This past weekend, I headed up to the beautiful city of Toronto, Canada for the first time to check out some schools that offered the study abroad program I’m currently interested in – so of course it made perfect sense for me to use that as an excuse to catch some of my favorite up-and-coming pop punk bands at a local bar called the Hard Luck. Trekking up several flights of stairs into a room packed from wall to wall with fans of all ages, it was clear that despite the fact that this was the final night of tour, by no means was the energy or excitement any lower.
Two of the bands on the bill, Seaway and Knuckle Puck, were bands I had first seen perform in a large warehouse in Colts Neck, NJ last summer. I’d only known one or two songs from each band at the time, and there had been no more than thirty or so kids out at that show – which was a memory that contrasted heavily against the wild crowd reaction they both got from the crowd that night at the Hard Luck.
Oakville, Ontario’s Seaway was only the second band on the bill, but their fans were piling up against the stage as soon as the set began, with one of the venue’s security guards half-heartedly plucking crowdsurfers from the air and tossing them back off the side. These guys always play as comfortably as they would if they were in front of a hometown crowd, even when I see them in the states – but it was clear that night that they were at ease, based on how tight their set was. They performed their usual fast-paced tracks off their most recent release, “Hoser”, as well as some older favorites like “Sabrina the Teenage Bitch”. The highlight of it all for me was their cover of Sum 41’s “Pain for Pleasure”, which a lot of the younger kids in the room didn’t seem to be familiar with – but it was a great throwback for anyone in the room who grew up jamming that band.
Seaway’s set was followed up by a band called Light Years, a Cleveland, Ohio-based 4-piece who will be out on the acoustic stage on this summer’s Vans Warped Tour. Their vocals had a similar vibe to Polar Bear Club, and vocalist Pat Kennedy definitely had a lot of self-deprecating remarks to make, particularly about the tour being over – but all in all, they are definitely an up-and-coming band with a lot of potential. I will definitely be checking out their set at Warped Tour.
Next up was Knuckle Puck, bringing their usual infectious energy out with them as vocalist Joe Taylor jumped around the stage. Watching him crowdsurf across the room more than once as kids screamed the lyrics to “No Good” and “Fences” back at them, it was easy to see why those are two of the band’s standout tracks that they’ve released over the course of the past few months – the room became electrified with the crowd’s excitement.
I couldn’t help but reflect on the small crowd they’d played for less than a year prior as most of the venue’s population seemed to be ecstatic to sing along with them. Part of the reason why kids seem to love this band so much is the fact that it’s nearly impossible to not relate to their lyrics – talks of shattered trust, failed relationships, and feeling suffocated by one’s hometown all echo through their material, a storyline that’s pretty relatable for anybody navigating their teenage years and early twenties. You can catch Knuckle Puck on Day 1 of Skate & Surf Festival in Asbury Park, New Jersey on May 17.
After watching one girl get her lipring ripped out and another kid get dropped facefirst on a failed crowdsurfing attempt, one might have assumed the rest of the night would have mellowed out – but as soon as Neck Deep walked out from behind the curtains, the entire room raised its volume quite a few decibels.
The five-piece U.K. pop punk act had never performed in Canada prior to that night, and it was apparent that their fans had waited very patiently to go crazy for the band once they made it to their city. They had a setlist that was a fair mix of old and new material, performing a sped-up version of the acoustic track “A Part Of Me” along with several new songs off of “Wishful Thinking”, the band’s debut LP under their label Hopeless Records. Vocalist Ben Barlow made sure to grab the outstretched hands of fans more than once throughout the night, singing happily into the front row as he followed suit of KP vocalist Taylor and flipped into the crowd more than once.
All in all, this was a solid bill with hardworking bands that have each made a lot of well-deserved progress in recent months. Keep up with each band on their social media for future tour dates announced in the tri-state.
Knuckle Puck: www.facebook.com/KnucklePuckIL
Neck Deep: www.facebook.com/neckdeepuk
Light Years: www.facebook.com/lightyearsoh
Safe to Say: www.facebook.com/safetosayband