It was a pop-punk fan’s wet dream as the most exciting up and coming bands from all corners of the world joined under one roof to play good music to an angst-ridden crowd, and the excitement and unity within the venue as Trophy Eyes rolled onto the stage was tangible. Though they only had small clusters of fans dotted in the audience, the Australian newbies had a following as loyal as their better-known kin 5 Seconds of Summer, singing every word and shooting their fists in the air to fan favourites such as Hourglass and In Return. Undoubtedly the heaviest band of the night, they certainly created enough heat to combat the icy January winds in which fans had queued for hours.
Seaway were by far the best support act of the evening, proudly flying the Canadian flag with pride through their hit Sabrina the Teenage Bitch. As increasing numbers of the crowd bubbled with activity and new waves of fans surfed over the barrier,Seaway played brilliantly, and recent single Shy Guys earned a stunning reaction from a crowd of ever growing fans. The boys kept energy levels high and excitement brimming, and even as final support act Knuckle Puck graced the stage the audience never grew restless – Neck Deep chose their support acts well, and as Knuckle Puck sauntered through their set, not one person stood moodily in the corners waiting for the headliners. All eyes were on the Illinois quintet and newer songs such as Oak Street gained a reaction just as emphatic as aged track No Good.
At last, Neck Deep strolled on stage. It was as if a slow-boiling kettle had finally peaked – the crowd that had simply simmered throughout the evening exploded, and those that weren’t thoroughly engaged in mosh pits or crowd surfing were submerged in the torrent of foam fingers tossed to fans from the balcony. Kicking off their spectacular set with Losing Teeth, a highlight from their debut album Wishful Thinking, not a single person remained silent, and the infectious energy of the band rolled in waves throughout the crowd. For a band that’s only two years old, Neck Deep have certainly amassed a large and loyal following, and as they played their entire discography bar a couple of songs, the united voice of the crowd resonated throughout. Tracks from their first EP Rain In July were executed with as much passion and fervour as more established singles such as Growing Pains and Crushing Grief (No Remedy), but the highlight of their entire performance was ultimate fan favourite A Part of Me. Dedicated to a fan that sadly could no longer be with us, vocalist Ben Barlow requested that the crowd sing in their honour, to which every pair of lungs obliged. Guest vocalist Laura Whiteside joined the band on stage for the truly moving performance, but both voices were threatened to be drowned out by the 1100 strong crowd. The sentimental touches continued into the encore, which allowed the evening to end solemnly with their tender track Candour. Still, the reaction Neck Deep manage to illicit from the crowd was one just as resounding as if they had finished on a more upbeat note.
Despite their modern twist on the genre, Neck Deep managed to bring out everything that’s great in pop punk, and for an hour it was as if you’d stepped into the early 00’s. The band have never lost their humility, even noting how flattered they were that bootleggers were selling counterfeit merchandise outside the venue. And after all, that’s what pop punk is about – no judging, no standards, just a bunch of teenagers united in the fact that they all love a band of misfits that own too many pairs of cargo shorts.