Neck Deep @ AB Box, Brussels, Belgium

Words: Miljan Milekić

Generations born in the late 80s had Blink-182, Good Charlotte, Sum 41, and New Found Glory. Early 90s kids had Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, and Paramore, while the kids of the late 90s had A Day To Remember, All Time Low, and Mayday Parade. Now, the next generation got its heroes – and their name is Neck Deep.

In the last couple of years five-piece from Wrexham, Wales, used a big comeback of pop punk sound and took the world by storm. They have everything: songs, energy, and now more than ever – fans. With the new record ‘Piece and Panic’ released less than two months ago, the band hit the road finishing their biggest UK headlining tour ever, and heading to mainland Europe. We were there to welcome them in Brussels, on their first show. We and a few hundred other fans.

The first band of the night was Blood Youth, the new name in the UK hardcore scene. Active for less than three years, the band already managed to release two well-received EPs, followed by a full-length ‘Beyond Repair’ released in April. On the way, they picked up quite a few fans, and the Brussels show was not an exception. With the most aggressive sound on the bill, although they hit the stage first, Blood Youth had no problems in getting the crowd going. Being in Brussels for the first time, the band used their chance to promote all of their releases, throwing in ‘Closure’ and ‘Reasons to Stay’ their most successful tracks so far. Seeing them for the second time in just under a year, I witnessed the progress they are making.

P.S. We have an interview with singer Kaya Tarsus coming out in the next few days, so stay tuned!

The next on the stage were guests from the US – Real Friends. As much as this show was about Neck Deep, for me, I was just as happy to see the emo/pop punk five-piece for the first time. Real Friends was never a big band, and I’m not sure they will ever be bigger than they already are, but their music got them a cult following, and a solid base of loyal fans. Since the opening with ‘Mess,’ the band has set the pace, making the stage theirs. They did, in fact, have a slight problem with guitar sound in the beginning, but it was quickly resolved, and even more quickly forgotten.

Instead of aggression, Real Friends’ set was all about emotion. Singer Dan Lambton had some personal struggles in the past, but managing to focus them into songs, he made the band a resort for everyone who needs one. He’s not afraid to talk, not afraid to open up, and the fans resonate with that. No matter how big the venue is, he made the show intimate and personal. The whole band did.

The third band of the evening, splashing their pop punk, with a capital POP, was British four-piece As It Is. Although the band isn’t really my cup of tea, and I could live with never seeing them live, I have to admit I’m glad I did. They sound solid, energetic, and confident, obviously knowing what they want. Lead singer Patty Walters knows how to lead the show, and looks confident doing it. He turned his past career as a Youtuber to his advantage, which is easily seen by the way he communicates with the crowd, the way he talks, by his facial expressions. With the great reactions from the crowd, As It Is prepared the stage for the headliners.​

Earlier this year, I saw Neck Deep supporting A Day To Remember in Vienna, and they were nothing short of amazing. This time, however, they raised the bar even higher. Practically headlining the same venues, they played as a support act just months before, they proved the hype around them isn’t unjustified. With their own scenography, light design, and most importantly, new songs, they stepped their game up and destroyed the stage.

The experience they gained playing big shows with other bands is now highly capitalized. The band knows when to speed up when to slow down, and how to run the show. With two amazing records, it was easy to fill the set list with bangers. From ‘My Judgement Day’ and ‘Motion Sickness’ to ‘Gold Steps’ and ‘Kali Ma’ there was no room for mistakes. More new songs like ‘Parachute,’ ‘Heavy Lies’ and ‘Don’t’ Wait’ were thrown to the stage, with the crowd singing every word of them.

The highlight of the show, however, came near the end. First, they threw ‘In Bloom,’ the new single, and possibly their biggest hit to date, sung by every person in the room. It was followed by another huge track – ‘December,’ which received the same treatment from the crowd. Coming in next was a pair of acoustic songs – ‘Wish You Were Here,’ and ‘A Part of Me’ with the latter still being one of the fan favorites. The encore was reserved for two destroyers – ‘Can’t Kick Up The Roots,’ and ‘Where Do We Go When We Go.’

Neck Deep are ready to take their place as a “band of a generation,” and it’s not only their music that earns them the status. Yes, they are some of the most humble and hard-working people in the scene, and yes they do have a deep connection with their fans, but this tour showed something more. On the whole tour, on the road with them are people behind the organization Hope For A Day, which specialized in suicide prevention, raising awareness, and helping people who have a mental illness.

The organization had its own merch table, it was possible to make donations, and their representative had a chance to speak to the crowd before the first and the last band. Even all the artists wore some of their merch, and talked to their fans about opening up, and asking for help. Considering the young age of the fans, this can be one of the most important things happening in the music scene at the moment.

P.S. Follow us in the next few days for the interview with Neck Deep’s Ben Barlow!

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