10 Things We Learned At Slam Dunk 2016

New Found Glory's Jordan Pundik at Slam Dunk 2016, Hatfield
New Found Glory's Jordan Pundik (Image credit: Will Ireland)

It’s been a decade since Slam Dunk first made its debut on the festival scene, and to mark the occasion, they put on one of their best line-ups yet. TeamRock headed to the Hatfield leg and here’s what we discovered…

Play an album in full makes for a great setlist
Playing their 2003 album Ocean Avenue from start to finish means Yellowcard drop tracks at the start of their set that they’d usually save until last. That doesn’t mean they’re any less impactful, though; opening with Way Away gets devoted and casual fans singing along. It’s also a chance to hear some of Ocean Avenue’s seriously decent album tracks – like Life of a Salesman and Miles Apart – in context, and of course, see violinist Sean Mackin do his customary backflips.

Northlane are even heavier live than they are on record
The Aussie metallers don’t have long to do their stuff on the Atlas stage, but they get straight to business. The futuristic synths on their album Node are there, but they’re buried under the impressive roar of guitars and Marcus Bridge’s snarling vocals. After tearing through songs from Node, and a couple of oldies from previous album Singularity, they end with a seriously groove-laden rendition of Impulse, and mark themselves as one of metalcore’s brightest hopes.

It’s small stage, big entrance for Hacktivist
Guitarist Timfy James, bassist Josh Gurner and drummer Richard Hawking are the first on stage in the Impericon room to blast out some riffs for vocalists Ben Marvin and J Hurley to swagger on to. This lot’s artful mix of hardcore and grime is truly inventive. Ben and J rap tracks from their debut album Outside The Box in perfect synchronicity, and Rou Reynolds is on hand to sing his guest vocals on Taken, to the delight of a bouncing crowd.

Mallory Knox have a new album on the way
As well as coming across as seriously nice blokes – Mikey Chapman tells the crowd they must pick up anyone who’s fallen down in the mosh pit – the nation’s second-most radio-friendly pop-rockers (after You Me At Six) are going to start recording the follow-up to 2014’s Asymmetry. “We’re going to the studio on Friday,” announces Mikey, as he potters up and down the stage and waves coyly at the crowd. Let’s hope for some more of those massive harmonies between Mikey and guitarists Joe Savins and James Gillett.

Creeper need a much bigger stage
Putting one of the most popular new bands in a tiny room up two flights of stairs would only ever lead to one thing – people getting really squashed. Creeper’s set doesn’t build in intensity as it progresses; it doesn’t need to, because the energy is electric from the start. Opening with VCR straight into Black Mass, with it’s air-punching chorus, has the crowd moving as much as limited space will allow, and Will Gould is clearly in his element. Future festival slots will only attract a bigger crowd, and these guys are more than ready to take on an outdoor stage.

Pop-punk doesn’t have an age limit
It might have got itself a reputation as the soundtrack for angsty youth, but New Found Glory prove pop-punk isn’t just for the young. They’re still rocking with a collective age of 145, and it’s like they never went away. Old favourite like Understatement, All Downhill From Here and Dressed To Kill sit seamlessly beside newer tracks from their most recent album Resurrection, and they look like they’re enjoying themselves as much as they ever did in their early years. They’re a fitting inclusion on Slam Dunk’s 10th anniversary; without their influence, a few younger bands on the line-up might not even exist.

Issues aren’t fans of the British weather
It’s getting a bit chilly as Issues take to the Atlas stage, and vocalist Tyler Carter is feeling it. After telling the crowd – defiantly clad in shorts and vests – that he’s cold, he gets back to business with opener COMA, from the new album Headspace. Their set is a bumpy ride through blasts of pop, nu metal and metalcore, with clean vocals that are overly saccharine at times. Experimenting with different sounds is all well and good, but it sounds like Issues haven’t found the one they like best.

Four Year Strong know how to throw a party
It’s riotous fun in the Key Club Stage room as Four Year Strong bring their joyful but aggressive brand of pop-punk to Slam Dunk. They’re also keen to ensure the security guards have something to do, as they encourage fans to “jump over the barricade” before blasting through an energetic rendition of Who Cares. They certainly don’t, but the safety staff might as they brace themselves for the barrage of crowdsurfers.

Of Mice & Men’s new album is finished!
Earlier in the day, drummer Tino Arteaga told TeamRock that the band’s fourth full-length is finished, mixed, and ready to go. There were no surprise new songs in this set, but there was a selection of crowd-pleasers like Public Service Announcement and Would You Still Be There. Aaron Pauley’s clean vocals are impressively strident, and Austin Carlile is full of energy as he encourages the crowd to bellow along.

Brendon Urie is an Every Time I Die fan
He might have spent most of the set bare-chested, cavorting behind blasts of fire and hitting notes that could summon dogs from miles away, but the biggest surprise came when Brendon Urie announced he wanted to “marry” the ETID lads, and demonstrated an impressive metalcore scream. Panic! At The Disco have carved their own theatrical niche, and tonight was no exception as Brendon went from a backflip off the drum riser during Miss Jackson to another note-perfect cover of Bohemian Rhapsody, which seems to have become a set staple. Slam Dunk’s 10th outing couldn’t have asked for a more triumphant end.


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

New Testament: Creeper's Will Gould says it's okay to be different