Slam Dunk Festival 2019 – The Big Review!

Slam Dunk Festival – North – 25/05/19

New site. Check. New stage splits. Check. New transportation. Check. New weather? Ermm, not so much. Slam Dunk North has ventured from it’s city surroundings for the first time to play in the grounds of Temple Newsham park. Upon announcement, fans were dubious, but still flocked to the new home of Slam Dunk. Treated to actual fields of grass, the sun to start the day, and little to no queues to both stages, bars, and to get in, the day was already off to a home run start…wait…wrong sport, A SLAM DUNK START!

Milk Teeth (8)

Early morning pop punk is all we need to get things off to a perfect start, and Milk Teeth are suited and booted for a bit of fun in the sun. The trio are no strangers to Slam Dunk Festival so they pull a great crowd at the top of the hill on the Dickies stage with their bouncy punk. You can see it in the faces of the band how much fun they’re having and it only rubs off on the crowd! (DP)

Anti Flag (9)

Over to the Punk In Drublic stage (yup we can’t say it yet either) for the first time today to catch Anti Flag with their supercharged set. The Pittsburgh punk rockers tear through a half hour set of belters, and like the crowd the band on stage are throwing themselves all over the place. Bassist Chris Baker spends more time flying through the air than he does with his feet on the stage, and frontman Justin Sane head bangs and  shreds through some of Anti Flags best tracks from their impressive back catalogue. (DP)

Knocked Loose (9)

Arguably, one of the most hyped bands of the day come in the form of Knocked Loose. Let’s just get it out of the way, the hype is more than justified. With a 30 minute set filled with gut wrenching breakdowns, tight musicianship, and a huge crowd to boot, KL made Slam Dunk their own. You wouldn’t think it’s only 2 in the afternoon with the crowd response, as it’s one fit for a headline act, the loyal KL fan base was in true voice. Dropping new track’s like ‘Mistakes Like Fractures’ and at the time, only 3 day old ‘…And Still I Wander South’, they get the same reaction as flagship’s ‘Deadringer’ and ‘Counting Worms’. Whenever these guys are next in the UK, if you’re not there, you’re missing out on arguably, one of the biggest Hardcore acts of this decade.(AJ)

Hot Milk (8)

It’s our first-time catching Hot Milk live and we were thoroughly entertained. With only a few songs to throw our way there aren’t many surprises to their set, however their recent EP ‘Are You Feeling Alive?’ is solid and they have a huge stage presence between themselves. The fronting pair Han Mee and Jim Shaw lead the line and make sure the crowd are fully involved. As a secret set is coming up on the next stage there’s a few stray people hanging around, but Hot Milk pull them in and certainly will have won over a few new fans! Expect to see much more of them over the festival schedule as well as a support gig for Foo Fighters’ UK & Ireland shows. (DP)

Y3K (Busted) (9)

So. Who are ‘Y3K’? Well, only at a festival like Slam Dunk, could the same kids who just punched each other in the face for 30 minutes, then go and dance, sing and laugh watching freakin’ Busted (9). Whilst Busted may not be to everyone’s taste at the festival, they prevail as more than just a ‘nostalgia’ act. Ripping through a set of classic’s such as ‘Air Hostess’ and ’Year 3000’, they also play newer material from their 2019 album, ‘Half Way There’, which gets a strong reaction as well. The atmosphere in the tiny tent overflows, as does the crowd, with a sea of smiles, memories, even tears, as the Pop titans are overpowered regularly by the pro singing along. All we know is 30 minutes was not enough of Busted. Just means they’ll have to come back next year, yeah? (AJ)

Turnstile (10)

Turnstile are one of the most exciting and promising bands in recent memory. Giving the perfect festival set, the band have something for everyone, be it punk rock tracks like ‘Big Smile’ or ‘Moon’, into heavier tracks like ‘Drop’ and ‘Keep It Moving’ where the crowd can kick up a fuss, push pits, two steps and dance their hearts away too. Hell, even a disco interlude like ‘Bomb’, there’s something for everyone! A Turnstile set continues to be an unpredictable force, whether you have singer Brendan Yates climbing the stage about 20m in the air as band mates watch him swing from the lights, to diving into the crowd, or having so much energy, you nearly send your kick drum launching into the back of a security guards head. In this MAMMOTH 16 song set, we saw a future headliner. When Slam Dunk decide to pull the trigger on making Turnstile main stage or second stage headliners, we’ll be certain in be in the front. (AJ)

Cancer Bats (8)

The furious Cancer Bats brought everything we expected of them to the Impericon Stage with their hardcore punk, and the Canadian quartet had circle pits, mosh pits and crowd surfers flying over the barrier throughout their set with little persuasion needed. Nikki Brumen from Pagan made a noisy guest appearance, and Cancer Bats cover of the Beastie Boys ‘Sabotage’ was one of the highlights of the day on the Impericon stage. (DP)

Liam Cromby (8.5)

Over on the tiny acoustic stage, ex We Are The Ocean frontman Liam Cromby has a small gathering to greet him with one of his first performances in a long time. He plays through a set of new songs he’s written and mixes in a few acoustic versions of We Are The Ocean favourites like ‘Now & Then’ which sound just as good stripped back as they did with the full band. His vocals were on point and it was a pleasure to see the man himself back on the stage at Slam Dunk Festival once again.

Pagan (8)

The Key Club stages being within one tent and placed next to each other is simply a blessing for us as we take a little break from sprinting about the festival to see our next 3 bands. Starting off the trio are Aussie sweethearts Pagan (8). We say sweethearts in the loosest of terms, as this four-piece are here to wreck the place with a drink in hand. Pagan offer a unique blend of rock n roll riffing, blast beats, and ridiculously harsh vocals from front woman Nikki Brumen, who is like a wine-dribbling tornado of energy. From the first note until the last, the crowd were enchanted by this nonstop 4 piece. This is a band to be reckoned with. Welcome to the Pagan cult! (AJ)

Shapes (7)

Following this huge performance were Shvpes (7). Shvpes have been around for a little while now, regularly appearing on tour dates and festival dates across the UK and Europe for the past few years, honing their unique blend of Metalcore with eccentric Metal and the throwback to early Nu-Metal. Frontman Griffin Dickinson is clearly born to be a frontman, relentlessly throwing himself across the stage and engaging with the crowd, who frankly, were lacking in the energy department for this band. Shvpes clearly have something about them that makes them stand out amongst this festival bill, but unfortunately, something just didn’t seem to click for them today. (AJ)

Employed to Serve (9)

Our final band of the Key Club stage are Employed To Serve (9) who are coming in hot after releasing one of the best British metal albums of the past decade. Having played a flurry of shows the previous few weeks, it’s obvious that they’re in fine form, as they start to roar through their set. Pulling tracks from their newest album, ‘Eternal Forward Motion’, they show they’re the future of British metal and should be on a much bigger stage. With a reasonable (but still in our opinion, severely lacking) turnout, those who saw it got an almost intimate performance, which only made it more intense. With nasty riffs (particularly that lead line on Owed Zero), vicious trade off vocals, and a simply ghostly amount of tone, songs such as ‘Force Fed’ and ‘I Spend My Days’ felt like they were directed directly at you and boy, was it impressive. (AJ)

Gallows (9)

This is the first festival performance from Gallows since 2014. Well, you wouldn’t think it, immediately taking to the stage and re-starting their first song so frontman Wade McNeil could get directly into the pit to kick their set off with ‘Misery’. It’s been 10 years since the album this song features on, ‘Grey Britain’ was released and as the tent erupts with ‘MISERY FUCKING LOVES ME, AND I LOVE HER TOO’, you can tell that this band was the band of a generation.

It never slows down, the intensity doesn’t end. Playing easily to over a thousand people in this tent, 95% of the crowd are screaming the lyrics back, whilst the other 5% are either battering their mates in the pit or too gobsmacked with what they’re watching. With tracks such as ‘London is the Reason’ (adapted to Yorkshire is the Reason), ‘In The Belly of a Shark’, and ‘Orchestra of Wolves’ smattering this set, this is possibly, one of the most defining sets of the day. This is the set for the generation who didn’t want the manufactured posers on the front of Kerrang!, the people who didn’t want want to shop at Blue Banana (yeah, remember that). This is a set for the generation who went to grotty venues, saw their mates play 4 chords really fast, really loud, and wanted to hear unrelenting punk rock that resonated with them. Perhaps in the current climate in 2019, it may resonate even more so than before. (AJ)

Less Than Jake (8.5)

Back to the Punk In Drublic Stage for Slam Dunk favourites Less Than Jake, who are nailed on to bring a huge performance of Ska Punk as ever. The Florida group don’t disappoint as they take the stage to ‘Gainesville Rock City’ and everyone’s in high spirits from the start. They sound huge and backed with the brass they sound incredible live and you can’t help but get moving. Frontman Chris DeMakes & Bassist Roger Lima look like they are having a more fun than ever with their faces full of expressions as they tear though their set, which ends with fan favourite ‘All My Best Friends Are Metalheads’ to finish off a solid set. (DP)

Lights (7.5)

A little more reserved over on the Key Club stage was Lights with her electropop dance to which had us all dancing along like the afterparty had already began. Frontwoman Valerie Anne Poxleitner works her way around the stage confidently and even heads down into the crowd to make sure everyone is fully involved. Her voice sounds great live but parts of the set just had that something special missing and we can’t quite put our finger on it. Non the less it was a thoroughly enjoyable set and we’ll be keeping a keen eye on her return to the UK in the future. (DP)

New Found Glory (10)

If there was ever a perfect band for a Slam Dunk Festival performance it would be New Found Glory. The Florida pop punks have been going strong since 1997 and have an arsenal of hits to fire at us from the Monster stage. They’ve played here on multiple occasions over the years and they never disappoint. With a recent release of ‘From the Screens To Your Stereo 3’, New Found Glory hit the stage with a thumping cover of ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ with frontman Jordan Pundik in his USA boxing shorts ready to knock us out with a headline worthy performance. The 14 song set was full of New Found Glory hits like ‘Understatement’, ‘My Friends Over You’ and Hit Or Miss’ as well as an array of covers from the likes of ‘Kiss Me’ to Frozen’s ‘Let It Go’ which only the likes of New Found Glory could pull off. The bar is well and truly set for headliners All Time Low to follow. (DP)

NOFX (7)

Like Less Than Jake, NOFX are another favourite of Slam Dunk Festival so it’s no surprise to see them back on the line up and headlining the Punk in Drublic Stage. The band stroll out to the stage joking between themselves and with the crowd for quite a while before finally playing their first song ‘Seeing Double at the Triple Rock’. It’s a bit of a sluggish start for NOFX but a steady performance to please the crowd follows. (DP)

All Time Low (7.5)

Finally 2019 Headliners All Time Low take to the Monster stage after a six year wait since their last performance at Slam Dunk Festival. Back then they were riding high off their fifth studio album ‘Dirty Work’ and were on the verge of concerning arenas, but just recently they seemed to have cooled off a little with their recent albums not quite delivering what many fans expected of the Baltimore boys. Luckily for us, its 10 years since the release of the fantastic ‘Nothing Personal’, so the likes of ‘Dammed If I Do Ya, Dammed If I Don’t’, ‘Stella’, ‘Weightless’ and ‘Lost In Stereo’ all feature in the set and go down an absolute treat. Frontman Alex Gaskarth and guitarist Jack Barakat have always been great fun on stage with their tongue and cheek humour between songs and this show is no different as they keep us entertained throughout.

Alex Gaskarth said himself they’ve been a little quiet recently, and let us into the secret that they have been writing/recording a brand-new album. A live debut of brand new song ‘Getaway Green’ provides some exclusivity to Slam Dunk and generates some excitement as it sounds like guys could be back on track if this song is anything to go by.

As ever ‘Time Bomb’ has the band picking out members of the audience to join them on stage, and ‘Dear Maria, Count Me In’ closes out the show perfectly as ever. As great as a set it was it still didn’t quite feel as big as what we’ve seen from them in the past, but it’s a positive show and a great headline performance to finish off a fantastic day. (DP)

Just like that, that’s a wrap for 2019! Another solid year with a line-up that had us drooling and on the most part it delivered. The worries of the new site causing issues was unnecessary, as everything ran smoothly and the split stages meant there was barely time to breathe between sets leaving us constantly entertained. If Slam Dunk Festival continues to improve at this rate we can’t wait to see what else is to come! Roll of 2020!

Check out more live photos of all these acts and more on
Soundcheck-Live here!

Review: Adam Jones & Danny Peart
Photography: © Danny Peart Photography 2019

Danny Peart
Editor / Live Music Photographer / Journalist at Soundcheck-Live

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