LIVE: Slam Dunk Festival @ Leeds (28/05/2017)

Date: May 28th 2017
Venue: City Centre, Leeds

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 North site in the city centre of Leeds in full force to see their favourite bands at the 2017 festivities, and come together through the unifying strength of music.

Lizzy Farrall [8] opens up the festival from the Uprawr stage, supported by two guitarists. Her performance is possibly one of the best the festival will see all day. While she may be opening a small stage, the room is packed to see her beautifully soulful performance; her vocal capabilities could quite easily put many of the other vocalists of the day to shame. Farrall has a big future in the music industry ahead of her.

Over on the Rock Sound Breakout stage, Welsh outfit Casey [7] bring to the plate their blend of melody and heaviness and, by the end of the first song, the area must be nearing capacity. From the start of their set to the end, Casey absolutely nail each song, both instrumentally and vocally. That being said, the crowd’s reaction, whilst large in volume, is sadly rather stale and stagnant.

The crowd clears out rather quickly, yet when Vukovi [8] take to the stage, the place packs up once again. The band’s sound is a bit flat at times, with the drums being the highest part of the mix at one point, with the bass being inaudible at times. However, midway through the set the mix evens out and the Vukovi sound fantastic. A superb rendition of ‘Animal’ comes into play, with the crowd joining in on the cheerleader style chant “A-N-I-M-A-L” – they even bring some handy flash cards to help out. Finishing on ‘Boy George’ nails down another superb performance, and, as vocalist Janine Shilstone leaves the stage, the rest of the band create a heavy metallic outro.

Storming onto the Impericon stage comes Ice Nine Kills [7]. While many bands in the metalcore genre may be indistinguishable from their peers, INK put their all into this performance, and it conveys into a solid performance. The crowd is slightly spaced out, yet the room is rather full for the band and the reaction isn’t manifested physically, but people seem to rather enjoy the set. Vocalist Spencer Charnas‘ attempts to create a wall of death aren’t really noted, and when the floor opens up for a pit, there’s next to no one actually making use of the space. While many metalcore vocalists tend to struggle switching between clean to heavy vocals and vice versa, especially on new single ‘Enjoy Your Stay’, Charnas defies this pattern.

Turnover [7] offer probably the most relaxed set of the day, as they play just across the road on the Signature Brew stage. A light and melodic band with the vast majority of their set coming from the band’s latest full-length release, ‘Peripheral Vision’, they’re miles away from some of the bands in sound at the festival, even on the same stage as them. However, they’re more than well received and give a solid performance.

With full force, Ohio’s Beartooth [8] take to the Jägermeister stage, getting the crowd stirred up from the get go. Caleb Shomo at first wavers on the opening verse of ‘Aggressive’, but by the second chorus he is on top form. The band break straight on into ‘Body Bag’, with Kenta Koie (of Crossfaith) joining in from the second verse onwards. Beartooth soon move on to ‘Sick Of Me’ and ‘The Lines’, both getting superb reactions from the crowd, and both great choices for a singalong. A weird moment crops up with Shomo‘s cry of, “This is thrash metal, listen to it”, and, while the band are leagues away from thrash metal, they give a great performance of the set’s heaviest cut, ‘Always Dead’.

Back at the Signature Brew stage, Frank Iero & The Patience [8] give a superb performance. Iero‘s vocals really push forward the grit and the angst in their music, and from the get go the crowd are bouncing. The band sees one of the more rowdier crowds seen over the day, and sadly for the security at the barricade, there’s a plentiful dose of crowd-surfers that Iero encourages. The strongest songs in the set come from both ‘.weighted’ and ‘Joyriding’, both from the band’s debut album, ‘Stomachaches’, which are eaten up by the crowd.

Much adored The Movielife [8] are direct support on the Monster stage, and they aren’t afraid of letting the audience know that they’re from New York. One of the more aged acts of the festival, they show even if they haven’t released a record in well over a decade, they still have the ability to put on a brilliant show. While their peers in terms of both age, and arguably genre, are playing over on the Fireball stage, the band more than hold their own, sadly to a slightly thinned out stage, yet everyone in attendance is clearly having a stellar time.

Enter Shikari [9] close the night out with the ten year celebration of debut album, ‘Take To The Skies’. As instrumental opener ‘Stand Your Ground; This Is Ancient Land’ kicks in, the crowd surges forward, and chaos ensues throughout the likes of ‘Enter Shikari’ and ‘Mothership’. They tear themselves away from the album run through for ‘The Last Garrison’, which definitely doesn’t dampen the already insane reaction from the crowd, before resuming ‘Take To The Skies’ once more, including the live rarity ‘Today Won’t Go Down In History’, and, for a song that went somewhat under the radar on the album, the crowd still have plenty of voices echoing back to frontman, Rou Reynolds.

The vocalist gives an impassioned speech on the NHS, noting that one of the buildings neighbouring the stage has been an NHS building for hundreds of years, and his speech is seen out by a mass chant of Jeremy Corbyn‘s name, acting as a modest introduction to the pro-NHS anthem ‘Anaesthetist’, another great choice to break up the earlier material. While the energy doesn’t die down, ‘Return To Energiser’ takes us back to the last few tracks of the debut LP, including an introduction from drummer Rob Rolfe, telling the audience to stand for ‘Jonny Sniper’.

Another break comes in the form of another fervent speech from Reynolds, this time in retrospect of the Manchester bombing attack that took place days before. He speaks about the band’s love for Manchester, and the many musical groups from the city they were inspired by, and chooses Oasis‘Half The World Away’ to pay tribute, with many teary eyes and voices singing back. It’s a very surreal and heartwarming moment, and blends perfectly into ‘Adieu’ to close out the set.

That is until Reynolds and co. return to perform ‘Redshift’, which, again, shows that after ten years, the band still have a loyal fanbase, bringing a reaction just as strong as that to songs from their debut, including the evening’s finale, ‘OK, Time For Plan B’. They brilliantly pay homage to their roots a decade down the line, and are now gearing up for album number five.

Written by Dec Sherry (@decxsherry)

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