundik absorbed his energy from the crowd, immersing himself in his performance. He proved that no amount of illness could affect his teenaged goofiness, steering an, “Ian needs a pick!” chant into, “Ian is a pimp!” and telling the audience, “I wish I could puke on you. I’m holding it down.”
While Pundik was restlessly covering the stage, his band members were showing off their bond. They stayed put for the majority of the show, but when they moved around the stage, it was a whirlwind of cables and Converses and tattoos. Weaving in and out of each other on that tiny stage, they side-stepped and swooped to avoid instrument mishaps. A glance was barely exchanged among any of the members—they felt each presence strongly enough that no looks were needed. And, just as they commandeered the stage as professionals, they hit every single note on Sticks and Stones as though they’d been playing it for the last 10 years. (Because they played the album so spot on, I was even more disappointed that they didn’t reenact the very end of it, where they scream goofy shit like, “Someone’s in your house!”)
Playing the same music over and over again is one thing, but keeping a band together—fully—is another. New Found Glory has had the same five members for 15 years. (I’m 23, so 15 years ago I pretty much had my first real memory. Insane.) At their Slim’s show, New Found Glory proved that though the years creep on, they would never change. Ian Grushka played shirtless, belly out, blowfishing his cheeks away while pumping emotion into his Taylor Swift-decorated bass. Guitarist Chad Gilbert was engaged, enthusiastic, and clearly grateful. Cyrus Bolooki managed to fill the whole room with his presence without leaving his drum set once. And guitarist Steve Klein, still rockin’ the baseball cap after all these years...well, he’s still the damned cutest.
Not one of these boys looked a day over 10 years ago, and even with Pundik being sick, not one of them acted it either. While they played through some of their older hits (including “Better Off Dead,” “2s and 3s,” and my personal favorite, “Sincerely Me”) it became obvious why New Found Glory has remained such a solid force in the world of pop punk. They understand the meaning of the word longevity inside and out—lyrically, musically, and performance-wise. More importantly, they still abso-fucking-lutely love what they do and they want to show you why. I have a feeling they’ll keep it up. Boys, I’ll see you in 2022 for the Sticks and Stones 20th anniversary tour.