Saturday, Jul 21, 2018
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Real Friends use all they can of small stage

The last time Chicago pop-punk band Real Friends played in Toledo the band members had everyone convinced they were shooting a video of an audition tape for drummer Brian Blake to be on MTV’s reality show “The Real World.”

That was five years ago at Frankies Inner City.

“[The audience] thought it was true, and it might be true to this day,” joked frontman Dan Lambton to a few hundred people at the same venue Tuesday night.

Jokes aside, the five-piece turned the venue’s tiny stage into a platform filled with songs about sensitive feelings while many in the audience held a Pabst Blue Ribbon in one hand, and pumped an aggressive clenched fist in the other.

WATCH: Real Friends performs in Toledo

With long, shaggy dark hair showing his support of Missouri rock band Foxing in a gray T-shirt, Lambton led the way into Real Friends’ 50-minute set with “Mess” from the band’s 2016 full-length The Home Inside My Head. The album peaked at No. 53 on the Billboard Top 200 when it released last year. It didn’t take more than a minute until several crowd surfers could be seen carried by the hands of those beneath.

The night’s hype slowly began with Oregon, Ohio’s pop-punk quartet Second String Hero and its 25-minute set. While a local favorite, Tuesday night’s crowd seemed a bit unresponsive; even the band’s bassist joked into the microphone while looking at the vocalist and said “Feels like talking to a brick wall, doesn’t it?” Yet, fast guitar-driven songs like “Dead End” and the bipolar “My Apologies” had just enough will-power to carry Second String Hero through the tough set.

It could easily be argued the strongest band of the night came from Toledo’s own pop-punk act Silver Age, which demonstrated they could have very much been the night’s headlining act instead of Real Friends. Or at least co-headlined the concert.

A band who recently won an Ernie Ball and Vans Warped Tour contest, which included beating more than 17,000 bands, a grand prize of $60,000, and the opportunity to record a three-song EP with producer John Feldmann (Blink 182, Good Charlotte, 5 Seconds Of Summer), it had fans with Silver Age T-shirts singing every line to each of its seven-song set. The only negative aspect of the quartet’s 25 minutes on stage was it ended too quick.

Sure, the guys thanked the crowd for coming out to the show, but they were all business. You could feel guitarist and vocalist Evan Villarreal’s angst in “Not Today” from 2015’s Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear. The most powerful song came with the band’s 2017 release of its song “Camp Lady” as it birthed a circle pit. Not too bad for a local band as some people in the crowd might have had an “Oh, that’s why they beat thousands of bands and won $60,000” moment.

Of course, you can’t forget about Columbus act Jetty Bones.

Fronted by Kelsie Galluzzo, she ripped through six songs including “Second Death In The Rabbit Hole,” “No Lover,” and “Coasting Lines,” which she told the audience is “a song about a dude who didn’t want to take me to the ocean because he wanted to buy shoes.” She’ll be touring in support of The Wonder Years which kicks off Sept. 24 in Detroit.

It’s no question Real Friends is the reason most people attended Tuesday night’s show.

For a band constantly on tour, there weren’t indications of fatigue or feelings of burnt out. That can be backed by watching bassist Kyle Fasel angrily beating his chest while yelling band’s lyrics out into the crowd.

Songs like “Loose Ends” from 2014’s full-length Maybe This Place Is The Same And We’re Just Changing, which peaked at No. 24, and “Mokena” segued into Lambton taking a quick break between songs to address the recent hurricane disasters in Texas and Florida.

“We are lucky to be in the area that we are and not have to worry about natural disasters,” he said, adding the location gives people an opportunity to help those in need. “If you got it, let’s share it.”

Perhaps the band’s strongest moment came on the set closer “I Don’t Love You Anymore,” as each band member filled with energy as if it was its first song of the night by encouraging those to sing. That’s not to mention the crowd jumping, leaving the ground to feel like it was going to cave in at any second.

While it was Real Friends’ first time back to the Glass City in five years, the night proved that Toledo can compete with Cleveland, Detroit, and Columbus in bringing national acts to the city on a regular basis.

Contact Geoff Burns at or 419-724-6054.

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