A short time into stateside pop-punks Meet Me @ The Altar’s energetic lunch time set and it becomes clear that there’s an exciting shift happening across alternative music: there’s an obvious new guard doing this differently. Although there are clearly still significant strides to be made, the statement punctuates a Slam Dunk line-up that celebrates the broad diversity across rock.
Rounding off their set with a particularly rapturous outing of breakthrough single ‘The Garden’, the outfit precede the likes of rising Baltimore stars Pinkshift, whose appearance on the comparably small Key Stage proves to be one of the day’s most powerful. Vocalist Ashrita Kumar’s dominates the charged performance, with lyrics that have connected digitally over the last few turbulent years. The defining ‘i’m gonna tell my therapist on you’ embodies both the band’s poignant energy and songwriting skill.
This sense of power and activism underpins the stage’s headliners Nova Twins, who preempt the release of their explosive second album with matching confidence. Straight off the back of a tour with pop behemoth Yungblud, the pair effortlessly showcase their ability to captivate an audience. Bolstered by their post-sunset slot, they bring a rock club atmosphere to the open-sided tent, soundtracked by their thunderous blend of styles. It proves a vibrant alternative to scene stalwarts taking to other stages across the site.
Stalwarts such as the long-awaited reemergence of Alexisonfire. Topping the bill on the open-air Jägermeister Stage, they power through a setlist balancing their much-loved catalogue. A moment taken to celebrate love regardless of gender matches the festival’s inclusive vibe, sitting amongst the furious despondency of ‘This Could Be Anywhere In The World’ and the anarchic ‘We Are The Sound’. The rousing ‘Dog’s Blood’ delivers a particular set highlight, showcasing the veteran’s ability to mess with tempo and style with devastating effect.
Atmosphere is the also the name of the game for The Wonder Years, who following some unfortunate yet unavoidable cancellations, take to the Rock Scene Stage for two full album shows. Overcoming initial technical issues, the band run straight from ‘Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing’ into ‘The Upsides’, with a captivated crowd delivering back every word across the near-two hours. The Wonder Years have long embodied a relatable mix of self-deprecation and catharsis, and it’s rarely sounded as impactful as this.
Leading the new crop, KennyHoopla lands somewhere between suitable despondency and firecracker energy. His Travis Barker-approved cracked vocals add a new edge to pop-punk, with nods to Lil Peep’s journey from SoundCloud rap into the alternative. It’s here, alongside the scene-shifting power of Nova Twins, Meet Me @ The Altar and Pinkshift, that Slam Dunk Festival 2022 truly shines. Step away from the festival mainstays for just a moment and it’s clear that punk isn’t dead nor just alive. Trailblazers are changing it from the inside out, and we’re along for a wild ride.
Photos: Al Tweedale, Bethan Miller, Katie McMillan, Nathan Robinson
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