Four Year Strong at Ralph’s Diner – December 27, 2022

In the most general sense, the foundation of tradition is often seen as something that is not to be shifted or altered in any way, shape or form. In the case of Four Year Strong, who returned to Worcester this week followed by lone opener Gut Health, for yet another hometown holiday highlight reel, tradition can easily be crowdsurfed, moshed around, and ultimately flipped on its head in what could be seen as the attic of Ralph’s Diner while still offering the warm, sweaty, and familiar glow of a local annual pop-punk bacchanalia that had become a fixture in the Palladium’s late-year schedule for more than a decade.

Gut Health

With quite literally no room for pomp or production, Massachusetts-bred alt quartet Gut Health wasted no time in filling the space with a wall of sound. Flipping the switch from soundcheck to a full-fledged musical explosion with flavors of punk, hardcore, and indie rock meshed with an atmospheric and cerebral vocal attack, no time was wasted in getting the crowd ready for the main event with a highly energetic and far-out display that may or may not have included the crowdsurfing of a full-sized mannequin. The band’s time on stage was fairly short, but what their set lacked in duration made up for it in commitment and a visible enjoyment of their craft. While the turning of knobs and dials to make for some trippy vocals surely added a bit of a psychedelic flair to the show, their mission was cut and dry: they were there to get the people going for the main event, and they did just that in quite a unique and energetic way.

Four Year Strong

For well over a decade now, Four Year Strong have closed out the calendar year at the Worcester Palladium with either a nearly-sold out or completely packed house at the 2,600+ capacity venue, and a raucous shindig that welcomes their loyal and enthusiastic fanbase from near and far to the band’s home turf for an outright rager. However, after having brought their Enemy Of The World anniversary tour, which celebrated both the legacy of their 2010 hit record of the same name and the 2022 re-recording of it, to Boston’s Roadrunner back in November, the bearded foursome switched things up a bit and opted to culminate a year of celebration into four consecutive sold-out nights in closer quarters at the 200-capacity space at the legit landmark that is Ralph’s Diner.

In this specific instance, fans packed in tightly on the run’s second go-around on Tuesday (December 27) just as they have in a bigger space any other year, but as soon as the band tore into their set with the ever-fun “What The Hell Is a Gigawatt?” the vibe was virtually identical to that of a night at The Palladium. Although the absence of a barricade often predates a certain level of untethered chaos, the crowd was respectfully enthusiastic and gave the band all the space they needed to tear through a little over an hour’s worth of fan favorites, with the 12-song setlist including rippers like “Get Out Of My Head,” “Maniac,” “Brain Pain,” “Heroes Get Remembered, Legends Never Die,” and their customary closer “Wasting Time (Eternal Summer).”

With fans screaming every word of every song back to them from start to finish, it seemed to only fuel the band to gradually turn up the dial and go a bit harder with every track, and as the young kids say, the vibe was immaculate throughout the evening. At this point in the band’s career, you’ll either know firsthand or overhear someone at a show gushing over the live experience found embedded in a Four Year Strong set, and while even their newest songs have become something of muscle memory for both the band and their audience, there continues to be a sense of renewed enthusiasm and genuine mutual love for the music that transcends the moment and carries on to the next meet-up every single time the two sides collide.

After so many years of annual holiday shows, fans who are familiar with the setup know what to expect from a year’s-end evening with Four Year Strong, but somehow, the band makes it look easy as they proceed to pull out all the stops to top the previous year. And while virtually every sacred aspect of the late-December gathering was held by the ankles and had the lunch money shaken out of its pockets for the 2022 edition, from the venue and the size of the crowd to the shorter set and less opening bands in one space at one time, it still felt like home for the diehards who show up every time the boys are back in town to close out another year with a yuletide ripper, and this year showed that, wherever next year’s festivities take place, it doesn’t truly matter where it happens at the end of the day. It could be at Ralph’s, or The Palladium, or hell, they could pull up to the Polar Seltzer factory or set up their rigs in the middle of Kelley Square. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the music, the sense of community and belonging, and the ability to grab a complete stranger by the shirt and scream lyrics directly into their face – and every year, they’ve never failed to provide just that. Happy holidays, boys. You’ve done it again.

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