Another year means another Slam Dunk Festival, and this time around they’ve treated us with a main stage co-headliner attack of two of the all time greats; Jimmy Eat World and Good Charlotte. If the organisers wanted to assure us that their festival is the UK’s premium weekender to fill all of your pop-rock and pop-punk needs, they’ve bloody delivered.
The final date for the 2018 edition of the festival weekend is set at Birmingham’s NEC, with stages scattered all over the venue, and even taking up the Genting Arena for one of its main stages too. Honestly, is there any better way of spending your May bank holiday weekend than being at Slam Dunk? Nah, didn’t think so.
FOUR YEAR STRONG – 7/10
Having recently celebrated the tenth anniversary of their sophomore breakthrough ‘Rise Or Die Trying’, Massachusetts based pop-punks Four Year Strong have officially become long-lasting mainstays in the genre, and thankfully their fast-paced yet melodic take on the genre still holds up. ‘We All Float Down Here’ and ‘Goes Down In History’ get the crowd pumped throughout, ‘Heroes Get Remembered, Legends Never Die’ doesn’t sound at all dated, and set closer Wasting Time (Eternal Summer)’ is easily one of the best cuts of pop-punk in recent years. Thumbs up all ’round. [ZR]
STATE CHAMPS – 9/10
Quickly becoming one of the biggest names in the pop-punk industry, State Champs take to the main stage with confidence. Opening with hit single ‘All You Are Is History’, the crowd are quick to pick up their feet and get lost in the moment. With a set filled with cuts throughout their catalogue, State Champs are slick and they look perfectly comfortable on the big stage. Super fresh numbers ‘Dead And Gone’ and ‘Crystal Ball’ already have fans screaming the lyrics back, and taking the time to thank fans after each song, it’s clear that they aren’t taking anything for granted and truly appreciate this moment. [HS]
SLEEPING WITH SIRENS – 7/10
Not new to the pop-punk scene, Sleeping With Sirens return to the Slam Dunk main stage for an energetic set. Known for their dedicated fans, the crowd don’t disappoint in showing their love for the Floridians. Screaming almost every lyric back to the likes of ‘Go, Go, Go’ and ‘Legends’, the relationship between the band and their fans is something incredible to see. However, nothing quite tops the room roaring back the infectious hook of ‘If You Can’t Hang…’. Keeping a very energetic set list, Sleeping With Sirens put on an impressive performance. [HS]
FRANK CARTER & THE RATTLESNAKES – 9/10
Despite his extensive and illustrious career in music to date, Frank Carter has never performed at Slam Dunk. Not whilst fronting Gallows, and not whilst fronting Pure Love. But now, with his current project Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, he’s making his debut – and it’s explosive. For years he’s been known as one of the greatest frontmen in rock, and donning a fluffy pimp-like coat he’s keeping his reputation in tact. He climbs over the crowd during ‘Juggernaut’, he wanders amongst the crowd throughout ‘Fangs’, he promotes the safety of women at gigs and encourages them to crowd surf to their fill during ‘Wild Flowers’, and essentially lays the benchmark for all other acts to follow suit for this Slam Dunk and many to come. It may be his first Slam Dunk, but there’s not a chance in hell it’ll be his last. [ZR]
PVRIS – 8/10
Adored alternative rock trio PVRIS take to the stage with a confident persona. Opening with the solemn yet powerful ‘Heaven’, Lynn Gunn’s vocals are the point of focus until the beat kicks in, and the crowd erupt from their feet. Playing some of their most loved tracks, including ‘What’s Wrong’, ‘Half’, ‘My House’, and ‘You And I’, the band heavily showcase their talent. Gunn even jumps onto a second drum kit throughout the set on a couple of occasions to really add some more depth and brunt to their performance. There are undoubtedly much greater things on the horizon for this lot. [HS]
GOOD CHARLOTTE – 10/10
The final headline act of the night, and indeed of the entire festival for the year, are pop-punk kings Good Charlotte, who immediately make a grand entrance with their solid gold hit, ‘The Anthem’. The perfect start to the set, the Slam Dunk goes crazy as it takes a big nostalgic step back to the early 2000s pop-punk era. There are plenty of throwbacks thrown into the mix here, notably infectious singles like ‘Boys & Girls’, ‘I Just Wanna Live’, and ‘Keep Your Hands Off My Girl’. You’d be hard pressed to scan the room and not find a massive grin smacked on someone’s face.
Before returning to more bonafide pop-punk classics, the band bring out their brand new song ‘Actual Pain’, before continuing onwards to the curtain closer of their breakthrough smash ‘Lifestyle Of The Rich & Famous’. At a festival built and renowned over the year’s for being the UK’s premium festival for all things pop-punk, there aren’t many songs as perfect as this to see out Slam Dunk for another year. [HS]
MONSTER ENERGY STAGE:
THE DANGEROUS SUMMER – 8/10
American rockers The Dangerous Summer take to the Monster Energy stage to begin warming the Slam Dunk crowd up nice and early. After being away for a number of years, there’s a fair amount of people in the room today eager and happy to finally be catching the Maryland trio. It’s a rather energetic set, playing a range of fan favourites like ‘Catholic Girls’, and even some fresh numbers like ‘Fire’ and ‘Ghosts’ slot comfortably into place here. [HS]
JIMMY EAT WORLD – 9/10
Easily one of (if not they actually are) the longest running bands on the entirety of this year’s bill, boasting a career lasting two and a half decades now, Jimmy Eat World are completely deserving of claiming one of the co-headliner spots for this year’s Slam Dunk as their own, and undoubtedly they’ve also got the hits to back it up. They drag us right into their hour and a half long set with ‘Bleed American’, and as the room yells its chorus melody in unison, it’s easy to see that for a lot of people here tonight they’ve been waiting for this set alone today.
Ignoring the streetlight stage props, which admittedly are overly ambiguous and lacking clarity in their presence in any way, with the amount of hits that the Arizona quartet are reeling out one after another it’s hard to focus on anything else anyway. ‘Futures’ is a pop-rock anthem in its own right, the more boisterous ‘Pain’ was built for head nodding aplenty, and the gentle ‘Hear You Me’ and its ethereal nature makes you feel like you’re aside the angels that frontman Jim Adkins is singing about.
The one-two closer of ‘Sweetness’ (oh my god, that hook, that mother-effing hook) and ‘The Middle’ is one that easily cements the set as one of the strongest of the entirety of the festival. Even two and half decades on, Jimmy Eat World can easily stand toe-to-toe with the new kids on the block and come out on top. [ZR]
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch any acts that performed on this stage on this date.
LOATHE – 8/10
Is your favourite kind of breakfast a nice early dose of conceptual and industrially textured metalcore? If your answer is yes, then obviously a stage opening set from Loathe is what you’ve opted for. They may still be newbies to this whole thing, but with their momentum over the past couple of years and sets like this to boot, you’d have thought they’d been at this for years. Vocalist Kadeem France commands pits as the band knock out ‘It’s Yours’ and ‘Stigmata’, and guitarist Erik Bickerstaffe gets so involved in closer ‘White Hot’ that he moshes his glasses right off his face and he doesn’t even care. Bloody ‘eck, mate. [ZR]
THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA – 7/10
Firmly solidified as one of the leaders in the metalcore genre today, in many ways The Devil Wears Prada sound like the more feral and rough around the edges version of Underoath, and with the amount of albums now under their belt they’ve got a respectable choice of cuts to make into a setlist. ‘Daughter’ starts things off before we’re lead into a space-y and armageddon-like ‘Planet A’, and we’re reminded of their zombie driven concept EP in ‘Anatomy’. Sometimes frontman Mike Hranica’s screams are little lacking in clarity and Jeremy DePoyster’s cleans dip occasionally in the mix, but they still remain reputable bruisers. [ZR]
COUNTERPARTS – 8/10
A dose of melodic hardcore is next on the agenda for the Impericon stage, and there’s no better dealer in the genre at the moment than Counterparts. Both ‘No Servant Of Mine’ and ‘Bouquet’ are relentless and bittersweet tales of love, and the emotion poured into every lyric of pain being spat out of Brendan Murphy’s mouth is both volatile and confiding. If you’re not one of the people clambering at the front to be closer to the band then you’re one of the people who wants to be. There is no inbetween. [ZR]
CROWN THE EMPIRE – 5/10
The stage floor peters out a little bit before Crown The Empire take to the stage, who admittedly have lost a little bit of their initial thrusting momentum over the past couple of years. Still, frontman Andy Leo’s vocal capabilities and talents are something that are difficult to contend against, and it’s hard to not get the urge to mosh during ‘Zero’, but in other moments like ‘Machines’ just fall completely flat to a dead crowd, and it looks like it rubs off on the band too. [ZR]
NORTHLANE – 8/10
If there was an award for the band who’ve travelled the furthest to be at Slam Dunk Festival this weekend then it’d certainly be bestowed to metalcore favourites Northlane. The Australian quintet ensure their many hours and many miles to be here aren’t in vain. Starting out with arguably their flagship track ‘Quantum Flux’, the crowd is all theirs from the beginning, and blistering set additions like ‘Heartmachine’, ‘Rot’, and ‘Intuition’ not only display the fans’ admiration, but also Marcus Bridge’s impressive pipes. More of these fellas, please. [ZR]
EVERY TIME I DIE – 10/10
Heading off the Impericon stage for the day, the weekend, and indeed this year’s Slam Dunk Festival entirely are Buffalo’s kings of the riotous head bang, Every Time I Die. Things kick off right from the get go with ‘Roman Holiday’, and we then go straight into ‘Bored Stiff’ where in unison the crowd roars “Hey there, girls. I’m a cunt.” right back at frontman Keith Buckley, who then proceeds to leap head first into the crowd who carry him like a king.
It’s not long before brother and guitarist Jordan Buckley does what he does best and that’s… well, dive right in there too, that is after he’s clambered atop of the stage speakers he rearranges. It’s hard not to get as rambunctious with the boys when they’re putting out cuts like ‘We’rewolf’, ‘Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space’, and ‘The Coin Has A Say’, and when everything they have to offer in their set is nothing short of fantastic, it leaves most other bands completely paling in comparison. [ZR]
SIGNATURE BREW STAGE:
CAN’T SWIM – 6/10
The second band of the day to take to the Signature Brew stage are New Jersey’s own Can’t Swim, and they’ve already managed to garner quite a crowd before them for such an early slot. Mainly composing their set of cuts from their debut album, ‘Fail You Again’, and a couple of recently released b-sides too, the crowd are clearly super into what’s going on, but it does feel like the band are still trying to find their feet a little bit. [ZR]
HOMESAFE – 7/10
For their first time playing overseas, fresh faced pop-punks Homesafe are greeted with open arms. With their debut full-length still yet to drop, the band play a few sneak peek cuts from the record, and also make sure that the fans have something to relate to with some firm favourites. ‘Run’ sees the crowd singing along at the top of their lungs, and if this is an indicator of things to come, Homesafe could easily slide in with the pop-punk elite. [HS]
BROADSIDE – 7/10
With a mix of recent and older tracks in their set today, Broadside’s delivery is constantly uplifting. ‘Come And Go’, ‘Summer Stained’, and crowd favourite ‘Storyteller’ engage the crowd before them in a massive wave of pogoing and dancing. With catchy tracks and solid vocals from Oliver Baxxter, Broadside have undoubtedly bagged themselves some new fans here today. [HS]
ROCK SOUND BREAKOUT STAGE:
DREAM STATE – 9/10
With only a couple of EPs under their belt so far, the latest being the only a few weeks old ‘Recovery’, Welsh post-hardcore upstarts Dream State have been making some serious waves recently, getting constant airplay, praise, and bagging a spot on most UK rock festivals this year. With sets like this, it’s easy to see why. Vocalist CJ Gilpin feels more at home by the barrier or surfing on the crowd whilst she wails along to the likes of ‘In This Hell’, ‘Solace’ is a call-to-arms banger, ‘Rebuild, Recreate’ is pulled out for the OG fans, and everyone loses any shit that they have left to ‘White Lies’. It’s all down to see if they can deliver on a full-length, and we’ve got all bets on that they will. [ZR]
GRAYSCALE – 9/10
Having recently toured the UK with As It Is, Philadelphia pop-rockers Grayscale take to the stage all sleek and full of energy, and with plenty of songs in tow from their 2017 debut LP, ‘Adornment’. ‘Fever Dream’ in particular sees the crowd singing back every single lyric to vocalist, Collin Walsh. There’s a lot of talent and dedication in these boys, the fandom in the crowd is incredible, and without a doubt Grayscale are destined to charge through the ranks of their contemporaries very soon. [HS]
KEY CLUB STAGE:
Unfortunately, we were unable to catch any acts that performed on this stage on this date.
Written by Hannah Strong [HS] and Zach Redrup [ZR].