Slam Dunk Festival w/Man Overboard, Pierce The Veil & Four Year Strong
After a few rare days of glorious sunshine in South Wales, the heavens open to greet a queue of excited and very wet fans waiting to see their favourite bands at this year’s Slam Dunk festival. The queue stretches down the steps of the university’s student union and far down the road, which is where my friend and I find ourselves. It’s 4 pm, and considering the weather we’re all very anxious to get in – when I say all of us, I mean most of us. Queuing in front of me are four of your stereotypical 14-year-old kids who embrace the rain while talking extra loud and happily to get the attention of everyone and anyone who will look. One girl hears me talking about Vic Fuentes, frontman of the ever popular Pierce The Veil. I can see her in the corner of my eye, clad in Pierce The Veil merchandise, staring at me intently. I stop talking and turn towards her – this was a mistake. ‘Oh my God are you hear for Pierce The Veil as well you’ll never guess who I’m here for I love Vic so much oh my God I’m so excited’, I haven’t punctuated because neither did she! She continued on like this for the entire wait to be let in.
Doors are due to open at 5 pm, yet we don’t reach the union’s steps until 5.40 pm. It’s at this point some of us start to realise we’re missing the opening bands. Neck Deep, winners of this year’s local competition, began their set at 5.20 pm. I missed them, much to my dissatisfaction as not only am I a fan, but it’s always nice to see a fresh new band that seem set for great things. However, I see a friend breaking the news to another friend (sporting a Neck Deep beanie) that she’d missed the band she was clearly here to see. Her face was the picture of someone whose heart had sunk to her knees. This is moment you realise some fans have a really strong connection with the music they love, and that Slam Dunk is more than a festival.
By 6 pm we’re in, wristbanded for the after-party and making our way down to our first venue. On your normal day CF10 is a café serving paninis and coffees, but tonight it is the setting of live music, mosh pits and crowd surfers. Man Overboard opened with ‘Dead End Dreams’, and you could tell there were going to be a highlight of the night for a lot of people. Getting that bit older now, and with quite a few albums under their belts, you can tell they’re comfortable in their pop-punk skin. Infectious lyrics created loud and gutsy sing-a-longs bringing a smile upon lead vocalist and bassist, Nik Bruzzese’s face. As the set continued, the crowd didn’t fail falter. ‘Something’s Weird’, ‘Rare’ and ‘Love Your Friends, Die Laughing’ kept the mosh pits going and the crowd surfers coming, but it was new single ‘Where I Left You’ that really stood out. Every person knew every word, shouting back at second lead vocalist and lead guitarist Zac Eisenstein which proved that Man Overboard are as loved now as they were when they were new kids. They made a venue built for 50 people seem like it was packed with 200, making their short set very memorable and leaving me with nothing but praise for their live performance.
Coming away from CF10, I was full of energy and anticipation for my next set – Pierce The Veil. Before this, however, I had the pleasure of meeting Man Overboard and Four Year Strong at their ‘meet-and-greets’. Queuing for this, we were approached by a local non-profit organisation called ‘Head Above The Waves’. They raise awareness of self harm, in particular amongst young people, and promote creativity as a way of dealing with personal struggles. Armed with marker pens, card and a camera, we were asked to write a lyric which means something to us in order to promote the charity. This filled some time and found the queue talking to each other until it was time to meet the bands. Man Overboard were up first, and they were genuinely the nicest guys; you could tell from the way they interacted with the fans that they appreciate the people who support them in the UK. Nik in particular, shook every fans hand with a ‘Hey, I’m Nik. How are you?’ – a rarity among bands nowadays. Just as lovely were Four Year Strong who complied to every fans request. Looking from a distance and seeing a row of beards, I couldn’t help but chuckle at what was happening. Meeting these bands means a lot to the fans, and these are bands who respect that; it’s nice to know that they care as much as we do.
After the signings I was on an absolute high, so we headed straight to Solus to get a good spot for Pierce The Veil – it was packed! Despite not being headliners on this stretch of the tour, Pierce The Veil were obviously the main attraction this year. When the lights dimmed, the crowd screamed and began their chant of ‘Pierce The Veil’ until three of them came on stage, shortly followed by Vic. The crowd continued to go wild throughout ‘May These Noises Startle You In Your Sleep’, until the opening of ‘Hell Above’ dropped. ‘This is the Street Youth Rising up’ was echoed back to the four boys from San Diego, which riled them up to give one hell of a show. Running late they sped through ‘A Match Into Water’, ‘Bulletproof Love’ and ‘Hold On Till May’, pausing only to let the crowd know they were ‘the rowdiest crowd [we’ve] had at Slam Dunk this year.’ ‘I’m Low On Gas And You Need A Jacket’ saw Vic alone on stage with an acoustic guitar in hand, this performance was going to be emotional. Heartfelt as ever, Vic belted out each word with passion and appreciation reflecting a crowd of fans who hold these lyrics dear to their hearts. I saw a girl crying as Vic sang at her briefly and that’s when I knew I was witnessing something special, even I felt moved by Vic’s words. As the others rejoined Vic on stage he said ‘Cardiff we f**king love you’, and then ‘Caraphenelia’ dropped. After this a vote was to be made as time was running out, ‘Bulls In The Bronx’ or ‘King For A Day.’ A massively cheer for ‘King For A Day’! However, cheekily, the quartet performed both, each delivered with faultless power. In a turn of events, we saw Trenton Woodley from ‘Hands Like Houses’ take Kellin Quinn’s role during ‘King For A Day’. Haime (with a broken foot) still managed to make girls scream, and Tony, giving some impressive guitar riffs, stole some hearts. Mike was a continual powerhouse to the others, and Vic’s presence alone was enough to make the set a success. All in all, it’s a set I will never forget.
Once the boys left the stage the crowd dispersed. I walked down to where many fans had been before and I felt kind of disappointed that the crowd were scarce. I presumed those who had left were heading downstairs to CF10 to see Monster Stage headliners Memphis May Fire, so I treated this loss as my gain. I was now in a position where I’d be in the pit if I was not careful; after all, I knew what Four Year Strong crowds were like. The first time I saw Four Year Strong was when they supported Blink 182 last year at the O2 Arena in London. They were good, but I felt they could have been better; for a band of big anthems and big beards, they were overwhelmed by this massive arena. In this student nightclub however, they were larger than life and gave a set which ended the night so well, it even granted them an encore. The crowd refilled and the mosh pits whirled as first song ‘Tonight We Feel Alive (On A Saturday)’ began. This was the opening needed to get the crowd pumped up again, after all, it had been a very long afternoon of building up to this closing set. After a while the fans were warmed up, and so was frontman Alan Day. Alan threw himself at the crowd, standing on the barrier, towering above his fans. It was something special in their set, as was ‘One Step At A Time.’ Vocalist and guitarist Dan O’Connor said it was a song for anyone who had lost someone in the past; I’d never thought of this song in such a meaningful way before, and seeing as it was played so well it truly was a highlight. The band performed at a great standard, all instruments and voices in tune – yet Dan didn’t look happy, gesturing to Alan his throat wasn’t 100%. It was at this point I realised that although a mosh pit was in full swing, many people around it weren’t overly enthusiastic. I thought to myself, this band deserve a better crowd. Despite this, the front rows still gave it their all as the guys carried on until it was time to bring the set to a finish. The encore was two songs, ending on ‘Wasting Time (Eternal Summer).’ It was clear this was the song the crowd were here for, it’s definitely my favourite song of theirs and it was a perfect way to end an amazing gig.