The third and final instalment of this year’s Slam Dunk festival took place once again at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre – and regardless of the beverages and food selection still remaining its extortionate price and the site layout proving even more ridiculous to reach certain stages on time than previous years – the bands remained determined in their ambition to take home another successful festival appearance.
The Rocksound Breakout Stage had already opened with competition winners As December Falls but the next rock group had quickly brought the area to overflow (unfortunately leaving a large portion more of their fan base to watch idly from inside the main building itself). Dream State have been progressively climbing the ranks in the rock world with larger shows and even larger songs announced through the last two years and Slam Dunk Midlands was immeasurably kind to them. Keeping well clear of any doubts regarding their stage charisma, the Welsh band stomped the stage as they laid down some big, catchy tracks as singer Charlotte Jayne, who had grown in confidence over countless performances with her vocal control has noticeably improved, paraded the stage and made her way to the barrier to meet their audience for “Rebuild, Recreate”. “New Waves”, new single “In This Hell” and fan favourite “White Lies” also made appearances as the band emphasised exactly how far they are gearing up to go in the industry.
The official reformation of The Audition was a mammoth-sized exclusive announcement for the three day event to pull out of their hat in the middle of line-up discussion which turned out to be the cherry on top of this proverbial cake. Not performing since 2012 as a group, the Chicago pop punk titans opened the Monster Energy main stage with that all too familiar guitar echo effect of “Approach The Bench”. Frontman Danny Stevens danced around the stage with a natural rhythm like certain movements were choreographed routines with the rest of the band ripping up the hypothetical cement holding them in place and following the beat of their intensely catchy tracks with a passionate vigour. Two of their most popular albums ‘Controversy Loves Company’ and ‘Champion’ were delved into with their crowd loving every second of “Warm Me Up” and “Hell To Sell” while finding new life when “Dance Halls Turn To Ghost Towns” burst through the amplifiers. Exiting on “You’ve Made Us Conscious” and “Don’t Be So Hard”, they teased the concept of coming back to the UK soon with a tour that was received with a large multitude of screams and arms flung into the air in anticipation of their possible return.
Singer Lucas Woodland, Bassist James Joseph and drummer Ashley Green have never been considered slouches with the Holding Absence presence they muster for their live performances, throwing limbs out left and right as Ashley smashes cymbals and beats drum skins alongside the focused demeanour of their talented stand-in guitarists for their current post/melodic-hardcore project together. There was an atmosphere that pulsated heavily in the open air as certain tracks such as “Penance”, “Saint Cecilia” and “Dream Of Me” in particular grasped the most attention with Lucas’s endless vocal range blanketing the area in awe as the boys skilfully plucked away at fourteen strings with an impressive selection of drum fills to round up the performance.
Stepping away from the distorted thunder of high voltage riffs and deafening drumstick crashes, the uninterrupted intimacy of the Key Club Acoustic stage and immanency of Luke Rainsford’s show was very inviting. Opening on a fan favourite, the opening honest lyrics of “Home Safe” came ringing in which had members of the public shouting out lines with big smiles. An artist who has always sung/played directly from the heart, Luke proved charismatic in interludes with songs like “Looking For Your Ghost” and “Nightmares” proving quite memorable.
An enormous throng of pop punk enthusiasts filled the Jagermeister stage arena before the New York heavy hitters State Champs fired up “All You Are Is History” with a flurry of flying drinks and wild limbs being flung above heads as frontman Derek DiScanio and his colleagues bounced around the vast stage, in key and endlessly entertaining. As well as an a-class performance, Guitarists/bassists Tyler Szalkowski and Ryan Graham supplied stellar backing vocals to accompany Derek with Evan Ambrosio smashing drum skins up on the elevated platform. With “Dead And Gone” and “Easy Enough” burning through any doubts about the bands consistency through their set, ending on “Secrets” and leaving many satisfied customers to enjoy the rest of the day.
The punk rock lord and his rattlesnakes appeared from the shadows with a multitude of welcoming screams before firing into the ferocity of “Juggernaut”. It is laughable to consider Frank Carter a shy act and within a number of minutes he was out amongst the fans, executing his headstands over the shoulders of his audience and opening up an enormous circle pit in his thick leopard-skin coat before crashing into “Jackals”. Playing a selection of numbers between their two albums ‘Blossom’ and ‘Modern Ruin’, the audience kept lapping up every venomous guitar lick Dean Richardson and the rattlesnakes had for them with rock and rhythm infused songs like “God Is My Friend”, “Snake Eyes” and “Devil Inside Me”.
The Jagermeister stage’s space was filled very quickly by the majority of Slam Dunk’s attendees, eagerly waiting for the pop rock legends known as Good Charlotte to walk out and impress. The show went off to a rollicking good start with the famous party starter “The Anthem” and “Girls & Boys” awakening the mass amount of stage production lying in wait for the headliners that immediately swept the audience off their feet and back into 2002. CO2 jets launched clouds of smoke high into the arena as “Keep Your Hand Off My Girl” and “The River” played through with Benji and Joel Madden holding the helm well and continued communicating with the hundreds of followers gathered in front of them with heartfelt messages that spoke of life and love. Although the interludes stretched out considerably, thus slowing down the momentum built up by previous tracks, the moment they leap back into their huge catalogue was the moment the atmosphere ramped back up to the rooftops. Concluding the evening on “Lifestyles Of The Rich & The Famous”, they had the entire hall go down on their knees before leaping up into the air with the end chorus ramping up to end another very successful Slam Dunk Festival.