When a festival has been going on for ten years they establish a reputation. Slam Dunk is known for it’s mixed line up ranging from pop punk, ska, punk and hardcore. This year the festival went all out to celebrate this monumental anniversary. With a line up featuring three former headliners, the names on the line up are some of the biggest in their genres.
Spread over three days, Slam Dunk now travels Leeds, Hatfield and Wolverhampton pleasing thousands of fans in the process. An incredibly well organised festival, the atmosphere was brilliant at Hatfield last year and equally as good this year in Wolverhampton.
With so much music spread across 7 stages, it’s nearly impossible to see everybody. Despite this I still tried to make the most of the days festivities, visiting 4 of the 7 stages. That was of course after stopping for a bite of lunch, spotting members of Architects, The Wonder Years and While She Sleeps in Wolverhampton Nando’s.
After that a trip to the main stage saw PVRIS take to the stage. On a high after recent promotion by Radio 1, the Massachusetts’ three piece delivered a superb set in the early afternoon. The dark indoor stage of Civic Hall was perfect for their gloomy electronic rock. Buoyed by the superb vocals and energy of front woman Lynn Gunn, the band tore through songs from debut album White Noise.
Outside on the Monster Energy Stage the finest in heavy music were keeping the security staff busy. I headed over there to catch the next big thing in Metalcore, Beartooth. Frontman Caleb Shomo, formely of Attack Attack! set the Wolverhampton crowd to work. Circle pits and crowd surfers constantly popping up throughout their set of songs from 2014’s Disgusting album. Ending on a pulverising Body Bag, the American band could easily headline this stage in the future.
Back indoors I witnessed a monumental set by Wrexham pop-punk band Neck Deep. Energetic, raw and clearly loved, the Wrexham crew rammed in 11 songs during their 30 minute set. The crowd became a sea of bodies during opener What Did You Expect? and this passion continued for much of the set. Lead singer Ben Barlow commanded the stage as they ripped through songs from their first two EP’s and debut full length Wishful Thinking. A small taste of things to come, came in the form of new single Can’t Kick Up The Roots. It went down a storm and leave expectations high for the release of Life’s Not Out To Get You, produced by A Day To Remember frontman Jeremy McKinnon.
A portion of the afternoon was spent watching two bands at opposite ends of their careers. Cartel played in the UK for possibly the last time, stating that it isn’t profitable enough to continue touring outside of their native USA. With a set reliant on songs from 10 year old, debut album Chroma, lead singer Will Pugh’s quirky voice drew a crowd to the Macbeth stage. Over to the Fresh Blood stage, showcasing the best of bands who are destined for more. Formed in the break up of previous band My Passion, the Hertfordshire three piece can now boast a major label record deal to their name. Fresh after signing for Virgin EMI, Fort Hope delivered a promising set to the reasonably sized crowd. Buoyed by the superb voice of front man Jon Gaskin, their dramatic rock sounds ready for stages much bigger than this.
Despite soaking up the atmosphere in the Wolverhampton streets, the main attractions for the rest of the day were inside the Civic Hall. Arriving later than planned, we watched the end of Lower Than Atlantis’ main stage set. The majority of their set being songs from last years self titled album, their recent plays on Radio 1 suggest they could be future headliners. Unfortunately for the people of Wolverhampton their busy schedule and illness appeared to get the best of singer Mike Duce. Openly admitting he was losing his voice, he struggled vocally throughout the set, choosing to leave the singing to the audience for finale Here We Go.
Next up was a thoroughly enjoyable set from Don Broco, premiering new songs from forthcoming second album Automatic. A run through of 5 songs from the album gave a large insight into what to expect come August and it sounds very promising. I fully expect them to continue their growth, after popularity spread following the release of debut album Priorities and singles Whole Truth and Priorities. Both of these got a play today, raising energy levels inside Civic Hall as they made the most of their 45 minute set. A stable in their set is oldie Thug Workout, which lead to the unusual sight of push up mosh pits. From the moment the song opened, dozens of fans dropped to the floor and got to work. Closing with a gigantic version of You Wanna Know, the Bedford band’s new album can not come soon enough.
It shows a lot about this years Slam Dunk festival that a previous headliner is happy with sub headlining the main stage. Emo legends Taking Back Sunday proved that you don’t have to be young and hungry to captivate this audience. With an almost greatest hits set, the Long Islanders showcased their back catalogue as well as 4 songs from most recent album Happiness Is… At it’s best this set had the crowd on it’s feet singing along to every song. What’s It Feel Like To Be A Ghost, Timberwolves At New Jersey and A Decade Under The Influence all were enjoyed by this Wolverhampton crowd. Unfortunately it was a very up and down set, frontman Adam Lazzara sometimes struggled throughout the set and the audience reflected this as they went quiet for large periods of time. Thankfully the set ended strongly, which was enough to count this set as a success. A venomous Cute Without The ‘E’ (Cut From The Team) lead into a pulverising finisher in the form of MakeDamnSure.
Despite very tempting headliners on the other stages in the form of Architects and The Wonder Years, I chose to stick around to see You Me At Six. With a close affinity to the festival and Slam Dunk they were the perfect choice to headline the 10th festival. Opening with The Truth Is A Terrible Thing from debut album Take Off Your Colours, the band were on top form. They’d go on to fit in 6 other songs from Take Off Your Colours, as they had publicly stated before the festival it may be the last chance they get played in a while. Combined with other albums Hold Me Down, Sinners Never Sleep and number one album Cavalier Youth, the Surrey five piece have a wealth of well known songs. Main highlights include Reckless, Kiss And Tell and acoustic number Always Attract. Josh Franceschi’s voice sounded as fierce as ever, off of the back of their arena tour the band have clearly mastered their live shows. A strong encore came in the form of Room To Breathe, ferocious hit Bite My Tongue and crowd-pleaser Underdog drew a close to the day.
Thank you for a superb festival Slam Dunk, hopefully they’ll be 10 more.