Review by Debbie Gough
As the hoard of Midlanders congregate in a somewhat orderly-fashioned queue across Birmingham’s Genting Arena, the sun beats down on the side fringed youths of Slam Dunk Festival while the 10th anniversary celebration kicks off to a surprisingly warm start. First to take to The Key Stage are Trash Boat, a band delivering potentially the most pitting action I have seen on an early Bank Holiday Sunday afternoon, proving themselves as totally worthy of opening up this section of the festival. After hearing their name a lot within the local scene, it would seem as though their success is quickly rising judging by the amount of kids wearing Thrasher shirts having a cheeky crowdsurf. While their sound conforms to every characteristic of pop punk, their show is definitely worth watching.
Over at the Main Stage, Young Guns follow Moose Blood’s seemingly popular set. Despite the fact that the band have been going for a considerable amount of time in comparison to the younger bands at the festival, it would appear as though only half the crowd are with them through songs such as ‘Bulletproof’ and ‘Daylight’, which is a shame since the lads are so obviously committed to touring. However, with that being said, just as I feel as though I may have to peel the girl next to me off my shoulder as she goes for a quick snooze, the single ‘Bones’ suddenly reminds the audience that they are infact at a rock show and restores the energy within the room. All ends well.
Making plans to send the Impericon Stage into a black hole of oblivion are arguably one of the heaviest bands on the lineup, Heart of a Coward. Returning to play some more UK shows after their run with Trivium, the band have collected enough fans to transform the empty hall into a jungle of crowd surfers, two steppers and circle pits that begin to show resemblances of exotic tornados. Struggling to see what’s going on through the flying limbs, the likes of ‘Hollow’, ‘Nightmare’ and ‘Deadweight’ undoubtedly cement just how brutal this band are while frontman, Jamie Graham, seems to have the crowd in the palm of his hand. At a festival with such a heavy reliance on the popularity of pop punk bands, it’s a welcomed breath of fresh air to see hardcore acts being so well received.
Heading back to the Main Stage to see Mallory Knox, it’s obvious that the band are going to have a gig to remember while seemingly everyone is packed into the arena amongst the fog of sweat. Opening with ‘Shout at the Moon’ and continuing with songs such as ‘Dying to Survive’ and ‘Getaway’, the pulse of energy is infectious amongst the Midlanders. One of the most pleasurable aspects of Mallory Knox’s show is the fact that it’s so evidently very sincere as frontman, Mikey Chapman, fails to deliver even one wrong note throughout their set. Judging from the reaction the band receive today, the future for Mallory Knox is incredibly exciting.
Canadian punk lords Cancer Bats pick up straight back up from where they left off in 2013, with a cover from Birmingham’s very own Black Sabbath. Ripping into ‘Hail Destroyer’ and ‘Lucifer’s Rocking Chair’, there’s not a single body in the room which isn’t moving in some way, shape or form. On stage, the guys seem to be at ease while they take a moment to reflect on their achievements in the past 10 years, creating a familial atmosphere only adding to the intimacy of a Bats show. Just as security are at their wits end with teenagers soaring over the barrier, ‘Beezlebub’ strangely offers a sing-song while the crowd are able to take a breath. Except for the absence of ‘Sorceress’, the band leave the stage once again having conquered the festival. As Slam Dunk 2016 comes to an end, there does not appear to be a single individual not caked in either sweat or beer or both. Since the transition from Wolverhampton to Birmingham has made the event more accessible, the sheer number of people demonstrates how rock and roll most definitely is not ‘dead’. Here’s to the next 10 years.