Kenny Hoopla at Slam Dunk Festival North on 3 June

From self-releasing indie pop tunes on Soundcloud to working with pop-punk juggernaut Travis Barker, KennyHoopla is a hot new artist making waves, with no signs of stopping any time soon.

The Cleveland Ohio native’s latest release ‘Survivors Guilt’ sees Kenneth La’ron venture into a pop-punk direction, spearheaded by the production and input of a certain Mr. Barker.

It seems like Slam Dunk Festival is a fitting venue for someone like KennyHoopla: a packed-out tent, in a field in Leeds, where “Kenny! Kenny! Kenny!” rings out as the crowd becomes impatient. Waiting for what feels like an eternity, Kenny emerges 10 minutes late but launches straight into silence is also an answer// pinballing across the stage with the kind of energy unseen all day until that point. 

Kenny was a man of very few words, playing catch up from the late start. It felt like a quickfire song round, as Hoopla rattled through many hits from ‘Survivors Guilt.’ From the blink-182 inspired hollywood sucks// to the more mid-2000s emo influenced title track survivors guilt//, the versatility on show here is astounding; a cocktail of alternative genres. With the ever-animated Kenneth La’ron jumping, running across the stage, into the crowd and really getting amongst it, the love is felt between performer and audience.

Bouncing up and down the stage, feeding off of the crowd, Kenny doesn’t seem like an upcoming artist – it feels like he’s been doing this for years. “She’s gonna cut my head off, but I don’t care, I don’t care” he bellows out to zero backing. The indie number how will i rest in peace if i’m buried by a highway? // soon follows with its driving bassline, and the dance influenced drums sees the set turn from an emotional rollercoaster to a party, before bringing us back to the lead single on his latest release estella//. Introducing the song in a similar way to the previous, by singing the lyrics to no backing, the excitement levels kick up a notch, with the crowd shouting back at the stage with increasing enthusiasm. 

Surprisingly absent was latest single, DIRTY WHITE VANS// – a trap/hip-hop influenced number but with the classic charm and personality that shines through on all of Kenny’s releases; perhaps he thought it never suited the vibes of the Festival, or….. more likely because of the lateness.

KennyHoopla is a very accomplished singer/songwriter, but I feel it’s in this setting where he is best suited. His energy, emotion and dynamism really left it all to do for the following bands that day. Making sure he left everything out there on that stage, Kenny thanks the crowd, humbled by the support and love in that Rock Scene tent. “I feel honoured to be on this stage with these bands” he exclaims, before taking his leave.

Whether you’re bored with the million projects Travis Barker has on his plate, lobotomising artists and sending them on their way with a new pop-punk sound (See: Machine Gun Kelly), it seems KennyHoopla is a genuine artist, with genuine love for the genre. Epitomised in his electric performance at England’s best alternative festival, it’ll be interesting to see where he goes next, but in my honest opinion? Regardless of genre, the only direction is up.

Words by Ryan Wilson. Photography by Emma Gibbon (@emmgibb)

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