Let’s get this out of the way: I fucking love Set Your Goals. Their fusion of pop-punk and hardcore topped off with positive lyrics shouldn’t work at all, but it’s really, really good. I was once embarrassed to admit just how much I like this band, but no longer! Now that I’m the creepy old dude at all-ages shows (at the age of twenty-three), punk rock may not have much more to instill into my not-quite-nascent mind, but Set Your Goals taps into the spirit and energy of a lot of the bands that got me into punk in the first place and remind me just how great it can be.

Though I’m at a bit of an awkward age (going to all-ages shows alone because my friends don’t give a fuck about punk rock now that they can legally drink), most of the crowd for this, the penultimate night of the “Gig Life” tour, was in a similar boat (trying to deal with their own cracking voices, awkwardness around the opposite sex and the sudden and unannounced arrival of hair in strange places). I felt a bit out of place, but I was excited to see Set Your Goals and Polar Bear Club. The rest of the bands, not so much.

I arrived in the middle of Fireworks’ set to find the Murray Theater more crowded than I expected. I didn’t really expect much of a crowd based on the reception Set Your Goals got the other times I had seen them, but with their new album being released by Epitaph and a few tracks getting some radio play, it looks like SYG is really starting to take off. Unfortunately for Fireworks, no one in attendance really seemed to care about them.

As per the current trend, they’re a bunch of hardcore kids playing Blink 182 and New Found Glory inspired pop-punk, but without the credibility or name recognition. It also didn’t help that the band’s vocalist was pretty boring on-stage, barely moving and standing straight up for the parts of the set I saw. You can’t really blame him though, as the crowd wasn’t giving Fireworks anything to work with. At one point, someone in the crowd challenged them to play Rancid’s “Maxwell Murder” and for a minute it looked like Fireworks would oblige, but they didn’t in the end. After Fireworks was done, I snagged a spot closer to the stage to see Polar Bear Club.

Polar Bear Club has quickly become one of my new favorite bands. Rather than simply resurrecting late 90s emo (another current trend), the band takes influence from that era, combines it with the aggressive edge of Hot Water Music, Small Brown Bike and Bear vs. Shark and, lately, injects it with plenty of melody. I had seen these guys play a great set at Baxter’s Cafe a few months ago, so I was really excited to see them again.

Vocalist Jimmy Stadt had a ton of energy and great stage presence, even though he’s so skinny a slight breeze probably could’ve blown him off the stage. His gravelly vocals are a big part of PBC’s appeal, but unfortunately, they were lost in the mix that night and I had to rely on the ten or so people singing along to catch the band’s lyrics. Even though they’ve only released two EPs and a single full-length so far, Polar Bear Club delivered a varied set list, including a great new song called “Living Saints.” They didn’t play a few songs I wanted to hear (“Most Miserable Life” and “Hollow Place” come to mind) but it was still a good set, and I’m glad these guys are coming back to town twice more this year.

Though the show was advertised as a Four Year Strong headlining show (FYS and SYG were switching out of the headlining spot every other night), they followed Polar Bear Club. I’m not really familiar with Four Year Strong. I have a general idea of what they sound like (basically like Set Your Goals, but with even more pop-punk and some synth), and I’ve listened to their first full length Rise or Die Trying, but they’re recently released covers album (Four Year Strong Explains It All) has me worried about their set.

Alas, my worries were unfounded, and FYS were actually pretty good. People were going crazy during their “breakdowns” and I actually saw a few people get kicked out of the show during their set, and the band only busted out two cover songs (Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life” and Reach the Sky’s “She Really Loved You”), and they had plenty of energy, even if their synth dude seemed superfluous, jumping around the stage and doing nothing during the large amount of time he wasn’t playing his instrument. They tore down quickly, and Set Your Goals took the stage soon after.

I moved to the front of the room and got a spot in front of the stage. The room really didn’t get any more crowded than when I arrived, which was a plus, but there were definitely enough people there to give SYG a good reception. Though I found their new album, This Will Be the Death of Us, a bit disappointing, the new songs were a lot of fun live. The crowd was really into the title track and “The Fallen” (my favorite track on the album), but they really started to go nuts when Set Your Goals played a few songs from their first album Mutiny!, which is a damn-near flawless record that lends itself well to live performance.

Vocalists Jordan Brown and Matt Wilson were at the front of the stage for the entire set, regularly thrusting their mics into the receptive crowd. The set was complete with tons of singing along from the crowd, pile-ons, stage dives and plenty of silly hardcore dancing. Members of the other bands sat on the sides of the stage singing along and a few of them even jumped on stage to sing along every once in a while.

Set Your Goals kept it short and simple, playing for about 45 minutes and closing with “Mutiny” and offering no encore, but we didn’t really need one. So Set Your Goals might be a little cheesy and have a sound that people might not like. I don’t care. Something about them really grabs me, and even though I’m not a kid anymore, they make me feel like I’m just discovering punk rock again.