Joyce Manor brings high-energy angst to Central Park’s SummerStage

The Torrance, California, emo-punk band proves their self-titled debut remains timeless.

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Frank Schwichtenberg

Joyce Manor takes center stage at Central Park’s SummerStage. The band had proven that their self-titled debut album hasn’t aged a day since its release a decade ago. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

By Jack Solomon, Contributing Writer

Joyce Manor is a staple of underground emo music, amassing a loyal fanbase through their consistently great albums and energetic concerts over the last decade. As we come out of the pandemic and live music returns, it seems fitting that they’d play shows to celebrate their self-titled album — the one that started it all — on its 10th anniversary. 

Joyce Manor kicked off the anniversary celebration tour at the Hollywood Palladium before playing Riotfest in Chicago and then SummerStage in Central Park.

The first opening band was Prince Daddy & The Hyena. The least-known band on the bill, they seemed accustomed to playing smaller stages. Nevertheless, they still sounded clean, and their awkwardness gave them an endearing and approachable energy. The fans who showed up early to catch their set were happy to jump and sing along to their angsty anthems. The singer and bassist joked with each other between songs and would turn around to face the drummer and jam during longer instrumental passages. They didn’t take themselves too seriously. 

Prince Daddy & The Hyena interacted intimately with the fans, making the show feel much smaller despite the massive venue. At one point, the singer told a story about meeting Joyce Manor frontman Barry Johnson 10 years ago. He even AirDropped a photo of them together to five people in the audience. The group’s enthusiasm kept things genuine and entertaining throughout their brief opening set.

It took a few songs for the next band, Surf Curse, to really get the crowd moving. I can’t say I’m a fan of them, so I wasn’t particularly excited when they filled in at the last minute for Tigers Jaw, who had had to drop out after the concert had been delayed. Contrasting the audience’s outfits of sweatshirts and snapbacks, Surf Curse displayed a fun and eclectic fashion sense with their colorful jumpsuits and leather jackets. However, they were stiff performers and their banter didn’t come off as natural and genuine as Prince Daddy’s.

However, by their third song, people were jumping to the beat. As the crowd got more lively, the band did too, starting to move more and engage with the audience more organically. By the end, they won me over. I sang along to “Freaks” and “Disco” with everyone else, and I don’t even like those songs.

The sun had finished setting when Turnover started their set. Their relaxed brand of shoegaze-indie rock provided a welcome change of pace as trippy background lights matched their spacious, groovy songs well. Frontman Austin Getz didn’t bother telling jokes like the first two bands, instead letting droning synths fill the space between songs, although he did take some time to express gratitude that they were playing live again. The band’s tight rhythm section prevented the set from getting too sleepy, but they dragged on a bit longer than they really needed to — most of the people around me spent the middle of the set talking among themselves. Nonetheless, they were able to pull everyone back in at the end with catchy staples like “Dizzy on the Comedown,” which got the whole crowd singing along again.

While Prince Daddy and Surf Curse energized the crowd, compared to Joyce Manor, we might as well have all been sleeping. Not even a second after the opening chords of “Orange Julius” crashed over the crowd, the audience was packed in like sardines. It seemed everyone knew every word to each song. I’m more surprised we all had the breath to sing so loud, given how tightly we were packed and how fast we were jumping and being thrown around. With songs rarely running over the two-minute mark, the snappy nature of Joyce Manor’s music ensured that the energy level never diminished — even if the band gave fans a moment to find their lost shoes every few songs.

When the self-titled playthrough was finished, Joyce Manor didn’t miss a beat. Continuing into “Heart Tattoo” from the 2014 album “Never Hungover Again,” the band performed a well-paced collection of fan favorites and deep cuts. I could only occasionally catch a glimpse of the band members, but I could tell they were having the times of their lives. Barry Johnson had a massive grin every time I looked up at him, and his singing was passionate. You could tell he meant every word, as did everyone singing along with him. 

For their encore, Joyce Manor started by covering Tigers Jaw’s “I Saw Water,” a choice that went over excellently with fans who were disappointed by Tigers Jaw’s absence from the show. Joyce Manor then concluded with “Five Beer Plan,” a fan favorite despite never being included on a proper studio album. The song built gradually — as gradually as a song under two minutes can, at least — before the scream-along refrain of “I told you so!/I fucking told you so!” led into one final chaotic and moshable punk-rock jam. In the original demo recording, it’s a shout of frustration, but in this context, it came off as triumphant. It was a fitting conclusion for a band celebrating a decade of success.

To whoever may have said Joyce Manor was just a flash in the pan, or whoever may have thought we wouldn’t be able to have live music like this again, we were all there to say, “I fucking told you so!”

Contact Jack Solomon at [email protected]