Boca Raton’s Protagonist might not be Florida punk rock royalty, but if not, they are certainly the skilled craftsman who are deeply appreciated by the Sunshine State’s rock commoners. They’ve toiled on stages across the state and the world for the past fifteen years and made quite an impact. We recently caught their high-energy live show in Orlando and chatted with talented front man Pete Marullo afterwards.
The band was in the midst of an intriguing nine city sold out Florida Vacation Tour, opening for their friends New Found Glory. Marullo is pragmatic about the opportunity to play in front of packed Florida fans every night. “We realize that has a lot to do with opening for a band like New Found Glory who have an awesome fan base. Many of the fans in that room, other than our friends, have never heard of us before, but it’s a great opportunity for us to get to open a crowd like that up to our music.”
On this night, they did have a loyal cheering session, aided by the fact that drummer Kyle MacDougall hails from The City Beautiful and sidelights as a member of the area’s Teen Agers. There were also a group of friends celebrating the first anniversary of Justin, his Teen Agers bandmate who were rocking to their friends from Boca Raton.
Protagonist’s live show is non-stop energy, from John Marullo’s filthy opening guitar riff from “Let’s Get It” until the last thunderous notes of the set, these five pour it all out on stage. The music was aggressive punk with melodic touches that had the crowd pleased. The group plowed through ten songs in their thirty minute set, a draining performance that left all five members as exhausted as the fans bouncing around on the floor.
Fueled by the raging beats delivered by MacDougall, the band delivers a non-stop wall of distinctive punk that’s impossible not to move to. Brian Forst supplied rhythm guitar and some gritty harmonies, while the multi-talented Jeff Berman laid down killer bass lines. But, the brothers Marullo are deservedly the focal point, as they both bounce around the stage incessantly.
The fivesome have played many gigs together over the past decade plus, and on this night, they sounded tight, with each song giving ample opportunities for the various members to shine. All of them were extremely active on stage particularly John Marullo, who never stopped jumping, while generously dishing out some sweet guitar riffs.
One of the set highlights took place when Berman handed his bass to Marullo’s good friend, Ian Grushka, bassist from New Found Glory for a sizzling version of “Florida To Philadelphia.” I asked about the relationship with New Found Glory. “I’ve been friends with Ian for about a decade and have met some of the other dudes over the years. But hanging down and bro’ing out on this tour, we’ve become very well acquainted.”
Pete Marullo impressed me with the way he constantly connected with the crowd, seemingly singing directly to various members of the audience. He was also impressed about the way this tour has turned out. “It’s been unreal, Playing your home state is one thing, but doing it with New Found Glory is unreal, a dream come true. They’re one of the biggest bands to come out of Florida, especially in the punk rock genre. They have a great fan base and crowd who comes out to see them.”
The experience touring with New Found Glory has paid off as Protagonist was playing to a sold out Social audience and to packed houses every night while they’ve criss-crossed the state and pushed a lot of merch, including a cool limited edition screen printed vinyl pressing of their new release, Jean Jackets In June, which you can order here: Smart Punk Records.
The reception at The Social for the new songs that debuted on this tour was positive, especially for “Hideaway” which came across as a slightly more melodic version of the Protagonist their fans have grown to love.
Next up for the band, are a few important showcases at South By Southwest in Austin, on their first visit to SXSW. “The first showcase is with our label Smart Punk Records. It will be us, Teen Agers, Unwritten Lwas and Fenix TX, and we are doing another one at Aquarius sponsored by our friends at Catalyst PR with an eclectic mix of bands.”
You can keep up with Protagonist on their Facebook Page, give them a Like here: Facebook/Protagonist.
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