Slam Dunk South 2013 Review
Pierce The Veil, Sleeping With Sirens, The Wonder Years and many more descend on the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield for a B-I-G day of music.
It's Slam Dunk Sunday, the sun's out and The American Scene are lumbered with the difficult task of getting things moving over at the Macbeth stage. Luckily for them, a rush of fans heading there way means they're treated to a surprisingly decent turnout for the relative indie rock newcomers. Ploughing through a decent chunk of their new album 'Safe For Now', their slacker rock charm has surely won them over a few new fans this afternoon. [AR]
Back over at the Vans Off The Wall stage, the Gnarwolves crew are out in force and the room is heaving before the band have even showed their faces (and there are a fair few premature crowd surfers making their way stagewards, too). When they do bowl out looking like three rascals who've just popped out of the pub for a jam between pints, the Brighton trio make light work of rousing all the punks in the room into a slam dancing, fists-aloft frenzy. Dodgy Green Day cover aside (we can allow Slayer, but fucking with 'Basket Case' is total no-no), today only further cements this lost as the hottest new UK punk band around. Haters, get used to this. The Gnarwolves takeover is only just beginning. [AR]
The thing about Transit is that they're just...lovely. Their slow, rich melodic are rendered gorgeously, with 'Listen And Forgive' taking a thoughtful but still powerful trip through '90s alt-rock (segueing perfectly into a couple of verses of Goo Goo Dolls), and 'Don't Go, Don't Stray' taking on a more Jimmy Eat World thickness. And in 'Nothing Lasts Forever' they have something approaching a genuine anthem that comes across as heartfelt rather than earnest - therein lies their skill. [BP]
The Story So Far may have played two London shows in the last month, but by the they hit the Vans stage, the Slam Dunk crowd is clearly still hungry for them. So much so in fact, that frontman Parker Cannon barely needs to be here; the crowd singsongs to 'Stifled' and 'Right Here' are that loud. We'll be honest, we love The Story So Far, but seeing them in a packed room this big, with every hand in the air and every voice straining, is both staggering and unexpected. [AR]
Pierce The Veil have been blessed by the sunshine this afternoon, and although they battle with some classic outdoor stage sound issues for the first couple of songs (the impact of the first epic drop in 'Hell Above' is totally lost as a result), they have no problem justifying their slot here on the main stage by the time it's all over. Closing on 'King For A Day', complete with a guest appearance from Vic's good friend Kellin Quinn, Pierce The Veil depart in an explosion of confetti and the look of a band satisfied with what they've delivered. Your turn now, Kellin...
Though many dismissed them as a joke (or simply incompetent) at first, Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! are carving out a sizeable niche for themselves. With a stronger second record under their belts these hyperactive Parisians now pack tunes to match the easycore-gone-rabid shtick, though the Ke$ha covers are apparently here to stay too. Their set is a sheer chaos from beginning to end, and those who’re lucky enough to cram themselves in – there’s an enormous queue outside, and plenty give up trying – witness a performance of hefty, if still somewhat incoherent power. Ultimately they provide plenty of big, dumb fun, and therefore they’re perfect for a sun-bleached fest such as this. [RS]
Over at the Monster stage, The Word Alive are left to struggle with the ‘Sleeping With Sirens effect’: i.e. almost everyone’s fucked off to the mainstage. Despite a somewhat modest crowd the Arizona metalcore titans launch into an incredibly intense, percussive assault, making up for what they lack in nuance with sheer, blunt force. The odd dodgy moment aside this is impressive stuff, ‘Life Cycles’ providing a surprisingly affective finale, and the folks who did turn out left grinning like idiots right up to the end. They might have hoped for something a little more momentous, but there’s always next time: and given their love affair with the UK, they won’t be gone for long. [RS]
This is what stepping up looks like. Sleeping With Sirens are riding high on a crest of goodwill thanks to the craziness that is their UK tour, so they could have just say back and enjoyed a sun-baked Slam Dunk South as a victory lap. But this set borders on the ferocious - 'Do It Now, Remember It Later' and 'If You Can't Hang' are positively thunderous, and frontman Kellin Quinn rides the adrenaline in the form of a quite dramatic performance. The stripped-back interlude is a bold move that pays off massively, and very thing about this show screams Brixton-ready. Sleeping With Sirens are about to become the biggest of deals, and on this evidence they're going to earn it night by night. [BP]
Kids In Glass Houses are coming out fighting. They look hungrier than we can remember for a while, and there's a bite to their set that has certainly been missed. But if they're a touch rusty after so long away, no one here gives that much of a shit. Dudes have hits, and they're playing them in the sunshine - while throwing out beach balls into the crowd - and that'll never not be enough. [BP]
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Two years ago, Bury Tomorrow took the to stage at Slam Dunk South believing that they were just months from extinction. Today, in front of a packed out Monster Energy Stage crowd, such notions seem utterly ridiculous. Ploughing head first into 'Lionheart', the quintet instantly have hundreds upon hundreds of people eating out of the palm of the hands. With the likes of 'An Honourable Reign' and 'Knight Life' inciting crowd chaos on mainstage levels, theirs is a set of unwavering energy, peppered with a very real love from those before them. If this is the transformation that takes places over two years, Slam Dunk 2015 could be very interesting indeed. [RB]
There is basically an entire generation of pop-punk bands present here today (see all of Fireworks, Transit, The Story So Far, Polar Bear Club - you get the idea), and The Wonder Years are unquestionably the band sitting pretty at the top of the pile. Charging out straight into new fan favourite 'Passing Through The Screen Door', the Philadelphia sextet spend the next 45 minutes schooling every other band on the bill in how you do it properly (bar accidentally addressing the crowd as "Leeds", of course). From the "Jesus Christ, I'm twenty-six" part of the opener, to the closing let's-get-all-our-mates-onstage round-robin of "I'm not sad anymore…" in 'All My Friends Are In Bar Bands', this is a set stuffed with massive moments. These songs were designed to be played in hot, sweaty rooms with a thousands-strong crowd screaming back every word and today they get justice. Go home, pop-punk; you've peaked. [AR]
It’s an emotional day for Devil Sold His Soul, who bid farewell to vocalist Ed Gibbs at the end of this short tour. They make sure he goes out in a blaze of glory, as tight, expansive and flat out powerful as we’ve ever seen them, running through a set that takes in some of their career high points. When your songs are as sprawling as this lot’s a festival set is hardly ideal, but DSHS plough through regardless, their epic soundscapes throwing up some seriously emotional moments along the way. It’s sad to see Ed go, but if this is any indication, the band’s next chapter is well worth getting excited about. [RS]
When it comes to shows such as this, the pessimist in all of us tells us that something - anything - is bound to go wrong. Unfortunately for Deaf Havana vocalist James Veck-Gilodi, today is one of those days when such fears ultimately become reality. With barely a decibel of his voice remaining, there's a cruel irony to their set-opening rendition of Robbie Williams' 'Let Me Entertain You': normally he would, today he can't. As a result, today theirs is a set of plodding onwards rather than soaring. However, despite the frontman's difficulties, the likes of 'I'm A Bore, Mostly' still pack a punch on a big stage, and with an eager crowd on their side they ultimately win through in the end. Good effort, lads... [RB]
With the sun finally giving way to darkness, it's left to All Time Low to bring the curtain down on a quite enjoyable day of music and sunburn. And, as it transpires, there are few bands who could have provided a better end to the day. With a hefty lighting rig and crystal clear PA behind them, the end result is over an hour of bouncing, singing, and arms-around-your-mates, pop-punk glory. The piercing screams that ring out during the likes of 'For Baltimore' and 'Somewhere In Neverland' are matched only by the screams that fill the air as guitarist Jack Barakat adds yet another bra to his mic stand, and as what seems like every band member on site clammers for a space at side of stage, it leaves you with the feeling that this is one of the most fitting finales of all. Well done, Slam Dunk... [RB]
[AR] - @andyritchie
[BP] - @afinebeard
[RB] - @deputybird
[RS] - Rob Sayce