In a rumble of sound, pop punk heroes Real Friends walked onstage after a suspenseful display of dramatically blinking lights at the band’s August Hall show Oct. 25. The “Illinois sad boys,” as fits with the group’s branding, led the show with all the fixings of an emo paradise — copious stage diving included.
The band, right from the beginning, encouraged fans to acknowledge that there was no barricade between them and the crowd. Before starting “Me First” from the new album Composure, lead singer Dan Lambton told fans to start moving closer and “get up here,” translating closely to “please start crowd surfing.”
During “Smiling on the Surface,” Lambton reached into the crowd to help angsty crowd surfers glide onto the small stage a little more easily. Although the crowd didn’t respond as passionately to the newer tracks performed, the lyric knowledge and nostalgic qualities slightly lacking, the band still played each song with intensity.
Almost all of the band members made sure to interact with the crowd, either by coming right up to the front of the stage or telling stories. At one point, Lambton asked viewers to make a weird sound — just because. After the audience let out a combination of sounds that was really just cheering, the singer said, “Hell yeah, channel that shit,” throwing a shaka casually.
Coming back to a classic, “Mokena” is definitely one of the saddest songs this band has ever written — which is saying a lot. Lambton lifted the mic stand high over the crowd to inspire their yelling along with the lyrics, bassist Kyle Fasel also coming to the front to aid in encouraging the audience.
One of the best parts about watching Real Friends perform is seeing how much of the stage the members can cover within one song. During “Colder Quicker,” a faster-paced melody, the instrumentalists took up as much space as they could. The band proved that not having long cords attached to its instruments had its benefits — such as being able to mess with your fellow band member all the way from the other side of the stage.
“Late Nights In My Car” spurred the most crowd wildness of the entire night. Hoards of Vans and mom jeans jumped down into the crowd only to be met with a 30 percent chance of getting caught by the audience below and not falling to the August Hall flooring.
The band makes each show it performs not only a safe space for people to be themselves, but also a platform to speak out on issues close to its heart. Lambton made a genuine statement on mental health in his own personal life and how to help or get help if you are facing similar circumstances. “It’s a long road, but you are worth every second of it,” Lambton said.
“I’ve Given Up On You” followed, leading the crowd into a frenzy of feelings. Although it may be one of the group’s slower tracks, the audience sang the words back so loudly that at one point Lambton stepped back and let the crowd take over for him.
The laid-back but sad mood was carried on with a mellowed-down version of “Summer.” The original, more angsty version may have inspired more aggressively pointed fingers and yelling, but this toned-down tune was a nice break from all the intense energy.
Fasel had written one of the last songs played in honor of a friend who had passed away, saying onstage, “No one here is guaranteed days of life on this earth. Just be happy and love the people around you. This song goes out to my best friend.” Unfortunately, ruining the sweet moment, the song “Without You” started off with rough off-beat clapping from the audience, resulting in a combination of a smile and grimace from Lambton.
Altogether, Real Friends created a space for all to feel vulnerable and know that their vulnerability was OK. Through messy punk melodies and various facefuls of crowd surfers, the show reflected a community of acceptance and love. The bandmates truly proved that they are real friends.