Wisconsin band the Promise Ring broke up nearly ten years ago after their last release Wood/Water. They had long railed against the emo tag they were branded with and after W/W wasn’t as well-received as their previous releases, they decided to call it a day. Lead singer Davey Van Bohlen went on the form Maritime, which specializes in equally catchy, but more poppy songs. I really never expected a Promise Ring reunion, and what a great surprise it was. They were playing on the Terrace following the Rhythm and Booms extravaganza which is conducted from across the lake in Warner Park. After the bloated music and light display, which included a Whitney Houston tribute medley, the Promise Ring was a breath of fresh air.
Like the Dismemberment Plan last year, another emo band that that hit the reunion trail, the Promise Ring sounded even better than I remembered. Their twenty five song set list flew by and I recognized nearly every song on it. Despite Wood/Water’s poor reviews, it’s more grown-up and yes mellower songs blended seamlessly with the more manic tunes from Very Emergency and Nothing Feels Good. The pretty and introspective “Stop Playing Guitar” reminded me what it was that people didn’t like about the record, no one wants to believe that their musical heroes would rather be doing something else.
As much as I like those songs, Very Emergency has always been my favorite. Released before Van Bohlen was sidelined with a brain tumor, these songs don’t have a care in the world. Songs like “SOS” and the longing “Jersey Shore” were stellar, but it was “Deep South” that stole the show. The ridiculously poppy perfect song positively bubbled with excitement, and is bound to be stuck in my head for weeks, probably months, after. In fact, it was so awesome that the guy who had been yelling for it intermittently up until that point, just kept yelling for it the rest of the set. That is a “play it again” I could support. I was surprised by the relatively young age of the crowd. They looked like current or recently graduated college kids, too young to have been into them the first time around. Then again, I was always on the old side of their crowd, at least that hasn’t changed.
Hopefully this short reunion tour, which also included a stop at Summerfest, won’t be all we hear from the Promise Ring this decade. The band seemed to be having a great time, and Van Bohlen in particular couldn’t have been more adorable. I do like Maritime, but I sure do love the Promise Ring.