Slamdunk Festival 2016: 10 Year Anniversary (Midlands!)

Live music sometimes feels as though you’re coming home. Like a familiar friend that wraps you in the warmest hug, reminding you that you’re safe. You get lost in it for 45 minutes to an hour and a half. You forget what you’re wearing or how you look dancing or whatever has been on your mind all day or all week or all year. In that short time, live music is the break that you sometimes need from life. It’s a lifeline. It’s a necessity.

I rarely review music. Scratch that- none of you have ever read me review music or any sort of festival before. Despite all the money and time and days spent travelling to and from places to see bands play, I never write about any of it. This was myself and Orla’s third Slamdunk trip and I wanted to do a little write up on it simply because it is the absolute highlight of my year sometimes.

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Previously at Slammy D:

2013 was our first venture, attracted by the promise of All Time Low as a headliner (little did I know that, fast-forwarding three years, I would have been to see them no less than 14 times in various parts of the UK/Ireland. You can all judge me, I don’t care) but also by appearances from Sleeping With Sirens and Kids In Glass Houses. While there, we both gained a  new-found appreciation for Deaf Havana and Mallory Knox (and Mallory remain to be one of our favourites today).

We vowed to return in 2014 – and did, too. This time it was far more chilled. All American Rejects were headlining, Mallory Knox made a return as did Kids in Glass Houses, and we got to see We The Kings (cause who didn’t listen to Check Yes Juliet as a kid?!). Before SDFest, we’d seen Mayday Parade do a headliner in Dublin and they had Decade along with them. Decade are a band from Bath on the up-and-up (and currently touring now, I believe) and it was nice to hang out with them for  a bit (Fuck Joe Marriner, though). We also met Tyson Ritter from AAR which was awesome even if he was mean to me as evidenced below. and it was generally an awesome day all round.

 

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cheers, Tyson. (source)

2015 was a bad year all round, and instead of Slamdunk we went to the first-ever publicly ticketed Kerrang! Awards which was cool but not as good as actually getting to see bands play, though we were in the same room as Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson and that would never have happened had we not gone, so there’s that, I guess.

TL;DR: blah blah Slamdunk have you any bands?

This year: 

We missed it last year, and decided at the end of last year that no matter what, we were going again.

Especially as Panic! at the Disco were headlining. The thing about Slamdunk is that it genuinely has something for everyone involved in the alternative music scene. People might think, pfft, they spend all their time on mainstage and don’t give other bands a chance, but

a) I don’t care what you think as long as it’s about me

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Just kidding, I was being cool and quoting a song. Ha. So cool. (&source)

and b) if we could afford, both physically and financially, to do more than one Slamdunk date I think we’d both have loved to have spent a day going around the different stages and seeing new bands. From experience, and not just at festivals, it’s so much fun discovering a band that has had only a few people come see them suddenly gain the traction they deserve and fill up rooms and sell out shows. As it stood, it was one SDF16 date for us and one was enough for my body to be able to handle. Seriously, I’m still aching all over.

On the agenda for this festival was the Mallory Knox signing, as it’s not as though we’ve annoyed those guys before or anything (tip: we have), then legging it over to catch the rest of Young Guns’ set, followed by Mayday Parade, Yellowcard, New Found Glory, Mallory and then Panic! at the Disco. This year it had moved from the usual Wolverhampton Civic Hall venue to little old NEC in Birmingham. So little old that as soon as we got in at about 1.15, we spent 45 minutes there abouts running around trying to figure out where the signing tent was. We had not been given a  map upon entry, and when we asked someone if they knew where it was, it turned out it wasn’t on the map at all! Nothing inside the venue was signposted except for press areas, the green room and dressing rooms, which were probably useful to bands playing there but served absolutely no purpose to the festival-goers. The only reason we even found the signing tent (which was in fact not at all a tent, but a tiny room) was that the Slamdunk Twitter posted a photo of the area which we were able to get a security guard to identify. The queuing system for the signings was a total mess, too, with two queues going absolutely nowhere circling in on themselves like a sweaty, black-clad snail shell made up of alternative kids. Eventually it got sorted and we had a quick chat with the Mallory boys (Mikey remembered us as ‘the Irish girls’ so that was nice) and though we missed more of Young Guns’ set than we would’ve liked, we still made it for some of it and got to at least hear Bones (bones, bones, boh-oooones).

Next up were Mayday Parade, still working off the Black Lines tour setlist that we saw back in Dublin in February. Opening with One of Them Will Destroy the Other, Derek Sanders powered through a ten-song set with unending enthusiasm, despite a lack of shoes – which is apparently a thing, though I only noticed for the first time on Sunday in spite of having seen Mayday twice before. Anyway. Mayday’s set was solid, throwing in oldies such as Three Cheers for Five Years and Black Cat, finishing off as always with Jersey. Mayday don’t get as many props as they deserve for how strong they’ve remained in the 10 or so years they’ve been around, but despite criticism, Black Lines has more than one absolute banger on it and if you haven’t listened to it, go do so. Immediately.

(side note: There must be something about Slamdunk that makes singers want to swing the microphone around in a wild windmill motion. First time I saw it was KIGH in 2013 when a very, very drunk Aled swung the mic and hit himself in the backside. Derek, on the otherhand, did not sustain any injuries.)

Due to the fact we are both getting way too old to be able to handle a full day of standing while sober, we decided at this point to get food and to sit at the back of the room for the duration of Yellowcard. I’d seen Yellowcard a few years ago, but Orla hadn’t. For the special 10 year anniversary celebrations, they were playing Ocean Avenue in full which isn’t my favourite album of theirs but was great to hear live. I say hear because I couldn’t see much from my position on the ground with my head buried in a tray of nachos, but when they talk they sound a HELL of a lot like All Time Low, which only leads me to the conclusion that ATL are their children, and that subsequently those children have stolen almost everything they say on stage and repurposed it as their own. Which is fine, and really damn amusing. The sound was great even from right at the back of the room and I really enjoyed it, particularly Ocean Avenue and One Year Six Months (I even teared up a tiny bit). Some of Yellowcard’s songs are so sweet that it’s hard not to get a bit watery. Plus, they’re still one of the best alternative uses of violin-in-pop-punk that I’ve ever seen (Go Sean Mackin!). They drew a big crowd and even someone who really didn’t rate them would’ve found it hard to not enjoy the set.

 

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Sean Mackin teaching his children how to backflip (source)

Refreshed and full of ridiculously good £5 nachos, it was time to prepare to stand for a ridiculous length of time (I swear this wasn’t an issue three years ago).  Mallory Knox were next and we managed to work our way up to pretty close to the front for their set. Mikey announced that after the Slamdunk run that they’d be heading back into studio for album number three. Asymmetry still feels pretty new to me, though it’d be two years old this year. Which I guess isn’t that old but album cycles are getting shorter and shorter as the years go by, definitely. The Knox boys run a tight ship and have definitely gotten better and better live over the years. The 11-song set was similar – if not the same – as the one we saw in Bristol at the end of 2014 on the Asymmetry tour with a great mix of new and old songs, opening with Shout at the Moon but killing it with Beggars and Death Rattle from their first album, Signals. Frontman Mikey is excellent at commanding the crowd and the set is generally tension-filled, resulting in an atmosphere that was hard not to enjoy with reckless abandon. I always find myself smiling and having a little dance to myself during Mallory sets which I can’t explain but relish in. A super fun band that deserve a LOT more recognition, particularly in Ireland!

 

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definitely not my terrible photo of the stage set up pre-set. Nope. It’s…Shmortney’s photo

 

New Found Glory were up next, and I was flagging so bad. I kinda wished I’d been drinking, but I am also glad I didn’t because I’d have fallen asleep before Panic came on. NFG were on the bucketlist of first-wave punk-rock/pop-punk bands I wanted to see, though I was never massively into them. They had a set full of fan favourites, but the sound wasn’t particularly great. Jordan’s mic was way, waay too bright and brassy in tone. The bass was thrumming through my body in a decidedly unpleasant way (as in, not the nice, ‘I feel at one with the music’ way, but rather my body felt like it was being attacked through vibration and my ears were sad). That, coupled with a sudden influx of the Khaki Shorts Brigade was enough to make me wish the hour-long set away. I was sad to have not enjoyed it but I really, really wanted to go back to our hotel at that point.

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literally every guy at NFG ^ (source)

Then, finally, Panic!. This was my third time seeing Panic! so none of it should have come as a shock to me but, like, Brendon Urie.

There was drumming.

Ridiculous falsetto-singing.

Guitar playing.

Piano playing.

Shirtless backflips.

The fact he got away with wearing a suit jacket and no shirt.

The man is multi-talented and Panic are by far the most entertaining band I’ve ever seen play. Back in 2013 we got into an actual Panic!-caused mosh pit while wearing corsets, and while the Slamdunk crowd were more chilled, it was positively electric. I can’t quite describe what it is that makes Panic! so entertaining, or even appealing to the sort of people who love pop-punk, but the combination of electronic-steampunk/swing jazz-inspired/genreless works of art inspired by a variety of things not least Hunter S. Thompson and Vegas, Death of a Bachelor has proved once again to just work against the odds. Despite the fact that every single one of their albums have been totally different thematically each year, songs from all of the albums fit seamlessly into the set. They’ve shaken up the line-up over the years, with just Brendon remaining as an original member, but don’t think for a second that they can’t put on a show because they god damn can. It’s hard to imagine that I Write Sins, a song I listened to on repeat as a 14 year old, has been the reason the band has become as popular as it is today. A song Urie can’t believe has caused that either, because nobody hates I Write Sins as much as he does. They went out with a bang with a cover of Bohemian Rhapsody followed by This is Gospel and Emperor’s New Clothes and that was it. High-energy performance that ended on an absolute high which built and built over the whirlwind set. I forgot about how much pain I was in until that final note. And then that was that. It was over again for another year.

 

I can’t finish this rambling review/recap without mentioning all the wonderful people I got to hang out with this weekend, no matter how briefly – rolecall including: Rayne, Cíara, Ellen and Sarah who were all of previous Twitter acquaintance (except for Rayne who is our tiny princess child).

Is Slamdunk worth it? You’re god damn right it is.

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Grabbed the postcard when chatting to Mallory. The confetti got tangled in my hair at the end of Panic!s set…
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Got a post-Slamdunk selfie with Cíara! (source)

 

 

 

** insert the photos I should’ve taken with Ellen Sarah and Rayne**

 

 

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we bein’ silly/kinda hopeful or something
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me being a pre-show 80’s femme-rock hair icon (source)

Why didn’t I take more photos?

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