10 Bands You Must See At Slam Dunk

Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco onstage during the 2016 KROQ Weenie Roast at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre on May 14, 2016 in Irvine, California
Slayer. Just joking. (Image credit: Phillip Faraone\/FilmMagic)

Festival season officially begins at the end of May, when the pop-punk extravaganza that is Slam Dunk returns. The line-up offers the usual mix of blasts from the past, promising newcomers and a more aggressive hardcore contingent. So, in the name of helping you plan ahead and avoid clashes, we’ve rounded up the 10 bands you really need to see.

Hey, you’re welcome.

Australians do metalcore well. Northlane’s dark, melodic and ambient approach to the genre make them accessible even to those who complain it’s too whiny, thanks to their unexpected electronic flourishes and proggy nods to Karnivool. They’ve just released a collaborative EP with fellow Aussies In Hearts Wake, but aren’t bringing their joint tour to the UK, so this will also be a rare chance to hear some new material live.

This melodic metalcore lot are one of Japan’s most promising musical exports. Mixing raw breakdowns with pop-tinged choruses, they’ve cultivated a sound that appeals across the spectrum, and eagle-eared gamers might recognise their track Die Tomorrow – it appeared on the Pro Evo 2011 soundtrack. They’re on the Warped Tour this year, so catch them at Slam Dunk first before they really blow up.

It seems not a day goes by without a mention of Creeper, whether it’s frothing praise on social media, the postie or even the wind. That’s not to say the praise isn’t deserving; Will Gould and his band have carved out a niche remarkably quickly with their lyrically clever, sometimes theatrical brand of punk. With the retro horror-punk aesthetic of The Cramps and the raw emotion of Placebo, not to mention a dash of early AFI, Creeper are truly doing their own thing, and put on a whirlwind of a live show.

They may only have two EPs to their name since they dropped their old moniker, Climates, and recruited Kaya Tarsus on vocals – but they’re two pretty good EPs which prove they’ve embraced their new, punk-infused metalcore direction. Plus, they’re heading off on tour with fellow Slam Dunk-ers Every Time I Die the day after the last date of the festival, so it’s only polite to pop along and see how they fare with one of the most excitable festival crowds.

Ever since NOLA nu-metallers Cane Hill exploded onto the scene with the incendiary track Time Bomb last year, our ears have been tingling with anticipation for their debut album. Well, it’s called Smile and it’s out next month. Given that they’re promoting it right about now, they’re likely to treat the Slam Dunk crowd to some new tracks, and possibly more of the socially-aware lyrical themes from their EP that make them one of the most honest new bands out there.

Fresh from a recent tour with Crossfaith, The Qemists proved that metal and electronica can indeed go together without sounding like a 90s throwback. Their abrasive brand of clubland-meets-shredding is like the Beastie Boys doing a hardcore show in a dive bar, but be warned – these loud Brighton residents may give you an urge to crack out the glowsticks and lose your shit. Don’t worry, there’s probably a ‘lost and found’ near the festival entrance.

Los Angeles bruisers Trash Talk turned the indoor stage into a sweaty pit of thrashing limbs last year. But this year, we can guarantee that Every Time I Die bring the ruckus tenfold. Last November, their eagerly-awaited London dates were cancelled in the wake of the Paris attacks, so there’s going to be some serious pent-up energy being let out at this outing. Best invest in some shinguards, then.

Relive the years you spent kicking around in skate parks in offensively baggy shorts and lusting after a character in One Tree Hill as Yellowcard play their debut album Ocean Avenue in full. If the frenzied joy of the crowd at their Download performance last year is anything to go by, the audience will do most of the singing for them, and we’ll all unite in a throng of sweaty nostalgia.

Is it nu-metal? Or is it just a clever mix of hip-hop and hardcore? Whatever Hacktivist are doing, it works, as they proved this year with their impressive debut album Outside The Box. It’s no easy feat to take something as defined – and polarising – as nu-metal and make it sound fresh, but these guys manage it with lashings of grime and discordant hardcore.

If you missed Panic!’s Brixton show earlier this year, then this is your chance to see Brendon Urie bringing rat-pack and emo together with surprisingly satisfying results. The band’s fifth album, Death Of A Bachelor, was released in January, with Brendon saying at the time that it was heavily influenced by Frank Sinatra and a sense of his own mortality. A typically ostentatious combination, but he makes it work. And there’s usually an I Write Sins… encore for old times’ sake.

Slam Dunk takes place in Leeds (May 28), Birmingham (29) and Hatfield (30). For more details, visit the festival’s official site.

Thinking Out Loud: Panic! At The Disco's Brendon Urie