Gig Review by Kirsty Hillyer with Gig Photos by Lee Allen

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Us lucky Gig Junkies got to go along to this year’s Slamdunk Festival 2015 at Wolves Civic.  Every year the question of stage location raises it’s head. This year they realised  a riser under the marquee wasn’t gonna cut it when it became the Impericon Stage of Hardcore. And so a new outdoor stage was birthed outside the Wulfrun and thus the joy of crowded corridors within the Civic was born for the crowds.

First up on the festival openers to see is Shypes. With a name change from Cytota, opening a stage is a tall order and one they live up to. Garnering our ‘Best Band of the Day’ award, these guys have grown immensely since we saw them support Crossfaith, Along with the name change they have returned to brutality with an edge of vitriol to Griffin’s voice. They deserved a bigger crowd but that is the curse of an opener at this festival, as the kids are still queuing for entry. These guys may still hit the top of my watch list.

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With stage times going to pot on the Kerrang! Fresh Blood stage we inadvertently caught Trash Boat, who over-ran by 15 minutes. Being awarded this opening slot through an open vote competition there was a strong sing-a-long contingent in the room. With a lot of bluster and song-meaning decryption between songs, this Brit band want so hard to be American. Cliched and average but when you give the kids a confined space the Kung Fu pit masters were more brutal for these guys than Shypes.

Wind in Sales was the act we came to check out, but to follow up pop-punk with an unknown solo acoustic affair, from former Vanna member Evan Pharmakis, was a big ask. The room emptied post Trash Boat leaving a crowd of 20. With vocals akin to Dallas Green with a dash of Jim Adkins he recognised he was just a “little fish.” Worth checking out if you’re fans of The Wild Life, City and Colour; not to mention awesome merch.

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We sadly only caught the end of Being as an Ocean a melodic hardcore-offering from California. What we heard pricked our ears and is on our must not miss next time list.

Beartooth were the band Lee (photographer) wanted to see today, at the Monster Stage. This metalcore outfit from Ohio have had their videos doing the rounds, drawing a decent fan base in the crowd. Dedicating their opener ‘Relapsing’ to Being the Ocean, it is a crowd pleasing sing-a-long. As they school the crowd in the counting in of ‘Dead’ and the pre-requisite moment requirements they also dedicated it to Don Broco standing in the wings. At this point I ruled myself out of the Beartooth fanclub. Yes, they know deliver live and singer Caleb Shomo flings himself about with gusto and energy but when he tells me Don Broco “have the best set at Slam Dunk” then I can no longer trust his judgement. With Si from Don Broco “ripping it up” so that Beartooth could tree climb and crowd surf, the crowd were eating them up.

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After the bromance fest it was time to return to Kerrang!’s sweat box at the Main Bar for Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties. Aaron of the Wonder Years has delivered a solo record with more depth than this main band. Sadly the crowd was filled with Wonder Years fans with little to no Roaring Twenties frame of reference. The room was awash with people awaiting an acoustic Wonder Years track or were busy chattering, making it difficult to hear the set. The room was at least full to bursting. The power of having a successful band to capitalise on.

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In an attempt to lighten the mood we dropped in at Big D and the Kids Table. One of the hardest working ska punk bands on the circuit, I can’t help but smile whenever I see their touring and are still at it. With the challenge laid down of “you Better prove your f****g selves this is the last Slam Dunk show” the crowd obliged and duly turned out to skank.

We had a band drought due to our line up picks clashing later on the day and so decided to pop our SD mainstage cherry for We Are The Ocean. The UK answer to Gaslight was a sway fest of main stream rock, delivered very slickly by these Scottish lads. The main room continues to be for all the clean cut, cookie cutter radio friendly kids and reminded me why I typically avoid it.

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Stoner hardcore offering Deez Nuts provided the standard chest beating, mic chord wrapping with a dirty edge.  I couldn’t help but want to see each band try and outdo the last in the Hardcore 101 moves on the Impericon Stage. If only I’d bought score cards.

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DEEZ NUTS (2 of 3)

As the UK punk and emo Facebook groups are ways awash with kids selling their Neck Deep wares we wanted to see if it was because the love affair had ended. Surprised by the slot Neck Deep have grabbed on the main stage, the over capacity moving masse we witnessed soon answered the question of why. The heat hit you like a wall as you walked in. The sweat and condensation was hanging in the air. Whilst you can’t deny the love for these guys they sounded atrocious and mediocre but at least with very British vocals. Ben Barlow, lead singer, has the stage prowess of The Simpsons’ Mr Burns and they seem a little out of their depth for this platform yet. More spit and polish is needed before you could convince me to buy into their well branded pop culture merch machine.

Mariachi El Bronx is my preferred way to take the Bronx. You can’t help but smile at the sight of the suits and the musical seduction of Matt’s vocals. Impressed by the turn out I wanted everyone to pair up and salsa round the room – a few girls even did. They were infectious and a much needed respite from all the hardcore. Yes Matt, you were right, Wolves was a bunch of ‘lucky bastards’ at that moment and it certainly surprised me that they were my festival feel good winners.

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After being romanced by Mariachi El Bronx we witnessed the most brutal pit for Stick to your Guns as a kid kerb stomped his head into pavement only to collapse to the floor again. This was all quickly followed up by a girl leaving the Civic doors in a neckbrace.

Having a soft spot for Lower than Atlantis I figured today was the day to finally see them live.  After the writhing masse of Neck Deep it was hard to see how any band was going to follow it up. Slick but safe, lead singer Mike Duce cupped his hand to his ear to encourage the screams of this underwhelmed crowd. Perfectly harmful ear fodder but nothing to write home about.

Bane brought hobo hardcore, Big Foot and the Hendersons style. Lead singer, Aaron Bedard has the most expressive face and split kicking moves so extreme that he loses his hat and picks it up without losing a beat. A band you owe it to yourself to see if you’re a hardcore fan.

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Crossfaith never fail to deliver, as a festival slot they know how to open up the place by going straight into ‘Monolith’. With a break from their standard uniform I was disappointed not to see keyboardist Terufumi  sporting his Akira red leather jacket. Lead singer Kenta performs like a hunting tiger before leaning forwards into the crowd with a still grace and poise. How these guys aren’t playing bigger headline slots baffles me.

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I first saw This Wild Life support Alcoa early last year before the debut album dropped and they became a member of the Kerrang! Fresh Blood list. After the poor showing for Wind in Sails I wasn’t expecting a rammed room with a sing-a-long posse akin to a Dashboard Confessional show. Whilst I’ve listened to the album and enjoyed it, it wasn’t till I saw them live again that I remembered why I haven’t committed to falling in love with this band, when I should do on paper. They are just way too twee-emo for me. Maybe when they can sing with some conviction to match the lyrics I’ll get on board.

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this wild life (2 of 3)

Finch had the luck of the draw in not really clashing too badly and so captured the most of my time over any other band. Nostalgia led me to see these guys again and my fears of a lack lustre, cynical quality to their performance came true. Singer Nate hid under his hood for most of the set and the once comedic and sociable lead guitarist Randy is quiet and withdrawn. This left only the awkward ramblings of Nate between drawn out re-tuning between songs. Playing a mix from their first EP through to the new album it was of course the EP and debut album tracks everyone (including me) were waiting to hear and the ones the band want to leave behind.

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Taking Back Sunday opened with ‘Flicker’ but Adam’s vocal and mic swinging felt like he was operating at only 60% as John Nolan on harmonies outshone him every time. Following up with ‘Liar’ and an all round solid festival set TBS know how to put on a show.

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Gallows 3.0 was something I was excited to see. Having not seen them since Frank Carter left I was a fan of the first and self titled release with Alexisonfire singer Wade at the helm. Now with the loss of Steph Carter I wanted to feel how much of a departure from the Carters this version would be. Wade strides on stage declaring their from Watford before heading straight into the kung fu pit to parade around with someone dressed as Mario. This version of Gallows has a more Oi! Oi! rock n roll undercurrent to its hardcore and will certainly stamp its own ground.

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Such Gold and Bayside are two bands I caught snippets of on the Macbeth stage. Whilst these are both bands I’d see or have seen on their own headline tours, they are bands I’m guilty of underrating. I always forget how Anthony Raneri of Bayside has a drawl that lures me in. Such Gold impressed me with a technicality I hadn’t observed when listening to them on record before. This, here, is my apology for not paying more attention before and not seeing more than 2 songs by each of you at Slam Dunk. I may have enjoyed the day more if I had. That, and actually being able to have a voice to sing-a-long myself.

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suck gold (3 of 6)

Slam Dunk is always an awesome one dayer. Sadly Wolverhampton as the last date tends to suffer from the bands fighting the day after the night before. I have a lot of love for this festival and feel for the line up scheduling nightmares. Sadly though, as I overheard conversations throughout the day, it felt like a day of clashes for most people at different time slots and the Kerrang stage needed a bigger capacity. Fingers crossed for another successful year in 2016 a big well done for a smooth running affair.

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Lots more pictures to view on our Flickr page Slam Dunk 2015

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