There’s an age-old air of humor that surrounds the melodrama of high school — crushes, flings, friends who aren’t friends anymore, underage drinking, prom, etc. High school, frankly, is a clusterfuck for more people than not, and, unfortunately for me, I fell into the category of clusterfucked-kid-turns-to-emo. Out of all the bands I listened to in high school, including more pop punk than is possibly healthy for any individual, few bands have stuck with me into my 20s the way Sorority Noise has, and I’ll always be grateful for the lyrics and chords that screwed (and continue to screw) my head on straight whenever I feel like drowning.
This past Saturday, with support from Remo Drive and Foxx Bodies, Sorority Noise played their last Michigan show to a sold-out crowd before going on hiatus. Their final run of dates will be opening up for The Wonder Years on their UK run in April, and while this news comes as a sharp sting to the fans they’ve moved through the past few years, it was a bittersweet opportunity to reflect — during and after the show — on just how important this band was to so many people and to normalizing conversation around mental health and suicide.
There’s truly no way to describe in words the reaction a Sorority Noise crowd has when frontman Cam Boucher belts over the explosive chorus of hit single “Using”: “I stopped wishing I was dead / Learned to love myself before anyone else / Become more than just a burden!” It was a group effort at catharsis, invisible wires threading the crowd into an amalgamation of continual self-improvement. I’ve shared smiles with more strangers at a Sorority Noise show than I have anywhere else in my entire life, experiencing joint happiness in knowing that a pop-emo band was doing more to make us feel alive than anything else.
Regardless of the emotionality of the band’s music, there’s also no denying that the individual musicians that make up Sorority Noise are incredible. Guitarist Adam Ackerman’s scattered solos pierce through the tight punk harmonies and light up the crowd; Boucher’s vocals range from tender croons to shrill screams (often all within the course of one song); drummer Charlie Singer and bassist Ryan McKenna deftly undercut the melodies with sporadic arrangements. At a Sorority Noise show, it’s impossible to not feel every little detail poured into their music. During their performance of Joy, Departed’s “Your Soft Blood,” the band showcased this talent, ripping through the grunge cut with intense animosity that silences the room by its final line: “Don’t chalk me up to anything less than sin.”
This is the magic of Sorority Noise — a band with the ability to write insanely good hooks and lyricism that doesn’t shy away from topics that are difficult to hash out. Each of their three records and multiple EPs tackles the difficult facets of existing in today’s world — the pervasive problem of mental health, suicide and substance abuse, to name a few. Sorority Noise let us know that it’s OK to struggle and mess up, but they also taught us the importance of self-love and self-forgiveness. Boucher even went so far to take time in between songs to give a few words of kindness and encouragement to his fans, saying of the band’s departure, “In the meantime, please take care of yourselves.”
A band like Sorority Noise doesn’t come around too often, and during their encore performance of “Art School Wannabe,” I was reminded of their unique appeal. The song encapsulates the band’s best qualities; their upbeat tempos, honest lyrics and tight instrumentation all come together to make a perfect song about understanding yourself at your worst. It’s a joy like no other to sing, “I might not be as dark as I think,” in a sweaty mosh pit with like-minded individuals. And for their music, their activism and obviously their therapeutic performances, we owe Sorority Noise our utmost appreciation and can only hope to see them back soon.