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Review: Slam Dunk Festival 2016, Midlands

Carrie Humphries


For this year’s tenth anniversary, the Midlands leg of Slam Dunk Festival upped sticks and moved from its usual home in Wolverhampton to the larger area in and around the Genting Arena in Birmingham. Although some may have been confused by the vastness and difference between the old site and the new site upon entry to the festival, it was easy enough to navigate around the eight different stages of live music and DJ sets once you had gained your bearings. It was also rather nice that there were more food places, bars and merchandise stands to choose from than previous years, which meant less queueing for things inside of the venue.

Unfortunately, the first set of the day from Coldrain was cancelled due to a technical failure on the Atlas Stage; however, there were still plenty for fans to watch on the other stages around that time including a hotly tipped set from Moose Blood.

The first set that I managed to catch after doing interviews was Young Guns on the Main Stage. The band recently announced the departure of their long term drummer Ben Jolliffe; so this was one of the first few gigs that they had done without him, but with help from fill in drummer Josh Coombes they still managed to pull off a tight set of songs mainly selected from their last three albums. They also showcased their new single Bulletproof during the set; which is yet another belter of an anthem that fans are bound to sing along to at future shows.

Another band who have faced a bit of a lineup change within the last year are Harrogate rockers Blood Youth, who are now a four-piece following the departure of guitarist Sam Bowden. Their set on the Fresh Blood Stage drew a lively crowd who seemed to have a fun time rocking out with the band.

I cut out of watching Blood Youth’s set a little early to make my way to the Key Club Stage to watch pop-punkers As It Is perform to a packed out audience. Throughout their set, charismatic front man Patty Walters had the audience in the palm of his hand clapping along to their songs and singing their lyrics back. There were smiling faces all around for their set, and fans seemed thrilled as Alex Costello from Roam joined them on stage to provide guest vocals during Cheap Shots and Setbacks.

One of the worst clashes of the day came in the tough decision of who to watch at around 5pm; Northlane or Yellowcard. Personally; I struggled to decide, so ended up splitting my time between the two. I started with Northlane on The Atlas Stage and was completely blown away by their energetic performance. I found their set almost hypnotising at times; especially during drummer Nic Pettersen’s scintillating prog and metal grooves. One of the most wonderful things about their music is perhaps how well balanced it is; they have elements of beauty and brutality entwined throughout their songs, which adds to their powerful performance on stage.

Yellowcard provided a hit of nostalgia on the Main Stage as they performed their most popular album, Ocean Avenue, in full. We Are The In Crowd’s Rob Chianelli filled in for them on drums, as a packed out arena sang back the lyrics to front man Ryan Key. Considering that the album was released way back in 2003, the songs didn’t seem to have aged at all, as many in the audience (including myself) were reminded of their teenage years.

Another highlight from the day came from young Australian band With Confidence, who performed on the Fresh Blood Stage. The lads performed a set of catchy, yet original pop-punk and were energetic and enthusiastic throughout their set, which drew yet another lively crowd. Despite the upbeat attitude from the band throughout their set, I did detect a hint of sadness from front man Jayden Seeley as he explained that one of their songs is written about a girl that he fell in love with who moved to England. With their debut album released next month, I look forward to seeing what this year brings for these loveable pop-punks.

Another annoying clash came at around 7pm, when I split my time between the Acoustic Stage for Greywind and the Atlas Stage for Issues; but I was not left disappointed by watching both. I was thrilled to see Greywind perform a dark yet beautiful stripped back acoustic set; which truly showcased why the brother and sister duo are already receiving a lot of attention from both music industry insiders and fans alike. On the other hand, Issues performed an equally enjoyable, but completely different kind of live set. Bouncing around the stage to their own unique mix of funk, pop and metalcore; Issues are by no means a straight forward rock band, and their uniqueness is by far one of the greatest things that stands out about them.

Having already played a set earlier in the day in Exeter; Panic! At The Disco wrapped up the proceedings on the Main Stage, as front man Brendan Urie showed why he is one of the most entertaining men in rock. Suave and sophisticated but with a hint of geekiness; Brendan charmed the audience and kept them enthralled throughout. Although their set mainly comprised of tracks from their previous two albums; some of the biggest cheers for the band came when they played older hits such as I Write Sins Not Tragedies and Time To Dance. Following an impressive cover of Bohemian Rhapsody and an encore, their performance ended with pyrotechnical explosions and confetti cannons. Slam Dunk 2016 came to an end, but there were smiles all around from ecstatic fans all across the festival site.

Photograph by Ian Collins: www.iancollinsphoto.co.uk