Image: Sophie Flint Vázquez via The Boar

State Champs’ electrifying set at Birmingham’s O2 Academy proves the band are still at the top of their game

O2 Academy, Birmingham, 11th February 2024

The title of State Champs’ 2022 album was Kings of the New Age. And to be honest, it’s difficult to imagine a title to suit State Champs better than that. Now 14 years into their career, the New York-formed pop-punk band have remained at the forefront of the scene for the last 10 years. It’s hard to think of bands who are doing it better than them. It’s perhaps for this reason the band decide to start their set at Birmingham’s O2 Academy with Queen’s ‘We Are the Champions’, provoking an animated singalong from all 3000 people present. 

When the band finally runs onto the stage and breaks out into their first song (‘Just Sound’ from King’s of the New Age), the crowd is more than ready to go. The song, like much of State Champs’ discography, has everything you would want from a pop-punk tune: a catchy riff, angsty vocals, vigorous drumming, an irresistibly catchy chorus, and unbounded energy. 

‘Act Like That’ lands equally well and does well to showcase the band’s poppier side

The crowd barely has time to breathe before the band launches straight into ‘Frozen’, an equally catchy infectious crowd-pleaser. State Champs may not be headlining the show – in fact, they are opening for fellow pop-punk legends Simple Plan – but because of the great overlap in the bands’ fans, the crowd has no trouble following the songs, shouting lyrics back at vocalist Derek DiScanio and revelling in the rowdy mayhem of the show. 

A flurry of drums marks the start of ‘Mine is Gold’ – heads are banging, arms are flailing, and boots are stomping. ‘Act Like That’ lands equally well and does well to showcase the band’s poppier side during its synth-ridden verses, while welcoming listers back to pop punk with its guitar-laden verses and an electrifying guitar solo. 

The band works incredibly well together

“What’s up, Birmingham?” DiScanio hollers. “C’mon, you know this one!” he exclaims, as the band erupts into ‘Outta My Head’, a boisterous, joyful guitar-heavy track that seems to elicit as much excitement from fans as it does from the band itself. DiScanio runs around in circles, arms stretched out to the side, all while guitarist Tyler Szalkowski moves his hands up and down the guitar at breakneck speed. 

The band works incredibly well together, with years of perfecting their craft meaning they bounce off each other on stage, running around, kicking, and DiScanio often jumping on and off a crate at the front of the stage. The result is a sound polished enough to feel professional but raw enough to maintain that gritty edge their fans know and love. 

“After this, we’re going home for a while,” DiScanio announces. “We’re going to record our fifth album.”

And with 2022’s Kings of the New Age being an all-around excellent album, there is not a doubt in people’s minds that whatever they come up with next will be just as good. After this announcement, and with the final two songs being ‘Secrets’ and ‘Everybody But You’, there is no stopping the crowd. And while ‘Everybody But You’ misses the feature from the frontman of fellow pop-punkers Neck Deep, the song maintains its vigour, with the crowd too enveloped in the show to care. 

And just like that, State Champs’ set is over. All around, people are smiling and murmurs of appreciation rustle through the venue. And while a tad more interaction with the audience wouldn’t have gone amiss, State Champs prove that they have been at the top of their game for a while, and will continue to be for many years to come.



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