Thousands flock to NEC for final leg of annual Slam Dunk festival
Thousands of punk, rock and metal fans from across the region descended on the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham on Monday for the final day of this year's Slam Dunk Festival.
The travelling multi-stage festival takes place in three locations across the country, with Birmingham the last leg following stops in Leeds and Hatfield.
This year was headlined by pop punk stalwarts Good Charlotte and emo rock legends Jimmy Eat World, with a stellar supporting line up featuring a plethora of alternative genres.
GC headlined the venue’s Genting Arena with Jimmy playing in one of the exhibition centre’s cavernous conference halls - with dozens of other bands performing on a total of eight indoor and outdoor stages dotted around the site.
With so many acts all baying for attention, even a small army of reporters and photographers would find it challenging to check out everything Slam Dunk has to offer.
With that in mind, what follows are some of the highlights from the Midlands leg as we dashed around the site, trying to take in as much as possible.
While the aforementioned headliners battled it out for domination as Slam Dunk came to a close (FYI – Jimmy were better), one of the standout sets of the day was, unsurprisingly, courtesy of Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes.
Playing on the Jagermeister stage, Carter is a seasoned pro at commanding sprawling audiences, yet this was his first time playing Slam Dunk.
Swaggering onto main stage with all of the bravado of MMA’s most notorious and wearing an oversized leopard print jacket, barely one song went by before Carter was being held aloft in the crowd enjoying the controlled chaos around him.
During a set comprised of tracks from his band’s two albums, highlights included Wild Flowers which saw a sea of female fans crowd surfing their way to the front and Paradise, dedicated to fans who lost their lives during terrorist attacks during gigs in Paris and Manchester.
Amid all this, there was till time for a circle pit around the mixing desk which Carter, jacket in tow, walked out into the middle of the arena to organise.
Arizona’s Jimmy Eat World have been in the game long enough to know exactly how to pull off a headline show.
With street lights flanking the band either side of the Monster Energy stage, their 19 songs set dipped into almost their entire back catalogue of LP, opening with the iconic Bleed American.
Fronted by Jim Adkins, who barely seems to have aged in 20 years, highlights of Jimmy’s set included Big Casino, Lucky Denver Mint and the emotive 23, while pop masterpiece The Middle brought their set to a blistering close.
It was fellow emo rockers Taking Back Sunday who preceded Jimmy, sounding a bit rougher around the edges compared to the headliners.
Fans lapped up some of genres best known hits including Cute Without The ‘E’ and MakeDamnSure with singer Adam Lazzara seeming more comfortable and commanding of the stage as the band’s set progressed.
Over on the main stage Good Charlotte had little trouble convincing their faithful fans that 18 years since their debut, they could still deliver.
Amid flames, blasts of CO2, shout outs to fellow bands and discussions about how old their fans were in the year 2000, the Madden brothers led Good Charlotte on a similar romp through their biggest hits, ending with the pop-tinged I Just Wanna Live and their breakthrough hit, Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous.
Further proving it’s far more than a pop-punk behemoth, PVRIS, Creeper and Sleeping With Sirens were other highlights of the day – all offering a slightly different take on the alternative blueprint.
Massachusetts’ PVRIS brought a more electro synth feeling to the main stage – mixing moody lighting, a stage flooded with smoke and singer Lynn Gunn effortlessly shifting between guitar, drums and synth.
Southampton’s Creeper, current carriers of the ‘goth-punk’ baton, put in a sterling set, opening with the anthemic Black Rain and continuing with a set of suitably dark melodic punk, while Florida’s Sleeping With Sirens brought a more post-hardcore flavour to proceedings.
Despite being somewhat hampered by the need for a trek along an adjoining walkway, both Twin Atlantic and Moose Blood put in admirable efforts on the Monster Energy stage with solid sets of rock as the fight for mid-afternoon attention pulled fans between stages.
Albany’s State Champs provided Slam Dunk set of unadulterated pop-punk which went down a blast while elsewhere, Cardiff’s Astroid Boys brought a mixture of grime and hardcore to the Impericon stage, with singer Benjamin Kendall battling through the wear and tear on his voice caused by the previous two Slam Dunk gigs.
Early on in the day, Brutality Will Prevail played a ferocious set of hardcore on the same stage with singer Louis Gauthier crowd surfing his way around the venue.
With so much on offer at Slam Dunk, honourable mentions must go to Dream State and The Faim on the Rock Sound Breakout Stage and ska heroes Reel Big Fish and Goldfinger for keeping Slam Dunk’s ska side alive.
While a certain bigger outdoor rock festival is on the horizon in the East Midlands, Slam Dunk has established itself as arguably the best multisite festival for fans of punk and alternative in the UK with 2018 only cementing this reputation.