Live at Slam Dunk 2016 on Saturday, 28th May 2016
Slam Dunk Festival 2016
Celebrating its 10th year, and showing no signs of stopping, the 2016 Slam Dunk Festival had a lot to live up to. As a general festival review it only seems right to comment on the overall organisation and events through the day, so let's start at the very beginning!
Arriving around mid day with the intention of catching Japanese metalcore newbies (to the UK at least) Coldrain opening the Atlus Stage, the queues were long but moving quickly. It was clear that lessons had been learned from last years Arena wristband exchange being a distance from the main arena and a moved to the front of the Art museum seemed like a welcome response.
There seemed to be a few people confused by where to move to next, with barriers now in place around much of the stage area, but altogether a much smoother operation meant people were getting in and out nice and quick.
The atmosphere on Cookridge St. was already electric by the time Coldrain took to the stage. Despite being only mid-day the crowd were jumping and singing along, and for an opening act to experience this kind of response was clearly reflected in their performance. Every member was active, giving it all they had to make an impression on a new crowd.
After the impressive start I moved to the back of the crowd to see how far back the good feeling travelled, and by the time The Word Alive had started their set there were no signs of it going anywhere. For fans of heavy rock, this would be the place to stay through the day, but despite the large crowd, the layout of the festival meant there was no crossover of sound and moving from one place to another was fairly easy. In fact, the city centre location makes everything nice and close while providing natural sound barriers, as if it was designed for this kind of activity.
Knowing that the O2 would be full to bursting point later in the day it only seemed right to pop in early and pay homage to the Key Club (now the home of Slam Dunk) and again, despite 'early doors' there was already a sizeable crowd moving around to Trash Boat. Clearly as with previous years the venue would be a favourite line up as later in the day it would be a strict one--in--one--out policy.
Heading on to the Desperados stage and you're reminded of why Slam Dunk has grown into such a popular festival. Unlike a lot of the mainstream rock festivals that have edged closer and closer to the mainstream over the years, Slam Dunk seems to have discovered a magic formula; a balancing act of mixing the right amount of classic with new and popular, much like the perfect club night playlist. The crowd ranges from school kids to people who are clearly casting off their 9-to-5 skins to enjoy the weekend.
Back to Desperados, this stage is made for partying. [spunge], were up to their old tricks, cracking wise between songs, banter with the crowd and having a drink between each song before playing bouncy pop punk flawlessly.
Later in the day I'd get to introduce my niece to the joys of Ska Punk as we managed to catch the closing few numbers of Catch 22 including the old (Bradford) Rio's favourite Keasley Nights, but unfortunately by the time Zebrahead would come to play later in the day the popularity of the smaller stage had outgrown itself and the view from behind the stage was a little lacking in excitement.
Being a single man review team there are only so many bands I can see in the day, so it was off to the main stage for Young Guns, missing Moose Blood which by all accounts was a fantastic performance.
Young Guns as always were technically competent and front-man Gustav Wood opened up to the audience for sing alongs and call and response. Sadly, compared to the other stages which had a good balanced sound, especially for an outdoor festival, the main stage carried a heavy bias towards bass where I was stood near the sound desk, and this seemed to be the case for much of the day.
The sound wasn't the only problem, with technical issues bearing down on Yellowcard for what should have been a glorious play through of début album 'Ocean Avenue'. Bursting through 'Way Away' 'Breathing' and a few other choice cuts they had the crowd singing along and the performance was one of the days highlights. Unfortunately the 30 minute delay meant their set time was cut in half for which they were deeply apologetic. Hey these things happen, and they promised to make it up to us. There's also a 'glass half full' anecdote here in that Slam Dunk, despite it's growth, is still such a well organised machine that all other stage times through the day were accurate.
Thankfully, everything was back up and running without a hitch by the time New Found Glory burst out, playing a mix of old and new fan favourites and finishing with a selection of tracks from 'Sticks and Stones' left the crowd in a great mood for the day's finale.
Before tonight I'll admit, Panic! At The Disco had never really done anything for me. Sure they had a few catchy tunes to hum along to but not a lot stuck in my head. Putting my faith in the organisers, I was not disappointed. Every bit the showman he's hyped up to be, Brendan Urie had full command of the crowd and stage. His vocal range and and confidence shining through and a song selection that made you stand up and pay attention.
Backed by a set of video screens lights and flames, the stage set-up was equal to that of any other top tier festival, and once again Slam Dunk had proven itself more than capable of belonging on any alternative fans calendar. So what next for the festival? Who knows... but if this year is anything to go by it better not be the last.
Yellowcard is an American rock band formed in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1997.
[spunge] are a ska punk band from Tewkesbury, England.
Coldrain is a rock band from Nagoya, Japan formed in 2007.
Young Guns are an alternative rock band from Buckinghamshire / London.
New Found Glory is an American pop punk band from Coral Springs, Florida, formed in 1997.
Catch 22 is an American ska punk band from East Brunswick Township, New Jersey.
Zebrahead is an American rock band from Orange County, California, United States.
Trash Boat are a pop-punk quintet hailing from St. Albans, UK.
The Word Alive is an American metalcore band from Phoenix, Arizona, United States.