Slam Dunk has become one of the UK’s best alternative music festivals, delivering stellar bands from pop-punk, metal, ska and hardcore every single year across the travelling three-date weekender. With its 10th anniversary, Slam Dunk were determined to make this the biggest and best year yet, so we went to see what Hatfield had to offer.
Did they succeed? Of course they did!
First up we headed over to what Slam Dunk do best; the mammoth pop-punk stage, this year the Key Club Stage held in the campus’ largest indoor venue, which just goes to show how thriving the scene is right now. We’re there to check out ROAM (3/5), one of the UK’s freshest bands who never fail to hit the stage with a wealth of youthful energy that radiates throughout the room. Their vibrancy is given back tenfold by the crowd, as barely a toe is left touching the ground once they lift the room with bouncy tracks from debut album such as ‘Hopeless Case’ and ‘Deadweight’. To see a crowd this pumped so early on in the day is a rarity, especially with a band as relatively new as ROAM, but they have become fast firm favourites of the British pop-punk trend and, thanks to the lively onstage antics and humble gratitude that we see today, it’s not hard to realise just why that is.
Each year sees Slam Dunk make the best of new talent by introducing some of the most exciting young bands that the alternative world has to offer, delivered by Kerrang!’s Fresh Blood Stage. Newbies to Europe are pop-punk band Waterparks (3/5), and we were able to catch them for their set on the Fresh Blood Stage. Having already developed a small fan base from previous EPs, they are given a warm welcome and tons of energy to feed off of. Their use of electronic beats behind the strong guitar chords and riffs gives an edge to their sound which proves irresistible to their audience as they dance along. Honest lyrics are belted by lead vocalist Awsten Knight, who seems to be a natural when talking to his audience and keeping them completely entertained. As their set continues, it’s impossible not to bob your head throughout to the fast-paced, upbeat songs. For one of their first shows in Europe, they have managed to keep their confidence, and we think they will be just fine capturing the hearts of pop-punk lovers.
Our first taste of the outdoor main stage this year is with Florida’s melodic Mayday Parade (3.5/5), who have taken a darker turn towards a heavier alt-rock sound with their latest album, which emanates from them as they take to the stage this afternoon. We expect beautiful moments from a band as emotionally provocative as Mayday Parade, but perhaps less so during a festival set where an upbeat tone is more of the norm. Of course, old-school hits such as ‘Jamie All Over’ and ‘Three Cheers for Five Years’ get everyone in the mood, especially when the odd glimpse of sunshine finally shows its face as well; at times like this, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Mayday Parade have always been something of an underrated band, never getting the credit they truly deserve for creating some of pop-punk’s most lyrically intricate tunes, and it’s a shame that their most recent work isn’t their best, receiving a lukewarm reaction today. But when they play some of their biggest and best songs this afternoon, you can’t argue that, when Mayday Parade do what they do, they do it really, really well.
We stick with the Fresh Blood Stage a little longer for Dead! (4/5), who are making their debut Slam Dunk Festival appearance this year. These punk rockers from London are bursting into the festival season, playing Reading and Leeds Festival, and also making their Download debut next week. Having just released their single ‘You’re So Cheap’, we are more than happy to hear the dark guitar riffs and harmonies as we prepare ourselves to jam along. As lead vocalist Alex Mountford howls on stage to introduce their track ‘Alaska‘, we howl along with them to show we are on their side. The screams from Sam Matlock complete the upbeat track ‘Enemy‘, as we watch the band lose control on stage. Their set is drawn to a close with their 2015 single ‘Skin‘, a song that you can’t help but song along to. You can see the drive to please their audience in their eyes as they end their set with a bang. They are definitely a band to watch!
We make a dash back to the Key Club Stage for one of pop-punks most loyal and loved bands, The Starting Line (3.5/5). During a two-decade career, many bands would tire of their usual sound and dip their toes into new waters along the way; but not The Starting Line. These guys have stuck with a classic, can’t-go-wrong pop-punk vibe their entire musical lives and, as they prove today, that’s not such a bad thing. Their small but sturdy fan base is out in full swing, jumping along to every upbeat melody and pop hook with glee- but no-one looks as happy as frontman Kenny Vasoli, who bounds about with an unflappable, endless energy. The band’s enjoyment is visible to all, and it just goes to show that it really doesn’t matter how long you’ve been playing these songs or how many ups and downs your band has experienced along the way; if you really love what you do, that will always shine through no matter what. As a band that always deliver a good, strong set, you know you’re not wasting your time seeing The Starting Line.