Published on June 1st, 2016 | by Ben Adsett0
Slam Dunk Midlands 2016 – Birmingham NEC – Review
With the move to the NEC this year’s Slam Dunk Midlands was the biggest of three one day events, this was apparent from the enormous queues snaking round the venue. Once inside there was a completely different feeling and layouts from the compact setting in Wolverhampton, stages were bigger, there were more people and the whole event had a much more corporate feel. The main stage is now an arena and amongst the other stages there were some huge rooms to fill.
The day started with an impassioned set from UK pop punks Trash Boat, an act who worked the audience hard and in return created an atmosphere suitable for much later in the day (shout outs to the 1pm crowd surfers). Infectious energy carried over to the crowd and the singalongs started with a combination of participation and the vocalist joining the crowd.
A quick run to one of the outside stages saw the JB Conspiracy drenched in sunshine, there are few bands within the same genre and era that are still playing shows of the same class and they came onto the stage already warmed up. Brass sections and upstroke have rarely sounded so fresh and well rounded.
Roam took the stage by storm and made a two thirty feel like an early evening slot, from the off these southern gents were all over the stage. After a couple of requests and some classic material the audience were bouncing in-sync and the room was heating up.
[Spunge] started a skapunk/skacore reunion section on the outside stage and started to make a sunny carpark feel like a festival stage. Proving what they lack in quality material can be covered up with humour, energy and passion. Continuing the noughties carpark throwback King Prawn entered the stage like a hurricane and rolled back the years, ignoring hair that was greying at the edges you could easily have mistaken KP for a much younger act. Their individuality is seemingly timeless and within the band there is endless stage presence. Completing the regression session out doors were Capdown, who played at 100 miles an hour from start to finish once more age had no effect on performance. This section of the line-up was perfectly described by Capdown between songs ‘all your heroes are now grey’.
Gnarwolves added some much needed mid-afternoon energy, playing in a room reminiscent to an aircraft hangar they filled every inch with a wonderful positivity. Within twenty five minutes these three played an entire set list at a furious pace with just enough room for charming stage banter. After a brief hello the audience were entwined in the set, every word was sung back in unison and there was an eruption of bodies at the front. This kind of passion shared between an audience and band is infectious and nobody left this set without a smile on their face and a spring in their step.
Creeper brought their dark punk to the aptly named ‘Fresh Blood’ stage, even before there was a glimpse of the band the audience packed into the outdoor space full of anticipation. Once more as soon as vocals kicked in the audience joined in unison. With this level passion, it is no wonder the collective noun for Creeper fans is the ‘Creeper Cult’. The band played a set which balanced between old and new, slow and fast & uplifting and emotive on knife edges. Within the musicianship there is a terrifying level of talent but as a live entity Will Gould steals the show with his eye catching frontman skills. He backs his stage presence with remarkable vocal talent, he flits between growls, beauty and power in a seemingly effortless manor. This was a set that will remain long in the memory, I can only imagine how long it would have taken people to pick up their jaws after this one.
Rob Lynch is part of the Slam Dunk staple diet, his unique combo of acoustic punk/folk/pop creates an instant bond with an audience. This set was no different and a few technical errors in the shape of broken strings were charmingly brushed aside leaving the early evening full of singalongs and atmosphere.
The Beat were deservedly high on the bill and entered and left the festival as Birmingham heroes, this home town performance was clearly as important for the band as it was the audience that were seeing them. This kind of nostalgia is incredible, there was a definite feeling of a little bit of history being made with this set.
As evening fell headliners took stages across the NEC, Panic At the Disco filled an arena with the sound of backing tracks and auto tune and showed within their development they have lost all traces of being a band with instruments. It is easy for an atmosphere or a sound to be lost within an arena and this arena is huge but it would have to exist within performance for this to be an option. I would like to be able to offer a positive to this headline set but I found the whole thing soulless.
The King Blues offered a similar level of performance, although considering the songs within the set that got the audience going were written at a time that the band had a different line up it is hardly surprising. The King Blues were as good as Itch and a backing band were going to be, he still has the same vocals and the band still sound much the same.
The end of the festival saw a feeling of chaos and disorganisation, doors were blocked and exits were staggered. The option to change headline act was unavailable and although unsurprising this is where the NEC fell short as venue.