If you’re not going to read the whole thing:
1. I got growled at by a man washing his feet in Grand Central.
2. The lady directly in front of us (who was the literal twin of JoJo from Horton Hears a Who) pounded down four tequila shots while lecturing her friends about the benefits of breastfeeding their kids.
3. I almost ate sh*t walking up the stairs in the darkness and the security guard ho tried to catch me asked if I was going to make it home okay and I had to pretend like I was drunk and not just as clumsy as a newborn gazelle.
March 26, 2017—-Four sophomores in college—who were barely four years old when the album came out—bought tickets to Simple Plan’s No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls fifteenth anniversary tour at Playstation Theater in Times Square. This was their first time seeing Simple Plan live. It was one girl’s first time on a train. It was one girl’s first time into the city without an “adult.” And one girl is afraid of escalators so we nearly peed our pants trying to find stairs to get to the bathroom in Grand Central Station.
Tickets were general admission, and the lines ended up stretching around the block to 45th street. Luckily, we were about the fourth group in the doors, after metal detectors and bag searches of course. Inside the theater was relatively empty, so we pushed our way toward the front of the soon to be mosh pit. We ended up just right of center stage about four layers back.
On the five-hour car ride to NYC we had plenty of time to research the opening acts: Seaway and Set It Off.
“It sounds like he’s trying too hard. I hope he’s better in person,” said College Student #1, about Ryan Locke, lead vocalist of the Toronto-based rock band Seaway.
The opening acts are a band’s greatest hype men. They can really make or break a show. It could be that they’re a little inexperienced, but Seaway just didn’t have the punk rock persona the audience was looking for. They definitely weren’t the worst we had ever seen, but they didn’t get the crowd overly excited, and it was honestly pretty sad when Locke held the microphone out for the audience to sing and no one knew the words.
“It was like they didn’t appreciate this opportunity at all,” said #1 after Seaway finished their set without any mention of the other acts.
Now it was time for Set It Off—and set it off they did. The songs were catchy, the vocals were straight fire, drummer Maxx Danziger and I exchanged finger guns after he flipped us off, lead guitarist Dan Clemont played trumpet live and Cody Carson became everyone’s bae when he told security to let a girl crowd surf, then jumped into the audience himself.
Set It Off was everything an opening act should be as well as a good enough stand alone. They had seemingly unrehearsed witty banter, they payed tribute to both Seaway and Simple Plan and they transformed the audience from a group of cattle crammed into a tight space to a drunk little family where people face-planted crowd surfing and got right back up to fist pump with the rest of us.
It was the long-awaited moment—the arrival of Simple Plan. Everyone buzzed with excitement, but there was a nagging fear in the back of all of our minds: fifteen years is a LONG time in music and maybe they just can’t do it anymore. It wouldn’t be the first time that had happened, anyone who saw Blink-182 this past summer knows how disheartening it is to watch the opening act kill it, but cringe when the main band arrives as just a shadow of their former glory. We were not disappointed. Maybe I’m a little biased because of my French-Canadian heritage, but Pierre, Sebastian, David, Jeff and Chuck seemed just as cool in their late 30s as they did as practical babies back in 2002.
Everyone screamed the lyrics as they opened with “I’d Do Anything” and there was never a quiet moment as they played the album all the way through. Chuck couldn’t pass up the opportunity to throwback to the good old days and leap into the audience himself, which almost made getting kicked in the head by about a hundred other wannabes worth it. The fans were in love. There was so much love in that theater we even started a chant for Andy Karp, the guy Simple Plan stalked until he signed them, who sat in a VIP balcony and awkwardly waved at his first-ever adoring fans.
They had to pull the classic “goodnight everyone” while we go change outfits and make you scared for two seconds that it might actually be over before we come back out for our encore, during which more chants for specific songs arose.
By the end of the night we were deaf, our vocal chords were fried, our arms were tired from fist pumping, our necks were stiff from head banging and we were practically glowing from excitement and experience. There’s nothing more fulfilling than walking out of a venue, having been practically assaulted by everyone around you as bodies collided with dance moves and desperate leaps toward band members on stage, and feeling total fulfilled.
It may have been fifteen years since Simple Plan released No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls, but we’re still just kids, our lives are still nightmares, and their show made living the worst day over and over again worth it.