Dan “Soupy” Campbell left some blood in California last week. But that’s nothing new for him.
During the bridge of the The Wonder Years’ 2010 single, “Washington Square Park,” Campbell belts out, “I left a lot of blood in California / On our first trip out west / I was younger and restless back then.” The lyrics were brought to life at the Vans Warped Tour in Pomona, CA on Thursday, when Campbell took a gnarly spill during the band’s first song, giving himself a nasty bruise and a busted tailbone – just souvenirs from another trip out west.
Luckily, Campbell pushed past the pain and his fall turned out to be just a minor bump during the Pennsylvania sextet’s rollicking set on Warped Tour’s main stage. The group is the first of its peers – that is to say, the crop of underground pop-punk bands that led a revival of the genre beginning in 2009 – to reach Warped’s main stage, which Campbell referred to as “the pinnacle” and “the mecca” of playing in this genre of music.
It’s easy to see why Warped founder Kevin Lyman chose to bump The Wonder Years to the main stage this year, after the group performed on the Nintendo 3DS stage in 2011. During both Warped dates in Pomona last week, they drew huge crowds full of extremely active fans who seemed to never stop crowd-surfing – even between songs, when Campbell was going through his regular stage banter.
Campbell, along with bassist Josh Martin, guitarists Matthew Brasch and Casey Caveliere, keyboardist/guitarist Nick Steinborn and drummer Mike Kennedy, have excelled for years in creating an intimate setting during live shows. At first, playing in basements and VFW halls, there was no choice but to be intimate. When there wasn’t a stage to stand on and Campbell was singing directly into the faces of his fans, creating a personal connection wasn’t a problem.
But as The Wonder Years have grown – they released their most successful album to date, The Greatest Generation, via Hopeless Records in May – they haven’t lost that connection with fans. Campbell spent the end of the group’s last song (which happened to be “Washington Square Park”) amongst the crowd instead of on the stage, passing the microphone to exhausted kids who were running on adrenaline after 40 minutes of pogoing along to pop-punk’s most impressive live act.
Kennedy provided the backbone as the group ripped through three new songs from The Greatest Generation, which received some of the best reactions from fans. The new tracks were peppered throughout a set of what was essentially “greatest hits” from The Wonder Years’ past two records.
This group has been on an upward path since releasing The Upsides in 2010, a path they have steadily and consistently climbed with tears, sweat, and a little more blood than normal. The Wonder Years may think they're at the pinnacle of their career, but if they can continue to foster this passionately close relationship with their fans...this might just be another stepping stone on a road to even higher ground.