Fun fact: The average Neck Deep fan in Toronto is 5’3” and 17 years old. Common sense to some, but that’s what I learned on February 8th as I made my way to the already-packed floor at The Phoenix Concert Theatre for a stacked lineup that I’ve been anticipating to catch for months.
Detroit natives Speak Low If You Speak Love graced the sold-out crowd with their music. They definitely kicked things off on a mellow note, but this group of humble, young musicians served as a great opener. The crowd was slowly bobbing their heads to the music as anticipation rose for something just a little more aggressive. The band could feel it, but that didn’t stop them from putting on a solid show, and having some fun with the Canadian, hockey-loving crowd while doing so.
Now, let me go into a mid-review rant about the night’s venue. I’ll never understand how or why The Phoenix fills up as fast as it does, or why the floor plan sucks so bad, but unless you’re lining up outside way before the doors start, you’re either gonna be stuck at the back, or off to the side where people are constantly leaving and entering the room. That’s where Creeper comes in. They hit the stage like a ton of bricks. They commanded the audience with such confidence and showmanship that things were moving around whether the crowd was ready or not. One underwhelming circle pit later, I found myself no longer halfway down the hall but in the third row, where I could better appreciate the band’s tight pants, stage presence, and overall performance (but mainly their tight pants). The British group definitely struck a chord with anyone unfamiliar with them before tonight, and left a lasting impression.
Next up was Toronto’s hottest pop-punk group right now, and more than half the reason I’d been stoked for this show. I last caught Seaway two summers ago at a packed Sneaky Dee’s, and it was so surreal to see them translate that energy to a crowd ten times that size. It surely felt like a co-headlining tour based on how much the crowd was moving, singing along, and throwing bodies everywhere. The band stuck to their most recent material, having only played one song older than what’s on 2015’s Colour Blind (which I still believe is the best pop-punk record of the decade so far, but I digress.) One change I noticed since I last saw them was the shift in attention among lead singers. Although both lead vocalists have great voices, and an incredible ear for harmony, it’s Ryan Locke who was the center of attention, dressed all snazzy, and getting as close to the crowd as the stage would allow. It was a hell of a fun set, and the best part was that there was still more to come.
The chaos continued as soon as Wales’ Neck Deep hit the stage. Opening with “Happy Judgement Day” off of their newest album that they were touring in support of, the moshing and crowd surfing picked up right where it left off. The band’s setlist was well-balanced throughout their discography, playing the first song they’ve ever written up to the newest ones, with everything in between, and the crowd was still chanting along to almost every word of it. The show flowed really well, too, considering they took some time to play their slower, more emotional songs, even stripping things down to just an acoustic guitar before building it back up to the mayhem there was before.
Despite the most predictable encore I’ve seen in a long time, it was an incredible set. They have all the energy and ambition of a young band that still has plenty to prove, with a loyal fanbase to boot. Although the twenty-minute line to coat check on the way in, and thirty-minute line to coat check on the way out totally killed my vibe for the night, I couldn’t help but look back on the show the following morning with excitement to see them again next time they hit Toronto. They promised it will be soon. Maybe for the final edition of Warped Tour? Who knows, but until then, I’ve got some more Neck Deep records I need to familiarize myself with.
Written by Mathieu Perrier
*edited by Kate Erickson