LIVE: Silverstein / Comeback Kid / Senses Fail / Koyo @ Electric Ballroom, London

By Ellie Odurny

Sunday evening gigs are always tricky for the majority of music lovers who work the 9-5 grind. Add in dark skies by the mid-afternoon and sub-zero temperatures and you might expect people to choose to stay at home with a mug of hot chocolate rather than trek to Camden for a gig. However, when the gig on offer is a selection of North America’s finest emo, punk, hardcore and post-hardcore, the fans will make the effort, as demonstrated by the sold out signs on the doors and the ever-growing crowd of bodies making their way towards the stage.

The snow outside has just started falling and the room is already feeling full as New Yorkers Koyo kick things off, this tour being their first visit to the UK. Filled with boundless energy, they launch into their best-known track ‘Moriches’ and blast away any remaining shivers lingering in the audience.

There’s a moment of festive softness as the audience are called to sway their phone torch lights along to the slower tempo ‘Straight North’, uniting the crowd with rhythmic movement and giving the band something pretty to look at. With a mix of accessible hardcore riffs and emo choruses, Koyo still have a DIY feel about them, with a raw enthusiasm that’s infectious and enjoyable. It’s upbeat, fun and a great start to the night.

It might have been seven years since they were last here, but New Jersey band Senses Fail are no strangers to British shores. If Koyo provided an energetic start to the evening, Senses Fail take it up a notch, at times into the realms of chaos. Their sound comes straight from the skateparks and garage shows of the East coast, and that daredevil attitude born from the Jackass era seems to be living strong through tonight’s set. They stick mainly to crowd favourites from the early years, with a couple of newer tracks received with nearly as much zest as the older material.

Calls for a circle pit for ‘Shark Attack’ are dutifully obeyed, and a large number of the crowd bopping away in safer zones on the outskirts are still singing every word back at the band. It’s clear that Senses Fail have a dedicated fanbase that have grown up with the band, and when vocalist Buddy Nielsen remarks “I know you’re old. So am I, but not tonight!”, there’s a rousing cheer of agreement. The appeal of this band is one of nostalgia and enthusiasm, and they carry on playing with vigour even when half the monitors momentarily seem to stop working mid-set. The spirit of Senses Fail is one of adventure, and as Nielsen climbs up the stage rigging to hang upside down for the end of the set, you get the feeling that they’re going to carry on doing this for as long as they possibly can.

Canadian hardcore pioneers Comeback Kid are up next, and as Phil Collins’ ‘In The Air Tonight’ rolls into the opening beats of 2022 track ‘Heavy Steps’, it’s clear they mean business. Bassist Chase Brenneman and rhythm guitarist Stu Ross spend a lot of time bouncing in perfect unison, and the frenzy on stage is more than matched by the energy from the crowd. Drummer Terrance Pettitt is standing in for regular member Loren Legare on this tour, and he doesn’t miss a beat. The rhythm section remains beautifully tight throughout the set, bolstered by searing guitars and powerful vocals from the charismatic Andrew Neufeld who declares “It’s emo night, but we’re gonna get a little bit metal” early on in proceedings. The lighting is on point too, adding to the mighty atmosphere the band create with ferocious riffs and crushing breakdowns.

Comeback Kid transition between raucous, driven hardcore blows and sludgy half beats with ease, with plenty of opportunities for the crowd to sing and scream along with the choruses. Neufeld delivers part of ‘G.M.Vincent and I’ from the floor in front of the stage, holding the mic up to a swarm of hungry screaming faces and dodging the crowd surfers being launched towards his head. Closing on the rousing ‘Wake the Dead’, Comeback Kid captivate the attention of the capacity crowd from start to finish, delivering a relentless set that’s more than worthy of a headline slot.

Fellow Canadians Silverstein arrive on stage to wrap up the night, opening confidently with the synch-fuelled and emo-drenched ‘Infinite’. Chunky riffs and reverbed vocals on 2021 single ‘It’s Over’ follow, before vocalist Shane Told asks “Is it OK if we play some old shit?” Unsurprisingly, the fans are keen to hear old favourites and the energy picks up for the earlier tracks that come next. The mix is great (as it has been all night) and the big, layered sound still allows Paul Marc Rousseau to shine with a crisp guitar solo on ‘Bad Habits’. The classic pop-punk / emo harmonies carry well too, an effective contrast to the heavier, bass driven sections and carefully placed screams. Andrew Neufeld joins for ‘Die Alone’, adding yet another layer of vocals to Silverstein’s multi-faceted sound.

The newer tracks sit comfortably among the older material, with the response to a crowd singalong for ‘Massachusetts’ delivered in the form of the complex and heavier ‘The Alter/Mary’ from the band’s latest release ‘Misery Made Me’. The change of pace in this track from furious metal-tinged hardcore to electro-ballad closes the main set, as the band wish everyone goodnight and leave the stage. After the obligatory few minutes of waiting, there’s a huge cheer for crowd favourite ‘Heroine’ for the encore, with the fans singing an entire chorus themselves. Closer ‘Afterglow’ almost feels like an afterthought to end the set, but with everyone still riding high on the back of ‘Heroine’, there’s still plenty of buzz as Silverstein leave the stage. This is a band who have been releasing records for over twenty years, and it’s clear they’ve hit on a formula that works for them. There’s a subtle progression from their early output to the more heavily-produced later releases, but the core elements that underpin their tried-and-tested sound remain, allowing a set that seamlessly covers their whole career. Silverstein know exactly what they’re doing, and after two decades, they certainly do it well.