Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Slam Dunk Festival 2010 - Leeds

First of all it has to be said just how big this event has become 8 stages each with 6 or 7 bands playing on each throughout the day, Leeds University acting as the beehive to contain it all. The lineup itself was largely made up of pop punk bands with additional stages catering for fans of other punk offshoots such as ska and hardcore. Similar bands were grouped together on each of the stages meaning no running from one stage to another which is always good. The day started with a long wait to get wristbands which though annoying was understandable with a couple of thousand eager kids waiting to get in. Aside from that everything seemed to run smoothly, in all a really well organised event with no time delays on any of the stages. General thumbs up then and for 30 quid a ticket it was an absolute bargain. The bands then...

All or Nothing kicked off precedings just before 4pm on the Relentless energy drink stage (my chosen route through the day involved just 2 of the 8 stages), they play a brand of mature pop punk in the same vein as The Wonder Years and a couple of the other bands that would follow, lots of catchy hooks and layered vocals with hardcore punk influenced chants scattered throughout. A really assured performance follows from the Birmingham lads opening up with ‘I’m not being rude but I could have had your job’ from their split ep with The Wonder Years. They really seem much more animated when they have an energetic crowd and credit should be given to today’s audience chants being fired back and forth. Another highlight from the set was ‘One night, five stops, five hits and a getaway’ from their ‘is pretty hot right now’ ep the whole room chanting “I know what you said. I knew when you said it” was pretty uplifting and set the tone for the rest of the day.

Next up This Time Next Year, now I have to admit I’m not completely convinced by these guys based on releases alone. They again play the new era pop punk sound like All or Nothing though with a touch of trademark SoCal summer pop punk the likes of late 90’s blink 182. The band being named after The Movielife’s debut shows they are not afraid to broadcast their influences. After releasing a pretty solid ep ‘A Place for You’ in 07 they were snapped up by Equal Vision Records (Saves the Day, Coheed and Cambria) and released ‘Road Maps and Heart Attacks’ which unfortunately is slightly less memorable. Live though they were very good, the sound guy had a bit of a mare so we had 2 tracks mid set while he had disappeared that only consisted of bass. Luckily that did little to dampen the energy of the Californians, A solid set which blasted through the majority of road maps. Album opener ‘Rise and Fall Curtain Call’ being a particular highlight. I think I’ll be giving ‘road maps and heart attacks’ a second chance having seen the live show.

The next band up was The Wonder Years. If you’re unfamiliar with them they have really struck a chord (no pun intended) with pop punk fans new and old. Their ‘realist’ pop punk tells stories of friends and growing up and that it’s basically not all it’s cracked up to be, I mean who can’t relate to that. With 2 full length releases under their belt ‘The Upsides’ and ‘Get stoked on it’ and a handful of split ep’s this relatively young band have plenty to pick from when sorting out the setlist. The room is absolutely rammed with people by this point and there’s a real sense that this band are something pretty special, in fact I would go as far as saying I can see them headlining this event next year. I can’t even remember what order they played their songs in I was so excited to finally see them (missed them on the hostels and brothels UK tour with all or nothing last year) but there was something for everyone and every word was being sung by every member of the crowd, a sea of raised hands for every chant. ‘Keystone state dudecore’, ‘Logan Circle’ and ‘You’re Not Salinger, Get Over It’ as examples were pretty much chanted word for word almost drowning out Dan Campbell’s vocals. As expected their ode to Leeds ‘Hostels and Brothels’ was met with rapturous applause. Just when things couldn’t get any better the finale of ‘All my friends are in bar bands’ saw members of This Time Next Year, All or Nothing and Fireworks join the stage and sing the refrain “I’m not sad anymore, I’m just tired of this place, if this year would just end I think we’d all be ok”. This was a very special set and if there is any justice in the world The Wonder Years deserve to be huge. Crime in Stereo followed the Wonder Years and though I’m sure it was a good set it will have been a very hard act to follow and I had to make a move to catch Set Your Goals over at the main Stage.

By now it was about 7pm and I really should have thought ‘Instead of buying another drink I should go get something to eat’. I didn’t do that so the following sets on the main stage by Set Your Goals, Four Year Strong and New Found Glory are somewhat blurred. Set Your Goals play a mix of pop punk and hardcore punk taking the youth crew type ethos of having the crowd very much involved. Dual vocals add to the bands dynamic alternating between singing and chanting. Set Your Goals have always been good live but they do tend to turn up the vocals and let the crowd do a lot of the work, great if you are in the thick of the crowd but not so great standing at the back of such a big venue. The 40 min set allows them to work through the majority of both full length albums ‘Mutiny!’ and ‘This will be the death of us’ usual track choices ‘the fallen’ and ‘mutiny!’ are on show and the crowd near the front was bouncing throughout. You have to hand it to them they really know how to deal with the bigger and bigger crowds they are getting.

With airplay on Radio 1 Four Year Strong are really going places. Their latest album ‘Enemy of the world’ was released earlier in the year and they have since been featured prominently in the rock music press. Their mixing of straight up pop layered vocals and almost metalcore style guitar breakdowns is really turning heads and is a relatively unique take on the pop punk genre. Along with the Wonder Years, Four Year Strong was one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing but I can honestly not remember much of their set. (Bearing in mind it was about 5 hours into the festival at this point and I’d made the move from lager to cider. Slapped wrist for me sorry Deano)

Headliners New Found Glory must be enjoying the renewed popularity of pop punk and it’s been the perfect time for them to revert back to their earlier sound. I’m a big fan of their earlier albums so when they announced they were re-releasing their self titled major label debut as a 10 year anniversary edition and touring it you can imagine I was quite excited. True to their word some classic New Found Glory songs were on show ‘Better off dead’, ‘Hit or miss’ and ‘Dressed to kill’ all met with high energy from the crowd. They also played tracks from ‘Sticks and Stones’, ‘Catalyst’ and their latest release ‘Not without a fight’ and I’m sure a cover or two were thrown in from their ‘From the Screen to Your Stereo’ releases. New Found Glory were great and can probably be credited with starting the cross over of hardcore punk and pop punk way back when. Tonight showed they have no intention of passing the crown over to the younger generation of pop punk bands. That being said at the end of a long day, an hour and 20min set was perhaps a little long (for me anyway) but there was no doubt they have the material to fill it.

So that’s your lot a great day only slightly let down by a couple of bands clashing, and a small fall over I had outside when leaving. All in all New Found Glory are still at the top of their game and expect to hear much more from The Wonder Years.

Pop punk is ace

Martin Bott

No comments:

Post a Comment