While events in Manchester in the days prior to Slam Dunk taking place are still fresh in the memory, the Leeds instalment of the 2017 incarnation of the festival soldiers on with expecations high amongst the sold out crowd.
The First Direct Arena plays host to the Fireball stage, and despite being a five minute walk away from the main hub of the festival, Fenix TX kick off the day to a busy crowd. ‘Threesome’ and ‘Phoebe Cates’ quickly provide a shot of nostalgia before asking the crowd “does anyone remember who we are?” While ‘Abba Zabba’ and a cover of Nirvana’s ‘Territorial Pissings’ keep the momentum ticking along before expectedly rounding things off with ‘All My Fault’. While they might not appeal to the younger SDF crowd, Fenix TX are fun offering to start the day. (3/5) (SR)
Due to the understandably high levels of security around the site, getting into Millenium Square isn’t exactly a swift process, meaning Andrew McMahon in The Wilderness is already well underway by the time AH gets to the Main Stage. The upshot is the first thing that greets us is ’Dark Blue’’s bittersweet chorus being sung loudly enough back at the stage to confirm there are plenty of Jack’s Mannequin fans present. And it only gets better from here as Something Corporate classic ’I Woke Up In a Car’ and a deeply poignant airing of ’La La Lie’ dedicated to the people of Manchester soon follow. Recent single ’So Close’ gets feet and hands moving en masse before ’Cecilia and The Satellite’s stratospheric chorus melody rings wonderfully around the square. (4/5) (DW)
Over on the Signature Brew stage, Connecticut emo rockers Sorority Noise are providing the soundtrack to the sunny but breezy weather. While there’s a downtrodden lyrical side to their music, Cam Boucher and company offer an intense, occasionally melodic, soundtrack. With a 10-song set that pulls from the band’s three albums, early highlights come in the form of ‘Dirty Ickes’ and ‘Art School Wannabe’ before cuts from the band’s superb latest LP, ‘You’re Not As _____ As You Think’, bring a impassioned and compelling tone to their set. Near their conclusion, Boucher comments on his manic depression and encourages those with mental health issues to seek help. Ending with ‘No Halo,’ Sorority Noise are as powerful live as they are on record. (4/5) (SR)
We make a first trip of the day to the Rock Sound Breakout stage to catch our favourite crazy Scots Vukovi melt the faces of a packed and hideously hot room. Brimming with confidence following the release of their self-titled debut album and hitting their stride ahead of a busy festival season, Janine Shilstone and her band mates make smashing out a monster of a set look like child’s play. Musically and physically this lot are nothing short of captivating live, ’La Di Da’, ’Animal’ and old favourite ’Boy George’ hot wire an already excitable crowd to new heights leaving almost everyone a sweat soaked mess. By the end even those that started the set as merely interested observers are converted to the band’s irresistible cause. (4.5/5) (DW)
With an early evening cool breeze settling across the festival, Turnover are the ideal soundtrack. With a set decorated with highlights from 2015’s ‘Peripheral Vision’, their brand of blissfully, shoegaze-esque indie rock has this large crowd fixated. Although it’s easy to see how their mellow sound can become monotonous, but with songs such as ‘Dizzy on the Comedown’ are harmonious and definitely pleasing. However, a hint of new material would have been welcomed. (3.5/5) (SR)
On a bill with more than its fair share of rising pop-punkers, Aussie outfit With Confidence still stood out as a must-see name. Although not quite as slick as they are on record, this was still an exuberant and really feel good set with addictive hooks aplenty. Opener ’Voldemort’ set the bar high from the outset, while ’Archers’ and ’Keeper’ serve as notice that the quartet are serious contenders in world pop-punk, and more than capable of filling the gap left in Hopeless Records’ ranks by the departure of All Time Low. (3.5/5) (SR)
While Turnover are fairly laid back, close longtime friends Citizen show a bit of angst and intensity to their alt-rock sound. While the wait for album number three continues, favourable cuts from ‘Youth’ and ‘Everybody Is Going To Heaven’ quickly win over the crowd. While ‘Yellow Love’ lowers the mood with its slow, reflective tone. Nevertheless, a hat-trick of ‘Youth’ lifted tracks (‘Roam the Room,’ ‘Figure You Out’ and ‘The Night I Drove Alone,’) see out their slot with an sea of explosive emotion. Album three is set to be released in the Autumn. (3.5/5) (SR)
Heavy rock found itself far more generously represented on the Slam Dunk main stage than it often has been in previous years. Beartooth took full advantage of this to lay waste to a gargantuan crowd in moments. ’Aggressive’ lit the fuse of a blistering set that saw ’Sick of Me and ’In Between’ providing mayhem inducing highlights. Closer ’Hated’ has never felt as intense as it did with thousands of fists punching the air. (4/5) (DW)
After a rather tardy arrival from We The Kings on the Monster stage, a set that had been advertised as playing their debut album in full promptly failed to materialise. That said a set that opens up with the energising saccharine sweetness of ‘Check Yes Juliet’ can’t be all bad, but it didn’t take long to start to run out of steam from there. ‘Secret Valentine’ and ‘She Takes Me High’ both provoke modest sing alongs with their simple loved up hooks to a crowd that was growing by the song. As long as you don’t think too hard about dudes in their 30s singing about losing their virginity it was harmlessly enjoyable stuff, but newer and reworked songs were politely received at best. What could have been a really fun set celebrating ‘We The Kings’ in full merely ended up being kind of fun in a soon forgotten sort of way. (2.5/5) (SR)
Between the staggering vocal talents of Sam Little, and their ability to deliver immaculate gut-wrenching pop jams it’s impossible not to love The Gospel Youth. Caught in a timeslot that faced unenviable competition from stages elsewhere, those that opted to head into the Rock Sound Stage were rewarded with an absolute treat of a set. A seemingly on edge Little eked every ounce of feels out of each note, meaning renditions of ’The Hospital Blues You Gave To Me’ and ’The Miles We Are Apart’ hit like emotional hammer blows. Ending the set ’Moods Like English Weather’ is the perfect taster of how special the band’s forthcoming debut album is set to be. (4/5) (SR)
Back over on the Fireball stage, Less Than Jake are taking advantage by the arena setting as confetti and streamers fire out as they launch into ‘All My Best Friends Are Metalheads’. The Gainesville ska punk legends aren’t fucking around, as playing festivals of this ilk is second nature to them. Longtime fan favourites ‘Last One Out of Liberty’, ‘Dopeman’, ‘Automatic’, ‘Look What Happened’ and ‘Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts’ are rapidly delivered with the band’s expected funny stage interaction in between. While the band joke about plying “unwanted” new material before launching into ‘Bomb Drop’. Hometown tribute ‘Gainesville Rock City’ and ‘The Ghost of You and Me’ brings an infectiously fun set to a close. (4/5) (SR)
Slam Dunk’s organisers really did spoil us all for choice of headliners this year, almost every stage had a world class act closing out the day. The upshot being that not every one of the killer acts on offer could attract gargantuan crowds. It was a modest but fired up assembly that massed up at the Signature stage for Against Me! Whether the faces in front of them numbers in the tens or the tens of thousands Laura Jane Grace never deliver anything short of a full bore, life affirming performance and that’s exactly we got here. The refrain of an early rendition of ‘I Was a Teenage Anarchist’ gets belted lustily back at the stage by every soul present, while ‘True Trans Soul Rebel’ sounds nothing short of scorching and ‘Pints of Guinness Make You Strong’ is as riotously fun as ever.
There may not have been any of the pomp, light shows and gimmicks on offer elsewhere, buts that’s not what you want or expect from Against Me!. What you get instead is the sort of passion, sincerity and force of will and personality that you really need when the world feels like it’s getting uncomfortably dark. If there ever was a woman to inspire the feeling that you can take on said world win it’s Laura Jane Grace in this sort of form. This is particularly palpable on ’333’ and ’Up The Cuts’. It’s down to a one-two knockout punch of ’Reinventing Axl Rose’ and ’Black Me Out’ to draw proceedings to a close with a level of bonhomie rather at odds to every last antagonistic line being savoured by band and crowd alike. Sadly there’s no encore showing sometimes you can’t get quite enough of a good thing. (4/5) (DW)
They’ve conquered arenas and now it was time for Enter Shikari to conquer a festival headline slot. In the midst of marking the 10 year anniversary of debut album, ‘Take To The Skies’, for Enter Shikari these shows are a celebration of how far they come, and how they continue to be one of the UK’s most vital rock bands.
As expected, their set is dominated by ‘TTTS’ with thousands shouting “SHIT!” as they kick off with their eponymous track. ‘Mothership’ and ‘Anything Can Happen In The Next Half Hour’ soon follow up, sounding as fresh as they were in 2007. While the inter sliced later cuts such as ‘The Last Garrison’, ‘Juggernauts’ and ‘Anaesthetist’ are equally welcomed by the swelling crowd. Later on, Rou Reynolds leads the crowd in a poignant take of Oasis’ ‘Half The World Away’ before transitioning into ‘Adieu’.
Accompanied by a compelling display of lights and lasers, an encore of ‘Redshift’, ‘Ok, Time For Plan B’ and ‘The Appeal/the Mindsweep II’ ends the day on a reasonable high. However, admittedly the outdoor setting didn’t play to Enter Shikari’s advantage; Reynolds’ vocals became lost in the atmosphere, and to a lesser extent, the absence of the band’s quadrophonic set up meant their sound suffered.
Nevertheless, this was a successful outing that delivered nostalgia and relevance in equal measure. With the list of future major festivals looking sparse, Enter Shikari showed they’re capable of filling such void. (4.5/5) (SR)
Another year, another Slam Dunk Festival conquered. While the blasts of nostalgia on offer proved to hit and miss, it continues to be as relevant as ever with it’s organic growth beyond its pop-punk origins becoming an admirable focal point of the festival.
View more of Already Heard’s coverage from Slam Dunk Festival 2017 here.
Words by Sêan Reid (SR) and Dane Wright (DW). Photos by Carrie-Anne Pollard.