ELEANOR’S PICK: Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

ELEANOR’S PICK: Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

Words by Eleanor Sutcliffe

Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) comes to the NEC in Birmingham on 28th May. For a direct event information, including venue details and online ticket sales, visit www.gentingarena.co.uk/whats-on/slam-dunk-festival

As one of the most anticipated dates in the UK pop punk calendar, it’s safe to say Slam Dunk Festival are taking no prisoners with this year’s line up. With a bevy of bands and artists descending upon the NEC in just under a week’s time, I took it upon myself to comb through the roster and select a number that I personally love.

ELEANOR’S PICK: Holding Absence at Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

Holding Absence / Rock Sound Breakout Stage

Birmingham favourites, Holding Absence, are set to make their Slam Dunk debut this year on the Rock Sound Breakout Stage. Having recently announced the departure of guitarist Feisal El-Khazragi, it will be one of their first performances without him in their line up. But with Holding Absence recently nominated for Best British Breakthrough Band at the 2018 Heavy Metal Awards, plus playing a string of dates supporting Being as an Ocean across Europe in June, they’re certainly not letting El-Khazragi’s departure slow them down.

Represented by Sharptone Records – who bought us the likes of Don Broco, Miss May I and We Came As Romans – the Cardiff based band also recently toured and released a co-EP with Loathe titled This Is As One, which earned them numerous positive reviews from critics for tracks such as ‘Saint Cecilia’.

Holding Absence perform at 3:30pm on the Rock Sound Breakout Stage. For more on Holding Absence, visit www.holdingabsence.com

Saint Cecilia’ – Holding Absence


ELEANOR’S PICK: PVRIS at Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

PVRIS / Jägermeister Main Stage

Having recently performed at Coachella, PVRIS will be returning to Birmingham hot off the heels of the American leg of their All We Know of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell tour – promoting their latest album of the same name.

Lynn Gunn’s dreamy vocals, combined with the band’s heavy rock influences, have earned them a dedicated fanbase and won them Rock Sound’s Artist of the Year Award back in 2017. Here’s hoping PVRIS also perform some tracks from their debut album, White Noise, with songs such as ‘St. Patrick’ and ‘My House’ being on my personal wish list.

PVRIS perform at 8:15 pm on the Jägermeister Main Stage. For more on PVRIS, visit www.pvris.com

‘Anyone Else’ – PVRIS


ELEANOR’S PICK: Taking Back Sunday at Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

Taking Back Sunday / Monster Energy Main Stage

Returning to Slam Dunk for the 3rd time, Taking Back Sunday were in the first wave of bands to be confirmed to at perform this year’s festival.

Having released their 7th album, Tidal Waves, in September 2016, and parting ways with their original guitarist Eddie Rayes last month, it will be interesting to see if we get to hear any new material from the group. Although I’m hoping to hear classic tracks such as ‘You’re So Last Summer’ and ‘MakeDamnSure’ as well as songs such as ‘You Can’t Look Back’ from their latest album live.

Taking Back Sunday perform at 8:05pm on the Monster Energy Main Stage. For more on Taking Back Sunday, visit www.takingbacksunday.com

‘You’re So Last Summer’ – Taking Back Sunday


ELEANOR’S PICK: Astroid Boys at Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18Astroid Boys / Impericon Stage

The Impericon stage will be hosting hardcore grime band Astroid Boys, who have always delivered impressive shows in Birmingham. Growing steadily since their formation back in 2012, they were bought to my attention after being featured in BBC Radio 4’s documentary Operation Grime, which tailed them on a tour across the UK.

Astroid Boys‘ music is not for the faint hearted – expect brutal lyrics addressing issues such as racism, mashed with hardcore and grime influences to create a sound you probably have never heard before… but will just as probably want to listen to again.

Astroid Boys perform at 2:20 pm on the Impericon Stage. For more on Astroid Boys, visit www.astroid-boys.com

‘Foreigners’ – Astroid Boys


ELEANOR’S PICK: As It Is at Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

As It Is / Signature Brew Stage

Announcing the August release of their latest album, The Great Depression, only a few days ago, Brighton based As It Is will be headlining the Signature Brew stage this year.

A band who’ve amassed a dedicated fan base with tracks such as ‘Dial Tones’ and ‘Hey Rachel’, their material is catchy, easy to listen to and fun – however it’s unfair to assume they lack a more serious side. Their latest release, ‘The Wounded World’, delves into a much darker side of their ever-expanding noise, having been cited by the band as a ‘new era’ of their music which expands on ‘the societal romanticisation of depression’ and ‘the disrepair of present-day human connection’.

As ever with this band, though, As It Is approach their subject with the respect and sensitivity it warrants – referencing their new material as a means for them to work to create a positive change for mental health.

As It Is perform at 8:30pm on the Signature Brew Stage. For more from As It Is, visit www.asitisofficial.bandcamp.com

‘The Wounded World’ – As It Is


ELEANOR’S PICK: Luke Rainsford at Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

Luke Rainsford / The Key Club Acoustic Stage

The Key Club Acoustic Stage is hosting a stellar line up of bands and artists, including Birmingham’s Luke Rainsford – combining upbeat guitar with gut wrenching vocals, making music that is hard hitting but a real treat to listen to.

Having toured the UK extensively since the release of I Feel At Home With You in February 2017, and having recently released his latest EP, I Just Don’t Deserve To Be Loved, in April 2018, Rainsford’s music deals with difficult issues such as loss, bereavement, low self esteem and mental health. Good, honest stuff.

Luke Rainsford performs at 4:15 pm on The Key Club Acoustic Stage. For more on Luke Rainsford, visit www.lukerainsford.bandcamp.com

‘Home Safe’ – Luke Rainsford



ELEANOR’S PICK: Stand Atlantic at Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

Stand Atlantic / Rock Sound Breakout Stage

Australian trio, Stand Atlantic, will also be making their Slam Dunk debut this year, having recently toured with other performers such as ROAM and Knuckle Puck. With their latest EP, Sidewinder, reaching an impressive #10 on Rock Sound’s Top 50 Albums of 2017, and having been cited by Kerrang! as one of the hottest bands of 2018, Stand Atlantic are proving they’re a force to be reckoned with.

Claiming influences from Blink-182 to The 1975, they’re certainly considered a mixed bag musically too – but in the best possible way. Trust me. Go and listen to ‘Coffee at Midnight’. You can thank me later.

Stand Atlantic perform at 6:00 pm on the Rock Sound Breakout Stage. For more on Stand Atlantic, visit www.facebook.com/StandAtlantic 

‘Coffee at Midnight’ – Stand Atlantic

Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) comes to the NEC in Birmingham on 28th May. For direct information on Slam Dunk Festival 2018, including details on all the events happening across the UK, visit www.slamdunkmusic.com

For a direct info and online ticket sales for Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands), visit www.gentingarena.co.uk/whats-on/slam-dunk-festival

For more from the Genting Arena, including full events listing and venue details, visit www.gentingarena.co.uk

BREVIEW: Explosions in the Sky @ O2 Institute 10.10.16

Explosions in the Sky @ O2 Institute 10.10.16 / Reuben Penny ©Birmingham Review


Words by Matthew Osborne / Pics by Reuben Penny 

I’d almost forgotten about Explosions in the Sky. Back at the turn of the century, post-rock was a formidable genre with bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai and Sigur Rós making music that seemed to wordlessly say something significant about the human condition through cinematic and sometimes apocalyptic music.Explosions in the Sky @ O2 Institute 10.10.16 / Reuben Penny ©Birmingham Review

With their 2003 release, The World Is Not a Cold Dead Place, Explosions in the Sky (EITS) made something quite beautiful which celebrated what it was to be alive on this planet, full of epic songs with life-affirming titles such as ‘First Breath After a Coma’. Since 2011’s Take Care, Take Care, however, which fell into the category of more-of-the-same, along with the works of many of their contemporaries, EITS fell off my radar.

Coming across them again on a cold Monday night in Birmingham, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Their current record, The Wilderness, whilst adding some electronica to their palette, had underwhelmed me upon first listen.

Arriving at the O2 Institute midway through the opening act, Entrance, we buy beers and immediately look for somewhere to get away from this drab, one-man-and-his-guitar act who is sucking the life out of the room with every reverb heavy chord.

After Entrance finally makes his exit, Explosions in the Sky take to the stage, say a few brief words to the packed room, and then launch into over an hour of uninterrupted music.

The light show is mesmerising, and the first ethereal notes of the title track to the new record gently leak out from the stage, entrancing the assembled throng. The photographers in the pit scurry around taking Explosions in the Sky @ O2 Institute 10.10.16 / Reuben Penny ©Birmingham Reviewshots by poking their heads through what looks like shards of heavenly light, trying to get a shot through a dimensional portal.

Then, without warning, the band erupt into a wall of noise, distorted and beautiful, and the five members thrash about the stage, lost in their own music. On the left are Mark Smith and Michael James, head-banging to every beat, and on the right are Munaf Rayani and Carlos Torres (EITS’s fifth member whilst touring) who are writhing, like charmed snakes, to the gentle melodies beneath the powerful drumming of Chris Hrasky.

EITS work their way through a set comprised of old and new material, the oldies getting the bigger round of applause and the occasional clap-along from the audience as the tension builds to the inevitable climaxes dotted throughout each piece. At one point the wedding bands of three of the members glint and catch my eye at the same time, and I Explosions in the Sky @ O2 Institute 10.10.16 / Reuben Penny ©Birmingham Reviewcontemplate a supposition that these guys are good wholesome folk who understand love in its purest sense. That certainly comes through in their music.

I am also willing to gamble that they are excellent lovers, if their music is anything to go by. They are in no hurry to get to the climax, happy to be suspended in a moment for as long as it needs. The big pay-offs always come, but are sometimes sudden and surprising, especially to newcomers – like my companion this evening who watches enthralled for the whole performance, her body rocking with the band’s every beat.

Sadly, all good things come to an end. Fortunately this is nothing short of spectacular with EITS resurrecting two classics from their much-loved third album, The World is Not a Cold Dead Place. Cheers go up as a familiar riff breaks through the ambient dramatics of ‘The Only Moment We Were Alone’, and for ten minutes we are caught Explosions in the Sky @ O2 Institute 10.10.16 / Reuben Penny ©Birmingham Reviewsuspended in something magical – a wordless story which slowly unravels, becoming an overwhelming blanket of sound, building and building until it can’t reach any higher and ending in a sudden silence as the lights go down.

Tonight is a truly spectacular piece of musical theatre. EITS show that the apparently tired sounds of the post rock genre can still ring pure and true when played at the right volumes, with the mastery of a talented band of musicians who understand the dynamics of their work.

As we are kicked out of the O2 Institute, into the sharp chill of Monday night in Digbeth, amidst the drunks and the litter, it is hard not to find some sort of beauty inherent in every scene. You just need to approach it with the right pair of eyes, and the right set of ears. Without speaking a word tonight, Explosions in the Sky showed their Birmingham audience that troubles can be overcome and that there is a beauty to life, love and living, that we can forever embrace

For more on Explosions in the Sky, visit www.explosionsinthesky.com

For more from the O2 Institute (Birmingham), visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2institutebirmingham

For more from DHP, visit www.dhpfamily.com


BPREVIEW: Explosions in the Sky @ O2 Institute 10.10.16

Explosions in the Sky @ O2 Institute 10.10.16

Words by Ed King

On Monday 10th October, Explosions in the Sky will be performing at the O2 Institute (Birmingham) – coming to the city as part of their pan-Atlantic Wilderness Tour. Support comes from the Guy Blakeslee born, Entrance.main-with-web-colour-bcg-lr

Presented in the UK by DHP, doors will open for the Explosions in the Sky gig at 7pm. Tickets are priced at £25.25 +booking fee – for direct gig info, including online tickets sales, click here.

Born in the post rock Texan shadows of 1999, Explosions in the Sky are a guitar led, four piece, mini orchestra – producing layered, guitar led instrumentals (mainly) that hark back to the ambient rock progression of Spritualized or Mogwai.

Releasing their first LP in 2000, the seven track How Strange, Innocence, the band signed to Baltimore born/Brooklyn based Temporary Residence Ltd to release their sophomore album – Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever (2001).

Under the Bella Union umbrella in the UK since their third album, The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place (2003), Explosions in the Sky have been hop-scotching the Atlantic in 2016 – touring The Wilderness, their 7th studio album (if you include the limited physical release/free download of The Rescue in 2005) following its release in April this year.

Five years after the six track Take Care, Take Care, Take Care saw the light of day, the Explosions in the Sky’s latest LP endevour is an arguably more ‘radio friendly’ affair – stretching across 9 tracks and leaning to the lower end of the one-to-ten minute scale. Known for their uncompromising approach and self-described ‘cathartic mini The Wilderness / Explosions in the Skysymphonies’ this is a side step for the Texan rock band, one which could signal a slight change in the prevailing wind or could just be a coincidence. Perhaps a mute point (until we see guest vocals from Fergie) but worth noting none the less.

After their gig at the O2 Institute in Birmingham, Explosions in the Sky will be playing two more UK dates in Gateshead and London respectively. Then it’s over to our (hopefully still) European friends for gigs across October – starting out with three dates in Greece (Oct 14th – 16th) and ending their EU adventure in Düsseldorf, Germany (Oct 27th).

And for a tiny taste of what you might find on any of these stages, check out Explosions in the Sky performing their tour/album’s title track at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. – courtesy of NPR Music.

‘Wilderness’ – Explosions in the Sky

Explosions in the Sky come to the O2 Institute (Birmingham) on Monday 10th October, as part of the worldwide Wilderness Tour – supported by Entrance. For direct gig info, including online tickets sales, click here.

For more on Explosions in the Sky, visit www.explosionsinthesky.com

For more from the O2 Institute (Birmingham), visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2institutebirmingham

For more from DHP, visit www.dhpfamily.com