Neck Deep @ Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth

The last couple of years have seen the American pop-punk scene growing with bands like Man Overboard, The Story So Far and The Wonder Years (to name a few) generating a huge following for themselves. Until now, newer bands in the pop-punk scene were a little on the sparse side from the UK, but now Wrexam-based Neck Deep are capturing the attention of new fans everywhere at an impressive rate as they play an exhausting amount of shows in the UK as well as America.

I caught them supporting New York-based We Are The In Crowd at Portsmouth’s Wedgewood Rooms, a 400-capacity venue. Despite Neck Deep arriving on stage half an hour after doors opened and the venue still letting people in, this didn’t discourage them – they put on a show that was full of energy and passion from beginning to end. Their energy was infectious, and members of the crowd who initially appeared indifferent to the band’s presence quickly started jumping and clapping. From the first verse of What Did You Expect, a track from their first EP, it was evident that a good chunk of the crowd were there for Neck Deep, sporting merchandise and screaming the lyrics back at Ben Barlow, lead vocalist.

The benefits of having a singer that does not also play an instrument are fully embraced by Neck Deep, with Barlow throwing himself against the barrier and leaning into the crowd during every song, something that the crowd clearly relished. The band are very obviously appreciative of their growing fan base; during each sing along moment they could be seen grinning, particularly Barlow and guitarist Matt West, clearly taken aback by the portion of the crowd that were fiercely singing into the microphone when pushed in their direction.

Photo credit: Sophie Weller

They managed to squeeze in an impressive nine track set into their thirty-minute slot, playing tracks from their previous EPs as well as their newly released album, Wishful Thinking. During All Hype No Heart, a clear fan favourite by the reaction of the crowd, a member of the tour crew even provided impressively skilled guest screaming vocals, which, despite the band not normally featuring such vocal work, actually added nicely to the set.

The set was closed with the much anticipated A Part Of Me; “If you’ve ever listened to our band, you probably know this song”, said Barlow, and he was clearly right as the majority of the crowd who had not been singing previously took this opportunity to sing along with the slowest song of the set. This song was truly a demonstration of their progression as a band as the work on each instrument, particularly the acoustic guitars, sounded better than the recorded version.

Neck Deep have a fantastic stage presence, interact with the crowd better than a lot of more experienced bands, and manage to pack a lot into a short set. They are definitely one to see if you get the chance – and with the amount of shows they’re getting through, it’s likely that you’ll get the chance soon!

Pick up their debut album Wishful Thinking now here or download their EP A History of Bad Decisions free on their website. For upcoming shows, see here.

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