The Midlands may have been hit by some pretty hefty thunder and lightning storms the evening before Slam Dunk 2018, but by the start of the festival this all seemed a distant memory as fans were welcomed to the NEC site by more pleasant conditions.
Welsh rock band Dream State may have been one of the first artists on the Rock Sound Breakout Stage, but were clearly not short of fans; as some were queuing to enter the area which was already packed out. Following their recent release of EP Recovery, they played a set that was largely from that, including White Lies and New Waves. Singer CJ Gilpin’s vocals truly stole the show, as the unique front-woman sang her truthful lyrics to the audience with such power that you couldn’t help but be enthralled. The talented band gave an impressive performance which meant that they were a very hard act to follow.
Continuing the performances on the Rock Sound Stage were another band that seem to be ones to watch at the moment; The Faim. The Australian four-piece have already been signed by BMG and worked with the likes of Pete Wentz, and from their performance at Slam Dunk I can see why 2018 looks set to be their year. Their songs such as Midland Line, Saints of The Sinners and Summer is a Curse are really catchy and can get stuck in your head for days afterwards. The entire band offered a lively performance throughout, but it was energetic front-man Josh Raven who really drew the audience in, with smooth and soulful vocals not too dissimilar to those of Patrick Stump, and a cheeky charm.
The Monster Energy stage may have been the one that was the furthest away from the rest of the festival, but it boasted some of the best bands; so it was well worth the walk. The first of my visits to the stage was to see one of my old favourites; Twin Atlantic. The Scottish rockers made quite the entrance as the stage was bathed in red lighting and lead singer Sam McTrusty bounced on wearing a striking red suit for Gold Elephant: Cherry Alligator. What followed was a greatest hits setlist, as the band opted for lots of tracks from their back catalogue including Brothers and Sisters, Make A Beast of Myself and Hold On. However, hearing these songs all over again was no less exciting than the first time, as the band pulled off a memorable and energetic performance that left me wanting to see them all over again.
Back at the Rock Sound Stage, pop-punk band Stand Atlantic entertained everyone with a lively show which saw many fans crowd surfing over the barrier throughout. As the band got lively on the stage and front woman Bonnie Fraser shared a story of crowd-surfing on an inflatable pineapple, the Sydney based three-piece offered a fresh perspective on the pop-punk genre, which the audience seemed to love.
Over at the Fireball Stage, The Skints brought their own unique sound of London based punk-reggae to the party, and it was well worth a watch. One of the things that is so wonderful about the band is how accessible their music is to a wider audience, as they draw upon so many influences that people of all sorts of ages and backgrounds can enjoy it. There was a beautiful element of conflict and harmony throughout the show as the band switched between different vocal stylings, from Joshua Waters Rudge’s rapping to Marcia Richards’ soothing vocal tones, along with switching between a plethora of instruments and samples.
On the Impericon Stage, progressive metalcore band Northlane blew away the audience with their mind-blowing set. The Aussies are no strangers to Slam Dunk having already played one of the best sets during the 2016 festival, and this time is no different, as they wowed the audience with complex yet wonderful tracks such as Dispossession, Colourwave and Heartmachine.
Canadian band Palaye Royale offered one of the best performances of the day as they headlined the Rock Sound Stage. Channelling all the rock and punk greatness of the 1970s, both in style and sound, the audience was treated to a good old fashioned, high octane, rock show, which they couldn’t get enough of. The band, and in particular, front-man Remington Leith’s chaotic on stage antics may be security’s worst nightmare, but for the audience it is an absolute dream.
This year’s festival may have seen joint headliners in the form of both Jimmy Eat World and Good Charlotte; but for me personally, the choice of which headline set to watch had to be Jimmy Eat World on the Monster Energy Stage. Twenty-five years in the business as a band is a long time; however, Jimmy Eat World simply seem to have improved with age like a fine wine, continually honing their sound to create something beautiful. Performing tracks from their extensive back catalogue including Bleed American, Lucky Denver Mint, Sweetness and 23; the alternative band showed fans why they really are one of the best rock bands still going.