What I love about Slam Dunk is that it’s a great opportunity to catch some bands you’ve never seen before if you have some down time, and The Breakout Stage provided exactly that. Grayscale I knew slightly but ended up catching the entire set out of chance, and what a decision that was. Mixing together the better melodies of an “Easycore” sound with the energy of a good pop punk show. Perhaps I was maybe expecting the more ‘poppy’ side of pop punk but they put together a solid show. Similarly, Sleep On It who are a relatively new band, put on a professional and tight rock show that was on the pop side of the spectrum but managed to keep an energy throughout. Lead vocalist Zech Pluister has a strong range that reminds of Mayday Parade’s first album that brings together some pretty damn catchy choruses, strongly recommended keeping your eye on these guys in the future.
Special mention to Creeper, one of the best live bands on the circuit, who just seem to have that “it” factor that pulls them apart from most touring bands. Somewhere between a gimmick stage show, a solid set of punk rock songs, stage presence, sing alongs and a whole lot of making you want to be a goth again, lies the formula to becoming a headline band any day now. I’ve been searching my brain to understand Creeper, how I enjoy their music, how they seem to have a gimmick that doesn’t come across as cheesy or try hard, how at any of their shows the cardinal gig rule of “never wear merch of the band” does NOT apply…and all I can come up with is that they’re insanely brilliant. If they aren’t headlining a stage at Slam Dunk within five years I’ll eat this article.
Before we move on I’d like to address something I require an answer to. At some point Pete Wentz got on stage during the Grayscale set and the crowd went crazy. I almost lost my shit too, however, to my absolute astonishment, it wasn’t Pete Wentz. I was told it was Patty Walters from As It Is. I’m not sure if he’s preparing to play the role of Gerard Way in a My Chemical Romance movie (which I’d be completely down for) but can someone explain this transformation to me or is this just a new look, because he’s far too young for his 2006 emo mid-life crisis.
The weekend was packed in with great bands, and although we couldn’t catch them all there were enough to make this a great time for any pop punk fan. Four Year Strong always know how to play a great live show, and although on a bigger stage than they were maybe used to, managed to carry it off effortlessly and had the crowd singing back nearly every word. They also treated fans to an acoustic set which was refreshing to see it all stripped back and change the pace of the festival for a while. Knuckle Puck too but on a decent performance, however they may have suffered being on first on a main stage as perhaps their sound is quite there yet. On the flip side, State Champs have honed their craft, and although finding their sound to be more ‘radio friendly’, have mastered the bigger stages and still keep the crowd hooked with their infectious brand of pop punk.
Three years ago I interviewed Trash Boat just as they were signed to Hopeless Records, around the time UK Pop Punk was really hitting critical mass. They had a few good songs but nothing really set them apart from say Roam or Neck Deep. Fast forward to Slam Dunk 2018 and these boys have really come together as a band, put a solid set together and although not setting the world on fire with their music have proven they have the fortitude for longevity. Finally, Can’t Swim managed to impress me by at one point turning a car park into a kung fu tournament with kids high kicking the heck out of the mosh pit. I’m not sure if lead vocalist Chris LoPorto prepares his voice by smoking gravel through Marlborough Reds, but it pays it’s dues with a hard hitting, melodic journey that got me worn out before 3pm.
The three days over Slam Dunk Weekend are long, tiring and bad for the liver but one of the best times we have all year. We love to hear about your Slam Dunk experiences, who you saw, who you did or didn’t like, and if people really did see a UFO in Hatfield. We’ve got more exciting content coming your way soon, so we’ll keep those blues at bay for a little while longer.