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Review: The Wrecks tear it up on ‘Panic Vertigo’ tour

| Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Ivan Skvaril

The amalgamation of blankets, pizza boxes, water bottles and people clumped together along the sidewalk in the bitter cold outside of Chicago’s Lincoln Hall on Nov. 20 screamed one word  dedication. Fans suffered with a smile due to their knowledge that they would shortly see up-and-coming pop-punk band The Wrecks perform their new EP, “Panic Vertigo.”

The five-man band hosted a brief game show for fans with VIP tickets prior to the concert consisting of two trivia segments and a physical challenge. Lead singer and guitarist Nick Anderson, clothed in a sequined turquoise suit, moderated the event, and each of the remaining band members joined the four teams as representatives. Laughter filled the small venue as the pool of contestants narrowed to two finalists for the physical challenge, a contest involving the use of Nerf guns to shoot down bowling pins plastered with the band’s faces. “I have to call it a Nerf ‘blaster’ or I’ll be sued,” Anderson said in likely reference to previous disciplining for the questionable liberties the band took after Nerf used one of their songs in a commercial.

Following the game show, the remainder of the venue quickly filled to maximum capacity before the entrance of the opening acts Deal Casino and Badflower. All three bands performed on a simple stage littered with several instrument cases and pieces of sound equipment. A black and white banner depicting a man falling into a hypnotic spiral with “The Wrecks” written in large letters hung above the stage.

“He looks like an emo Peter Pan,” one fan quipped about lead singer and guitarist Joe Parella as the crowd slowly surrendered to the rousing performance of Deal Casino. Next came Badflower, whose frontman Josh Katz pumped up the venue by proving it’s possible to lean backwards off the stage and still shred the guitar. (He also proved his ability to feverishly lick the microphone like an ice cream cone on a hot summer day).

The crowd exploded when The Wrecks sauntered onto stage and took their places for their opener “Figure This Out” — a song that starts out subdued but quickly escalates into the thumping energy that fans know and love.

By the end of the song, Anderson’s gaudily-patterned shirt became almost entirely unbuttoned. He assured the audience that “my mother didn’t raise me like this” as he removed another button with a shameless lack of subtlety. I caught Anderson after the show and asked him to confirm — “the shirt was definitely meant to stay on.”

The Wrecks then delivered a spirited performance of “I Don’t Like You,” flooding the venue with screeching guitar riffs complemented nicely by Anderson’s miraculously unstrained vocal chords. They continued with the titular “Panic Vertigo,” a song about revolting against the temptation to spiral into insanity when life becomes overwhelming.

The Wrecks subsequently surprised the audience with the first never-before-heard song of the night, “This Life I Have,” an acoustic expression of the band’s guilt for transforming their lives into a constant effort to sell themselves and their music.

Anderson kept the atmosphere jovial with intermittent humorous remarks. The crowd went wild for “Way With Words,” and afterwards he remarked, “I’m not an object, but it feels good to be objectified.” For all of their self-aware jokes regarding stardom, the Wrecks actually recorded the EP in an empty barn after running out of money during the production process.

Before performing another unreleased song “Rely,” the band members warned the crowd to brace for a slower tempo  a clear testament to the show’s tremendous momentum thus far. All but Anderson vacated the stage for an appropriately emotional performance of the song, but the aforementioned momentum failed to reappear when the rest of the band remained offstage for the next song “Revolution.” Surely The Wrecks did this purposefully, but the next three minutes of the show felt lacking without thundering drums and the hum of a bass guitar.

Thankfully, The Wrecks reunited for the last chorus iteration of “Revolution” and then moved on to fan-favorite “James Dean,” a song celebrating the disconnect the band feels between themselves and society’s desirables. The synergy between the Wrecks and the audience had officially been recaptured and solidified.

“Freaking Out,” introduced as another new song with the drop of a disco ball hanging from the ceiling, epitomized the unending ability of The Wrecks to surprise their fans with its unprecedented techno sound and Anderson’s monotone yet captivating vocal delivery.

Anderson hopped offstage with mic in hand to go crazy with the crowd in “Turn It Up,” leaping through the song’s trademark lyrical loops with finesse and ensuring with his energy that audience members would find themselves either surfing above the crowd or lost in a mosh pit. The crowd’s electricity surged forward into “Favorite Liar,” during which the band noticed a fan in the audience passionately playing the kazoo and granted him a microphone on stage to accompany the rest of the band.

The Wrecks prepared to wrap up the legendary night with an unexpected performance of Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl.” They finished by sharing one last unreleased song, “Life,” a denunciation of reality’s failure to fulfill our expectations of happiness and success interspersed with screaming vocals that encompassed this frustration.

Despite the growing popularity of the band and their experimentation with new sounds, The Wrecks continue to eschew the splendor of rockstar deification in favor of creating unforgettable experiences with fans. Their songs refuse to sacrifice relatability by floating into the abstract and remain consistent with the core tenant of pop-punk — let loose and have an unforgettable time, no strings attached.

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