Live Review: Neck Deep, Knuckle Puck, Light Years, Seaway, Safe to Say

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Last night I had the pleasure of attending Neck Deep’s debut Canadian show at the Hard Luck Bar in Toronto. Thank you’s are in order to Hopeless Records for setting this up. Here are my thoughts on this highly-anticipated pop-punk extravaganza:

The evening started off with a short set by Safe to Say, a pop-punk/emo band from nearby Markham, ON. The first thing that struck me about this band was how young they looked – especially the vocalist. I imagine that this was one of the bigger shows they’ve played to date, and given that fact, it was pretty impressive seeing how comfortable they appeared on stage. Of the five groups on this very pop-punk-centric lineup, Safe to Say definitely draw the most influence from grungy rock bands like Citizen. This was my first exposure to the band, and while their set was pretty quick and straightforward, it definitely piqued my interest. I’ll be paying attention to these guys and what they do next, without a doubt.

The other opening act was Seaway – Oakville’s finest. I have a bit of a personal connection with their vocalist, so I’m not going to pretend to be impartial. I love watching these guys. This was my fourth time seeing them live, the other occasions being KOI Fest ‘13, a house show/kegger in London, and at the House of Blues in San Diego on their tour supporting Major League. I’ve consistently enjoyed their sets at all of these events, but they definitely took it to another level throughout this performance. Oakville is essentially an affluent suburb of Toronto, so as far as music scenes go, Toronto is really Seaway’s de facto hometown. Appropriately enough, this audience was exceptionally enthusiastic. As soon as they began playing the introduction to “Too Fast For Love”, the crowd packed in tightly in front of the stage, and a healthy amount of stage-diving and crowd surfing commenced. The band members and audience maintained this high energy throughout the set, culminating in a surprise cover of Sum 41’s “Pain For Pleasure”, which was amazing (obviously). I just hope that one day I’ll get to see these guys play “Obelisk” as an encore. Whether this idea comes to fruition, or goes the way of Kingdoms’ “A Thousand Miles” cover of yesteryear remains to be seen. Either way – well done, gentlemen.

The third band of the evening, and the first on the tour package, was Light Years. I was completely unfamiliar with this band before the show, and according to their vocalist I was not alone in this. He introduced himself and his bandmates as “the band you didn’t know was playing tonight”, and proceeded to shock the audience with a plethora of vulgar, self-deprecating jokes throughout the set. That’s definitely an effective way of entertaining a crowd that isn’t necessarily very familiar with your music. People who were in the audience this night will likely be talking about Light Years for quite some time, which for any band is a feat unto itself.

Knuckle Puck then took the stage as the night’s penultimate act, and show attendees immediately started going bananas. This was their first Canadian show ever, but you wouldn’t have guessed that upon seeing the entire room shouting their lyrics at the top of their lungs. The crowd’s activity was definitely a factor in making this set as memorable as it was. As far as pop-punk goes, Knuckle Puck probably lean towards the punk end of the spectrum more than any other band on the bill. I think these guys played the tightest set overall; kudos to the singer especially for being able to hit pretty much every note spot-on, while at the same time running and jumping around like a damn wild man. I definitely became a Knuckle Puck fan because of this set.

Last, but most definitely not least, was Neck Deep. This UK-based pop-punk outfit has been gaining popularity at a dizzying rate. After signing with Hopeless Records last year, these guys are hot off the release of their debut LP, and have been touring like mad for several months. This was their inaugural North American tour, comprised of 32 dates alongside Knuckle Puck and Light Years, and Toronto was the last of them all; this grand finale would be the band’s first-ever show on Canadian soil and the only Canadian date of the tour. Tickets completely sold out days in advance, and this is after the show had already been venue-upgraded; it was originally supposed to take place at Sneaky Dee’s. I am happy to report that the absence of nachos did not put a damper on the fun, however. Neck Deep were greeted with a plethora of screams and cheers upon ascending the stage, and immediately got the entire venue bouncing with their introductory track. After a handful of songs had been played, it become evident that the band’s set list was going to be comprised primarily of earlier pre-Wishful Thinking material. In all honesty, I enjoy the EPs more than the album, so I was perfectly content with this. Despite some fatigue due to a full month on the road, the band kept it lively and spirited. Their vocalist admitted to not feeling the greatest, but nonetheless continued to deliver his aggressive vocals and risk his physical well-being for our entertainment, which is definitely respectable. The band cleverly topped off their set with an extended version of “All Hype, No Heart”, which featured some much-appreciated hardcore guest vocals, and “Over and Over”, which is undoubtedly a fan favourite. Overall, Neck Deep delivered, and should pat themselves on the back for it. I don’t know when the band will be back in Canada, but I think it’s safe to assume that when they are they’ll be playing a bigger venue and receive an ever better response. These guys are definitely going to be doing big things throughout the next year, and I, along with many others, am eager to see what they have in store for listeners with their next release.

 

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