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Livestream Champs

Pop-punk mainstays State Champs bring the at-home concert experience to new heights

If you know pop-punk, you know State Champs. Hailing from Albany, New York, the band has been tearing up the touring and festival circuit behind each high-energy release for over ten years. After a handful of successful independently released EPs, a signing with Pure Noise Records, and the steady stream of projects through the label that followed, the band continues to evolve and stand at the forefront of the genre. With founding members Tyler Szalkowski on guitar and Derek DiScanio on vocals, along with Ryan Graham on bass and Evan Ambrosio on drums, the powerful quartet are a testament that punk is here to stay.

In recent months, many musicians face the challenge of writing and collaborating under the limitations imposed by quarantine. The times signify an opportunity to explore new themes and unique sounds, and State Champs have done just that. Arriving on August 22nd, their latest project “Unplugged” will stray from their roots of blaring electric guitars to re-imagine their sound using acoustic instruments. With four new songs and two covers of fan favorites from their previous projects, fans can ring in a new decade of their favorite band with both a revitalized sound and a hint of nostalgia. On June 16th, State Champs shared further news of their plan to celebrate their ten year anniversary with a variety show livestream.

And now for something completely different…

The event was announced on June 16th, promising live performances by the bandmembers from home, the premier of new music, special guests, a new webisode of their series “Shot Boys,” a Q&A session live with the fans, exclusive 10-year merch, and more. Tickets could be purchased through their website for ten dollars, and a discounted option was available at just five dollars for those who registered to vote during the current election year.

Unlike the traditional livestream musicians have embraced to bring their music to fans in quarantine, this anniversary event slated itself to be more of a “backstage pass”-esque concert experience available to all. Going beyond simply singing into their webcam, it was clear that the band sought to create the most thorough experience they could online, offering fans a level of personal interaction different from what’s possible the live performance venues we all dearly miss. Scheduled to take place at 6pm Central Time on June 22nd, exactly one month before their upcoming project “Unplugged,” the ambitious show invited fans to the beginning of transition into a new era together.

Front Row Seats

Upon purchasing tickets to the show, a referral link is sent to the email address used to register.  By clicking this link, it directs fans to the band’s web store, where the livestream is integrated seamlessly for ticket holders. As a result, while listeners enjoy the stream, they also have the opportunity to check out the “merch table,” located right beneath the livestream window on the same page. Exclusive 10-year anniversary merchandise was available for pre-order, as well as the 24-hour exclusive “Alien Ringer” tee and “Secrets” hoodie. Familiar merchandise was also available there, as well as a link to purchase any number of bundle-deals available for the “Unplugged” EP. Fans in the live chat excitedly shared which items they purchased themselves before the show, alongside professing their love for the band and excitement for what was to come.

All four band members soon appeared onscreen, expressed their gratitude for all those in attendance, and quickly kickstarted the action. Brendan Murphy of the band Counterparts was the first guest to be introduced. The group joked back and forth, sharing stories of their experiences touring together as well as some early-career antics. The fans watching weren’t left out, as the band members frequently popped into the live chat themselves to joke and converse with those in attendance. It felt like a large group of close friends all got together, simply wanting to have some fun after not being able to see one another for so long. The interaction closely mirrored the experience of chatting with others in the crowd and sharing banter with the band on a stage.

State Champs walked through their career chronologically, sharing their favorite stories and experiences during each era of the band’s journey. The progression between each song they performed was no different, as they began the set with an acoustic cover of “Hard to Please,” a fan favorite from their debut album. The sound quality was excellent, their performances were passionate and cohesive, and it was clear from the reaction in the chat how much it meant to the fans to travel back in time in this manner. Screen-in-screen edits and other visual effects made the viewing experience even more dynamic. The performance felt like a mini celebration of that period of the band’s history within the larger scale of the livestream itself, and it served as a bridge that brought the band into the discussion of its next chapter.

For the next few hours, the livestream progressed in a similar manner, and none of the enthusiasm was lost along the way. Additional acoustic covers of their hottest songs were performed as they joyfully traversed through their story as a band, with even more laughs and jokes interspersed between. Never before seen studio footage, a guest appearance by Ben Barlow of Neck Deep, a cover of “Haunted” by The Band CAMINO, an inside look into their recording process, a comedic webisode of their series “Shot Boys,” and so much more were all met with keen interest that never seemed to waver.

Of course, everyone anxiously awaited the premier of new music, and the progression of the livestream only heightened that anticipation. When it finally arrived towards the end of the evening, the chat raced so quickly with love from the fans that it was nearly impossible to keep up with. The song was “Crying Out Loud,” a track brimming with emotion and heart to the nth degree, carried along by a beautiful animated video encapsulating the scattered chaos that comes with heartbreak.

Serving as the finale of the show, the concert was brought back down to earth afterwards with a Q&A session with the band, as well as the announcement of who won the raffle they held to raise money in light of the recent protests across the nation.

Bringing it back home

For frequent festival-goers and those who miss live music the most, it’s inspiring to see bands like State Champs innovate the livestream concert experience to bring their supporters a stellar event unique to the platform. After thriving as a band for ten years, sharing their achievement with supporters speaks volumes to their appreciation for what their fans make possible. Despite their limitations, State Champs used the resources they had celebrate both the end of an era and a new beginning to the max. It’s easy to doubt that livestreams can even come close to a true live concert, but State Champs demonstrate that there is potential in live streams well beyond what’s visible at the surface.

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