September 6 and 7, 2019 marked the fourth annual Sophomore Slump Fest in Durham, North Carolina. This year brought new changes for FBT Entertainment as they made the initial decision to ensure that this year was bigger and better than ever. For the first time, Sophomore Slump Fest was split into two separate days, providing two days of face-shredding, two-stepping, and solidifying the reason as to why fans keep coming back year after year.
The decision to split the festival into two days meant that this year had to have incredible support from its sponsors. Making its return to Slump Fest was the Pabst Blue Ribbon Sound Society, a favorite amongst the fest staff, bands, and of course – the fans. Throughout the entire weekend, fans had the chance to grab some of the killer PBR swag as they purchased festival merch which included hats, bottle openers, sunglasses, shirts and other cool trinkets. Monster Energy made its Slump Fest debut this year. The Monster Energy team had a sweet set up right outside the venue, providing everyone with much needed energy to keep going throughout the weekend. The sponsor list included the legendary Alamo Drafthouse in Raleigh. The Alamo Drafthouse provides a unique viewing experience for movie patrons as the show stars before the movie even begins. They offer crafted food, beer, cocktails, milkshakes pre-shows and more to ensure people are entertained before the opening scene starts rolling. Second City Prints was a huge help this year, as all of the fest merch was printed there. Second City Prints provides merchandise creation, webstore management, and tour fulfillment. If you coped any of this year’s sick designs, they were all printed by Second City. Rounding out the list is Shed & Shred, a lifestyle clothing brand. While at Slump Fest, you could find them set up by the vendors, slinging their bestselling items including side bags, t-shirts, long sleeves, and more.
Throughout the entire weekend, fans had the chance to win incredible prizes from our sponsors and bands. FBT held raffles at each event at $1 per entry, where fans could enter to win swag, merch, music, and hotel stays. The winners were announced during each event.
Speaking of the events, let’s discuss how stacked this year’s lineup was. For starters, how many music festivals kick things off with a stand-up comedic? Setting the tone for the day was Jennings Compton, a face that’s no stranger to the FBT and Slump Fest fam. Day 1 was for our pop punk lovers, with artists like Nominee, Rarity, Rich People, and bloom. taking the stage. Among the headliners for the night were current tour mates Belmont and Grayscale. Belmont was a name that was dropped multiple times throughout the night as one of the most anticipated acts of the night. With a sound that can only be described as the type of music pop punk kids listen to at their family barbeque while rocking their favorite vacation dad shirt, Belmont certainly did not disappoint. Closing out the night were Philadelphia’s Best, Grayscale. This was a special night as their second full-length album Nella Vita dropped that same day. For those that came to dance, this was the time to do it. Despite the fact that for most, they were hearing the new songs for the first time that night, that didn’t stop them from crowd surfing and screaming as if they knew every single word.
For our heavier crowd, the ones that windmill first and ask questions never, Day 2 was for them. Day 2’s lineup completely ripped, tearing through the crowd limb for limb leaving nothing but sweat, blood, and tears in its path. Artists like Shame Spiral, Chamber, and Vatican came, saw, and completely conquered the stage. Keep Flying, the darlings of Slump Fest, making their fourth consecutive appearance, hit the stage that day with everything they had. If there was a band that stuck out in everyone’s mind for being one of the most unique and innovative acts ever, it was Keep Flying. Representing the New York hardcore scene, Madball slaughtered the crowd with a remarkably visceral performance. The view of the floor was insane, as the crowd thrashed around with an energy that cannot be matched. Closing out Day 2 was Silent Planet, a band who took everyone by surprise after the initial announcement as part of Slump Fest. Silent Planet is the best of both worlds when it comes to their approach to music. It’s an intense melodic combination of face-melting breakdowns and meaningful lyrics that work together to evoke an emotional response while throwing down in the pit.
Throughout the fest, two large framed posters were displayed by the merch table to be signed. These posters were dedicated to two people who can only be described as being the heart and soul of the music scene, especially where Slump Fest and FBT are concerned. Anthony Morales suddenly passed away from cancer back in December. Originally from Texas, Anthony was well-known for his immense passion and being one of the most hard-working individuals in the scene. He had great ties to FBT as Anthony was the promoter for the first show than an FBT band ever played in Texas as a touring artist. He was the poster child for not letting anything get in the way of his love or involvement in music. Slump Fest Founder and Co-owner of FBT, Liz Mercer said, “literally in his hospital bed, he was sharing links to shows he couldn’t go to”.
Carter Amundson passed away by suicide earlier this year. Despite being Minnesota bred, he planted his roots and made an impression just about everywhere he went. To everyone he encountered, he was an enormous beam of light, making him a permanent bright spot in the lives of those around him. Mercer said, “He was buried in the Easycore hat I gave him last year. In 2017, he attended his first and last Sophomore Slump Fest and gave me about 7 burned CDs with his favorite musical artists drawn on there. On one of them, he drew me. It was the first time anyone ever saw me as a leader in this industry. His support meant the world”. At the end of the festival, both portraits were covered with heartfelt messages and signatures. They were given to the families at the end of the festival.
To say Sophomore Slump Fest ‘19 was a success would be an understatement. The tagline, “where fans become family” could not be truer as the festival wouldn’t be what it is without the support of the fans. This festival is a shining example of how strong the music scene is and how hard fans go to support artists – especially within the local North Carolina scene. The momentum for Sophomore Slump Fest doesn’t stop here, as the plans for next year are only to continue to top the year before, so fans get ready. You have until next year to prepare yourselves.
Photos by: Nathan Rogers