Published on June 1st, 2015 | by Ben Adsett0
SLAM DUNK MIDLANDS 2015 – Wolverhampton Civic 25/05/15 #SDF15
Once a year something magical happens in Wolverhampton, the streets surrounding the mighty Civic are closed off and filled with stages full of punk music. During this magical bank holiday I have been lucky enough to watch some of my favourite bands and fallen in love with new bands. Slam Dunk Midlands 2015 was an absolute triumph in both these respects.
My day started in the best possible way, it was sunny there was beer and Trash Talk had taken the stage (momentarily before hopping into the crowd). From the first moment these Californian kings of hardcore played loud brash cuts from one of the most intense back catalogues possible. Lee Speilman the maniacal front man had his work cut out with an audience who were yet to ‘wake up’ despite his regular requests pre and post song.
The highlight of this set was ‘Hash Wednesday’ during which the audience were gently encouraged to take a seat and enjoy some fuzzy guitars gently tearing through the warm air. Within a heartbeat fuzz became distortion and distortion became chaos. As the set progressed Trash Talk had the awake audience they desired and like a anger filled hype man Speilman stood in the middle of a frantic circle pit snarling and sneering his way through another handful of intense cuts.
In contrast to the battle Trash Talk fought with the audience to get them moving around and involved in the set were southern poppunx Roam who had the audience moving from the first drum beat. The accessible pop punk credentials and undoubtable passion and stage presence make Roam a mesmerising watch. The audience are almost as watchable as the band with crowd surfers complete with a dingy and a sense of awe and wonder that only comes from watching a band you love.
As I moved inside ready to watch Lightyear I started to get a little giddy, it has been a long time since I have been excited about a skapunk/skacore band but you never forget your youth. I was immediately transported into the gangly sixteen year old version of myself and could not get the smile off my face for the entire set. Lightyear had absolutely everything; the set was somehow tight and also shambolic. There were laughs, singalongs and the feeling that band were truly humbled by each and every clap. It’s rare to see a band who loves what they are doing quite as much as this and even though everyone will always remember them as a good time band they are also really fucking good.
There were so many moments during this set that filled me with utter joy but any band who have a stage diving pantomime horse deserve every bit of applause available. Throughout the set vocals and every instrument were on point, each part of pre and post song chatter was appropriately hilarious and fun radiated from the stage all the way to the back of the room.
Another band who radiated pure joy followed up the triumph that was Lightyear, Mariachi El Bronx who are the Central American side project of LA hardcore champs The Bronx. There is a sun kissed tone that emanates from every vocal hook, every brass soaked backing and each and every guitar part creating the warmest, most inviting live sound imaginable. Lyrically however there is a wonderful darkness, much like their louder older brother the Bronx these are tales of the streets, violence, prison and drugs. I love the contradiction created by this, there is a subtle pleasure to be had watching an audience nod along before realising that this beautiful love story is about prison cell mates. If one thing is clear despite being a painfully interesting watch MEB are anything but a novelty act.
TTC favourite Rob Lynch was next on the agenda and took the stage backed by a veritable super group. With a full band behind him Rob embraced his inner frontman, unlike his solo delivery which is always tinged with delicacy and an instantly likeable modesty full band Rob Lynch is full of confidence but in an equally likeable way. From the off the addition of a full band took some of the louder cuts from ‘all these nights in bars will somehow save my life’ to new levels of brilliance whilst quieter songs took on an almost haunting quality. Despite the full band adding elements of strength and depth there was still room for the fragility that really backs up RL’s wonderful word play.
It is no secret that TTC love Rob’s work but with the backing of his boys he created one of the stand out sets of the day.
Baby Godzilla took the stage in the style of the bulls of Pamplona, effortlessly vaulting the barrier into the crowd within seconds of taking the stage. Their breath taking set was almost too exhausting to watch as the band played in and around the crowd, on the bar, on stage (briefly), on top of and over the barriers and created the most intense performance of the day by a mile. Despite the outrageous levels of showmanship Baby Godzilla were tight throughout the set with the mayhem always perfectly coming together creating an accomplished sound. The brutal combinations of hardcore and math rock really do create a unique and wonderful sound. Factoring in the live performance into this already outstanding sound creates something memorable and utterly brilliant.
After being thoroughly blown away by Baby Godzilla it was time to go back to wallet chains and brass backed hooks. Reel Big Fish packed the room to the rafters which considering the endless array of talent on offer throughout the festival is credit for how good they are live. It’s impossible to stand still when you are greeted with such musical warmth and happiness adding in some of the cattiest hooks around only creates an even more exciting set list. There are so many hits to fit into a set and RBF just kept delivering forgotten ska gems.
The final musical stop of the evening were The Bronx who played a near perfect set of brash clever hardcore. It is rare to see such a level of passion and heart flying from the stage into the audience and this was replicated by the audience for the entirety of the set. There is a reason that the Bronx are one of the most respected live bands you could ever see.
Between song chatter was brief and effective with these LA hardcore heroes coming across humble and just happy to be playing two shows in a day. The set list balanced old and new perfectly with something for every fan thrown in. Each and every moment was delivered at an incredible intensity and as the band warmed up the live set became mesmerising. There is so much presence both on and off stage in this band they are impossible to take your eyes off. The only disappointment in the entire headline set was that final note telling you it was time to go home.
But it was nowhere near time to go home, Slam Dunk had one final treat in the shape of an after party and although Tuesday was not a good day in TTC HQ ending a festival in room full of people who’s music I respect dancing to Taylor Swift was a memory and a half!