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Philadelphia pop punk band Grayscale stopped by Berkeley’s Cornerstone venue in early February on the second leg of their Nella Vita US Tour.

A small and intimate venue, The Cornerstone filled up about halfway throughout the entirety of the Sunday night. But a small crowd could still be a passionate crowd.

Grayscale’s vocalist Collin Walsh didn’t seem to feel the same energy he and his band were putting out saying:

“Guys, I got to be honest, Santa Cruz is better than you guys. And that place fucking sucks!”

I couldn’t help but cringe and felt bad for the fans who paid their hard-earned money to see, what could have been, a fun show.

Not all was wasted, though.

Not only were the opening three bands solid and covered for the headlining letdown, but the sound quality blew me away for such a contained venue.

California emo pop band Crooked Teeth opened up, covering for Chicago punk band LURK.

Sounding like if Nirvana and Hot Topic could jam together, the band was all too happy to jump on board the Nella Vita Tour in their home state.

Up next and hailing from Liverpool, true pop punk enthusiasts WSTR fumbled on their lyrics and dealt with some mic cut issues.

However, their Neck Deep- and New Found Glory-inspired sound, mixed in with a bit more UK punk with clean guitars and drums had me dancing in place the whole time.

Vocalist Sammy Clifford said:

“This is our first time here. … We’re a long way from home.”

Clifford’s innocent and infectious spirit stood out as a highlight.

The best performance of the night went to Hot Mulligan, who had my attention for their entire time on stage.

With a similar, loud and melodic tone as Real Friends and Man Overboard, the Michigan pop punk band cite moments where their talent shines.

It’s not an easy feat when transitioning music from a digital medium like a phone to a stage, especially when trying to emulate the same notes and not having it sound fuzzy or like crap.

It happens.

Hot Mulligan can talk the talk and walk the walk.

Upbeat and faster songs like “How Do You Know It’s Not Armadillo Shells?” and “Dary” utilize Nathan Sanvill’s (unclean and screams) and Chris Freeman’s (clean vocals) perfectly-synced vocals incredibly well.

On the other side of the energy spectrum, the softer and more laid-back “I Fell In Love With Princess Peach” shows off the emotional power of these two dynamic voices.

I’m still scratching my head on how Hot Mulligan use screams and clean vocals in a variety of pop punk sounds.

Contrary to the band’s name, Grayscale’s set showed some interesting flair, busting out a nostalgic vibe of neon lights and a disco ball.

But the flashy lights didn’t pick up the slack in attitude.

Front man Walsh said:

“I was going to say that you guys were the worst show, but El Paso takes the cake.”

Last year’s Nell Vita ended up on my top 20 albums of the year. What a bummer.

If anything good came out of this pop punk night, it was the knowledge that these other bands exist and that others check them out.

The Nella Vita tour continues in the Midwest and then the East Coast until Feb. 27.

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