The past year for Wrexham’s Neck Deep has been unprecedented. Their popularity has risen more rapidly than the amount of kids at Disneyland infected with measles. The ‘Intercontinental Championships’ is their second full length UK tour and comes off the back of a tremendous summer playing Warped Tour in the US. A strong undercard of pop punk means that the O2 Academy may burst into pizza at any moment.
It’s always daunting for a band to warm up a crowd consisting mainly of teenagers, but Australia’s Trophy Eyes (****) seize the opportunity and begin proceedings with a flurry. The pop punk scene is famed for its knowledge of relatively obscure bands and it’s great to see such a response for a band that’s travelled across the globe to be here. The Aussies perform songs from their sole releases ‘Everything Goes Away’ and new album ‘Mend, Move On’. Even if lead singer John Floreani looks like a startled redneck, he’s still gotta be stoked with the reception.
A disappointing sea of blank looks accompany the intro music of South Park‘s ‘Blame Canada’, but Seaway (****) pick it up as soon as they start performing. The five-piece are the most fun offering of the night, commanding circle pits (read: unorganised mosh pits) and jumpalongs galore. The Ontarians are good value for their money ey, outpouring Canadian affability. There’s practically no lull in their short appearance, in which vocalist Ryan Locke takes aim at counterfeit merch salesmen (in operation outside the venue). On another day, Seaway would stand above the competition, but such is the standard tonight that they blend in with the pack.
Knuckle Puck (*****) typify everything that is so good about the pop punk scene. It has to be one of the only scenes in which five socially awkward guys can pour their hearts out and be accepted by over 1000 people every night. Vocalist Joe Taylor is no pin-up, but his warming stage presence makes him out to be such a likeable fellow. Knuckle Puck are another band heavily influenced by The Wonder Years, singing about the problems of suburbia and making you emphathise with them even though you’ve never been to Chicago, Illinois. With only a handful of EPs, 7″s, and splits under their belt, plus being recently signed to Rise Records, Knuckle Puck may well be THE band to watch this year. Get in there and listen to them now so you can be a hipster about it in a few years time.
Parading across the stage a novelty wrestling belt, apparently Neck Deep (****) have won the championship before it’s even begun. Every member of the audience has a ticket to tune city tonight, with ‘Losing Teeth’ flowing into ‘Tables Turned’ throwing the opening punches. ‘Damsel In Distress’ and ‘Crushing Grief (No Remedy)’ only serve to rile up the crowd even further. Now nearing the end of the ‘Wishful Thinking’ album cycle, Neck Deep perform almost every track from their sole full-length, including the rarely played ‘Zoltar Speaks’. Lead singer Ben Barlow may look like Phil Jones of Manchester United at times, but he still manages to hit almost every note (at least the ones that matter).
Neck Deep are going through the motions a bit with album #2 on the way, and that’s the only reason they’ve not gained the full 5/5 rating. The set is strong enough to hold its own, including almost all of the ‘Rain In July‘ EP, but there is nothing new for the fans. Let’s not go full Machine Head on us please, Neck Deep.
The fantastic singalong of ‘A Part of Me’ is as usual the high point, and there’s even an encore in the similarly chilled ‘Candour’. Neck Deep will continue to go from strength to strength in 2015, and this may well be the last opportunity that the Bristol crowd has to see them before they evolve to Arena status. Good luck to them.
Written by MG Savage (@MGsavagewriter)