Sum 41 rocks Miller lot

Bassist Cone McCaslin, the contortionist.
Bassist Cone McCaslin, the contortionist.
Deryk at his prettiest.
Deryk at his prettiest.

Whether you love them or hate them, Sum 41 is arguably the biggest worldwide rock band to come out of Canada in the last 20 years. This past Friday night, they brought the energy that has made them household names to millions of fans around the world, as well as houseguests to movie stars and Paris Hilton.

Just before 10:00 p.m., as the stage lights dimmed and the percolating riff-age of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” blared from the overhead speakers, the Frosh Week Concert crowd whipped itself into a frenzy of anticipation for the Ajax pop-punkers. As the dry ice wafted upwards towards the sky, drummer Stevo 32 made his way to the kit, guitarist Dave “Brownsound” Baksh and bassist Cone McCaslin came onstage, flanking lead vocalist Deryck Whibley, and launched right into their set.

While Sum 41 is now known best for their immature and fart- joke-laden teeny-bopper image, the truth is that the four Durham region 20-somethings are actually a metal band posturing themselves in the realm of punk. Opening with a jam session that featured Megadeth-style downpicking and all out force from the rhythm section, Sum 41 started the show hard and fast.

By the time the band transitioned into their second tune, “The Hell Song” from 2002’s Does this Look Infected?, the crowd was already pogo-ing and pumping their fists in time with every shrill call from Whibley.

It was also refreshing to see the StuCons allow a little bit of a rock concert to take place Friday night. Moshers and crowd surfers occupied the pit at the front of the stage and the energy transferred from band to crowd and back again, which helped to elevate the level of enjoyment for everyone.

Sum 41 sure have changed a lot since the first time they played Queen’s four years ago, opening for Treble Charger at Alfie’s. Gone are the Calvin and Hobbes-esque looks of Whibley’s teenage years, which have replaced with a near-vampiric new image. Microphone grasped in his right hand, black hair dangling into his face, the sneering lead singer looked like Trent Reznor’s little brother as he helped his mates power through the band’s repertoire of fun and clichéd rock tunes.

The crowds were much kinder to the Pickering-area prima donnas this time around. Whether singing along to “Makes no Difference” or the anthemic “Fat Lip,” the Frosh ate up Sum 41 and asked for Sum forty seconds.

Whibley thrashed about the stage, pandering to the crowd and eliciting cheers from all sides. Guitarist Dave “Brownsound” was a darker, punkier Eddie Van Halen—his finger tapping solos and Maiden-esque riffing between songs kept the tempo of the concert alive throughout the band’s 90-minute set.

Whibley apologized for his somewhat erratic behavior at one point: “I’m sorry, I’m sick,” he said. “I just burped and it tasted like Jack Daniel’s and cough syrup.”

Even though they found themselves playing to a half-empty parking lot—standard-fare for Frosh Week shows, it seems—Sum 41 still inspired fits of partying throughout the asphalted concert venue. Girls skanked on the back steps of Miller Hall, and throughout the parking lot Frosh and their leaders danced and sang along to some of the poppy and bouncier numbers like “Motivation” and older fan favourites like “Machine Gun.” The band finished the night with Whibley assuming the drummer’s position while Stevo quite drunkenly led the band through two-patchworked renditions of the band’s hair-metal opus, “Pain for Pleasure.”

Mixed in among the crowd-pleasing, fan-favourite punk sing-along songs, Sum 41 debuted some of the new material from their forthcoming album, Chuck due out Oct. 12. The first single “We’re All to Blame” resonated fairly well with the crowd, but some of the other slower, preachy-er new songs failed to captivate the Frosh. Sum 41 may have to be careful not to alienate their fan base in the future if their sound continues to mature. The band has, to date, been able to straddle a line of definition between a legitimate skate-punk band and your little brother’s Metallica cover band. However, if their sound matures too much, they could run the risk of losing those fans who have grown accustomed to the fun and fart joke-loving antics the band has ridden upon to stardom. Best to leave the preachy rock stuff to Matt Good.

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