Show Review: Neck Deep, Drain, and More at the Salt Shed in Chicago, IL

First up for the night were British hardcore punk group, Higher Power delivering what’s been called the new wave of British hardcore. Now granted, Higher Power have been at it since 2014, so maybe that description isn’t fully accurate anymore, but Higher Power are still at the forefront of the latest sound coming out of the U.K.’s punk/hardcore scene. Filled with alternative, melodic, and post-hardcore flair, Higher Power are super reminiscent of that ‘90s alt-rock and grunge sound while being mixed with more traditional ‘90s hardcore. It’s exactly this mixture of ‘90s hardcore and alt-metal, that have made Higher Power pop off. While they’re more into the ‘90s alternative rock flair recently this still bring great energy and youthful enthusiasm to their shows that any showgoers can appreciate and enjoy.

When I think of the newer age of pop-punk, Bearings is one of the names that always comes up. With uplifting vocals, melody & groovy instrumentals, and fast-paced tempos, Bearings injects a big dose of upbeat and catchy pop-punk into the genre especially coming off the release of their latest record, Hello, It’s You. Filled with a richness to their music, both their new tracks and live performance make the room feel smaller even if it’s not making me think that is exactly what they prefer. While they love performing in big rooms, those small, intimate spaces are where they really shine and prefer to be, therefore it’s goal to make the biggest room feel like the smallest through their approach to performing.

One of the biggest up-and-coming hardcore acts, Drain stormed the stage with the energy of a tsunami, pulling no punches from start to finish as they unleashed their signature California-style charisma and fury onto the Salt Shed. Whether it’s a no-barricade venue, a massive outdoor fest, or one of the largest venues in Chicagoland, Drain don’t hold back from creating a sense of intimacy that is fully expected from a hardcore band making it their mission to create the most chaotic and fun experience possible at every show they play.

From mic grabs, dolphin shorts and costumes, boogie boards, people five rows deep clamoring on-top of each other, and people bum-rushing the stage to dive off it over the barricade, Drain has curated an experience that is holistically unique to them. Having seen them in various settings, I can confirm that it doesn’t when or where they play, they will always make the most out of the opportunity and, as long as everyone else is having fun they are too, because that has become their ethos as a band. By injecting these two important components into their music, live shows, and themselves as people, Drain is challenging the stereotypes of the genre opening up the gates for newcomers i all while rockin’ out to thrash-leaning riffs, bouncy rhythms, and mosh-inducing breakdowns making you feel like you just got caught in a massive Cali ocean wave.

Returning for their first full U.S. tour since 2021, Neck Deep was ready to get back out there in the biggest way possible while also celebrating their latest self-titled record. A lot has changed the British pop-punk group since their small, humble beginnings in the Barlow brothers’ spare room in the U.K. to become one of the biggest British alternative groups in recent memory. Not only has their careers changed drastically, but they have also. While still staying true to themselves and their roots, they’ve also all lived and grown personally so much over the years, thus further influencing each of their respective musical growths. With this, while their sound or lyrical content may not be completely the same as when they first started out, it’s still 100% authentically Neck Deep.

Neck Deep’s popularity and growth constantly amazes me, as I remember first seeing them in 2014 in the backroom of a bowling alley alongside Real Friends for one of their first shows in the States. Not only that, but this was also one of the first shows I photographed also. It wasn’t too long after that they began to take off where I would mostly catch them was during their set at that year’s Warped Tour, but that first time I saw them in a hot and sweaty Centennial Lanes I could tell that type of setting was truly their element. Fast forward to last year, they took it back to basics playing only small to mid-sized no-barricade venues for a special anniversary run of shows celebrating their EPs Rain in July and A History of Bad Decision.

Seeing them perform these old songs in the next best option for an intimate setting was so awesome and nostalgic making me feel like I was transported back in time to a completely different phase in my life. Now so many years later, I get to see them perform at Chicago’s newest large-scale venue where both the band and myself have grown and changed so much throughout the last decade creating a full circle moment.

While they may joke around and identify as “generic pop punk,” Neck Deep are anything but generic when you go beyond the surface. From their high-energy live shows, songwriting approach, usage of unique and out-of-the-box time signatures and song structures, and inescapable catchy hooks, melodies, and choruses, Neck Deep continue to impress whether you’re jamming their first Eps or their latest Self-Titled record. I also appreciated their set list balancing playing brand new tracks, a rock bloc of older songs, and then everything in between. It felt extremely balanced the whole night without a lapse in the set or overextending their welcome.

This is assisted by their general on-stage energy as they spin, jump, and run around the entire time with Ben coming down to the barricade multiple times during their set keeping that high level of energy going consistently therefore encouraging the crowd to keep it up also. From the backroom of a bowling alley to Chicago’s newest premium large-scale venue, watching Neck Deep’s rise over the last decade has been inspiring to see as they continue to raise the bar each time.

Neck Deep

Drain

Bearings

Higher Power

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