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Festival Review: Slam Dunk Midlands 2013

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Slam Dunk Festival‘It’s well early isn’t it? It’s like half two!, says front-man Thom Weeks as Gnarwolves roll out of bed and onto the Vans stage. The rising stock of the band is evident, with many curious punters checking out the band alongside their cult followers. The band do not disappoint, delivering a set that is full of energy.  Weeks stokes the fans at front into frenzy during 'Community, Stability, Identity', providing the first sing-along of the day. Although their set lacks polish, Gnarwolves deliver a performance that only serves to increase the excitement surrounding them.  

Over on the main stage, Australian five pierce Tonight Alive draw a big crowd with their powerful sound translating very well to a big venue. Front-woman Jenna McDougal wastes no time firing up a more than willing crowd as the band opens with crowd favourite ‘Listening’.  Even brand new song ‘The Ocean’ is met with excitement and enthusiasm as the band play with slick musicianship. Their stock is rising here in the UK, but with performances like this, who would bet against Tonight Alive making a name for themselves.

Since releasing their debut album Signals in January, Mallory Knox have rapidly risen to become one of the UK’s most exciting rock bands. It certainly shows as the band put on the show of the day. From the get go the band demand the attention of the packed main stage crowd, and they do not relent throughout their set. Some of the bands newer songs off of Signals feel like polished classics and there is a real sense that Mallory Knox will go on to dominate British rock over the next few years. 

After missing the Hatfield leg of Slam Dunk to play Radio One’s Big Weekend, We Are The Ocean return to the festival’s main stage. Technically, the band are without fault and put on a very impressive set. But despite front-man Liam Cromby’s best attempts, the crowd never really engage with the band, hindering an otherwise impressive performance. 

Blitz Kids are a very unlucky band. Billed against the festivals most popular act Sleeping With Sirens, the Cheshire four-piece are forced to play to a sparse crowd. They certainly try to make the best of it however, delivering a fierce set packed full of catchy, angular rock songs. 

On the back of one of the best pop punk albums in recent times, The Wonder Years play to a packed second stage. Despite front-man Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell struggling with strained vocals, the band put on a phenomenal show. Songs from the latest album The Greatest Generation go down particularly well, with tracks such as ‘Passing Through a Screen Door’ and ‘ The bastards, The Vultures, The Wolves’ getting as big a reaction as fan favourites ‘Came Out Swinging’ and ‘Local Man Ruins Everything.’ With Parker from The Story So Far coming on stage to ignite a room wide sing-along for ‘All My Friends Are in Bar Bands’, The Wonder Years bring a quality end a show that shows exactly why they are pop-punks hottest property.

The final British band to take to the stage are Deaf Havana. Having been marked as a must-see band by fans and fellow artists alike, there was a lot of pressure for the band to put on a show. The band absolutely rise to the occasion, delivering an inspirational set full of stadium rock songs that have finally found a venue more suited to their ambition. The band show that they still care about their songs, and the crowd feed off the bands emotion, creating a celebratory atmosphere and a set that won’t be quickly forgotten.

As day turns to night California four piece Pierce The Veil bring the day to a close on the Monster Stage. A large crowd braves the rain to see the bands progressive post-hardcore and front man Vic Fuentes needs to do little to get everyone moving. With such a strong repertoire of songs from across three albums, Pierce The Veil deliver a set strong enough to easily headline the main stage. The rain dampens the show somewhat, but the band match quality songs with supreme showmanship to bring the day to a triumphant end. 

Overall, Slam Dunk’s first venture into the Midlands was a complete success. The transition to a new site was slick, with organisers ensuring that few teething problems occurred. As for the music, the line-up boasted some of the finest bands at the top of their games. Each year the festival goes from strength to strength, and 2013 was no exception. This will not be the last time Slam Dunk festival visits Wolverhampton.




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