New Found Glory – Slam Dunk Festival 2010

By Tom Aylott


Slam Dunk North

I’ve gone on record as saying I think Slam Dunk Festival is the best festival the UK has to offer and 2010 cemented that view. I wasn’t at Hatfield and so cannot comment on the carnage that ensued. I’ve seen the photos and read the comments on the PT Live Feed and I know the organisers will take a long look at what happened and learn the lessons. I know this because that’s exactly what they did in Leeds. 2009 was a busy mess ? the merch area was packed, passouts were non-existent when people needed to escape the heat and it looked and felt like the place was oversold. 2010 was almost spot on. The merch area was expanded outside, the ticket booths moved to the corners of the front square and there was more room for smokers and for people to get fresh air. Yes, some corridors were packed and yes some rooms were full – for instance I tried to see ME VS HERO but got turned away. But that’s not Slam Dunk’s fault, that’s just what happens in these scenarios. Overall Leeds 2010 learned lessons from Leeds 2009 and that ended up being a very good thing.

The main room set up at Leeds is great as one band plays and another sets up. FRANCESQA opened the UK band stage after winning the competition and they performed admirably despite the early ropey sound. They’re up against some pretty formidable acts on other stages and still draw a decent crowd. Spud said he felt they sounded like Melee which is a fair comparison. They’re catchy and melodic but not like the usual crowd. ‘A Little Closer’ and ‘Move Your Hands‘ are both great songs and if their forthcoming EP keeps up the rate of progress they have potential to do well. Francesqa are a genuine breath of fresh air and a band destined for much better things. (7.5)

EVERY AVENUE open the main stage and just sound dreadful. I’m sure the soundman must have been asleep for the first few songs as the vocals were low in the mix and everything just seemed out of place. Every Avenue know how to work a crowd and are slick and enjoyable on record, but I couldn’t get into them and ended up leaving to try and see Me vs Hero, only to find they’d filled the room up before they’d even started. (4)

KILL CASINO played to the smallest crowd of the day by far. They’re also the band which seemed hopelessly out of place with a Hole-esque sound that failed to impress. I’ve not heard that much by the band before and to tell the truth I won’t be seeking them out now either. They looked thoroughly disinterested, disappointed no-one was watching and as a result there was no chemistry or connection. Possibly an off-day but I wasn’t the only one left unimpressed. (3)

OUT OF SIGHT have come a long, long way since the last time I saw them. They fill the main stage with ease, bouncing around like Duracell Bunnies on full charge. I hadn’t heard the new record before this set so I didn’t recognise any of the tracks, but they had me singing along by the end of most of the choruses. If the band catch on as much as their on-stage performances have grown, they will be serious contenders by the time the year is out. (8)

Get this – Andy has been going on about STRAIGHT LINES for months and months but I’ve never found the time to listen to them. Now I see why he’s been proclaiming them as one of the best bands around. The band’s singer looks like he’s on a day off from school and as the set starts he looks like a rabbit in headlights, but there’s an awkward quality about him that sets him apart from most of the bands on the day. Straight Lines simply play fantastic, anthemic pop-rock songs. They’re tight, fun to watch and really are a great band. I now have the album and I’m determined to give it some serious listening over the next few weeks. (8)

I hoped HIT THE LIGHTS would be great as I love ‘Stick Up’. But most of ‘Skip School’ passed me by and I was a little wary. I needn’t have been.HTL are such a fun live band, perfect for festivals like this. Nick is a great frontman with oodles of energy and he whips the crowd up into a sea of bodies. ‘309’ and ‘Bodybag’ go down superbly as HTL make up for lost time. If you’re seeing the band on tour this week you are in for a treat. (7.5)

After the gig NOT ADVISED tell me they’re cursed. As they start their set an amp blows and all the vocals fail. No mics. At all. Amazingly vocalist Jim manages to coerce the crowd into singing ‘Right Now’ on his behalf. Any regular PT-er will know I think this band have written some of the best pop-punk songs in the UK this century and while this particular performance
is error-strewn, they’re fun live and love the singalongs. ‘Red Light Situation’ is a tune, plain and simple. If these guys get a break, which they deserve, radio stations will be queuing up to spin their songs. (7)

I missed Set Your Goals as I interviewed New Found Glory and The Wonder Years, so returned in time for FOUR YEAR STRONG. The crowd is heaving – it’s amazing how big this band has become in such a short space of time. FYS know how to work a crowd and look very comfortable on a big stage. They blast through a ‘greatest hits’ style set and over the course of the 30 minutes the venue gets very, very hot indeed. Infact it’s a lot warmer than it had been just an hour previously. They play all the songs you’d expect them to and give full value for money. (8)

A quick sweep of the merch area means I miss the vast bulk of FUTURES but they had a massive crowd and are on the verge of massive, massive things. Their EP is gold so it’s richly deserved. NEW FOUND GLORY, on the other hand, are the band everyone’s there to see. The crowd goes right to the back of the room and they just blast out hit after hit after hit. That’s the thing with NFG, they have such a rich back catalogue they can pull tracks out of nowhere and this set is such a crowd pleaser. They play the usual suspects as well as ‘Broken Sound’ and ‘Ballad For The Lost Romantics’ which were unexpected pleasures. I’ve seen the band a dozen times and they never get dull and always leave you wanting more. The best
band, and probably the best performance, that Slam Dunk Festival has ever witnessed. (10)


Slam Dunk South

2010 saw the first outing of Slam Dunk’s southern mirror event to the established Leeds one-day festival and took place on campus at Hatfield’s University of Hertfodshire. First impressions of the venue were that it was a little confusing layout-wise, and you could spot early on that the main staircase was going to be a problem long before the opening bands started on the larger stages.

As Save Your Breath took to the Jagermeister stage outside, the Standard English Bank Holiday Drizzle was receding and they kicked off the day with a confident and impressive set full of big tunes and high energy – further proving why they’re one of the most promising UK pop punk bands around. It also never really hurts to have Sean Smith make an appearance during your set either judging by the female timbre of the screams of approval- but really, changing vocalist has done the band a world of good and ‘Stay Young’ ?s massive singalong this afternoon proves just that. [7]

From this point onwards, Hatfield started showing cracks as a festival venue. During, and since the Southern leg there’s been a huge amount of speculation as to why things went wrong and many fingers pointed firmly at the event security, organisers and venue –

I honestly can’t disagree with people who complained at having been stuck away from bands I intended to see on account of security holding people outside indefinitely despite an empty main hallway, because that?s not what you expect when you buy a ticket for an event – but taking a step back from personal inconvenience for a moment, the problems had no single source. Slam Dunk North is an established event, but it’s not really a ‘standard’ format for festivals and trying to take an eight stage festival to an additional and untried venue that day after a Summer Ball was always going to be risky.

The organisers and the venue have equal responsibility to take movement between stage into account – the biggest problems are always here and I honestly can’t say I think they planned well enough at all in this area, but the combination of weather driving people and stalls inside, the security being unprepared for crowd surges and failing individually to realise how to relieve pressure on entrances and exits, the physical layout of the main hallway causing bottlenecks, and the persistence of the kids themselves to relentlessly push towards where they wanted to go instead of letting things calm down combined to make things worse than could have reasonably been predicted.

imageThat said, festivals are about music first and foremost, and the acoustic stage had some treats in store all day for those looking for a break from the chaos. A particular highlight was Lost on Campus (aka Rob Lynch), who had a great crowd, and got a massive singalong at the end of his set when he teamed up with Sam Little for ‘My Friends and I’. [7]

Eventually, I decided that the best option for the rest of the day was going to be heading outside, and it was most definitely the best choice of the day –

Against Me! are a band that have gone through many changes in sound and attitude in their tenure, and the newer material can tend to grate on diehard fans from years back, but tonight they were nothing sort of brilliant. Those who chanced a trip outside were not left disappointed. The malignment of Tom Gabel and co. for a major label move should really be left long forgotten, and the band should be regarded for what they are- a stunning live act with an enviable back catalogue. [8]

By this point, anyone gathered outside for Alkaline Trio had either accepted their fate and made a few trips to the bar, or had been happily occupying a spot for many hours. I’ve always found Alkaline Trio a little hit or miss live, but fortunately their set at Slam Dunk was very much the former. You can either respect or be frustrated by a no fuss blast through new and old, but it is refreshing to see a band concerned with the songs and the fans rather than posing or sorting their hair out (which is a particular feature of Slam Dunk) – An arguably faultless set that I’m glad I made the choice to watch instead of venturing back inside. [8]

Slam Dunk North

Slam Dunk North ran, much, much smoother than South in general, and a lovely day in Leeds was met with some brilliant performances throughout the day.

Having never previously listened at length to Moneen, I wasn?t sure what to expect from their set, but I felt foolish for not making the effort earlier once they?d finished – the energy and workmanship in the band?s live show is incredible (enough to severely damage limbs today) and vocalist/Guitarist Kenny Bridges? in-crowd antics were great to watch. Easily up there with the most watchable bands of the weekend. [7]

When acoustic Backstreet Boys and 5ive covers have some of the most vigorous singalongs of the day, you begin to wonder what that says about the attendees and yourself for joining in, but Sam Little?s positive energy just sucks you in and it?s great fun to watch. The acoustic stage itself was well attended for most of the day, but Sam had a particularly busy room and was enjoying every second. [7]

imageRx Bandits playing at Slam Dunk wasn?t a strange addition on paper considering their label past, but you got the feeling that they were expected to play a set tailored for kids who know them fondly from the Drive Thru days, which was just never going to be true. The band have gone from strength to strength over their last three albums, and are arguably the most talented musicians across any of the stages. The new material is incredible live, though it?s a shame that it doesn?t go down as well this side of the Atlantic (by the ban?s own admission), and though it is a song from the final Drive Thru album of theirs, Decrescendo still sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it. [10]


Slam Dunk North

Once I?d removed the cobwebs from my ears, and stretched my legs around Leeds University Union with Andy, it became pretty obvious that Slam Dunk was operating on a whole other level this year to what it has previously. Pre-opening collection of wristbands, outside stalls to reduce the inevitable merchdesk mayhem, reasonably well-organised security? Blimey. It?s like asking your little cousin at a family party how things are going at the ?big school?, before they look at you strangely and interject that they?re sitting their GCSEs. Saturday showed that things aren?t perfect yet, but Sunday appeared to show that big progress has been made and it?s been interesting to see how things have moved up every year since 2006.

The Refectory has never been the greatest venue for gigs, though its early present to its audience this year was the distinctive smell of a pet shop. I?ve no idea, either. Kicking things off on the UK Now stage were competition winners Francesqa. Vocally strong and slightly reminiscent of Melee, with a rockier twinge, they get things going nicely. The crowd?s response is fairly muted, though I wouldn?t be surprised to see them return slightly higher up the same stage next year in the same vein as Me vs Hero managed. (6)

A quick trot to the other end of the room was required as Every Avenue were already beginning by the time the last bars of Melee were dying. A couple of songs in and the only thought in my head is ?this sounds like it was written for the montage/moving on section in a teen movie?. There were hooks aplenty, but they were greased and imprecise. Whilst completely inoffensive, ?Where Were You? sounded like what would happen if Matchbox Twenty decided to play pop-punk. Still, the now two-thirds-full room seem to be bouncing around in decent appreciation of the display. The world?s worst call for (and subsequent enacting of) a circle pit ensures the set peters out like a wet fart. (5)

Another quick turnaround was needed for the start of Straight Lines. I?d been told that they were riding on a bit of a wave of gossip and excited chatter of late and I have to say that live they impress more than on record. Despite looking like he was visibly crapping himself, diminutive vocalist Tom Jenkins has most of the ingredients to make an extremely competent frontman. If he can add some more stage presence and charisma to his warbling Coheed-esque vocal style, then these guys have a long, upward path ahead of them. Technical, tight, and full of promise. (8)

It was at this point I decided to dash over to try and catch a band I?ve been most impressed with ? This Time Next Year. But this appeared to be the thought on the mind of about 2,000 other people, as the centre of the Refectory came to a bit of a standstill. A one in, one out policy and a queue which stretched past the next stage meant there was little point in hanging around. A similar experience awaited anyone who tried to catch Me vs Hero on the Vans stage, which, with their album on the way, is quite possibly the sign of even bigger things to come for them too.

Returning to the main stage, it?s quite evident that Hit The Lights have come a long, long way in the last couple of years. They?re still pulling out their biggest crowd favourites from This Is A Stick Up, finishing on ?Bodybag?, but their change in organisation is now beginning to pay off. A huge crowd response cheers every song, and it?s quite clear that they have stepped things up a level in the UK. A summer off to write and record now awaits them, which really will determine just how far they go. (7)

A later trip to the Relentless stage yielded a much more positive result, as I managed to get a prime spot for Crime In Stereo. Now, I?m a long-term fan of the band, and I?m also someone who prefers their older style, which last time around led to me criticising their live performance a little for being too unbalanced and pretty much neglectful of their early releases. Happily, this was not to be repeated, and the band knocked out a brilliant set which surely catered to everyone present. However, the real joy in this band is just appreciating the craft and emotion with which each and every bar is delivered. Despite vocalist Kristian Hallbert looking ill, you can see just how much the stretching of every vocal sinew means to him as he sways and contorts himself in a hardcore emo fashion which pre-dates his band. But, like everything else, it?s done with a competence and a sincerity that every other band here will struggle to match. (8)

Returning halfway through a (mostly) suited and booted Set Your Goals, I was reminded of their age-old schizophrenic attitude to performing. After seeing them in all manner of venues, in front of wildly varying crowd sizes, it?s painfully obvious that they are just not at home on a big stage. Despite there being six of them, they just do not ?fill? it. ?Mutiny? goes down as expected and, thanks to New Found Glory headlining, it meant that the crowd was treated to Chad Gilbert joining them for the final verse of Our Ethos: A Legacy to Pass On which, for me, remains the standout track on their most recent album. (6)

Now, I?ve always considered Four Year Strong to be resolutely in Set Your Goals? shadow, both musically and in terms of audience. But tonight appeared to challenge that belief, thanks in part to an absolutely packed room which bounced on command and threw back every single line towards the stage with a vengeance. They are now in the stratosphere of pop-hardcore and it?s going to take a big effort to remove them. FYS, despite having arguably weaker songs, are much, much more at home on a big stage and have that maestro-like commanding presence that continues to elude SYG. This appeared to mark a big turning point for them in terms of cementing their position in the UK. (7)

Now, having been a little pre-occupied with events outside of PT for the last few months, I was keen to acknowledge my own reaction to seeing New Found Glory, just to see if it had the impact that it always used to. But after a couple of songs, my doubt was so misplaced it was laughable. This is a band who are back to the top of their game. After more than a decade at the forefront of pop-punk, it?s easy to see how they pretty much managed to shape the course of a genre. And it?s that back catalogue that ensures that ?it?s just hit after hit?, in the words of PT?s own Paul Savage. I can quite honestly say that I?ve never, ever seen the Refectory so full, nor the inhabitants of its stage so comfortable in their own skin, or so effective. Even an enforced break thanks to an injury in the crowd couldn?t spoil the atmosphere, with the band leading the crowd in a short, acoustic singalong. Predictably ending on ?My Friend?s Over You?, NFG had the crowd behaving like warm putty in their hands, and the place went berserk. This is precisely why I fell in love with live music. (10)

Other Highlights

Young Guns




The Rocket Summer


Chas Palmer Williams (Lightyear)

With our very own Tom Aylott

If you would click to see more of our photos from hatfield, please click here for the Flickr set.