Slam Dunk Midlands and Leeds: In Review (Pt.1)

Photo Credit: Ben Bentley

Acting as one of the most prominent festivals of the summer for rock fans, Slam Dunk Festival pulled out all the stops this year. Noizze were lucky to experience both Midlands and Leeds sites for 2017, and both did not disappoint!

Kicking proceedings off on the Jägermeister Stage was Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness [9]. Accurately introducing himself as the ‘least heavy act’ on the main stage, McMahon’s notably toned-down piano led set was truly captivating. Playing material from his most recent album, Zombies on Broadway as well as his self-titled album, fans were treated to an ambient spin on songs such as ‘Cecilia and the Satellite’, ‘Fire Escape’ and ‘Canyon Moon’. What really made this set special was McMahon’s nod to his previous projects, Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin- playing ‘I Woke Up in a Car’ and ‘Dark Blue’ were a nostalgic touch to his performance.

Next up, were Crossfaith [8] who sent energy levels into overdrive with their set, proving why they are a must see band in the metalcore scene. Although only playing at 2:30pm, their packed out crowd and insane lighting made the set feel like it was worthy of being much further up the lineup. Playing material largely from 2015’s Xeno, a real standout came when 'Ghost in the Mirror' was performed with Caleb Shomo from Beartooth, sending crowds into a frenzy. The set would not have been complete without their signature cover of 'Omen' by The Prodigy and this went down an absolute storm with the main-stage crowd.

Photo Credit: Ali Horton

Billed as special guests on the mainstage, were Slam Dunk veterans Bury Tomorrow [7], who certainly brought their A-game to the festival. Playing a mix of material from Earthbound, Runes and surprisingly three tracks from 2012’s The Union of Crowns, the set demonstrated just how solid Bury Tomorrow are as a live outfit. The fusion of Dani Winter-Bates’ brutal growls met with Jason Cameron’s clean vocals sounded on fire at Slam Dunk Midlands, and highlights came particularly within 'Last Light', 'Lionheart' and 'Earthbound'. Although playing a set that was cut extremely short, Bury Tomorrow proved that they are a band who are continuing to go from strength to strength.

Heading over to the Impericon Stage, Long Island’s own hardcore outfit Stray From the Path [10] took no prisoners with their performance at Slam Dunk Festival. Playing a set that had the energy of a category five hurricane Stray, led by vocalist Andrew ‘Drew York’ Dijorio, led a politically and socially charged assault. Playing both 'Badge & a Bullet' and 'Badge & a Bullet pt. II', the band openly critiqued the police system in the USA, and sent the crowd into some of the more ferocious of the day. The energy stayed at 100 during 'D.I.E.P.I.G' where Front Porch Step and Ian Watkins were called out for their actions and their misconduct of fame. Stray’s shining moment came when the band brought out Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari to join them during 'Eavesdropper'; the result? Chaos. The bands dynamism and musicality cannot be faulted, with Tom Williams playing some of the biggest riffs of the day. Returning to the UK later in 2017, Stray From the Path are a must-see band, who you should not sleep on.

Headlining the Jägermeister stage, Enter Shikari’s [10] tenth anniversary performance of Take to the Skies was nothing short of flawless ; laden with the biggest lightshow imaginable, it was truly remarkable to see a packed crowd largely made up of twenty-somethings singing passionately to every word- as if it was 2007 and Myspace was still all the rage. Opening with Take to the Skies’ prelude, 'Stand Your Ground; This is Ancient Land' straight into 'Enter Shikari' was enough to show that the crowd was fully amped and on-board for the entire set. Particular highlights came during the synth-led ‘Labyrinth’, ‘Ok Time for Plan B’ and the emotionally driven ‘Adieu’- which literally left fans with tears in their eyes. Can we talk about a Take to the Skies performance without 'Sorry You’re Not a Winner'? Probably not… as imaginable it sent Leeds City Centre into an absolute frenzy and opened some of the biggest moshpits of the day. What was unique about this performance, was the fact Shikari interwove more recent tracks into their set, that are synonymous with the band; ‘Juggernauts’, ‘The Last Garrison’ and ‘Anaesthetist’(which Rou Reynolds dedicated to the protection of the NHS and incited a Jeremy Corbyn chant), all made appearances. Furthermore, just with support of an acoustic guitar, Rou Reynolds’ performed a heartfelt cover of Oasis’s ‘Half the World Away’, which emotionally paid tribute to the victims of the Manchester attacks. Musically and vocally Shikari were faultless, but this is to be expected from a band of their caliber, with years of impeccable performances in their arsenal. It is evident that Shikari’s performance cemented them as one of the UK’s most important and influential rock bands of our generation.

Photo Credit : Ben Bentley

Over on the Signature Brew Stage, we saw the return of Against Me! [10] to Slam Dunk Festival after seven long years. Playing a set that was angsty, unapologetic, and brash, Against Me! stacked in a hefty seventeen track setlist that spanned the bands career. The band played a furiously upbeat set; additions such as ‘I Was a Teenage Anarchist’, ‘Up the Cuts’, ‘333’ and ‘Rebecca’ acted as real standouts where the crowd’s vocals actually overpowered Laura Jane Graces’. Furthermore rebel anthem ‘Pints of Guinness Make You Strong’ had the biggest response from the crowd, with fans dancing and screaming along to every word. Acting as a truthful yet poignant outlet for emotion and political angst, the band’s set uniquely created a safe place where strangers could come together in solidarity, fist pump, sing along, get drunk and have a great time. As always, Laura Jane Grace’s sentiments were made apparent through the introduction of songs, which added an extremely personal touch to the set. Using an amalgamation of newer material and old fan-favourites was an exactly way to keep the audience captivated throughout. The set came to an emotional end through the musings of ‘Black Me Out’, which when played live, intensified the melancholy and sensibility that the song has come to symbolise. What can be taken from Against Me’s set is that they are arguably the most frank and sincere band in the punk-rock scene, and can give audiences both an enjoyable yet empowering experience.

Photo credit: Ali Horton


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