Joyce Manor - Not Another Pop-Punk Headache
Arts & Entertainment Editor
A string of Converse-clad teens lined up outside for the sold-out Joyce Manor show at Shakas Live on Feb. 11, anxiously awaiting to get their hands marked with the signature black X’s signifying their youth.
Compiled by Barry Johnson (vocals, guitar), Chase Knobbe (guitar), Matt Ebert (vocals, bass) and Jeff Enzor (drums), Joyce Manor has collected a cult following among teens and twentysomethings trying to navigate the years of early adulthood.
Catchy guitar riffs and gut-wrenchingly relatable lyrics provide the base for their four studio albums, mostly composed of under-two-minute tracks, leading up to their latest release, “Cody.”
Mannequin Pussy opened the night, fronted by lead singer Marisa Dabice. A mix between grunge-rock, shoegazer and punk, the band played powerfully and unabashed despite the audience’s obvious unfamiliarity. At one point, someone tossed a bra to Dabice during their set. Not skipping a beat, she hung the garment around her neck
“Did the person who threw this plan on getting it back?” she asked.
Musically, Dabice’s tone was one of bitterness, and the lyrics echoed feelings of a mid-twenties identity crisis.
“I feel so separated from what I thought I’d be and what I am,” she sang on “Denial.”
Following Mannequin Pussy, AJJ seemed to be better known by the crowd. Shortened from Andrew Jackson Jihad, AJJ exhibit a folk-punk sound chock-full of sing-along lyrics. Frontman Sean Bonnette even played an acoustic guitar.
Themes of self-loathing and despair were evident in crowd-favorite, “Heartilation.”
“I wanna break apart my heart / Douse it in Gasoline / ‘Til the fire burns clean / Then flick a cigarette / Like that movie ‘Con-Air.’”
The energized crowd sang along loudly to the fast-paced song, bobbing their heads and building momentum.
After nearly an hour-long set and followed by immense applause, AJJ left the stage. The crowd grew larger as time grew closer to the main event.
As the lights dimmed and Joyce Manor took the stage, stragglers from the bathroom ran and pushed their way into the crowd. Without saying a word, they opened with “Beach Community,” a guitar-heavy, melodic hit from their self-titled, debut album.
“What can you do when you’re not getting sober? / It’s hard to admit but you’re always feeling alone,” Johnson sang. “A few miles down / As the streets count backwards / I realize it’s true / Everything reminds me of you.”
Joyce Manor has a way with describing the love-tortured feelings you get when walking home from late-night parties that don’t end the way you’d hoped. It took no time at all for the audience to thrash along, climbing on top of one another to crowd surf and shouting along to every word.
Continuing to play tracks from their debut album, “Leather Jacket” picked at friends who seem to turn into strangers after time spent apart.
“In your new leather jacket, you’re somebody else / And it’s not nice to meet you in a fortress of self,” Johnson shouted. “Thanks to your new leather jacket, we’re nobodies now.”
The same angst-ridden themes carry through to tracks from the band’s latest album, but were inserted with notes of inspiration on tracks such as “Eighteen.”
“At eighteen / Life’s a bad dream / Then you wake up,” Johnson belted out.
“Just find something to do / And then do it.” Though simplistic and brash, the words were stingingly truthful.
It’s not all roses, though, and Johnson didn’t hold back the pessimism for long. On “Last You Heard Of Me,” he can’t shake seeing the ending before things even begin.
“Digging through your purse for matches / When for a second our eyes meet / And in the moment I see everything / Start to finish, sad defeat / Shivering, lying naked naked next to you / And that’s the last you heard of me.”
The lyrics are strikingly poetic, allowing the listener to visualize the entire scenario. The song pushes past the typical two-minute or less mark for the band, which may be why it’s able to form a story better than others.
“I don’t want [a song] to end before it’s satisfying, and I don’t want it to go on longer than necessary,” Johnson told Northern Transmissions last September.
After a brief exit from the stage, the band came back for an encore and closed out the night with “Constant Headache,” the ultimate anthem for bittersweet failed relationships that you can only blame yourself for ending.
“You were drunker than high school, self-conscious and sweet / I never ever felt so cool disguised in your sheets / But I’m a constant headache, a tooth out of line.”
The lyrics express the inability to shake those nagging feelings of self-loathing.
As the band gave it their all onstage, people continued to get tossed into the air. During the chaotic finale, a seemingly-intoxicated girl was thrown onto the stage, knocking down Johnson’s mic in the process. He walked over to another and continued, but the bouncers were too busy keeping track of others in the crowd to notice.
“Having sex in the morning, your love was foreign to me / It made me think maybe human’s not such a bad thing to be / But I just laid there in protest, entirely f—ked / It’s such a stubborn reminder, one perfect night’s not enough.”
The girl moved towards Johnson and grabbed the mic, attempting to sing along with him. Unentertained, Johnson moved to the opposite side of the stage, finished the song and walked off after a quick, “Goodnight.”
The show’s abrupt ending after “Constant Headache” echoed the bittersweet feelings of the song, and I couldn’t help but wonder if they would have played another had the girl not interrupted.
Despite the unexpected ending, the energy of the night remained even as the half-drunk crowd poured out of the venue and into the streets. That’s one of the incredible things about music – even after it stops, the emotions still find a way to linger.
Joyce Manor’s raw, unfiltered sound hasn’t lost steam since their debut, and I don’t think we’ll see them slowing down anytime soon. Their tour wraps up this April, closing out in their home-state of California.
Listen to music by Joyce Manor and others on our Spotify playlist: