How is it the end of May already? Not that we are complaining, because the late May Bank Holiday means only one thing, it’s Slam Dunk Festival, the UK’s equivalent of the Warped Tour. As usual we caught the festival on the Midlands leg, which had not just moved date to the Sunday rather than the Monday, but also moved venues from the surroundings of Wolverhampton’s Civic Hall to the huge NEC and Genting Arena in Birmingham, becoming the biggest venue on the festival tour.
As with all festivals, choosing which acts to watch and which to miss is a major dilemma. To the start the day we decided to ditch the Main Stage openers Moose Blood, because give it another 6 months and you won’t be able to avoid them anyway. We instead made our first trip to the Key Club Stage to check out Trash Boat, we’ve caught the Hardcore/Pop-Punkers before and despite it being only 25 mins into the festival, they drew a darn big crowd and had the first crowd surfers of the day which is a pretty solid effort taking into account most people haven’t even start drinking.
Heading over to the Atlas Stage which would be a frequented venue on our days plan, we caught The Word Alive, who had some rave reviews from the previous day in Leeds. Due to technically difficulties, the band actually ended up opening the stage rather than Coldrain. For some reason, this left the crowd a little flat in the cavernous industrial warehouse style setting, but The Word Alive certainly brought the fight to the stage and battled to warm the crowd.
Heading outside for the first time for the day, we made an unscheduled trip to the Desperados Stage which is annually the home of Ska, and the crowd let us know we were in the right place with plenty of checks and mohawks on display. [Spunge] are legends of the UK Ska scene and like total fucking nutcases were playing their 3rd gig in two days out of a total 6 over the whole Bank Holiday Weekend. You know what to expect with [Spunge] – energy, funk, jumping (on demand) and rather weirdly trains… (You had to be there.)
Whilst heading back to the Atlas Stage we happened upon Lianne Kaye who was just starting up on the Acoustic Stage. The great thing about Slam Dunk, is that it gives young acoustic artists such as Lianne a chance to catch the attention of 1000’s of people who wouldn’t usually go out to watch an acoustic artist.
We finally reached the Atlas Stage after wading through the masses to see Miss May I, who instantly went to the top of the class with their hair whipping Metal-core. The venue, the band and the crowd just clicked for Miss May I and it made for a heck of a good time, it just felt right; like you were at some kind of illegal underground show, but with security and over priced beverages.
The Main Stage for the Midlands leg of Slam Dunk is now pretty much an arena show, but that didn’t seem to phase Mayday Parade. The band looked at ease playing to the 6000+ capacity room, and were clearly eager to seize the opportunity afforded to them. Mayday Parade clearly have a lot of talent, and certainly know how to fill an arena stage so it doesn’t seem out of the question to see them in a big arena support slot in the near future.
More Metal-core was next on the agenda with the twin vocal stylings of We Came As Romans, which brought about the days first serial crowd surfer who somehow managed to find enough time to crowd-surf to the front of the room 3 times in the space of 2 songs, credit where credit is due to that guy. The Metal-core crowd that seemed to be frequenting the Atlas Stage all day seemed to have recovered from the early lull from the delayed start and were eating these guys up.
Real Friends are about to become white hot, after releasing new album ‘The Home Inside My Head’ on Friday they are keen to get the music out there and using a platform like Slam Dunk is genius , but you’ve still got to bring it and Real Friends more than did that. Bringing an abundance of energy, they had the Key Club Stage bouncing and drew a crowd that had to be close to filling out capacity so much that people were watching from anywhere that they could. Needless to say, when Real Friends come back later in the year, they are going to fucking kill it!
The Fresh Blood Stage is always the place to catch bands oozing with raw talent, and this year was no different, the first band we had picked out to explode were Texans Waterparks who brought energy, colour and sleep-masks to their psychedelic Pop-Punk set. If you enjoy your music light and fun, then Waterparks could well be your new favourite band, and with a summer on the Warped Tour ahead of them expect Waterparks to head into the Autumn and Winter with a tonne of momentum.
As huge Jaws fans, anything with the name Amity in instantly has our attention, The Amity Affliction are no different. One of the best musical acts to come out of Australia since Kylie and Jason, The Amity Affliction bring a slightly heavier sound to their national compatriots. The Aussie Metal-core crew are a tight unit and are clearly top of their game, and continue what was a strong showing by all the bands on the Atlas Stage.
Following up one Australian band with another, With Confidence had the honour of playing before Creeper on the Fresh Blood stage which with Creeper’s huge coven of loyal fans isn’t something to be scoffed at. A million miles away from The Amity Affliction, With Confidence bring an fun spunky Australian spin on a slightly saturated Pop-Punk genre which is a massively refreshing thing.
In honesty we were here for two bands mainly, the first of which was Four Year Strong and did they disappoint? Did they bollocks! The choice not to have Four Year Strong headline the Key Club Stage is a stroke of genius, as it gave the early evening a huge boost of energy and helped push the crowds towards the end of the day. If Real Friends had filled out the stages crowd capacity, somehow it felt like Four Year Strong had managed to find another 1000 people to party with them.
Our last planned act to catch on the Atlas Stage was Memphis May Fire, wrongly we expected them to be the exception to a day of riff heavy Metal-core juggernauts, but despite Matty Mullins’ harmonic vocal abilities they proved themselves worthy of hitting up the Atlas Stage.
The other band we were specifically here to see were Every Time I Die, marking our first and only trip to the Impericon Stage. The sign of what to expect was perhaps singled by the venues decision to bring in additional security for Every Time I Die‘s headline set, they had clearly been told to expect carnage. Perhaps worthy of a larger and more prominent stage, Every Time I Die are superstars within their genre, and despite potentially not having a mainstream appeal, they clearly don’t give a flying fuck, they know what they do, they know who their fans are, and they kick ass!
This was the 10th anniversary of Slam Dunk and Panic! At The Disco were worthy Main Stage headliners. Having played Radio One’s Big Weekend earlier in the day, you might expect Panic! to be reserved and slightly muted, but this was 100% not the case. Brendon Urie and his boys clearly came to help Slam Dunk celebrate in style, and with a back catalogue as killer as Panic! At The Disco’s is, it was always going to a straight up party atmosphere. Happy 10th Birthday Slam Dunk, see you next year and for the next 10 years then, yeah?
Photography by Kimberley Bayliss