The Internet Killed the Rockstar Tour x 1883 Magazine
MOD SUN, girlfriends, and Tyler Posey all bring a high-energy performance on The Internet Killed the Rockstar Tour.
Everyone is saying it, but there’s something special about actually existing in it: live shows are back, and they carry precisely the energy you would expect after a year of distance and largely solitary living. For The Roxy Theater’s evening with MOD SUN, girlfriends and Tyler Posey, the ambience was electric and, at times, even impatient.
Fog machines and strobing stage lights, albeit in a testing phase early on in the show, contributed to an environment that begged for live instruments to fill the blank space. The Roxy was a perfect home — it is small enough to recreate the too-hot, always packed atmosphere captured in a live, pre-pandemic moment, but just spacious enough to make for booming performances. It’s a venue that feels designed for a pop-punk show and, before long, it would become evident that the artists in attendance were more than ready to test The Roxy’s limits for sound.
Fortunately, the early crowd members were true fans of the genre, belting songs like Blink-182’s “Feeling This” almost chorally as it played throughout the room ahead of opener Tyler Posey’s entrance. And they were surrounded by veterans; Goldfinger lead John Feldmann was in attendance, substantially credited for the rise of all three artists on the night’s lineup.
It was a night that would likely make him proud to be a voice behind-the-scenes, beginning with a tongue-in-cheek entrance by Tyler Posey narrated by NOFX’s “The Separation of Church And Skate,” as he emerged from backstage wearing a red Dickies short-sleeved, button-up shirt atop a white tank, cuffed khaki pants, white sneakers and vocals that felt as though they could shake the building in its entirety.
In an award for the most captivating performance of Posey’s show (and one of the best of the night in its entirety), “Past Life” takes the top spot; it was the first track that the audience allowed themselves to be truly immersed in, swaying in the sea of general admission with a passionate Posey at the forefront of their attention.
The cool excitement for “Past Life” was nearly matched, however, when Phem entered the stage to perform a live rendition of “Shut Up.” Though the expectation is that guest performers embellish a set for the main artist on stage, Phem practically created her own show over the course of one track with a stage presence that drew every ear to her crisp and largely emotive vocals.
Posey’s set was at its best when he had the opportunity to show the crowd that his vocals nearly sound better live than on a studio track; his voice, when the audience died down enough to hear its layers, is just as captivating as a long guitar solo. It made for an exciting set — calling Posey an opener, really, feels like an understatement.
girlfriends, the duo made up of Travis Mills and Nick Gross, had a shaky start with a smooth recovery as technical problems made a loud intro impossible. But Mills made the best of it, reminding the audience to be louder than the first applause when he left the stage to make a second emergence — this time, with a functioning microphone. It was an easy transition into “Jessica,” clearly a fan-favourite, opening a set that felt like it would never slow down (and their crowd was grateful for it).
“Eyes Wide Shut” was girlfriends’ strongest performance in terms of musicality; while Gross continued to shine from stage right, Mills had the chance to show what he can do as a guitarist. Though picking up a guitar and singing simultaneously certainly isn’t out of the ordinary on-stage, seeing Mills do it felt like being in on an exclusive secret — the show marked girlfriends’ second live show (though Mills considered it the first), giving The Roxy’s crowd a glimpse into the duo’s performance style before they inevitably find themselves in the headlining spot.
Mills never loses energy on stage; adrenaline fuels a performance centered around fan connection as he sings directly to anyone who will sing the words back to him. Not only is Mills an impressive musician, but he is a strong performer, putting the recipient in the front seat for every word. Mills and Gross tied with the audience for the most engaged performance, though, with “Tattoo” and their closer, “California.” The duo seemed as excited to perform both tracks as the crowd was to receive them, resulting in an anthem-esque atmosphere with a clear message that the singles — the latest and the most-streamed — took all over the course of an already fiery set.
The final chorus of “California” left practically every listener with a galvanizing appetite for the headliner, providing already buzzing energy for Mod Sun when he made his way to the stage.
Mod Sun began with “Karma,” the first track on Internet Killed The Rockstar, warming up the audience with the lyric, “I hope you choke on every lie you said to me” while using the stage as a path to making connections with new and longtime fans alike. It’s when he maneuvered into “Betterman” that it became evident that Mod Sun isn’t an artist who takes advantage of the positive reception he receives from his fans; there isn’t a single moment in which he doesn’t look incandescently grateful for the crowd swaying back and forth, singing or jumping in front of him.
It’s seemingly for that reason that Mod Sun made the decision to perform his older music that falls distinctly out of the pop-punk genre he has come to solidify himself in. “I Remember Way Too Much” grabbed the original Mod Sun fans in the crowd, garnering even more chanting than some of his more up-to-date hits — a moment that, although loud and abundant, felt deeply connective throughout the venue.
Among the mix of nostalgia and modern bliss were opportunities for Mod to demonstrate his various strengths as a performer; Mod is an interactive artist. Each song involved the audience as much as it involved him performing it, making for an intimate fan experience — really, it felt as though the crowd knew every word to every single song. The listeners never missed a beat, and neither did he.
Mod is also an artist that values the feeling of a heart-to-heart conversation. The space he performs in feels like a safe one, which made his dedication for “Prayer” all the more heartbreaking. He lifted the song up for anyone who lost someone they loved in the last year — a year characterized by its isolation and reputation for loss. “You forgot to take the time to be grateful/ Trust and believe and be faithful,” Mod sings, as the crowd’s energy largely shifts from chaotic to reminiscent.
It was evident then that the audience engaged most with songs that they believed were about them, making “Internet Killed The Rockstar” one of the strongest performances of Mod’s set when it came to engagement from his fans. The title track shines among the tour setlist, and Mod knew just how to make the song a greater message about the effect of the internet on music. When he sat behind the drums to take on an instrumental solo, it was as if he was passively demanding the audience’s attention in true form with the track’s purport.
Though the clock was nearing midnight only a few songs later, the crowd continued to dance as if it was still 9 p.m.; they are just as ready to sing along to “Painkiller” and “Down” as they were for “Karma,” and even lower energy songs like “Amnesia” sound massive. Too big for the space that The Roxy provided, practically bursting out of the building. It should have come as no surprise then when one final reveal had fans shrieking with pure joy at the conclusion of the set.
It would be remiss of Mod Sun to leave behind any opportunity to play the Internet Killed The Rockstar hit “Flames,” and there was no better way to make it happen than by bringing the iconic Avril Lavigne on stage with him for a perfect send off to the first show of the tour. The song was a standout when performed live, giving fans a chance to see Lavigne live for the first time as well as a prime opportunity to make the venue loud enough that making out the words of the chorus became a challenge (though it didn’t matter, as practically every member of the crowd had begun to sing along from the song’s introduction).
In some ways, attending a pop-punk show in a packed house feels like a revival, but not just for the genre — rather, a revival of a spirit that only exists in the room where live music can live and thrive. One would be hard-pressed to find a first post-vaccination show that managed to carry such connectivity, intimacy and electrifying energy simultaneously. The Internet Killed The Rockstar tour’s striking start was just that — only the beginning — and fans can only wish that every iteration of a live show will carry that same striking power.
Words by Logan Potter
Photography by Jessica Christian & Molly Adams
Check out the latest tracks from girlfriends.