LIVE: Slam Dunk Festival @ NEC, Birmingham (29/05/2016)

slamdunkfestival2016

Date: May 29th, 2015
Venue: NEC, Birmingham
Website: www.slamdunkmusic.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/slamdunkltd
Twitter: www.twitter.com/slamdunkmusic

Gallery: Click here

It’s happened, Slam Dunk Festival has officially turned 10 years old. Back when it started out in 2006, it was composed of seven bands on one stage, headlined by Fall Out Boy. Yet, here we are today, with a festival that is hosted at three separate locations across the UK, including a new home in Birmingham – the biggest site of them all – with eight stages hosting at least seven bands each. It’s truly exploded into one of the biggest alternative festivals the country has to offer, and with Panic! At The Disco picked to headline their biggest milestone yet, it seems this is still early days in the grand scheme of it all.


MAIN STAGE:

MOOSE BLOOD – 8/10
After their triumphant headline set on the Fresh Blood stage last year, Moose Blood have been promoted to a well deserved slot on the Main Stage, something that must be one of the band’s largest shows yet. The amps are lined with a pink glow as the Canterbury lads aesthetically prepare for their upcoming sophomore album ‘Blush’, and even bang out brand new hit single ‘Honey’ to start, but it’s the old material that pleases the crowd the most. Singer Eddy Brewerton is as overwhelmed as his softly spoken words can convey and a one-two ending of ‘Pups’ and ‘Gum’ ensures that Moose Blood will be invited back time after time again. [MH]

YOUNG GUNS
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

MAYDAY PARADE
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

YELLOWCARD – 6/10
As soon as it was announced that Yellowcard would be performing their 2003 breakthrough LP ‘Ocean Avenue’ in full for all three dates of this year’s Slam Dunk, nostalgia alerts were cranked up several notches. Indeed, as soon as lead singles ‘Way Away’ and the album’s title-track are pumped out in quick succession, the memories come flooding back. The faster-paced ‘TwentyThree’ also gets the crowd pogoing all the way through, and things are running much more smoothly than what occurred in Leeds yesterday, but with a performance that sounds a little too robotic, this is likely to be something only the die-hards will lap up to its full potential. [ZR]

MALLORY KNOX
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

NEW FOUND GLORY – 8/10
The Slam Dunk 2010 headliners have left their legacy on the pop-punk industry and still fly the flag after almost 20 years and 8 excellent, legendary albums. ‘Hit Or Miss’ is about as far as back as the band can possibly go, but sounds just as fresh and relevant as the following ‘Selfless’ from the band’s latest release. Truthfully, Jordan Pundik and co. could pick 15 of their tracks at random and still come out covered in single lathered gold; when you’ve got ‘All Downhill From Here’ and ‘Truth Of My Youth’ in the bank, it’s almost impossible to misfire. ‘Kiss Me’ even has the security singing along and the Panic! At The Disco fans waiting around manage a discreet smile, despite their best efforts.

The Floridians have gained a reputation for taking fan requests even at the largest festivals, and Chad Gilbert sticks to his friendly ways and picks a particularly enthusiastic fan out of the crowd to join them and choose any song from their back catalogue. A glorious threeway of ‘Sticks And Stones’ ragers closes a triumphant Slam Dunk return as ‘Forget My Name’, ‘Head On Collision’, and ‘My Friends Over You’ mean that the pop-punk veterans are sung off the stage by an arena full of music fans that thank them for being the reason they’ve come to festivals like this over the last decade. [MH]

PANIC! AT THE DISCO – 9/10
The evolution of Panic! At The Disco over the past few years has been a strange one, gradually depleting as an official line-up, now only officially being founding member and vocalist Brendon Urie along with some touring members. Here we are now, essentially a one-man band, currently off the back of arguably their most successful album to date, ‘Death Of A Bachelor’, and reaching the great heights of being a festival headliner.

Indeed, the electro-pop swagger and finesse that has embodied P!ATD throughout their over a decade long career hasn’t been diminished one bit; an array of career hits like ‘The Ballad Of Mona Lisa’, ‘Victorious’, ‘Miss Jackson’, and ‘Let’s Kill Tonight’ filling the Genting Arena – the biggest capacity room that Slam Dunk have ever hosted a stage in. Older hits like ‘Nine In The Afternoon’ and ‘Time To Dance’ also make an appearance, and the Las Vegas outfit make them sound as fresh as if they came out in the past couple of years, despite Urie’s occasionally decision to high exceedingly high notes that, though impressive, shouldn’t be hit for a reason.

The biggest surprise, however, comes with a cover of Queen’s world-renowned and beloved ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, a bold choice of cover for any band, both well-seasoned or amateur. It goes without saying that no-one can do it like Freddy Mercury, but Urie manages to pull it off with enough conviction to justify their take on it whilst maintaining the identity of the original, and in doing so also securing Urie as not only a respected musician and singer, but a true artist, and one deserving of a festival headline spot. [ZR]


ATLAS STAGE:

COLDRAIN
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

THE WORD ALIVE
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

MISS MAY I – 7/10
It’s sets like this which should make Ohio heavy hitters Miss May I consider changing their names to Mosh May I. Though their brand of metalcore has been fairly paint-by-numbers, especially in recent years, it’s in a live setting where they flourish. Frontman Levi Benton is jumping about and headbanging more often than not, and songs like ‘Masses Of A Dying Breed’ and ‘Hey Mister’ incite some of the biggest pits this year’s Slam Dunk will see. [ZR]

WE CAME AS ROMANS
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

NORTHLANE
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

THE AMITY AFFLICTION
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

MEMPHIS MAY FIRE
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

ISSUES – 7/10
If there was ever going to be a genre called RnBcore, then Issues are certainly the pioneers. We’ll skip quickly past Tyler Carter’s slight tumble onstage, and focus on the dual vocal prowess of him and co-vocalist Mike Bohn instead; inciting people to sing and dance or scream and mosh respectively. Newer numbers such as the crushing ‘Blue Wall’ and the funk-laden ‘The Realest’ live up to the hype live and, though the vocals get lost in the mix a little throughout the set, the huge call-to-arms woahs that see out closer ‘Hooligans’ consumes every available space in the huge warehouse that hosts the Atlas stage. [ZR]

OF MICE & MEN
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.


THE KEY CLUB STAGE:

TRASH BOAT
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

ROAM
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

HIT THE LIGHTS – 5/10
The excitement and rise around Hit The Lights on their brilliant, ten year old, debut record ‘This Is A Stick Up… Don’t Make It A Murder’ slowly faded after the departure of Colin Ross, but a much improved effort on 2015’s ‘Summer Bones’ has seen the faith reinstated in the American pop-punks. ‘Fucked Up Kids’ doesn’t do the latest album much justice as the sound seems distorted in the NEC’s Forum Live but guitarist turned vocalist Nick Thompson’s enthusiasms makes up for it with his enthusiasm despite his saccharine soaked voice. All is improved on ‘Save Your Breath’, but social media themed ‘No Filter’ drags and doesn’t connect with the crowd like ‘309’ does. Despite the band’s gratitude and consistent following, today’s set is generally underwhelming. They need to do more to ensure that they don’t get lost in the upcoming new blood. [MH]

AS IT IS
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

REAL FRIENDS – 7/10
Bank Holiday weekend has fallen conveniently for Illinois pop-punks Real Friends, as they get to hit Slam Dunk Festival immediately after the release of their second full-length record ‘The Home Inside My Head’. Not a band to forget about their old fans, there’s plenty to keep everyone happy as ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’ gives fans the opportunity to vocally bawl their eyes out, along with Dan Lambton and his elongated words. The set is certainly more applicable to the die-hard fans, as the acoustics aren’t helping the band at all but the Dunkers who know all the words in crowd are carrying them with ease. It’s fair to say that this set is the best advert for ‘The Home Inside My Head’ that the band could ask for, as this crowd will be keeping tabs on the activity of Real Friends. [MH]

SET YOUR GOALS – 9/10
The realisation that Set Your Goals are back slowly increases during ‘Don’t Let This Win Over You’, but when Jordan Brown shouts “A quick bullet” in ‘Echoes’, the crowd opens up and starts making up for some serious lost time. The one-two combination of the frontmen is invaluable in the music industry as the difference in their voices make the San Francisco band such a gem in the pop-punk world. ‘Certain’ creates a Mario Party in the pit with the fancy dress brigade leading the way, and Matt Wilson dictating them from the stage with his Luigi hat on. Classics ‘To Be Continued…’ and ‘Mutiny!’ are solid reminders of what Set Your Goals are capable of, and what a treat Slam Dunk have brought to 2016. [MH]

FOUR YEAR STRONG
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

THE STARTING LINE
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

THE STORY SO FAR
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.


DESPERADOS STAGE:

THE JB CONSPIRACY
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

SPUNGE
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

CATCH 22
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

KING PRAWN
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

CAPDOWN
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

ZEBRAHEAD – 8/10
The Orange County punk rockers Zebrahead are second to none when it comes to ridiculous crowd pleasing and even 12 (yep, twelve!) records into their career, they remain consistent in their quality output. Newbie ‘Save Your Breath’ opens the show and gets an equal reception to ‘Hell Yeah!’ as the addicted fans are loyal to their latest records as much as the non-believers in the audience are turned immediately. Classic audience participation blackmail gets the fans crowdsurfing during ‘Mike Dexter Is A God, Mike Dexter Is A Role Model, Mike Dexter Is An Asshole’, and the normal Zebrahead drinking hijinks is in full flow with their crew dressed like Pikachu and what the band refer to as Pink Panther (but definitely isn’t) chugging beers on stage and riding inflatable boats over the crowd. [MH]

THE BEAT
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

THE KING BLUES
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.


IMPERICON STAGE:

THE ONE HUNDRED – 8/10
The London boys in The One Hundred birth some of the first pits of the day, all thanks to their modernised take the nu-metal genre. Sure, this plan of attack isn’t a new one nowadays, but very few bands deliver it with the vigour of these lot. New cuts ‘Monster’ and ‘Disengage’ sound massive, the latter of which is littered with the disc scratching that saw nu-metal greats like Limp Bizkit soar in the mid-00s, and after telling the “tough guys” throwing their limbs in the pit to “chill out” for one song, closer ‘Unleashed’ has just left us wanting their debut LP more. [ZR]

WSTR – 7/10
Liverpool boys WSTR are up next on the predominantly hardcore Impericon Stage, but we have to take their word for it as there’s so much smoke covering the band that you can hardly see their faces. It doesn’t stop the band though, as ‘Brainsick’ bellows out with the pop-punks in the room shouting the words back at Sammy Clifford; an example of how well the band have done off just their one EP. The vocalist promises that there’ll be new material this year, but for now we’ll have to make do with the ‘SKRWD’ material with first ever single ‘Graveyard Shift’. A rowdy circle pit round the structural pole in the middle of the room during a great cover of Limp Bizkit’s ‘Break Stuff’ and set closer ‘South Drive’ show that these pop-punks are more than just a Neck Deep copy, and deserve all of the attention that they’re getting lately. [MH]

CHUNK! NO, CAPTAIN CHUNK!
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

GNARWOLVES – 10/10
Brighton’s Gnarwolves have casually turned into the best punk band in the country, and the Slam Dunk favourites sure know how to make an impact on the festival. Opening with the unbelievable ‘Bottle To Bottle’, the band prove that it’s not just their melodic punk that sets them apart, but they can even take on a band like Brand New at their own game. Another off the self-titled full-length, ‘Boneyard’, turns the Impericon Stage into a frenzy, but good god, Gnarwolves know what they’re doing as they crush out ‘History Is Bunk’, ‘We Want The Whip!’, and ‘Community, Stability, Identity’ in a row. A superb performance from the most improved band on the Slam Dunk roster, and an absolute triumph for British DIY punk. [MH]

HEART OF A COWARD
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

HACKTIVIST – 7/10
The rise of Hacktivist has been a notable one over the past couple of years, if we put it mildly, even before the release of their debut record. Now that it’s out, it’s not surprising to see the support for the Londoners has swollen even further. Their hybrid styles of djent and hip-hop encourages bopping and moshing in equal measures. Their cover of ‘Niggas In Paris’ and ‘Hacktivist’ incite some of the biggest circle pits at the Impericon stage today, and even sees one fan climbing up a huge steel pillar a mere few feet from the front of the stage. That shit H. [ZR]

NORMA JEAN
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

CANCER BATS – 5/10
Few bands embrace and portray the punk rock lifestyle like the riotous Canadians that are Cancer Bats. As soon as they take to the stage, they rip right into proceedings; ‘Hail Destroyer’ being an early set highlight. Of course, their take of Beastie Boys’ classic ‘Sabotage’ also goes down a treat, and frontman Liam Cormier certainly know how to get the crowd moving. Unfortunately, though, it’s only really the first few rows that are really feeling it. It’s not long before things start to get a little stagnant and, although Cancer Bats certainly emit a lot of action on the stage, there’s a sense of them just going through the motions. [ZR]

EVERY TIME I DIE – 6/10
As always with Slam Dunk, the competition on other stages when you’re a headliner is massive, and passer-bys are more likely to head to the larger bands. Yet, hardcore punks Every Time I Die have such a devout following that the Impericon Stage was always going to be full of the craziest kids in Birmingham’s NEC.

The New Yorkers are based on two strong qualities; Keith Buckley’s Southern twang in his singing voice and how it combines with his screaming, and the ability that they have to play riffs like no other band out there. The sound in Pavilion 2 is certainly not the Buckley brothers’ friend tonight as the guitar just isn’t loud enough to make those licks as impactive as they could be. This pit isn’t bothered though as they go crazy for ‘From Part Unknown’ cuts ‘Thirst’ and ‘Decayin’ With The Boys’ as the latest material goes down destructively. A new track ‘Glitches’ gets the tick of approval from these Slam Dunk lunatics, but the riff at the end of ‘El Dorado’ is incomparable as even this fuzzy sound system can’t stop it. ‘The New Black’ and ‘Underwater Bimbos From Space’ have the followers eating out of Keith Buckley’s hands, half of the drum kit being bashed to pieces by the band and people half way up the pillar in the centre of the crowd.

‘Wanderlust’ and a truthfully anti-climatic ‘Indian Giver’ shut down the Impericon Stage for what could have been a memorable set from Every Time I Die, but without having that guitar ringing round your skull, the songs lose their uniqueness and they become just another hardcore band. [MH]


KERRANG! FRESH BLOOD STAGE:

BEAUTIFUL BODIES
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

CANE HILL – 6/10
If Korn ever had a baby brother that had been neglected as a child, then it would undoubtedly be Louisiana’s Cane Hill. Vocalist Elijah Witt asks for people to show some violence throughout their set, which seems to be a form of catharsis for the frontman; his eyes occasionally rolling to the back of his head whilst jittering his body and throwing his microphone around. Violence never really comes, however, but songs like ‘Gemini’, ‘(The New) Jesus’, ‘Time Bomb’ and ‘Sunday School’ along with an album to come spells a notable future on our shores. [ZR]

DEAD!
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

BLOOD YOUTH – 8/10
Still newcomers on the scene, now with two EPs under their belt, Blood Youth manage to bring some passionate fans to their set. It only takes a few minutes into set opener ’24/7′ for the hardcore dancing to ensue, and following numbers such as ‘Mood Swing’ and ‘Cold Sweat’ only sees the intensity of energy escalate, with vocalist Kaya Tarsus at one point jumping to the barrier to scream in the faces of the fans. Ironically, it’s closer ‘Failure’ that secures Blood Youth as anything but. [ZR]

BOSTON MANOR
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

WATERPARKS
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

WITH CONFIDENCE
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

CREEPER
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

NEW YEARS DAY
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.


ACOUSTIC/SOLO STAGE:

SEAFOAL – 6/10
With their first notes also being the first to be played at Slam Dunk’s new Midlands home in Birmingham, Seafoal (or, Siana Sweeney) and their backing band’s delivery of acoustic-pop tunes is a suitable and easing introduction to the day. Sweeney’s more bare bones numbers may have the odd toe or two tapping, but it’s the more dreamy synth-pop of ‘Van Gough’ and dark electro bile of ‘Chess’ that stand as the highlights. [ZR]

BETHAN LEADLEY
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

LIANNE KAYE
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

ELDER BROTHER
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

AWAY DAYS
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

GRUMBLE BEE
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

GREYWIND
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

ROB LYNCH
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

THE ROCKET SUMMER
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch this act’s set.


UPRAWR STAGE:

Unfortunately, we were unable to catch the set of any acts on this stage.


Written by Mike Heath (@MikeBeef) and Zach Redrup (@zachredrup)

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