There once was a time where you couldn’t go to a gig in the UK without seeing The Summer Set announced as support. They’ve opened for everyone from All Time Low to Mayday Parade and Tonight Alive to Sleeping With Sirens in this country as well as playing a couple of their own headline tours, so chances are you’ve probably seen them live at some point. Alt day festivals such as Hit The Deck and Slam Dunk have proudly hosted them, so it’s hard to believe that the Arizona pop rockers haven’t hit stages this side of the pond in 18 months.
2015 was, as lead singer Brian Dales repeatedly declares on stage, “the worst year” of his life, and the same no doubt applied to the other four members of the band. A single tour was played by them last year, in the United States, while they desperately promised fans that they were working on the follow-up to their 2013 album, Legendary. Silence came instead of new music, and fans started to fear the worst… it’s safe to say they weren’t wrong to. 2015 saw The Summer Set almost come to an end as they found themselves in a creative rut, battling depression, and guitarist Josh Montgomery even jumped ship to pursue a pre-med degree. In the end, however, things managed to fall back in to place. ‘Figure Me Out‘ is the lead single off the band’s most recent release, Stories For Monday, and it’s only apt that it’s the first song the band played as they took to the stage at London’s Scala as it was the song that saved the band from demise and the fans from heartbreak.
Dales, of course, apologises for them spending so much time away from the United Kingdom when they regularly call it their “second home”. Britain is the first place that welcomed The Summer Set with open arms outside of the US and Canada, back in 2011 when they played a free show at O2 Academy2 Islington to less than 250 people — not far from where they found themselves on May 12, playing in an 800 cap room. It may have not been sold out, but there was still a buzz in the crowd as they eagerly awaited their favourite band who hadn’t played a show in England’s capital since they supported Tonight Alive at KOKO in November 2014.
The Summer Set clearly didn’t want dwell on the past, however, as they played their longest UK set ever which was largely made up of tracks from their recent release and Legendary. Their debut, Love Like This, contributed only ‘The Boys You Do (Get Back At You)‘ which incited a whole song of singing and dancing, and Dales’ personal favourite, ‘Chelsea‘. The band’s second album, Everything’s Fine, has been somewhat of a black sheep in recent years with how heart-wrenching some of the material is, but fans were still treated to a single performance from the album — ‘Someone Like You‘, a feel-good love song with an excellent acoustic guitar riff from John Gomez.
Drummer and all-around badass Jess Bowen is particularly in need of commendation for her brilliant performance, powering through the 17 song set despite the fact that she was involved in a car accident only a week earlier that left her with painful injuries. The Summer Set are far from being deemed the heaviest band in the world, but some of their drum beats require a lot of movement from Bowen who pulled them off flawlessly and without complaint. It seemed only fair that following ‘Someone Like You‘, Dales demanded the crowd bow down to her before he turned round and did it himself.
Some of the band’s most striking new tracks, such as ‘All My Friends‘ and ‘Change Your Mind‘, went down a treat with the crowd, which was surprisingly made up of a number of 20+ year old guys despite The Summer Set’s reputation for drawing in pre-teen girls thanks to their association with bands like 5 Seconds Of Summer. Everyone was visibly having a good time though, no matter who they were or where they’d come from, whether it was their first, fifth or fiftieth show. ‘Jean Jacket‘ is a bit of a let down on Stories For Monday despite being released as a not-quite-single-but-definitely-separate track, but live it has some redeeming qualities that even its biggest critic can’t deny make it pop.
Despite it being such a long set for them, the show seemed to go by in the smallest semblance of a flash before they were suddenly on their last couple of songs. ‘Legendary‘ is a staple by now, inspiring fans no matter what it is they’re pursuing or needing help overcoming. ‘Missin’ You‘ was the last offering for the main set, a track that’s melodically similar in the eeriest way to ‘I’ll Be Missing You‘ by Puff Daddy, Faith Evans and 112, which in turn samples from The Police‘s ‘Every Breathe You Take‘. Ironic, really, as the lyrics from The Summer Set’s to Puff Daddy’s are complete polar opposites. Dales is adamant, it seems, that he won’t be missing you.
After an encore of, no exaggeration, ten seconds, The Summer Set returned to the stage to perform their final song for the evening. ‘Lightning In A Bottle‘ is the perfect finisher, with relatable lyrics that will warm even the iciest of hearts. This band is not for everyone and they have never claimed to be, but they do one hell of a job of putting anyone who might end up seeing them in a good mood — regardless of music preferences.
They may not have had a brilliant year last year, but 2016 for The Summer Set? “So far, so good.”