The 550 capacity of Slay is a good venue for most bands passing through Glasgow – but for Pop Punk heavyweights Neck Deep… it’s tremendous. I’m not entirely sure if it’s part of Triple G’s tendency to undersell bands in venues that are smaller than they could otherwise sell out or if it had something to do with the fire sale of old merchandise in Slay’s sister venue – Audio, earlier today. Either way, it worked out as a win for fans.
Another anniversary show – ten years of classic EP ‘Rain In July’ – the Welsh five piece are playing the EP along with equally popular ‘A History Of Bad Decisions’ in full. The queue for the small basement venue is winding its way around the Merchant City long before doors open and it seems like the front of the queue have been camped out for a good few hours. For the uninitiated, Neck Deep are a big band. They could easily sell out The Garage without breaking a sweat and I wouldn’t put the like of The Academy or Barrowlands past them either. This show already promises to be special and the promises keep coming before the band reach the stage.
Once you get down the stairs, there’s something missing… the barrier. There’s a tiny stage that is barely thigh high and the promise of getting closer to your favourite band than you’ve ever been. There’s a ’00s pop punk playlist playing over the PA as the crowd have filled the room in next to no time and before long, you notice what else is missing… a support act. I’ve been at one band shows before… most recently Coheed and Cambria where the prog rock monsters played for two and a half hours to a cold (but rapidly warming audience).
This show could have benefited from one, though. Standing for over an hour listening to the same Spotify playlist we all listen to (let’s be honest here, everyone at this show has this playlist) can be taxing on the feet. No one wants to move for fear of giving up the treasured spot, pressed up against the stage… so we stand. A support – even a lucky local act with 25 minutes – would have broken up that hour which saw anticipation turn to boredom towards the end. It was after The Starting Line’s hit ‘Best Of Me’ played for the second time that the band made their way to the stage to put a very swift end to that boredom.
From the first note there’s a surge towards the stage and it takes approximately fifteen seconds before the first crowd surfers lands on the stage, ably assisted by lead vocalist Ben Barlow. Remember when we went to see WSTR a few weeks ago? The crowd surfing and eventual stage diving as they were bringing the punk back to pop punk? This was that on steroids. There’s a constant merry-go-round of fans landing on the stage from above the heads of their comrades as they circle round and launch themselves back into the pit. No everyone lands gracefully but everyone is doing it safely. Ben’s voice doesn’t waver as he pulls body after body up onto the stage and makes sure they depart safely.
As with all of the recent anniversary shows, the set list is no secret. Everyone knows what’s going to be played and when. These shows are like singing along with your favourite album. But it’s not the songs that are the point here. These shows dispense with the worry of whether or not your favourite song is going to be played… “oh, I hope they play that one”… you just know it’s going to be the EPs and a few hits for the encore. What makes it special is – and I don’t mean to sound too much like a hippy here – the connection between the band and the crowd. That’s why this venue is perfect for this. Finishing with ‘In Bloom’ didn’t hurt though…
If there had been a barrier or if groups of fans had been sat up with the Gods, there wouldn’t be any connection there. You may as well be listening to a live version of the album and drink over priced cider or lager in the house. Tonight, your favourite band was literally helping you up onto the stage, high fiving you, handing you the mic… the crowd were as big a part of the show as Neck Deep were. The crowd surfers, the stage divers, the circle pit… all as important as the explosive stage presence of guitarist Matt West. By the end of the night, each and every sweat drenched fan has forgotten there wasn’t even a support act. So, maybe I was wrong about that.
Photos by Catching Light Photography