LIVE: Slam Dunk Festival @ Birmingham (27/05/2017)

Date: May 27th 2017
Venue: NEC, Birmingham
Website: www.slamdunkmusic.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/slamdunkltd
Twitter: www.twitter.com/slamdunkmsuic

Another May Bank Holiday weekend means another Slam Dunk Festival, and now with over ten years in the game under their belt, it’s safe to say they’ve got this pretty much locked down now, securing Enter Shikari as their main stage headliners whilst they celebrate the tenth anniversary of their debut full-length album, ‘Take To The Skies’.

Despite the tragic events that took place just a few days prior at the Manchester Arena, Slam Dunkers still come out to the Birmingham NEC and Genting Arena in full force to see in the first date of the 2017 festivities, and come together through the unifying strength of music.


JÄGERMEISTER STAGE:

WE ARE THE OCEAN – 8/10
Slam Dunk is a bittersweet moment for British rockers We Are The Ocean; seeing in both a celebration of the band’s 10-year long career, but sadly also seeing it out, as these sets across the three festival dates will be their final as a band before they part their separate ways. The band start off proceedings with ‘Trouble Is Temporary, Time Is Tonic’, and from this moment on you can tell that they’re giving their absolute all for their last time in Birmingham. We go through cuts throughout all four of their records, finally closing the curtains with their 2008 breakthrough single, ‘Nothing Good Has Happened’ yet. What a send off. [CG]

BEARTOOTH – 7/10
Who’d have ever thought that Caleb Shomo of Attack Attack! would a few years after leaving the band be performing in front of over half an arena of new fans? Well, that’s what’s happened, and their metalcore/hardcore style with subtle hints of arena and pop-rock spliced into the mix here and there suits it very well. ‘In Between’ sounds huge, with the room yelling back the “woah-oh” refrains like it could be the last words that leave their mouths, and it’s hard to not enjoy a prime head banger like ‘Body Bag’. [ZR]

DON BROCO – 7/10
Coming straight back from the States after a run with State Champs, Don Broco manage to secure themselves a pretty formidable and impressive ‘main support slot on Slam Dunk main stage. Having been absent from playing on UK turf for a few months now, it’s clear to see how missed the Bedford lot have been. Bringing to the table a mixed bag of both old and fresh material, the Broco boys sure know how to bring the party and care-free vibes to the arena. Closing off with brand new single ‘Pretty’, frontman Rob Damiani and drummer Matt Donnelly get into the crowd to join in on the pit action themselves. [CG]

ENTER SHIKARI – 10/10
This year marks the tenth anniversary of ’Take To The Skies’, the debut album by Enter Shikari. Along with celebrating such a milestone, and also headlining this year’s Slam Dunk Festival, 2017 proves to be an even more important year for the St. Albans band. Anyone at all familiar with the band will be aware of their stance and awareness on politics, social, and environmental issues, and in the world’s climate as it is today, having and awareness and being vocal about it has arguably never been more important.

Of course, in celebration of the record’s decade milestone, the likes of ‘Mothership’ and ‘Anything Could Happen In The Next Half Hour’ make their appearances, and, considering the MySpace age that they were born in, no cut from ‘Take To The Skies’ this evening sounds at all dated. A whole arena claps along to ’Sorry, You’re Not A Winner’, ‘Return To Energiser’ is exhilaratingly explosive, and their plea to save the NHS in ‘Anaesthetist’ has never been more relevant. Rallying discontent towards Theresa May and chants of support from the crowd of “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn!”, Shikari are forever promoting the importance of awareness in politics

Things wind down shortly after ‘Jonny Sniper’, and rightfully so. Frontman Rou Reynolds returns to stage, acoustic guitar in tow, and his voice breaking a little at times, dedicates a cover of ‘Half The World Away’ by Oasis to the victims of the recent attacks in Manchester, becoming an absolute tearjerker of a moment, before everyone starts balling their eyes out as it transitions into ‘Adieu’.

Bringing the evening to a climax with an encore composed by the ethereal ‘Redshift’, the sensational laser barrage accompanying ‘OK, Time For Plan B’, and the pleasurable chaos that is ‘The Appeal & The Mindsweep II’, Enter Shikari close the curtains leaving proof of several things. Live they’re almost untouchable, and without question they’re one of the most important bands in the world today. [ZR]


FIREBALL STAGE:

MAD CADDIES – 7/10
Like every other band on the stage today, Mad Caddies are veterans of the ska punk scene. While they never reached the lofty heights of fame that the later acts the bill did, they still acquired a dedicated and sizeable fan base over the past few decades. Their set is a laid back and relaxed affair of chilled out reggae-heavy ska numbers, and the likes of ’State Of Mind’ has the crowd gently swaying like a small orchard in the breeze. That being said, their punkier numbers like ‘Leavin’ and ‘Road Rash’ kick up an equal amount of chaos. [AR]

GOLDFINGER – 9/10
If bands were Pokémon, Goldfinger would be like Dratini – you know where to find them, but by god are they hard to catch. So, when you luck out and FINALLY catch them, you realise it was so worth the wait. Goldfinger are now essentially a super group of John Feldman and friends, featuring members of New Found Glory, Story Of The Year, MxPx, and Reel Big Fish. Even though this set is near identical to those played several years prior (today’s featured “Put the Knife away” – the first new material in 9 years) – it was in no way stale. Sure, we got the monologue of John talking about selling shoes that we’ve heard a million times before, and there was the mandatory reference to jerking off, but it still was awesome to watch. [AR]

REEL BIG FISH – 8/10
Continuing with the analogy of “If bands were Pokémon”, then Reel Big Fish would be Pidgey – they’re fucking everywhere, but still worth catching. With at least 250 gigs a year (no exaggeration, they actually do that), it’s safe to say that they know how to put on a show, and, more importantly, how to keep it fresh. ‘Beer’, the many versions of ’S.R.’, and ‘She Has A Girlfriend Now’ can be ticked off the Reel Big Fish bingo scorecard, as could their several covers (‘Monkey Man’, ‘Brown Eyed Girl’, ‘Take On Me’). Not only do they utterly nail every song they perform, but they manage to keep the crowd dancing and, as a bonus, laughing throughout. [AR]

LESS THAN JAKE – 9/10
Throughout the whole of Less Than Jake’s set, it feels less like a gig and like more of an event, which gives the fans an excuse to go utterly fucking nuts. Normally a frenzied affair anyway, the pits during their set seems to be giving it that extra 10%; no doubt this is thanks to the excellent line-up that preceded them. Everyone is screaming out every last line just that little bit louder, especially to set closer ‘Ghosts Of You And Me’. Watching them induce circle pits with ease and giving the crowd exactly the songs that they wanna hear, it’s a bit perplexing how these guys aren’t headlining the Fireball stage. [AR]


MONSTER ENERGY STAGE:

CUTE IS WHAT WE AIM FOR – 6/10
Forget cute, unstable is what Buffalo’s Cute Is What We Aim For seem to consistently go for, having repeatedly reformed and broke up for nearly the past decade. Yet, here we are, just over ten years since the release of their debut ‘The Same Old Blood Rush with a New Touch’, and nine years since they were last on our shores at all, here to play that MySpace generation classic record in full. It’s hard to not sing along to once profile song choice favourites like ‘The Curse Of Curves’, ‘Lyrical Lies’ and ‘Newport Living’, and frontman Shaant Hacikyan seems genuinely overwhelmed that fans still give a fuck after all these years. Nostalgia aside, there’s still much to be desired CIWWAF, and maybe a future release or full tour can put that to rest, but until then it’s good to reminise for a little while about those profile pic angles, whore trains, obsessive profile edits, and re-arranging your Top 8. [ZR]


THE KEY CLUB STAGE:

BOSTON MANOR – 8/10
The ascension of Boston Manor over the past few years has been pretty incredible. It wasn’t all that long ago that they were performing in front of about 30-40 people in a small room supporting Moose Blood. Now, they’re playing in front of crowds that easily dwarf that, and they’re all here to see them. ‘Lead Feet’ is a definite highlight of the set, and room sings back almost every word that comes from Henry Cox, but no more so than with ‘Laika’, yelling “I’m so sorry that I’m leaving you so little to believe in” at the top of their lungs. [ZR]

SET IT OFF – 8/10
Floridian pop-rockers Set It Off are insatiably catchy, and nothing proves that more than when you catch them in a live setting. Having already performed a few tour dates over here in the run up to Slam Dunk, any jet lag is shaken off, and the band sound as fresh as ever. ‘Forever Stuck In Our Youth’ and ‘Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing’ really sees both frontman Cody Carson’s and the crowds voices soar throughout the room, and, if nothing else, SIO have earned their right for a higher position on the bill for their next shot at Slam Dunk. [ZR]


SIGNATURE BREW STAGE:

MILK TEETH – 7/10
Combining grunge and pop-punk, Milk Teeth are a somewhat unique prospect on the UK scene as of late, with the grunge revival attempt a few years back not quite getting off the ground. Setting things off with ‘Brickwork’, the rising quartet get booties shaking and fists pumping nice and early, especially with ‘Brain Food’. Vocalist/bassist Becky Blomfield has really grown strong into the front woman role since the release of their debut ‘Vile Child’ last year, and, with new cuts like ‘Owning Your Okayness’ proving to be some of the band’s strongest work to date, it looks like up is the only direction this lot area heading in any time soon. [ZR]


IMPERICON STAGE:

TOO CLOSE TO TOUCH – 6/10
Opening up things on the festival’s heaviest stage for the day are Kentucky up-and-comers Too Close To Touch. Still incredibly fresh in the UK, the post-hardcore outfit manage to pull in quite a sizeable crowd, and right from the off vocalist Keaton Pierce manages to prove what an impeccable set of pipes he has on them. ‘Pretty Little Thing’ and ‘Miss Your Face’ definitely show off their Emarosa and new era A Lot Like Bird similarities, and though the mix kinda bleeds into itself a bit too often, TCTT introduce themselves with much gusto. [ZR]

I PREVAIL – 3/10
The floor packs out a good 10-15 minutes before I Prevail are even set to take to the stage, so much so that security are forced to carry out a one in, one out procedure. Clearly, the Michigan metalcore unit have some weighty hype behind them, so it’s a shame to see them turn up on stage several minutes late. When they finally start getting on with their set, the buzz that they’ve been carrying since their ‘Blank Space’ cover blew up seems confusing. Ticking every box on the genre check list and being the epitome of a cookie cutter cliche, not only is their set utterly dull and underwhelming, they in turn prove to be one of the most overrated bands in metalcore today. [ZR]

STRAY FROM THE PATH – 8/10
Bringing their political and socially aware messages through the locomotive of explosive metalcore/hardcore, Stray From The Path are always an entertaining and explosive import. Right from the off with opener ‘The New Gods’, wave upon wave of crowd surfers make their way towards the band over the barrier. Vocalist Drew York pays tribute to the victims of Manchester throughout the set, solidifying the fact that music unites us, that we should spread love, and to not let anyone change this. All this, along with banging out songs like ’Snap’ and ‘Badge & A Bullet Pt. II’, Stray From The Path absolutely nail it. [CG]

MADINA LAKE – 6/10
Turning out to be one of the bigger surprises to be confirmed closer to the date of the festival, the official return of Madina Lake certainly got people talking, coinciding their reunion with the tenth anniversary of their breakthrough debut, ‘From Them, Through Us, to You’. The band play plenty of tracks from the record which instantly floods back those memories from 2007, particularly radio botherers ‘Here I Stand’ and ‘House Of Cards’ and, despite a few years out of the game, the alt rockers sound like they’ve never been away. Their covers of ‘Song 2’ and ‘What’s My Age Again?’, however, fall more than shy of the mark, and would serve their set much better by not being included at all. Welcome Madina Lake v2.0. [ZR]


ROCK SOUND BREAKOUT STAGE:

YOU KNOW THE DRILL – 5/10
Winners of the ongoing competition for one band to get votes to push them to the top of being able to perform at this year’s Slam Dunk, Birmingham’s You Know The Drill certainly know the drill when it comes to pop-punk. The quintet play – by their own admission – “okay pop-punk”, and that’s about as hyped as you can get about it. For some odd reason frontman Benji Yapp throws in some juggling at one point, and then soon after swaps roles with guitarist Luke Astley, who now equipped with a microphone does a flip. They meh the drill. [ZR]

CASEY – 7/10
With emotion seeping out of every pore, the gradual rise of Welsh emotive post-hardcore troupe Casey since the release of their debut album ‘Love Is Not Enough’ last year has been quite remarkable, and certainly deserved. Guitarist Liam Torrance encounters some unfortunate technical issues with his amp partway through ‘Fade’, but that’s all forgotten once we’re back up and running in time for the tear jerking gut punch of ‘Darling’ and ‘Teeth’. Despite seeming somewhat constrained and less comfortable than usual from being on a tiny stage and away from the floor, Casey still leave us craving more. [ZR]

VUKOVI – 8/10
It’s been a long time coming for us to finally see a Vukovi with a full-length to their name. Now, a couple of months on from the release of their self-titled LP, the Scottish alt rockers are starting to pull in a sizeable crowd, and the jams to justify it. A little sunburnt, vocalist Janine Shilstone, with her aqua blue braids, commands the crowd before her with ease. ‘La Di Da’ is a bouncy offering, ‘Animal’ is a raucous number that sees the crowd pushing one another with glee in the pit, and the likes of ‘Weirdo’ and ‘I’m Wired’ will surely see the band return to Slam Dunk again on stages twice this size soon. [ZR]

SYLAR – 7/10
Performing what is their first ever set on UK soil, it goes without saying that Sylar are one of the lesser known international bands on this year’s festival line-up. The New Yorkers step up to the plate with aplomb, and deliver their metalcore meets nu-metal cuts to what could well be mostly fresh ears. Sticking to their more melodic work proves to be the best move here, and it’s hard to not sing along to the chorus hooks of ‘Assume’, ‘Live/Breathe’ and ‘Dark Daze’. A few pits open up here and there, and it’s evident the band have already recruited some die-hards in the front rows, screaming every word right back at Jayden Panesso, who jumps to the barrier and throws the mic for all to get their words across. [ZR]

Written by Zach Redrup [ZR], Callum Griffin [CG], and Andy Roberts [AR]

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