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Panic! cover

Photos: Sarah Louise Bennett & Amie Kingswell

Words: Danny Randon

It’s Slam Dunk. we’ve come to expect a whole bunch of brilliant bands being brilliant and that’s just what we got. Here are the very best bits. If you want more photos though, you should head this way.

Moose Blood cover

Opening the Main Stage with less of a boisterous exuberance and more of a heart-warming charm, Moose Blood are fast becoming showmen in their own charming, no-frills way. Eddy Brewerton is a humble frontman as always, struggling to stifle his grins of amazement as ‘Honey’ is met with the summer anthem appraisal it fully deserves.

Even as their second record, ‘Blush’, looms with higher anticipation than ever before, there’s still time to delve into the likes of ‘Chin Up’ and ‘I Hope You’re Miserable’, the latter of which is a fleeting moment of up-on-your-mate’s-shoulders glory.

with confidence cover

As the Shakespearean saying goes, ‘What’s in a name?’ – Well, in With Confidence’s case, it’s the way the Aussie four-piece bound on to the Fresh Blood Stage, and it pays off superbly.

Kicking off their set with ‘Keeper’, these Sydney kids give it some welly with their shamelessly saccharine singles, and it doesn’t take long at all for the crowd to respond by bouncing the floor to buckling point. No matter how sickly sweet the whoa-oh-ing of ‘Take Me Away’ is, With Confidence play with a refreshing conviction which elevates them above the pit of by-the-numbers pop-punk.

Mayday cover

Having celebrated their 10th anniversary last year, Mayday Parade have racked up a formidable arsenal of pop-rock bangers to wreak havoc with wherever they go. However, the tireless energy of frontman Derek Sanders as he bounces around the stage in a whirlwind of curly locks and plaid is contradicted by a tiresome lack of punctuation; cues are missed, notes are snubbed, and both he and his cohorts sound rough around the edges in all the wrong ways.

The Florida quartet have doubled their discography since their last Slam Dunk five years ago, but no matter how many hits they cram into this career-spanning set, it doesn’t defeat the fact that these are songs begging for a better performance.

Waterpark cover

It doesn’t get much fresher on THE Fresh Blood Stage than Waterparks, who are making their debut European appearances at Slam Dunk. Such a sentiment is met in the only way possible for this Madden Brothers-approved trio of Texan upstarts: with a playful attitude and adorably nervous stage patter.

There are moments of serious potential in the synth-riddled choruses of ‘Crave’ and ‘Silver’ but there are just as much, if not more moments where the expansive power-pop choruses that erupt on their EP, ‘Cluster’, fizzle out into flatter pastures. It’s not worth skating over the bits where they sound like American Idiot-era Green Day produced by Skrillex though – Waterparks aren’t on a slippery slope just yet.

Real Friends cover

Slam Dunk has never failed to hold a place in its heart (or on its bill) for the earnest, heart-on-sleeve sounds which have pinpointed the Northeastern US States on the pop-punk globe. With a bit more pace to proceedings and a box-fresh album, ‘The Home Inside My Head’, to boast, Real Friends shoo away any signs of a late afternoon lull.

A hoarse-sounding Dan Lambton powers through the Illinois quintet’s set on The Key Club Stage, but even if his throat wasn’t knackered, he couldn’t match the volume of the crowd during ‘I’ve Given Up On You’. Moments like that, when combined with the crowdsurf-athon on ‘Mess’, are when the Slam Dunk spirit truly shines.

Hellions cover

Criminally undervalued on this year’s bill as a last-minute addition, Hellions are primed to explode into a flurry of flailing limbs and frantic riffs night after night if the odds rule in their favour over the coming months.

The lion’s share of their set on The Fresh Blood Stage makes for some unrelenting shit-kicking hardcore, but with enough funky nu-metal vibes and math-rock skittishness to keep things interesting. There’s no half-baked tough-guy hokum coming from this Sydney five-piece tonight, but there is enough force in new track ‘He Without Sin’ to send their metalcore contemporaries flying out the water.

Mallory Knox SD

A bit of time off in the first half of 2016 has worked wonders for Mallory Knox as they stride out onto the Main Stage and nail their hooks with the clarity and the instantaneous catchiness they’ve long demanded.

There’s not an inch of room for any filler in this set between the likes of ‘Getaway’, ‘Beggars’ and ‘Ghost In The Mirror’. If they enter the studio this summer to record album #3 with the same sense of authority (not to be confused with cockiness), they might even be faced with becoming Slam Dunk’s next British headliners…

creeper cover

It sounded like Creeper was the word on everyone’s lips weeks before their crowdsurfing competitions and tear-jerking sing-a-longs made their Slam Dunk debut. The room which hosts Kerrang!’s Fresh Blood Stage is packed to its sweat-dripping rafters as the Southampton punks make the next crucial leap forward in what has been a stepping stone of a year, with members of their callous-hearted cult queueing hours before the spookiest show on Earth (or Hatfield, at least) commences.

‘Lie Awake’ and ‘Astral Projection’ have seldom been played with such urgency, and ‘Black Mass’ never ceases to crush any doubts towards the band’s deliciously dark majesty. Nevertheless, it’s the moment Will Gould surrenders his mic during ‘Misery’ that will make this set one for Slam Dunk’s history books.

New Found Glory Cover

Occupying what you could call Slam Dunk’s answer to Glastonbury’s ‘legends’ slot, New Found Glory have aged gracefully, but they’re far from becoming the grandads of the festival circuit. As the Floridian veterans rattle through ‘Truth Of My Youth’ and ‘Understatement’ outrageously quickly on the Main Stage, they could take the Pepsi Challenge against any of the younger pop-punk bands on the bill and leave them weak at the knees.

It’s shows like this that remind you of the consistent brilliance of New Found Glory, so much so that when their harmonious cover of Sixpence None The Richer’s ‘Kiss Me’ comes around, even the sun is tempted to nudge its way through the clouds. Of course it doesn’t, because we’re in Britain

NYD 001-2

Beyond the dark, bubbling synths which usher in ‘Scream’, New Years Day’s otherwise tepid hard rock rarely parallels the horrific intrigue of their image as they headline Kerrang!’s Fresh Blood Stage. Ash Costello holds an intoxicating presence as a frontwoman who clearly strives for the solace of her fans, but her sincerity and seething attitude does little for the haunting concepts that frame these dark-souled Californians.

The scene wearily referred to as ‘New Grave’ has fallen victim to a short shelf life, but if New Years Day are able to match their macabre demeanour with something equally bone-quivering on an aural level, there will be much more of a cause for celebration.

Of Mice cover

The last time Of Mice & Men graced the University of Hertfordshire’s heaving campus, they were on the cusp of something generation-defining. Lo and behold, the Californians went on to become one of a few deserving bands to shake off the shackles of cookie-cutter metalcore and inhale new life through the bigger picture of arena-crumbling rock.

That’s not to say that the slamming beatdowns of ‘O.G. Loko’ and ‘The Depths’ are pulled off with any less ferocity up against the more chorus-driven likes of ‘Glass Hearts’ and ‘Feels Like Forever’. When Austin Carlile is on full furious form, he captivates with enough power to crush your head like a beer can. Dare you challenge the man?

ETID cover

An Every Time I Die show which is anything less than chaotic is not an Every Time I Die show. There is no doubt that the New Yorkers’ headline stint on the Impericon Stage is an Every Time I Die show, and one that swaggers, roars and goofs around with punk ‘n’ roll carnage of the most unabashed order.

A back-to-back run-through of ‘We’rewolf’ and ‘The New Black’ is when things come to merciless fruition – that said, trying to identify a moment where ETID let up is like trying to identify a moment where guitarist Jordan Buckley isn’t testing his weight on any fixture of his choosing: simply impossible.