April fools were on the loose at the kick-off date of the Sum Like It Hot Tour Monday night at the Electric Factory. At the head of the parade was Deryck Whibley, who led his band, Sum41, in an hour’s worth of snotty punk rock, heavy metal reverence and irreverent shtick. The singer donned a Nike headband thrown onto the stage from the audience. “Does this make me cool?” Whibley asked before taking it off. “I’m just not cool – sorry.” Dave Baksh, Sum41’s lead guitarist and stage foil to Whibley, replied, “Nothing will make you look cool.”
Maybe not cool, but the slight and spiky Whibley certainly was popular with the many teenage girls in the audience. Seemingly every gesture drew shrieks from the “TRL” set and the amount of assorted female undergarments thrown onstage made Whibley seem like a Generation Y Tom Jones.
“I liked Deryck the best,” said Trish Troutman, 15, of Levittown, Pennsylvania.
Musically, Sum41 – also Jay McCaslin (bass) and Steve Joczmines the same pop-punk sounds of Green Day and Blink-182. Melodic song structures were set off by crunchy power chords and a vigorous intensity. The Ontario group’s platinum-selling debut album, All Killer No Filler, was the main feature, of course, with hits “Fat Lip,” “In Too Deep” and “Motivation” drawing the biggest responses. “It’s What We’re All About,” a rap-rock track from the group’s 2000 EP, Half Hour of Power, was performed during the encore to the delight of the audience.
While Whibley had Johnny Rotten’s snarl in his voice, much of the evening was dedicated to the exorcising of demons of a heavy metal youth. The band performed in front of a devil, flames and mudflap-girl backdrop. Whibley grabbed a bottle of Jack Daniel’s – the libation of metaldom – to use as a slide bar on his guitar during a solo. When Whibley and Baksh engaged in a guitar battle, Whibley evoked the essence of Angus Young to win the fight.
“Nobody beats AC/DC, no matter how badly it’s played,” Whibley said, summing up the matter.
Toby Morse, lead singer of the New York hardcore band H2O, had an announcement for the audience during his band’s set, which preceded Sum41’s.
“We’re not being a band anymore after this tour,” Morse told the stunned audience, before adding, “April fools!”
But H2O didn’t play the fools for long Monday night. Instead, the band combined the ferocity of the New York hardcore scene with the mischievousness and melody of contemporary punk. Such songs as “Guilty by Association” and “Role Model,” the latter from the group’s latest album, Go, struck a rebellious chord, yet did so without cynicism or sarcasm.
H2O fans seemed to equal Sum41’s in the Electric Factory audience. Combined, the total was less than the 2,500 capacity of the venue.
“H2O played to the crowd,” said Amber Vanderslice, 19, of Boyertown, Pennsylvania. “They got down with the audience.”
The band also got down on ’70s rocker Ted Nugent. H2O – also Todd Morse (guitar), Rusty Pistachio (guitar), Todd Friend (drums) and Adam Blakededicated the song “Forest King” to the Nuge, an outspoken advocate of hunters’ rights.
“The most cowardly thing you can do is shoot an animal,” Toby Morse said.
U2 fared a little better. H2O dedicated its “Shine the Light” to the Irish rockers, and even inserted a few verses of U2’s classic “Sunday Bloody Sunday” into the song.
Autopilot Off, a quartet from New York State, delivered a straightforward set of punk to open the evening. The group will release an EP on April 23.
The Sum Like It Loud Tour has dates scheduled in North America through May 7. Goldfinger will replace H2O on April 24.