Show Review

State Champs @ Agora 2/12/16

Lisa Sanchez

I've been to a hell of a lot of shows. The number is easily over 200. But, I've never been to a show that straight up surprised me the way State Champs did. at. Northern Ohioans will go down in history saying that Friday, February 12,  was the worst weather of winter 2016. Temperatures were in the singe digits, it was constantly snowing, and yet, State Champs sold out the Agora theatre. Don't underestimate the power of pop-punk.

Until I actually arrived at the venue, I figured State Champs and their touring mates Neck Deep, Knuckle Puck, and Like Pacific had sold out the Agora's ballroom. A smaller, bar-sized stage on the building's south side. Instead, when I walk in I realize I stepped into a shitstorm of teen excitement, and about a hundred kids worth of "first show" stories. The front of the building was littered with discarded blankets and pizza frozen to the sidewalk. These were all artifacts from fans who had been waiting outside, in below freezing temperatures, before the venue opened.

State Champs rocketed onto Agora's stage to thunderous cheers from fans, who had been waiting for four hours since doors opened. The band opened with "Eyes Closed" and "Secrets," the first two tracks off of Around the World and Back, the band's most recent album, released in November 2015.

The stage is lined with platforms that the band stand on and, in the case of vocalist Derek DiScanio, launch off of throughout the performance. The singer did so many jumps and spins off the rises I couldn't believe he was still going mid-set. Call it showmanship or unadulterated energy, State Champs presented both in spades.

While on stage, the New York quintet seemed just as surprised as I was at the size of the crowd. DiScanio told fans that Cleveland had been the biggest show of the tour and offered a humble, "Thanks Cleveland!" He went on to ask the crowd, "Who stood out in the cold today?" which was answered by screams and dozens of flailing hands. The singer laughed, "For a damn good reason."

The vocalist didn't know how right he was. Of course, the band was on point throughout their performance, but the energy from the crowd was out of this world. I haven't seen crowd participation of that magnitude since the heyday of Blink-182. Every single person was singing along, from the front of the barricade to the back row of the theater. Size-wise, even main stage Warped Tour bands can't sell that level of cohesive interest.
                      Behold, the pop-punk Energizer bunny (Sanchez/2016)
​State Champs played a powerful medley of tunes from Around the World and Back plus some oldies, but goodies like "Hard to Please" and "Critical." Halfway through the show, the band mellowed out the mood with the ballad "If I'm Lucky." DiScanio performed the song alone on stage armed only with an acoustic guitar and a galaxy of lights from the crowd. The rest of the band slowly rejoined DiScanio on stage as the tempo picked up.

The band continued to sing Cleveland's praises to the sold out crowd. DiScanio shared that this was State Champ's first time headlining the Agora's "big room" and that the first time they played Cleveland was about five years ago and they played, "In a friend's backyard to about 10 people." State Champs have come quite a way if they can make the jump from backyard to maximum capacity venue in just a few short years. In another couple years, these dudes will be headlining stadium tours. I guarantee it.

When DiScanio announced the song "Losing Myself" he also told the crowd to open up the pit. For a crowd mostly comprised of teenagers, those kids hit hard. That pit would put Slipknot to shame and I was pretty pumped about it. It's exhilarating to see different generations of music fans show their support and tear each other apart to the soundtrack of their favorite band. The Agora's entire floor was teeming with furious motion.

Of course, there is always an encore. State Champs couldn't leave their fans with some hackneyed "Thank you and goodnight." The band played the more melodic "All or Nothing" then closed the evening with the up-beat pop-punk anthem "Elevated." The band's last song was punctuated by an epic balloon drop from the balcony. Again, totally unexpected and awesome to see as fans bopped balloons back and forth and churned in rhythm.

State Champs said the Agora show was their biggest headlining show to date. If so, they didn't stumble at the sold out crowd. The band was magnetic and showed why they're one of the hottest names in pop-punk right now. It takes a special mix of vitality, enthusiasm, and raw talent to put on the show State Champs did. It's no wonder their fans faced white-out conditions to see them perform.

I enjoy a good show, but the State Champs at Agora was honestly legendary. Put it in the pop-punk history books immediately.