Live Review: Slam Dunk Festival - South (May 2017)

Slam Dunk Festival is a great day for all music lovers and every year it just gets better and better. And this year it certainly did not disappoint, as we sent Ami Ford to experience the day for us!

Gracing the main stage all the way from Japan, Crossfaith, with their lack of English understanding, except the words ‘circle pit’ made an instant impact on the crowd and the first pits of the day braced the Hatfield turf. Opening with Xeno really set the stage ablaze and it all peaked when Caleb from Beartooth joined them to perform Ghost in the Mirror. Limbs everywhere from both band and crowd, Crossfaith are one of the best bands out there at the moment with their unique style and exhilarating performances.

Casey have been everywhere over the past year so it was no surprise to see them on the lineup for the Rock Sound Breakout Stage and even less surprising to find the room already packed before they’d even braced the stage. Playing songs from their album, Love Is Not Enough, the mixture of aggression and calm in Tom Weaver’s vocals are the selling point of the band. The emotion of their songs will always leave a crowd moved, either physically from the enjoyment or emotionally through the personal, relatable lyrics. As the band broke out into one of their older tracks, Teeth, the crowd erupted with fans screaming back the words with passion and feeling. Casey are going to be huge and you’ll never regret catching one of their sets.

The Impericon stage was rammed with adoring fans awaiting Oceans Ate Alaska to hit the stage, with a new vocalist, Jake Voakes, the expectations bar was set very high. These Birmingham lads brought their modern metalcore style in hard with one of the heaviest sets going. Opening with a Rick and Morty intro, the boys caught the crowds attention fully from the off. Playing older favourites Blood Brothers and High Horse before breaking into the new song, Covert. If you haven’t caught Oceans Ate Alaska before, you’re not going to want to miss their upcoming UK tour.

Over on the main stage, Bury Tomorrow were turning the heat up high. Having grown up in Southampton, I’m a little biased towards them but these metal core lads are no strangers to the Slam Dunk stage. Kicking off their set with Man on Fire which might as well have set the crowd on fire, everyone went mental. Playing other popular tracks like Lionheart and their title track of the newest album, Earthound, seemed to be a massive hit with the crowd. There’s only two things you need to know about a Bury Tomorrow set, it will be full of pits, literally pits everywhere and they are definitely the future of British metal. If you like a band that engages with the crowd all of the time

Counterfeit will never disappoint. Lead vocalist, Jamie Campbell Bower, enjoys spending more time in and amongst the crowd than he does on stage and I can’t deny that it’s a crowd favourite. Who’s going to complain when one of their favourite artists gets in the crowd and sings a song right next to them? They may be a rock band but they’re the kinda band you want to bang your head and get in a pit with. Passion and incredible stage presence oozes from every single member, their rebellious lyrics and live energy always makes a good show. Enough and Addiction were crowd favourites but there were no faults in their set from the off. We’ve had the future of British metal and here’s the future of British rock.

Next up on the Jagermeister Stage is Beartooth, within seconds of them walking out on stage and breaking into Aggressive, you can tell they were made for the main stage. Crowdsurfers galore as Caleb demands 100 bodies over the barrier, kicking off with Body Bag led the crowd into practically screaming the words back towards the stage, along with Kenta Koie of Crossfaith up for vocals to add the real fire to the stage. Continuing with The Lines and Sick of Me kept the crowd intensely involved in mosh pits with them opening it up nearly as far as the trees surrounding the stage and a few lost lonely shoes were left as a reminder. Closing with Hated, easily their biggest track of the newer release, but the only complaints to be had about Beartooth’s set was that it wasn’t longer. 

Running towards the Impericon Stage to catch I Prevail was well worth it, even if the room was so full you couldn’t actually get in. Escaping upstairs to the balcony I had a perfect view of the utter madness that was occurring in the crowd. Hitting the post-hardcore punk vibes hard with their latest release Lifelines, full of heavier pop-punk vocals and insane riffs, a real crowd pleaser. Better known for their cover of Taylor Swift’s Blank Space and claiming they wouldn’t be playing it live, obviously led to them teasing the crowd with it and breaking out into the cover to the crowd’s delight. Scars brought the biggest pit of the night to the Impericon stage with the room looking almost empty with everyone pushed to the walls, let’s just say it went off.

Don Broco joined the Slam Dunk lineup for their 4th time so they’ve played the game a few times and they just know how to work a crowd. Entering the main stage looking like they’ve just come off the catwalk, the Don Broco boys bring the fashion with their modern rock style. An almost choreographed set follows, with Si and Tom synchronising their jumps whilst Rob swans across stage with an impressive lights display following his every move. The crowd favourite, Thug Workout, sees Dani Winter-Bates grace the stage for the second time of the day to bring the heavier metal vibes. Broco’s major stage presence will never take away from the fact that they’re one of the best bands in the scene right now, playing their older tracks from the Priorities album to the newer Automatic album, the crowd cling onto every word of every song. These boys aren’t a metal band but they sure know how to pull a pit together, closing with their newest track Pretty, Rob and Matt dived into the crowd to enjoy the sweaty action with their fans. Nobody’s going to forget that set anytime soon, the boys just proved they can headline a major festival, maybe next year Slam Dunk?

After a 4 years of nothing I never thought I’d be seeing Madina Lake back together but they hit it off on the Impericon Stage as part of their 10 year UK reunion tour. When a band has gone their separate ways for that long you never really know what to expect but there was as soon as their set kicked into action you knew it was going to be one of the best things to happen in 2017. It’s as if they never left, playing their hits House Of Cards, Here I Stand and One Last Kiss with the same excitement as they had in 2013. A set full of nostalgia, throwing it back to my younger teenage days, I think everyone else in the crowd had the same thoughts too. Throwing in covers of Blur’s Song 2 and Blink-182’s What’s My Age Again set the place on fire and kept things current. Although they aren’t in their younger years anymore, Matthew and Nathan still bounced around the stage without a care in the world, the passion and energy was wild. For a band to still have people screaming their words back at them 10 years on, it’s a pretty special thing, Madina Lake please come back soon...

Talking of ten year anniversaries, Enter Shikari closed the Jagermeister Stage in a ten year celebration of their debut album ‘Take To The Skies’. It’s safe to say Shikari pulled the biggest crowd of the evening, every little space around that stage was rammed full of people waiting to see them take to the stage. As they graced the stage, the crowd erupted into screams and the movement started. An 80 minute set full of their golden oldies with some more recent material thrown in to keep it fresh. Playing iconic tracks, Sorry You’re Not A Winner, No Sssweat and Mothership proved that even ten years on, Shikari still have the same love and passion for the release. Rou climbed on everything he possibly could, the crowd went absolutely mental for it. Following a speech about all things politics, Shikari broke into a heart warming cover of Oasis’ Half The World Away in honour of those that lost their lives in the Manchester Attack. There were tears but people come together more than ever, music’s a really cool thing. Ending with Adieu, encouraging people to cherish their loved ones created a lot of more eye watering moments but I’m sure we can just blame that on their incredible lighting and laser display. Following an encore of Ok, Time for Plan B and The Appeal & The Mindsweep ||, the crowd were left star struck. Shikari’s set at Slam Dunk taught me that they should be headlining bigger. Get them on the Reading and Leeds or Download line up next year as a headliner!

An incredible end to a day packed full of some of the best bands in the business right now.