SLAM DUNK FESTIVAL 2017 – SOUTH – HATFIELD – 29th MAY 2017

A Bank Holiday Monday morning started with thunderstorms in the south and torrential rain, and your instant thoughts for those attending Slam Dunk Festival at Hatfield, how wet was this day going to get? It certainly didn’t drown any spirits though as in their flocks. People were dressed like it’s summer and drinking cans in the queue, ready for an all day party.

While we had coverage of the festival last year, I missed out and straight away the layout of the festival felt quite different to how I remember 2015 being. The Fireball “ska” stage was outside, less than a hundred meters from the main Jagermeister stage, amazingly there wasn’t a clash of noise, it was set up well. Most of the other stages were in recognisable spots from previous years, just in a rearranged order. Outside stages were the pop-punk fueled Monster Energy Stage along with the emo/post-hardcore dominated Signature Brew Stage. Inside the university student social build one again the hardcore and metal fronted Impericon Stage downstairs. Then upstairs was the Key Club Stage inside The Forum with the Uprawr DJ Stage in the room next door. A new stage to me was the Rock Sound Breakout Stage up in the “Attic” bar.

Like Pacific – Monster Stage

Kicking off the day over at the Monster Stage was Toronto pop-punk outfit, Like Pacific. For an opening set, the crowd reaction was decent, timid at first but it didn’t take long for the blood to get flowing. The Canadians delivered a dose of chirpy pop-punk with catchy melodies and bouncy hooks which were enough to kick off some pits early on, and they grew as the set progressed. Like Pacific threw out some fan favourites, including the topically dark ‘Scarred’ and the leading single ‘Distant’.  The rain tried to make an appearance, but it was very light and didn’t deter anybody from sticking around. Sound wise I think the set lacked some punch, but otherwise, it was a decent opener as the band performed their hearts out. (6.5)

Words by Makky Hall

Crossfaith – Jagermeister Stage

Photo taken by Ben Bentley

Japanese synth metallers, Crossfaith may have been on very early, but they happened to blow nearly every other band out of the water with their intense trance and drum & bass fuelled metalcore. Opening with big whooshing electronic sounds and keyboardist, Terufumi Tamano clapping on stage to hype the crowd, followed swiftly by the synth melodies of ‘System X’, which led right into the intense pit starter, ‘Xeno’. Straight away the frontman, Kenta Koie, produced monstrous roars as he controlled the crowd by egging on any kind of reaction.

It was chaos towards the front; fans were either off their feet, violently moshing or clapping along. It was a fantastic response. Crossfaith unleashed popular classic, ‘Monolith’ and invited Beartooth frontman Caleb Shomo to the stage for ‘Ghost In The Mirror’ to deliver his own throat shouts. The Japanese outfit treated us to their popular cover of ‘Omen’ by The Prodigy, in which they got everyone to crouch down to jump up. It was a great set full of crunchy as hell riffs to bang your head to along with catchy as hell, anthemic choruses to balance it out. (8)

Words by Makky Hall

WSTR – Monster Energy Stage

Liverpool act, “Waster”, launched right into ‘Featherweight’ from their recent album ‘Red, Green or Inbetween’, in which the crowd erupted and a wave of gang shouts and rushed to the front to sing along. The music was a lot more up-tempo and harder hitting than Like Pacific was earlier in the day, this was certainly reflected in the crazy crowd that pitted harder and jumped higher and the high octane atmosphere didn’t stop once. The scouse lads kept unveiling material from the new album, songs such as ‘Footprints’ and ‘Nail the Casket (Thanks for Nothing)’ continued to produce more and more energy as the performance went on. The awesome crowd reaction was a great signifier that WSTR have a strong fan base and are certainly going places. (7)

Words by Makky Hall

Zebrahead – Fireball Stage

Photo taken by Ben Bentley

By the time I got over to the Fireball stage, Zebrahead had a full crowd rocking out to ‘Save Your Breath’, the opener of their most recent album, ‘Walk The Plank’. It was pandemonium, yet highly entertaining as fans ran themselves ragged towards the overly happy rap-fronted skate punk. It was a set full of silly antics and fun vibes as Zebrahead sang songs about drinking and had people on stage dressed as beer bottles. The hits kept flowing as the Californians pulled out the likes of ‘Rescue Me’, ‘Falling Apart’ and ‘Anthem’, where Zebrahead had one of their entourage crowd-surfing in a rubber dingy from the stage to the sound desk, back to the front again. It was a funny set with plenty of banter between songs, the standout moment was however when the Reel Big Fish brass section came on stage for the iconic hit, ‘Anthem’. (8)

Words by Makky Hall

Mad Caddies – Fireball Stage

Californian ska punks, Mad Caddies return to Slam Dunk Festival for the first time in ten years. You got exactly what you expected from the ska legends too as the Caddies played their usual brand of chilled out dub and reggae rhythms with infectious brass hooks. Much like Zebrahead, it was completely joyous vibes as Mad Caddies delivered plodding polka style beats to their mostly down tempo anthems such as ‘Backyard’. For the whole set, the crowd danced around and sang along with smiles on their faces, even with the light rain coming down again. Most of the set was down-tempo and relaxed, full of slow burner such as ‘Drinking for 11’, but the odd skank-worthy hit such as ‘No Hope’ made an appearance.(7)

Words by Makky Hall

Bury Tomorrow – Jagermeister Stage

While the fun was still going on over at Mad Caddies, I decided to check out my first annoying clash of the day, so I did a bit of half of one and half of the other. Bury Tomorrow was very contrasting, brutal in fact. The Southampton lads were already under way into ‘Cemetary’ as vicious pits erupted to earth shattering breakdowns and Daniel Winter-Bates‘ monstrous roars. Circle pits opened for ‘Earthbound’ and the frontman came to the barrier to get right into the faces of fans shouting right back with him. He knew how to control this crowd as everyone was off their feet.

Bands have their “thing” that fans remember them for when performing live, Skindred with the “Newport Helicopter” for example. Bury Tomorrow have a simple way of getting fans involved, sticking an arm around the person next to you and jumping with them. And it works, they do it at every show and each time you have a see of metalheads bobbing up and down. I didn’t catch the whole set, but what I saw was once again, Bury Tomorrow kicking ass, they should have been further up the bill. (8)

Words by Makky Hall

Goldfinger – Fireball Stage

It was beachball mania as countless balls flew around the air by the time Goldfinger hit the stage. The Californian punk band which is still fronted by John Feldman is essentially now a supergroup, with Mike Herrera from MxPx on bass, Phillip Sneed from Story of the Year on guitar and Cyrus Bolooki of New Found Glory on drums. ‘Spokesman’ kicked the set off in fantastic style, all around you voices were heard. Much of the same for follow up hits ‘Counting The Days’ and ‘Get Up’, the reaction was electric.

We were treated to some new material from the forthcoming album, ‘The Knife’. ‘Put The Knife Away’ wasn’t too different to the kind of songs on the recent Blink 182 album that Feldman produced. Apart from that it was a greatest hits set; Angry anthem, ‘Open Your Eyes’ and Tony Hawks Pro Skater classic, ‘Superman’ fueled immense energy into the crowd along with a covers of ‘Knowledge’ by Operation Ivy and the usual take on ’99 Red Balloons’. The set was wonderfully nostalgic, a term I’ll use a lot to describe the whole day. (8.5)

Words by Makky Hall

Reel Big Fish – Fireball Stage

Photo taken by Ben Bentley

This was very much same nostalgia vibe, with the hint of a jokier atmosphere. The Fish pulled out fan favourites right from the start, ‘Everything Sucks’ and ‘I Want Your Girlfriend To Be My Girlfriend Too’ had the audience rocking out and skanking early. ‘Everyone Else Is An Asshole’ has become quite the anthem with the massive “WHOAH'” chants of the many hundreds of people watching and then singing the brilliantly offensive chorus. The classic cover of ‘Monkey Man’ brought the two tone vibes, a song to lose your voice to and dance around like a fool.

The stand out moment came when Reel Big Fish kept trolling the audience with a medley of snippets of other bands songs and then purposely mistaking who wrote them, performing ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and saying “Thats not a Reel Big Fish Song, it’s Soundgarden”. This went on a couple more times with snippets of ‘My Own Worst Enemy’ by Lit and saying it’s by Bowling For Soup and saying Bosstones hit ‘The Impression That I Get’ was done by Less Than Jake. It was thoroughly entertaining. Right after that, suprisingly ‘Sell Out’ was performed, quite early on still but none the less very effective. I took that opportunity about six songs before the end to go find ‘Stray From The Path’. (8)

Words by Makky Hall

Stray From The Path – Impericon Stage

This might have been a mistake to miss the end of Reel Big Fish for in hindsight, because as good as Stray From The Path are live, they were not great here. It’s a shame, the room was packed out to the brim, and maybe it was just because I stood near the back, but the sound was off, way off. The bass and drums drowned out the guitars, the vocals were muffled. It was the only real disappointing set I saw all day, it wasn’t absolutely terrible, but judging from past performances, I was expecting greatness.

The chaos was still there though, the New York lads ignited wild pits and waves of crowd surfers who didn’t care about the sound issues, they just kicked some ass to the funky hardcore anthems that Stray From The Path unleashed. Favourites such as ‘Badge & A Bullet Pt.II’ and ‘Black Friday’ certainly created some adrenaline. Enter Shikari‘s Rou Reynolds came out for ‘Eavesdropper’, though due to mic issues you couldn’t hear him for the most part. I took this as a sign to go see other things. (6)

Words by Makky Hall

The Gospel Youth – Rock Sound Breakout Stage

I’ve been following the career of Sam Little for the best part of the last decade, the various bands and his solo projects, though I’ve only managed to catch The Gospel Youth and its several incarnations a handful of times. Though, each time it just seems the band are getting tighter as shows go by. In the dark, yet rather full “Attic” of Hatfield, Tthe infectiously catch pop-rock/pop-punk hits, fueled by Little‘s impressive Patrick Stump-esque voice just captivated you. Some tracks were slowburners, some were the kind to get your feet moving, either way it was quite entrancing, though at times rough around the edges. It’s a gritty kind of smooth. During one track, Little claimed there was a reference to one of his favourite musicians, who he didn’t name, but also happened to be in the same room at the time, quite a touching moment. I left a little before the end to catch Less Than Jake, but it was an impressive set, a nice warm up set of shows for the band before they head off to The Warped Tour. (7)

Words by Makky Hall

Don Broco – Jagermeister Stage

Photo taken by Ali Horton

Don Broco are known for their engaging stage presence and their laddish charm, and they certainly didn’t disappoint this year at Slam Dunk Festival. They’re basically a Slam Dunk house band now, having played the festival four times since 2011, and it’s easy to see why. From kicking off their performance with shimmy-inducing ‘Everybody’, playing classic hits like ‘Priorities’, ‘You Wanna Know’ and ‘Automatic’ and breaking in the newly-welcomed ‘Pretty’ to close the show (not before insisting the crowd all rock their Rob Damiani masks that had been handed out to the festival goers upon arrival), energy consumed the audience the whole time. Dare it be said, they were one of the stand out bands of the day. But is that a shock to anyone? (9)

Words by Katie Ashton

Less Than Jake – Fireball Stage

What did I say about Goldfinger and Reel Big Fish mostly playing old songs, they were nothing compared to the Less Than Jake trip down memory lane. The monologue from ‘All My Best Friends Are Metalheads’ pricked the hairs on your arms as it kicked off the set; skank pits opened, people played their air trombones and sang along to the almight ska anthem. The oldies kept flowing, ‘Sugar In Your Gas Tank’ and ‘Dopeman’ from ‘Losing Streak’, 21 year old songs that had you losing your voice, along with getting your knees up for ‘Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts’.

Things got a little heated between the band and security when the band tried to get a crowd member onstage, but the security were a bit too good at their job and tried to stop him getting up their, things were sorted and the fan got to dance about on stage to ‘Overated (Everything Is)’. It wasn’t until about nine tracks in did we get any material from the new album, ‘Sound The Alarm’. ‘Bomb Drop’ was supposedly “The best song you’ve never heard” claimed Chris DeMakes. It’s a good track, but the crowd reaction said it all that mostly people were there for the classics, which Less Than Jake proceded to deliver.

The Reel Big Fish brass section returned to the stage to perform ‘The Science of Selling Yourself Short’, a beautiful moment for any third wave ska fan. The closing tracks came in a weird order. You would expect ‘Gainsville Rock City’ to be the final track, and the anthem had it all, yet surprisingly ‘The Ghost Of You and Me’ stole the final spotlight. Either way it was one of the best performances of the day, even if it was quite routine in some respects if you’ve seen them before in the last few years. The jokes are still funny, the music is still amazing. The nostalgia was at it’s peak. (9)

Words by Makky Hall

Tonight Alive – Key Club Stage

Photo taken by Ali Horton

With Enter Shikari, Neck Deep and Bowling For Soup as competing headliners, Tonight Alive sadly didn’t appear to be a top priority for many people. However, they missed out tremendously. The band bounced onto the stage and immediately sprung ‘Lonely Girl’ upon us all, then continuing with a few crowd favourites such as ‘The Ocean’, ‘What Are You So Scared Of?’ and ‘Wasting Away’. Despite the room only occupying around 150 people, frontwoman Jenna McDougall didn’t seem phased at all. The levels of enthusiasm radiating from the band didn’t falter, and the crowd stayed hooked throughout, swaying away and belting out the lyrics to each and every song. I feel that if the band had been on at an earlier time, they would’ve generated the audience size that one can assume a band of their calibre usually acquires, but someone’s got to fill the stage slot. In fact, it was nice to be a part of such an intimate gig. Admittedly, I did stray away from Tonight Alive to view Neck Deep, one of my favourite pop-punk bands, as I know they always deliver. (7)

Words by Katie Ashton

Neck Deep – Monster Energy Stage

Unexpectedly, the pop punk outfit chose to open the show with ‘Welcome To The Black Parade’ by My Chemical Romance blasting over the PA’s – this would’ve made sense if it was a cover, but it was just the regular song. All of the crowd sung along, but it was slightly bemusing and a strange decision on their behalf. However, they made up for it by having an absolutely killer set list, including tracks like ‘Tables Turned’ and ‘Losing Teeth’, along with their new songs ‘Happy Judgement Day’ and ‘Where Do We Go When We Go’, which the fans lapped up like cats to milk. The only let down for me was that I wasn’t all that impressed with the sound, but it didn’t put too much of a dampener on the show. (7.5)

Words by Katie Ashton

Enter Shikari – Jagermeister Stage

Photo taken by Ben Bentley

Finally, it was down to the most talked about set of the festival. Enter Shikari celebrating the 10 year anniversary of their groundbreaking debut album ‘Take To The Skies’. The excitement piqued as soon as the trance melodies to ‘Stand Your Ground, This Is Ancient’ land kicked in. The roars from the crowd were deafening and even though the rain had started again, you just didn’t care. “SHIT” shouted the Rou Reynolds and the entire crowd at the start of ‘Enter Shikari’ and from then on it was like crowd karaoke. You could hear thousands of voices shouting along to every word with pure venom. Shikari ploughed through the next few tracks from ‘Take To The Skies’ in order, all popular anthems, though labyrinth sticking out more as it’s less of a regular played track than the others.

The first twist in the set came when the next track wasn’t ‘No Sssweat’, but ‘The Last Garrison’ from ‘The Mindsweep’, and then out of nowhere, the most popular Enter Shikari song of all, ‘Sorry You’re Not A Winner’. The “Clap clap clap” was spectacular with thousands of people joining in. ‘Juggernauts’ followed with similar anthemic value, and I was amazed that anyone still had voices to sing so loudly. Eventually we got back round to ‘No Sssweat’, which had to be started again as the circle pit wasn’t big enough for the Shikari lads. It was chaotically energetic. We all know that the St Albans mens don’t shy from politics, they embrace it and share their views. One of which was to oust the Tories and to back the right people to beat them. This was followed by a massive crowd chant of “Corbyn” right before the band broke into ‘Today Won’t Go Down In History’.

The rest of the ‘Take To The Skies’ classics were just wonderful, I’d waited a long time to hear ‘Johnny Sniper’ again and it sounded exactly as it should and took me right back to 2007. The music was perfect, the visuals were out of this world, perfect for the dark sky above the crowd. Pretty laser shows shone over everyone, the effects were quite stunning. It was truly a set that showed Enter Shikari could headline a festival with a much bigger audience. Download? Reading and Leeds? they should be considered. This mixture of old and new material had the crowd eating out of the palms of their hands. The special occasion of a nostalgia set gave the set an extra buzz, in two years time ‘Common Dreads’ reaches the same landmark, and could easily create the same excitement and nostalgia vibe. (10)

Thats the word of the day, old material shone above everything else. We all love the classics and they are what stood out for the likes of the Ska trio; Goldfinger, Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake along with the Shikari set. They were by far the most memorable sets all day, though Crossfaith and Bury Tomorrow continued to grab everyones attention from their intensity. They need better billing next time for sure. Overall it was a fantastic event though, Slam Dunk Festival never fails to deliver a great day, and each year it proves to be one of the best weekends in alternative music. The wide selection of music from ska to metal just shows there is something for everyone. We can’t wait until next year.

Words by Makky Hall

SLAM DUNK FESTIVAL 2017 – MIDLANDS – BIRMINGHAM – 27th MAY

Our writer, Daniel Stewart also went to the Midlands date of Slam Dunk Festival too, though while he caught most of what we saw in Hatfield, here is his account of the day.

I’ve attended Slam Dunk South three times since it’s inception, but this year I thought I’d give the midlands show a chance and I can safely say that I was very impressed by what I saw thanks to an amazing venue that had stages that matched the size of the bands far better than those in South, with the main stage being the equivalent of a small arena.

Unfortunately I arrived a bit later into the day this year, but just in time for my first act of the day; Mad Caddies were the perfect way for me to start my day, the energetic Ska Punk band had the crowd moving and shaking like crazy thanks to their ability to get everyone involved in the fun and certainly got me keen to get out there to see as much as I could.

When I hopped over to the mainstage to see Bury Tomorrow I wasn’t really sure what to expect from them, but they ended up putting on one the heaviest shows of the day with their fantastic stage presense encouraging the crowd to go absolutely mental and have some good old fashioned mosh pit fun, I was very impressed what I saw from them.

Photo taken by Ben Bentley

Sticking with the main stage, Beartooth were up next so I figured I’d give the chance to them considering all the good things I had heard about them live. The things I’ve heard are true, Beartooth impressed with their show thanks to a real sense of fun that just radiated off of them as they partied with the crowd and put on the kind of show that Slam Dunk is all about, a fun party with friends.

If there was one artist I was really excited to see, it was Deaf Havana, their latest release ‘All These Countless Nights’ was an excellent album and the show they put on was no less brilliant. The way that the band spoke to the crowd was like we were all age-old friends just hanging out to some awesome live music, they were there to just have a nice time playing music with people that wanted to hear and they put on a show worthy of the high up slot they were given with their on stage energy encouraging the crowd to dance along and just have fun with all those around them that had come for the fun. them that had come for the fun.

Speaking of fun; it was time for Don Broco, a band that is the embodiment of what a live show should be, nothing but pure fun. Broco put on one hell of a show for Slam Dunk, they worked the crowd like putty as we moved, sang and danced to every command with passion thanks to the pure charisma that oozed out of the band. Everything about Don Broco‘s set was enjoyable no matter what kind of music you’ve gone for, they managed to include everyone into the show in the most fun ways possible.

The main attraction of the day was the long awaited 10th anniversary show ofTake to the Skies’ by Enter Shikari, a band that are renown across the globe for their live shows and Slamdunk was no exception, with a production rivalling that of headliners from far bigger festivals Shikari put on a legendary show for the ages that featured music from all across their career as they embraced the love of the crowd like no one else, with pure joy beaming across all their faces as the crowd chanted every single word back at them like a loyal recording. This set was one of the finest live music shows I have ever seen, production was flawless, the setlist was built with a great time in mind for fans and frontman Rou‘s touching message to the victims of the Manchester atrocity was enough to move people to tears before having the defying shout of thousands of voices that all stood in solidarity against such events.

Enter Shikari have proven to me and everyone else in attendance that they are the band that deserves to be the next headliner of the massive festivals, they are a live band like no other that manages to bring together so many different types of music fans into one huge family that are all there to have the times of their lives and join in one of the most enjoyable shows you can see.