Summer festival curtain raiser Slam Dunk came and went in a flash. The traditional 3-day romp around the country is something looked forward to all year and then before you know it you’ve crowd surfed more in one day than you have in your life and people are wondering why you keep saying how great ‘Frank’ was. This year we were lucky enough to have someone at the North and Midlands days meaning we were able to cover a little more than we normally would.
Loathe | Site: Midlands | Stage: Impericon Stage | Stage Time: 12:40
With the tricky task of opening the day for many of the festival-goers, Loathe stormed through their short set with hardcore jams. Frontman, Kadeem France did an exceptional job of warming up the crowd, full of charisma and rage, he made the set memorable. The band themselves looked like a mish-mash of personalities, and while that added to the charm, it never really felt that they properly settled into the stage. Loathe are still fairly new to stages as big as this, and what they did with their set was provide good music, a bit of snarl and excitement for the rest of the day – 6.5 – Paris Fawcett.
Woes | Site: North | Stage: Signature Brew | Stage Time : 13:00
As the clouds began to depart and the sun started to shine, the atmosphere was practically perfect opening band Woes to tear the Signature Brew stage a new one. Armed with new EP Self-Help, the Scottish pop-punks pogo-ed around the stage like their lives depended on it. Accessible choruses, bouncy riffs and a bucket load of enthusiasm meant the quartet surely left a lasting impression on the ever growing crowd. A sound choice as openers, and I’ll be expecting to see these climbing up festival bills for years to come – 7 – James Keal.
Can’t Swim | Site: North | Stage: Signature Brew | Stage Time: 14:00
Technical difficulties could only briefly stagger the wave of momentum New Jersey’s Can’t Swim are on as of late. With two power cuts during their set, that still wasn’t enough to pull the rug from underneath their feet, taking it in their stride and smashing anthems such as Stranger, What’s Your Big Idea and $50,000,000. With the crowd shouting back every word, it felt loud enough to engulf the entire festival site at times. A short but sweet 35 minutes that set the bar remarkably high for others to follow. Inspiring stuff – 9 – JK.
Four Year Strong | Site: Midlands | Stage: Jägermeister Stage | Stage Time: 14:30
Festivals are all about turning up to a band you’ve never listened to before and being converted to a fan. That’s definitely the case for Four Year Strong, I left their set happy I’d seen them but mad I wasn’t able to sing along to every word. Their brilliant blend of pop punk choruses and hardcore beatdowns made for a fun show 7 – PF.
Creeper | Site: Midlands | Stage: Jägermeister Stage | Stage Time: 15:35
Every time I’ve seen Creeper prior to Slam Dunk, there has been a buzz in the air, a feeling that we’re all in this together, lovers of the band and part of the cult. Unfortunately something was lost in the air of Slam Dunk during this performance, in terms of the songs sung, it was flawless, a brilliant setlist choice with a mix of fast and slow from the ballad, Crickets, to the punk masterpiece, Poison Pens. The crowd was up for it, there was crowdsurfing, pits and bodies flying about. But there was a little something just missing, the feeling that this performance was unmissable – 9 – PF.
Comeback Kid | Site: North | Stage: Impericon | Stage Time: 17:40
The prospect of watching pop-punk bands in the glowing sunshine and necking beers all day seemed a distant memory on entry into the murky depths of Leeds O2 Academy. Hardcore legends Comeback Kid thundered onto the stage with frontman Andrew Neufeld aiming straight for the jugular. Flailing limbs, swinging fists and circle pits as big as the venue itself complimented a mix of songs both young and old from their back catalogue. It’s brilliant to witness Comeback Kid finally getting the plaudits they’ve always deserved, but their setlist choice did feel a little stop/start at times – 7 – JK.
Stand Atlantic | Site: Midlands | Stage: Rock Sound Breakout Stage | Stage Time: 18:00
Stand Atlantic were my dinner break. With a pizza in hand, I watched the pop-punkers play a set that the crowd absolutely adored. It’s always great to watch people down the front go crazy and that’s the atmosphere that Stand Atlantic encouraged. They delivered catchy pop rock songs, youthful charm and a set to make the fans lose their shit. T’was enjoyable to watch – 7 – PF.
Lower Than Atlantis | Site: North | Stage: Monster Energy | Stage Time: 18:45
While Watford rockers Lower Than Atlantis still boast a reputation as one of the most captivating live bands on our shores, it appears their performances of late suggest the quartet might be going through some sort of identity crisis. Frontman Mike Duce tries his best to instigate circles pits, crowd surfing and general mayhem in the pit, but the tame crowd appear even more muted when the band choose to play some of their lightest material. You can’t knock the band’s enthusiasm, and as a singalong it was good fun, but it’ll be interesting to see what direction they take on their next record – 6 – JK.
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes | Site: Midlands | Stage: Jägermeister Stage | Stage Time: 19:00
Do you ever sit and watch the globs in a lava lamp move, merge and fly around? Well that’s what the crowd for Frank Carter looked like. They were insane. Pits were forming from every angle, ebbing and flowing with no structure or containment, that feeling of something special that Creeper lacked? Frank Carter had it in spades. Running through a setlist of songs that the crowd roared like their lives depended on it, the band made the performance feel like it were only 5 minutes long. The glue holding everything together, the epicenter of all exciting, Frank Carter showed once more that he’s ready to go in the Hall of Fame of brilliant frontmen. After dedicating Wild Flowers to every woman in the crowd, preaching to the men about the ways they should respect women, Carter oozed nothing but charm, a genuine desire to make everyone in that audience feel safe and have the time of their lives. You won’t know until you see if for yourself, but a Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes show is life-affirming – 10 – PF.
Taking Back Sunday | Site: Midlands | Stage: Monster Energy Main Stage | Stage Time: 20:05
Taking Back Sunday are so brilliantly self aware, playing sets perfectly balanced with new material that represents where they are now, as well as the songs that the Slam Dunk audience grew up with. It was a sing-along of nostalgic tracks, a Slam Dunk staple, but lacked the buzz of the crowd and the feeling that there was nowhere else the band would rather be. It was fun, but will I tell all my friends about it? Probably not. (Hah! Get the pun?!) – 7 – PF.
Goldfinger | Site: North | Stage: Fireball | Stage Time: 20:15
Punk rock royalty, Slam Dunk legends, and a rabid crowd that turned the Fireball stage into a full-scale riot from the get go. Goldfinger took to the stage with opener Spokesman and the rest was history; beer soaked pits, body on top of body crowd surfing, and an audience that echoed every single word to every single song. Frontman John Feldmann might not look as young as he did 20 years ago, but he does his utmost best to not show it, throwing himself around the stage and into the crowd at every opportune moment. His acapella sing along to Here In Your Bedroom was like some sort of ode to a ska-punk Freddie Mercury, or was I just drunk? Absolutely mesmerising – 9 – JK.
Reel Big Fish | Site: Midlands | Stage: Fireball Stage | Stage Time: 21:10
Performances like this are why I go to Slam Dunk. A pit full of people dancing like nobody is watching to pure, fun Ska music, singing along as if they’re having the time of their lives. And they are having the time of their lives. RBF rattle through songs that have graced Slam Dunk’s stages for 10 years now, and it’s clear to see why they keep coming back. The crowd lap up every moment, from the joking covers of Good Charlotte’s ‘Girls & Boys’ to The Skints’ Marcia Richards coming on stage for ‘She Has a Girlfriend Now’. As the sun sets, the beer flies over my head and I stand surrounded by people skanking, life just feels so beautiful – 9.5 – PF.
So Slam Dunk may have come and gone but, with festivals coming nearly every weekend, it’s good to take a step back and remember the beginning of the Summer. A Summer currently being won by Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes. We have Camden Rocks, Download, Amplified and 2000trees reviews coming over the next month or so and then the announcements will start coming thick and fast.