ALTERNATIVE MUSIC FESTIVALS - Slam Dunk festival 2017 review

Slam Dunk 2017 comes amid the aftermath of the terror attack at Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester, something which affected the entire music community. All our thoughts are with all of the victims, survivors, their families and everyone affected by the tragedy. Our team descended on Birmingham’s NEC Genting Arena for the Midlands date of the festival and myself and our features editor Laura provide you with a comprehensive review from the night.

Walking through the doors of the NEC’s foyer, it was quite disappointing how lax the bag checks were with just a quick glance being taken, however, before actually entering the festival itself, we’re pleased to say that the security is a lot tighter, there are armed police who gladly took the time to talk to and reassure those who are rightly concerned following the events of the previous week, sniffer dogs and more thorough bag and frisk searches. Even amidst all of this, the queues are very short, so props to the security and police.

First band for the day is Fort Hope. It’s early in the day, however there are pits throughout their set including a brave soul in a Pokemon onesie, how he coped, I have no idea! There’s a heavy bass feel and great vocals on tracks including Skies. This is a band who have promise and an ever-growing fan base and it’s not hard to see why.

American rockers Too Close To Touch are making their Slam Dunk debut and again for an early set, it was pleasing to see the crowd reacting well. At times, it sounded like the vocals were slightly off-key, however, that didn’t detract from a powerful set, showing just why the band won an APMA for best underground band in 2016!

A brief watch of Decade’s set showed just how good they really are! Having not seen them since 2015, I was very pleased to see that they are even better than they were then (and believe me, they were bloody brilliant in 2015!)

Crossfaith’s live performance is like nothing you’ll have seen before yet everything you’ll want to see again. They had the crowd in the absolute palm of their hand from before they’d even stepped on stage; which they did so with flashing lights, loud music & a bit of flag waving. Their set was full of high energy & fun from the word go and didn’t relent in the slightest. They’re a band who’s musical style is something very particular & it’s certainly not very often that a Japanese electronicore band grace the stages of the UK, especially a festivals main stage, but from that crowd reaction it clearly needs to be happening more often. Any band that can cover Prodigy in the way they did gets top marks in our books; we’re big fans.  (Laura Brown)

A special mention has to go out to Black Foxxes & Boston Manor, two of the most exciting bands on the music scene right now. Boston Manor certainly had the bigger crowd reaction, the level of which Black Foxxes deserved, but both put on real high quality performances. They’re passionate and are clearly loving every single moment they’re on stage. It’s very easy to see why people are getting behind both bands so much; they’ve got that special something. Keep an eye on these. (Laura Brown)

Cute Is What We Aim For absolutely all the nostalgia was present at Slam Dunk this year! Cute Is What We Aim For are one of those bands that may have fallen off many peoples radars but as soon as you hear them again you’re instantly thrown back to being 14 and screaming along to those emo lyrics. There were obviously some differences performance wise, after all these years but crowd and band alike clearly had no issues with this at all. It was very obvious that Shaant couldn’t quite believe the reaction the band got and the real warm welcoming the band were getting after being away so long. There’s A Class For This was the track that went down incredibly well & had members of the audience having a sudden realisation at just how much they loved the song and still knew every word; a reminder that we all never really left that early 2000’s emo phase. (Laura Brown)

Ice Nine Kills’ set can only be described with one word… Perfect. Frontman Spencer Charnas makes sure everyone gets involved by heading into (or should I say on top of) the crowd several times. This is only their second time in the UK and the reaction from the crowd gives the impression that it most definitely won’t be long before they return again! There’s pits as the quartet power through fan favourites including Communion Of The Cursed, Nature Of The Beast, Hell In The Hallways and new single Enjoy Your Slay, which was only released yesterday, however, the dedication of the fans meant that most had already learnt part of, if not all of the words. Bassist Justin Morrow did more round house kicks than we could count and we’re massive fans of the intricate songwriting and the way the vocals from Spencer, guitarist Justin ‘JD’ DeBliek and Justin Morrow’s screams mix together.

With Confidence’s set was hindered slightly with some technical issues with two of the guitars however the rest of the set sounded great and the crowd were loving it, getting involved in everything. The band showed why they got asked back for a second year in a row and have come on in leaps and bounds since then.

Counterfeit also had some technical issues which delayed the start of their set, meaning they had to cut the last two songs out of their set. The quintet sounded great with their upbeat rock, the crowd enjoyed it, even more so as the rain held off. Frontman Jamie Campbell-Bower headed into the crowd for their last track asking for a circle pit to surround him, which the crowd duly obliged.

A packed Key Club stage in the early evening eagerly awaits another returner from last year’s festival in the form of Waterparks. The pop-rock/punk trio take to the stage to thunderous applause and cheers worthy of a headliner. The very start of the set is plagued by some sound issues, with the vocals hard to hear, however, after the opening track, the issues are resolved and it’s an energetic set that even the stage security were loving! Tracks including Gloom Boys, Crave and Stupid For You and the banter between the band and crowd make for a really enjoyable set.

Frank Iero & The Patience draw in a crowd excited to see the band and they aren’t left disappointed. The set is full of energy and Frank sounds great! You can hear the emotion in each of the tracks and every word is sung back almost as loud, if not louder, than Frank.

If you missed The Gospel Youth’s Slam Dunk set then what were you playing at? The bands performance on Rock Sounds Breakout stage was very easily one of the day’s highlights. Filled with heartfelt emotional lyrics, incredible vocals and riffs that stick in your mind; their set really felt intimate and personal. It’s nice to see a band playing on a smaller stage such as this have set a dedicated audience and one that clearly had made a real effort to come out just to see them. Every song had large sections of the audience singing every word right back at them and given the mixture of newer & older tracks, the loyalty of fans became clear. The Gospel Youth are one of those bands that you need to keep an eye on, destined for good things. (Laura Brown)

Another packed stage for Set It Off’s Key Club set. This set was basically a game of ‘how many hits can the quartet fit into a 40 minute set?’ and the answer is LOADS! Like seriously, we lost track! The energy from both the band and crowd is rocking and not once did they stop, with frontman Cody Carson even entering the crowd at times. They played hits from all their releases beginning with one of the most upbeat tracks Why Worry, Ancient History, Upside Down and Forever Stuck In Our Youth. Cody gets angry with Hypnotized, The Haunting and Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing and there’s a dedication to Manchester with Life Afraid, a track written about the Paris attacks. There is a moment of worry when Cody climbs onto a speaker and jumps off, landing quite awkwardly but the set goes off without any flaws.

Madina Lake were one of the acts that were bringing nostalgia back to the festival, celebrating their 2007 debut album From Them, Through Us, To You which is celebrating its 10th birthday. The crowd are so into the set that nobody wants it to end. The energy is unreal for a band who haven’t been on stage in four years. Frontman Nathan Leone is in the crowd multiple times, in his trademark barefoot and there’s one giant sing-a-long throughout the set, specifically on closer Here I Stand.

Against Me! are a band that need to grace the UK stages more often. Laura Jane Grace & the band know how to work a stage in the simplest of ways; they just own it. Launching straight in with True Trans Soul Rebel followed by Teenage Anarchist, they got the crowd whipped into an instant frenzy consisting of a lot of fist pumping and defiant singing. Given the state of many things, both in the UK & worldwide right now, Against Me! are a band perfect for the moment. They have an attitude and presence about them, which also comes across lyrically, that screams ‘fuck you’ to all those things that many see as not being right at the moment, do we need to divulge?, and whilst preaching to the converted do so with absolute style and confidence. Headlining a festivals stage is exactly where the band deserve to be. (Laura Brown)

Tonight Alive aren’t a band that I have ever really been very into, however, after a day of running around and a small break in my schedule, a well-deserved sit down at the bar was needed with Tonight Alive providing the entertainment on the Key Club Stage. I have to say that I am a fan. Jenna has a great voice and the crowd really enjoyed it.

Enter Shikari draw the biggest crowd of the night as deserved for main stage headliners with the crowd eager to hear debut album Take To The Skies, which is also celebrating its 10th birthday, in full. The band’s light show was good and they were energetic and sounded great. The front half of the crowd were very active, jumping up and down.

Sadly Memphis May Fire’s crowd was a lot smaller than they deserved. They put on an absolutely brilliant set, despite only jetting in a few hours beforehand. The crowd interaction was really good including frontman Matty Mullins asking the crowd to guess which song from 2011’s The Hollow, giving the clue of “it starts with ‘The’” after saying that each track on the album began with it. As the crowd proceed to shout out their favourite from the record, Matty then retorts “I have no idea what you’re saying” because of his in-ears and then proceeds to introduce The Victim.

The entire festival was a great success and it was so good to see the turn-out and the amount of bands on show who all put on brilliant sets. Now roll on next year!

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