Community has always walked hand in hand with pop-punk. All you need to do is look at the lengthy queue outside this Southampton pub, where it doesn’t matter if you’re rocking a Basement hoodie, a Neck Deep baseball cap, or a Creeper t-shirt. Whatever your flavour, the air of universal respect is thick amongst this extended family gathered to see Knuckle Puck justify their fledgling status.
Hailing from the not-so-Massachusettsian town of Blackpool, Boston Manor gets things off to a slow start. Growing pains continue to stunt the growth of their pacy post-hardcore, but a lack of progression doesn’t stand a chance against the devotees screaming in singer Henry Cox’s face during ‘Driftwood’.
The melancholic mood is quick to change when Seaway bound on stage, full of distinctly Canadian charm and a dorkiness that leaves you grinning like an idiot. ‘Airhead’ has flecks of 90s nostalgia in its simplistic bounce, while ‘Stubborn Love’ harks back to Drive Thru Records’ glory days with just the right amount of syrupy power-pop indulgence.
The straight-off-the-bat brilliance of Seaway’s set raises the bar alarmingly high for their long-time touring partners, but this is a routine that Knuckle Puck have learned to take in their stride. As they burst into life with ‘Wall To Wall (Depreciation)’, frontman Joe Taylor is a constant ball of energy with a commanding presence, and the crowd are happily at his beck and call throughout: whether they’re subverting the crowd/crowdsurfer ratio for ‘No Good’, or simply ‘vibing’ with the band for the double-bill of ‘True Contrite’ and ‘In Your Crosshairs’.
The rapturous response from the crowd almost distracts from the fact that the Chicago quintet are doing little to push the boat out in terms of originality. They deliver the same spiel that has filled this hallowed room several time over the last three years, but when Taylor dishes up with such ass-kicking assertion, there’s always room for extra helpings. The love felt on both sides of the stage is a beautiful embodiment of Knuckle Puck’s most vital facet.
Tonight may be a solid and safe show of paint-by-numbers pop-punk, but Knuckle Puck definitely have it in them to become way more than just scene trailblazers. The wheels are now firmly in motion thanks to the clamouring community that the band hold in such high esteem. As long as they don’t let up in their loyalty, they could ascend from fledglings to a phenomenon.