Photos and review by: Jason Robey
Phoenix, AZ — Has it really been 15 years since Sum 41 released their iconic punk rock album, Does This Look Infected? Hard as it may be to believe, the band is on the road in honor of the record’s anniversary, making an early stop in Phoenix on Sunday night, and the crowd was eager to help them celebrate the milestone.
The evening kicked off with a 30-minute set by California emo-punk outfit, Super Whatevr, the brain-child of vocalist / guitarist Skylar McKee. The group came out of the gate rocking with the latest single, “Telelevision,” from their first-length album, Never Nothing, out earlier this year. Super Whatevr began as a channel for McKee’s poetry, which grew into a group of fully-realized songs, and the addition of a full band. The group worked through their short-but-sweet show, drawing the audience into McKee’s happy outlook on sad times with melodic guitar lines by Nate Wichander, while the rock-solid rhythm section of bassist Josiah Beason and drummer Josh Gomez kept a thunderous bottom end. By the time Super Whatevr left the stage, they had the crowd singing along with at least three of their songs, including “Benjamin Alphabet,” a crowd favorite from their debut E.P., Good Luck.
Following a short break, fellow Canadian punk rock group Seaway hit the stage for a high-energy set, kicking off like a storm with “Best Mistake” from their 2015 album, Color Blind. They barely took a breath before launching into a trio of songs from their latest release, 2017’s Vacation, “Something Wonderful,” “Scatter My Ashes Along the Coast or Don’t,” and “Apartment.” Lead vocalist Ryan Locke got the crowd jumping along with him quickly and didn’t slow down for the duration, while trading off vocal lines with guitarist Patrick Carleton. Their 12-song performance focused mostly on the new album, with a couple from Color Blind, taking one trip back to their 2013 debut, Hoser, for “Shy Guys,” and busting out a crowd-pleasing cover of The Vines’ “Get Free.”
During the break that followed, a selection of late 90s – early 2000s hits played over the house P.A., and the sounds of hundreds of voices singing along to songs like Green Day’s “American Idiot,” as a gigantic sheet was pulled across the stage. Halfway through Papa Roach’s “Last Resort,” the music stopped suddenly and colorful lights began to dance from behind the sheet, while Sum 41’s intro music began to swell louder and louder. After about a minute of building up, the excitement came to a climax as the sheet dropped and the group tore into the opening track from the album of honor, “The Hell Song.” The front of the stage turned into a whirlpool of a mosh pit and crowd-surfing, as they quickly continued into “My Direction.” Before the evening was over, they would play all 12 songs from Does This Look Infected?, though not in the album order, and with a selection of songs from their other releases and a couple covers sprinkled in.
The show certainly focused more on the band’s heavy metal-influenced material than their more radio-friendly tracks. Outside of the Does This Look Infected? songs, the setlist included heavy rockers like “Fake My Own Death,” from the latest record, 13 Voices, “No Reason,” from the 2004 album, Chuck, and a break-neck speed cover of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”
Vocalist / guitarist Deryck Whibley took several opportunities to engage with the crowd, telling some stories about the songs throughout the night, like how the band started out writing short, 30-second songs, before launching into a trio of such songs. The lineup also features original lead guitarist, Dave “Brownsound” Baksh, who left in 2006 and returned in 2015, as well as his replacement, Tom Thacker. Together, they formed a wall of licks, riffs, and chords that ripped through the venue for the 90-minute set. Bassist Jason McCaslin and drummer Frank Zummo blasted the audience with tight metal rhythms that kept the front half of the venue moshing like there was no tomorrow.
As the sweat-soaked audience jumped to the final beats of “Hooch,” the closing track from Does This Look Infected?, the band took a short break from the stage. They returned asking the audience to light the room with their cell phones, as they began the opening chords of “Walking Disaster,” the closest thing to a slow song all night. At the end of the first verse, Whibley warned them to put their phones sway, as it was about to get rowdy for the rest of the song. They closed with one of their best-known songs, “Fat Lip,” before taking a bow and promising that they were working on new music and will return.
Catch Sum 41 on tour in the U.S. through the end of May and around the world all summer.