Slam Dunk Festival 2017 – Midlands & North review
Birmingham (27th May) / Leeds (28th May)
It’s that time of year again, the sun is shining, the stages are set, and the crowds are arriving for an eleventh year to take on Slam Dunk Festival once again! This year is packed from stage to stage with some exceptional talent and we sent our team down to Midlands & North to keep an eye on all of the action…
Midlands – Birmingham – 27th May – (Review: Jade Falconer)
Kick starting the day, Crossfaith (9) had the crowd bouncing from the word go. With tracks like Monolith and Ghost In The Mirror making an appearance, and Caleb from Beartooth joining the party, it was eventful to say the least. A thoroughly energetic and impressive performance overall saw the band conducting massive sing-a-longs and inciting giant circle pits.
On the Impericon stage, Ice Nine Kills tore their way through a lively set to a sizeable crowd.
Though only getting a short set due to others overrunning, Counterfeit (8) gave it their all and surely swayed over some new fans. Pounding through tracks like Romeo and You Can’t Rely, the band and crowd became one shouting the lyrics together. On their closing track Enough, singer Jamie Campbell-Bower instructed the crowd to form a giant circle pit to which they obliged. Jumping down into the pit, he continued the song from the centre like the eye of a storm and sent the band out in true rock star style.
I Prevail (9), easily one of the top bands of the weekend, had one of the largest turnouts with the Impericon stage being over capacity and then some. Having never made it to the UK before, I Prevail had a lot to answer for with this first performance and they certainly did not disappoint. With tunes like Stuck In Your Head, Come And Get It and Scars being performed it was hard to tell who was louder, the crowd or the band, it was impressive to say the least.
Known for their bouncy performances, Set It Off (7) were true to form bounding around the Key Club stage with much excitement. Showcasing predominately from albums; Duality and Upside Down, it was a true pop rock show. Ancient History was a real high point of the set, with one of the biggest sing-a-longs. Front man Cody Carson worked the crowd with a vocally outstanding performance that gave their set an edge over some of the competition.
Sydney pop punkers Tonight Alive (8) closed out the Key Club stage with a well-rounded selection of songs from their entire discography. Opening with Lonely Girl, the show went 0-100 fast with the crowd bouncing and shouting along. Thanking the crowd for coming to see them rather than their competition on the other stages, Jenna McDougall gave a heartfelt speech about self-empowerment and being oneself. Driving through tracks like Wasting Away, The Other Side and How Does It Feel? This set had a little bit of everything and was an all round crowd pleaser; it was a special show for new and old fans alike.
Headliners of the Impericon stage, Memphis May (9) Fire took to the stage with This Light I Hold. Though performing to a relatively small crowd compared to other stages, they had the audience captivated and even a few mosh pits broke out. Miles Away proved to be a deeper few moments in the set with the crowd singing along and Matty’s vocals becoming more emotion evoking. Despite the intimacy, they were on fine form and tore through a setlist of older tracks as well as content from their newest release, pleasing new and old fans alike. 9/10
Pop punkers Neck Deep (8) had by far one of the larger turnouts for the evening slots, running through a setlist comprised of huge tracks, the sound of the crowd was almost deafening. Gold Steps had things off to an impressive start with the band bounding around the stage, feeding energy to the crowd. With pits and crowdsurfers galore this was one hell of a show for the band, Where Do We Go When We Go was a surprisingly loud sing-a-long track for a recently released song and Can’t Kick Up The Roots was real crowd pleaser which rounded off the show nicely. 8/10
North – Leeds – 28th May – (Review: Adam Jones)
The sun is shining, the queues are forming, the spirits are up (even though some people obviously went to the pre-party the night before) and Leeds is once again hosting Slam Dunk festival.
Opening the day, we find ourselves on the Rocksound Breakout stage checking out Welsh post-Hardcore unit Casey (8.5). As Casey walk out on stage, the room reaches capacity with a continuous crowd waiting to come in, arguably proving that Casey have more than broken through as of late. With a vibrant, dynamic and sweaty set, filled with emotion and ambience, with highlights in the form of Darling, Little Bird and Hell, Casey leave the stage with silence and grace, leaving the Slam Dunk crowd begging for more. If this performance proved anything, it is that Casey are set to be the next big thing and that they are more than deserving
A short walk across the road we find ourselves at the Signature Brew stage catching Puppy (8)! Puppy are a relatively new band that have a lot of pulling power, filling out the car park in which the stage was situated. With a loud, biting (pun fully intended) and grungy sound, the three-piece managed to get the early festival crowd grooving for the day ahead, with plentiful crowd participation.
Waiting for the second band to grace the Signature Brew stage, more people begin to cram into the area to catch up and coming punk rockers, Milk Teeth (8). If you saw Creeper on tour earlier this year, you will have seen this Puppy into Milk Teeth change over before after the pair opened on the sold out UK tour. Milk Teeth have a great sound and have a very good dynamic, performing with smiles and enjoying every second on the stage. Mid way through the set, they play their new single Owning Your Okayness, taken from their new EP, Be Nice, which is released on Roadrunner Records later this summer. Milk Teeth are definitely part of the new wave of punk grunge to take over the UK and we can’t wait to hear Be Nice and find out what they have in store next!
We make our way over to the Jagermeister mainstage for the first time of the day to catch Britain’s hardest working metalcore outfit, Bury Tomorrow (10). Bury Tomorrow have played Slam Dunk numerous times now and only in the past few years been hitting main stages at major festivals, but they’re not going to stop that momentum now. Coming off of the back of their most successful UK tour yet, the band launch into their set at a million miles an hour and that sets the tone for the thirty minutes following. Millennium Square is easily filled with riffs upon riffs upon riffs. Opening with the mighty Man On Fire, the band continue to steam roll through a stunning set with bangers such as Lionheart, Earthbound and Sceptres making appearances. Dani Winter-Bates continues to be one of the most enigmatic frontmen in music, commanding walls of deaths, circle pits galore and nonstop movement from the crowd throughout, all whilst his avoiding his brother, Davyd, who roams around the stage menacingly and regularly doing his best fidget spinner impression, which to be frank is very impressive. Without a doubt, Bury Tomorrow cements themselves as one of the most exciting acts in the UK and that is said with no doubt.
We linger around the main stage waiting for our next band of the day, Beartooth (9). Beartooth first played Slam Dunk festival in 2015 and have been nonstop ever since. Since then they have played numerous huge tours, worldwide mainstages and most recently played their first ever stadium show in the US. As Caleb Shomo as his merry men walk out to an adorning crowd, they drop straight in with the title track from their newest album, Aggressive. It is very hard to think of Beartooth as a new band with only two album releases, as their set goes from strength to strength, the band carry themselves with the composure of a band a decade in the making and know exactly how to work the crowd, playing off of every emotion possible. Finishing their set with the triple threat of Sick Of Me, In Between and Hated, it is hard to see this band not becoming one of the biggest metal bands in the world because they simply have everything. They’re likable, have a very strong catalogue and put on one hell of a performance.
As the day goes on, the sun is still beaming down and after a little break we’re back in the main arena catching Don Broco (10). After a false start due to technical errors, the boys were soon back out on stage getting people bouncing immediately with their single, Everybody. It is obvious that DB have been on this main stage previously, as well as having a whole heap of live experience as they have the crowd in the palm of their hands throughout. With lead singer Rob Damiani immediately on the barrier, the party starts as a wave of people jump in unison and crowd surf to the front. Broco played a versatile setlist spanning the past five years of their career, with new highlights such as Fire, Superlove and Automatic, they also played classics such as Priorities and Thug Workout, a set that catered to all (especially the Leeds Push Up Squad who were on fine form!). Only having the odd minute break to swap guitars, they announced they are close to finishing recording their third album, which we are already dying to hear and if their newest song and set closer, Pretty, is anything to go by, the album will be filled with riffs, jaw dropping melodies and catchy groove.
And with that, as Rob Damiani and Broco drummer, Matt Donnelly climb out of the crowd after they joined the pits during Pretty, the sun sets over the Jagermeister stage and Enter Shikari’s (11!) crew get to work setting up the stage and lights for the Take To The Skies ten year anniversary celebrations. As the very familiar opening synth sequence to Stand Your Ground; This Is Ancient Land kicked in, the crowd roared and the transition straight into Enter Shikari saw thousands of thousands of adults revert back to 2007 and bellow “SHIT” at the top of their lungs in unison. Accompanied by a light show nothing short of Wembley Arena, the celebration began, with lasers and strobes flying all over the place lighting up the centre of Leeds.
Whilst the set itself was non stop, there were the odd extremely stand out points from what was the musical performance of the year (and that is said with confidence and conviction), notably three claps in quick succession filling the air when Sorry You’re Not A Winner began. The solidarity and passion felt in the air when frontman, Rou Reynolds donned just an acoustic guitar and commented on the recent Manchester attacks and dedicated a cover of Oasis’ Half the World Away to Manchester. The social commentary as the 250-year-old Leeds General Infirmary looked over the festival as Reynolds praised the NHS and took the chance to incite the entire crowd chanting for Jeremy Corbyn. These moments are moments that will stick with anyone that was there for the rest of their lives as this was a life changing performance from the St Albans band. Ofcourse, with a back catalogue as large as Enter Shikari’s and an hour and half to fill, some newer songs made their way into the set, such as The Last Garrison, Anaesthetist and Common Dread’s classic, Juggernaut.
Shikari’s set eventually came to a close, with the final three songs being acoustic lead Adieu, which with a more modern Shikari percussion element left many with tears in their eyes, Redshift, a more modern but impactful song and finally, OK, Time For Plan B, which tore apart the mainstage and crowd once and for all, it all came to an end. The floodlights came on; the crowd shuffled to the exits and Millennium Square was empty for another year. That headline set was nothing short of magical. The band were tight, everyone hit their queues and harmonies, the setlist was brilliant, the production values that went into the show were second to none and the atmosphere was unforgettable and in that moment, everything stood still as you witnessed the next big thing. Enter Shikari have already done one arena tour and are about to embark on their second this year and if you haven’t ever seen this band, we highly implore you do and that you support the movement behind them. It was without a doubt, the best performance we have ever witnessed and with that, let’s see what 2018 brings us. We will see you next year.
Review: Jade Falconer (Midlands) Adam Jones (North)
Photography: © Kluens / © Ben Bentley / © Ali Horton