Slamdunk 2018 (festival review)

Hidden within rooms the size of airport hangers thousands of punk fans are having the time of their lives, the mixture of youth and nostalgia creates an infectious sense of joy.

Slamdunk 2018 kicks off outside with the sun threatening to break through the clouds. Templeton Pek are the perfect way to start a festival or any day for that matter. Today playing to a hometown audience has taken an already iconic live sound and pushed it even further. They fly through thirty minutes of hits which nod towards Epitaph records punk bands, post hardcore and British rock without for a second sounding anything other than original. It seemed that Templeton Pek deserved a higher billing in their hometown.

Brutality Will Prevail alienated the audience pretty quickly with their dated jock hardcore. Within a few songs the audience started to file out of the fenced off stage to the surrounding eateries and bars. The lucky leavers found themselves outside in the sunshine watching Stand Atlantic performing to an ever increasing audience. Developing in confidence and charisma with every joining audience member. The pop punk and melodic hardcore spilling from the stage is equal parts infectious and emotive. It was also nice to see the first non-male of the day completely dominating a stage.

The ever charming Astroid Boys sound like they had too much fun last night, Benji can barely talk to introduce the band. Within a few swift beats rap, hardcore, grime and metal amalgamate into something wonderful. Live drumming takes what is already an incredible set to the next level, the enclosure is packed to the point of bursting and nobody is standing still. Charisma and charm flow from the stage during and between songs, there is just something loveable about every aspect of Astroid Boys.

Entering the arena stage to a sea of black clothing and callous heart back patches is slightly surreal after standing outside surrounded by the Hawaiian shirts watching the ever incredible but somewhat tired King Prawn. The Creeper cult’s dedication will clearly not be swayed by the weather and within seconds it is clear why, so far today’s sets have been incredible but this is on a higher plane. Theatrics and charisma radiate from the stage, with every member tuned perfectly into each other’s movements and sounds. In any normal band they would share focus, but with Will Gould at the helm all eyes will forever be on the showman at the front. The music, the set balance and the performance are all perfect and once more a room of fans file out wondering if this is the last time they will see Creeper in a small arena. They are forever destined for big things and forever committed to remaining as humble and as DIY as they can.

Much like King Prawn, Capdown are a lot of nostalgic fun, it’s hard to tire of the music of your youth but boy are Slamdunk trying. Luckily a man who embodies Slam Dunk awaits, the Key Club stage is like a second home to Rob Lynch and there is no better place for a heroic comeback. There is a moment where it looks like the comeback might fizzle out but upon strumming his first note Rob Lynch has almost filled the space with singing audience members, it sounds like they missed him. His acoustic punk singalongs provide the perfect way to enjoy some late afternoon sunshine.

All day there has been a building murmur and a level of hype about what Frank Carter and Rattlesnakes were going to do, as the lights drop and the band start to play the audience finds out. Dressed in a floor length (hopefully fake) fur coat, Mr Carter explodes onto the stage instantly conducting his energy into the audience like a static shock. The room goes wild and there is an arena full of flailing limbs and crowd surfers, for around four songs this is an incredible set. There is a sense of regret in Frank Carter’s voice when he talks about his previous incarnations and with all of his trying it seems with every performance he is closer and closer to the wildman at the front of Gallows. He may now have a better message and some eloquence but it all seems very fair weather. His feminist stand is great but almost script like in delivery and his thanks to the staff and security are humble, although he is still the man that wants to see ‘the biggest circle pit’. For every second of every song the audience goes wild maybe there are just too many people in the arena but today’s performance feels a long way away from the Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes that blew VH away in Gloucester two years ago.

Goldfinger arrive on stage at the most opportune moment, the sun is out and the outside stage are ready to have a great time. Instantly the energy from the stage is infectious in the most joyful way possible, even those not dancing are smiling. The set balances incredibly well considering how many songs they have in their armoury with new material fitting seamlessly into old classics. The underlying politics is informed and avoids sounding preachy but over all Goldfinger are just incredible fun. With a smile on their faces and a brass line to hum the stage empties to find the brutal Every Time I Die filling a room with wind-milling and spin kicking boys.

The intensity every note is delivered is admirable but a combination of poor acoustics and live styling makes most of the musical content that makes ETID great inaudible. There is certainly something about them as performers and for long moments the audience stand in awe of the intensity spilling from the stage.

Some festivals fizzle out into disappointment but when you’re ending with Jimmy Eat World that’s never going to be the case. The unassumingly charismatic stage presence and the simple street-lights complement each other perfectly making this set one that is about nothing but the music. With a stunning back catalogue to play through it is hardly a surprise to see a room enjoying a set so much. The happiest folks are those finally sitting at the back of the room loving every minute.