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FESTIVAL REVIEW: Slam Dunk Festival 2017 – South

Slam Dunk Festival is one of the flagship events in the world of alternative music world. The three date extravaganza (for the North, Midlands and South) boasts itself on presenting the best in alternative rock, metalcore, hardcore and pop punk and 2017’s edition of Slam Dunk is no different. Distorted Sound‘s James Halstead and Fran Dignon checked out the southern date in Hatfield to see if Slam Dunk Festival 2017 maintains their stellar reputation

PUPPY – Signature Brew Stage

Puppy live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017 - South. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals
Puppy live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017 – South. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals

PUPPY bring their wonderfully unique doom-through-a-filter-of-alternative-rock to Slam Dunk, opening the Signature stage. It’s an impressive performance – especially when a band without an album out can write songs to the quality of Entombed and Beast.

Rating: 8/10

Words: James Halstead

FORT HOPE – The Key Club Stage

Fort Hope live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017 - South. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals
Fort Hope live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017 – South. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals

FORT HOPE kick things off over on the Key Club Stage, the British rockers coming out to a very busy room and deliver the same high energy performance that they have always been known for. Even very new songs see the crowd dancing and singing along and it leaves us questioning why FORT HOPE aren’t much higher on today’s line up. FORT HOPE are a band that from the very beginning seem to have played all of their cards right and have had both the music and the live shows to back this up yet, unfortunately, a large portion of the British rock scene have ignored them on the most part.

Rating: 7/10

Words: Fran Dignon

CROSSFAITH – Jagermeister Stage

Crossfaith live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017 - South. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals
Crossfaith live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017 – South. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals

With ENTER SHIKARI headlining the mainstage the early afternoon sees a whole run of excellent, young, heavy bands providing a great cross section of metal from around the world. CROSSFAITH  are typically energetic – their whirlwind of synths and metalcore inciting a colossal circlepit on the main stage before the band have even played a note. It’s business as usual from the band themselves, Monolith, the cover of Omen and Countdown To Hell proving the predictable highlights. It’s hardly the height of what this band can achieve but as a forty minute festival you can do a lot worse.

Rating: 7/10

Words: James Halstead

BURY TOMORROW – Jagermeister Stage

Bury Tomorrow live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017 - South. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals
Bury Tomorrow live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017 – South. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals

BURY TOMORROW are the sort of band that are Slam Dunk‘s bread and butter, and this kind of set is BURY TOMORROW‘s bread and butter. While a forty minute festival set is totally inadequate for the amount of great songs that BURY TOMORROW can now choose from the very pick of the bunch; Lionheart and Sceptres quite predictably turn the mid-afternoon crowd into a whirlwind of flailing limbs and hair.

Rating: 7/10

Words: James Halstead

BEARTOOTH – Jagermeister Stage

Beartooth live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017 - South. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals
Beartooth live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017 – South. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals

BEARTOOTH, similarly, turn into a characteristically strong set at Slam Dunk; Always Dead, The Lines and Bodybag hit square between the eyes while In-Between and Hated provide some much needed breathing space. It’s an assured performance and, although like BURY TOMORROW before them, there’s plenty of essential songs that you’re missing from BEARTOOTH in a forty minute festival after only two albums but, equally, what you do get is all indispensable too.

Rating: 7/10

Words: James Halstead

WE ARE THE OCEAN – Jagermeister Stage

We Are The Ocean live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017 - South. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals
We Are The Ocean live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017 – South. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals

Although WE ARE THE OCEAN have definitely pulled a smaller crowd than those before them today, it is instantly clear that the fans who are here to see them really care and knew how special today is. This is an atmosphere you would have found at most WE ARE THE OCEAN shows in recent years. WE ARE THE OCEAN just play a really great rock show, with an incredible vocal performance from Liam Cromby as always. Before finishing their set, the Slam Dunk organiser comes out to congratulate WE ARE THE OCEAN on not only being the band who have appeared at Slam Dunk the most but also on their career as a whole and for being a band who have done a lot for the British rock scene (even if it often went unnoticed). WE ARE THE OCEAN will be incredibly missed by a lot of fans but it is great to see them play their final show at a festival that clearly means so much to them and to go out on such a high.

Rating: 7/10

Words: Fran Dignon

DEAF HAVANA – Jagermeister Stage

Deaf Havana live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017 - South. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals
Deaf Havana live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017 – South. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals

DEAF HAVANA, in contrast to a run of the world’s best heavy bands, play a set that’s about as wet as the weather is beginning to turn. With three guitarists you’d be forgiven there might be a bit more weight to their sound than on record but this proves a fragile hope. Even if old hits like Mildred and some of the more alternative rock oriented moments (see: Sing) from their latest studio effort do provide a few minutes respite it’s a disappointing showing from a band that were once one of Britain’s highest hopes.

Rating: 5/10

Words: James Halstead

WE THE KINGS – Monster Stage

We The Kings live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals
We The Kings live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals

In 2017, almost any WE THE KINGS show could be considered a bit of a nostalgia trip, let alone if they’re here to celebrate the ten year anniversary of their debut album. They walk out on the Monster Energy Stage today and kick straight off with possibly their biggest song, Check Yes Juliet and suddenly everyone in this crowd is a teenager again and is singing at the top of their lungs. WE THE KINGS definitely do not deliver the most impressive set of the day at all but they’re here to have fun and play a quick set of great songs (even including a cover of JIMMY EAT WORLD‘s The Middle) and they a pretty great job of this! A lot of people were pessimistic about WE THE KINGS playing this years festival and questioned their relevance in 2017, but excluding a few stage headline acts from today, no other band got a crowd reaction even close to them and it’s clear everyone here absolutely loved seeing them.

Rating: 6/10

Words: Fran Dignon

MADINA LAKE – Impericon Stage

Madina Lake live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals
Madina Lake live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals

This short run of UK shows, which includes Slam Dunk, has been MADINA LAKE‘s first shows back since their split in 2013. Like with any band returning from a hiatus, there were some definite fears of if MADINA LAKE would continue to be the incredibly high energy and passionate band they used to be well known for. Instantly it is great to see that MADINA LAKE haven’t missed a step as front man Nathan Leone come leaping onto the stage and the band burst straight into In Another Life. If you weren’t familiar with MADINA LAKE prior to this show, you would have no idea that they had recently taken a 4 year break as they still all work perfectly together and look like they’re having the time of their lives. These shows are in celebration of their album From Them, Through Us, To You and the set draws heavily from this, not forgetting a couple hits from other albums and covers of BLURs Song 2 and BLINK 182‘s What’s My Age Again?. MADINA LAKE fire through their set and keep everyone in this packed out room bouncing the entire time, if this is anything to go off of, people should be very excited for the return of MADINA LAKE as it seems they’re ready to yet again take the music scene by storm.

Rating: 8/10

Words: Fran Dignon

FRANK IERO AND THE PATIENCE – Signature Brew Stage

FRANK IERO AND THE PATIENCE, on the other hand, are a pleasant surprise. It is a performance that oozes emotional depth while not sacrificing a single grain of grit. IERO is very much at home fronting a band now and has developed a charisma all of his own while last album Parachutes has added a whole new platter of hard-hitting songs to his repertoire.

Rating: 8/10

Words: James Halstead

STRAY FROM THE PATH – Impericon Stage

Stray From The Path live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017 - South. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals
Stray From The Path live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017 – South. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals

Inside, STRAY FROM THE PATH take a bit more of a direct approach than FRANK IERO delivering a typically energetic set. They may take a lot from RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE but that bounce and white-hot aggression is all backed up by a 90’s hardcore meat and depth in the form of Craig Reynold’s drumming that accentuates each stab of aggression with that extra slab of concrete. A guest slot from Rou Reynolds of ENTER SHIKARI fame is one particular highlight in a set that never lets up.

Rating: 7/10

Words: James Halstead

THE BRONX – Signature Brew Stage

The Bronx live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017 - South. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals
The Bronx live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017 – South. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals

THE BRONX are a seething ball of aggression that drags the rest of the Signature Stage in with them. It doesn’t take long for the rabble to be roused and a truly chaotic Knifeman delivered from the crowd by Matt is a true set highlight. There’s very little flab to THE BRONX tonight; simply an hour long adrenaline fuelled scream that drags the crowd into the moment with it. While close to an hour set might be pushing it a bit with a band like THE BRONX it’s still a powerful performance.

Rating: 7/10

Words: James Halstead

AGAINST ME! – Signature Brew Stage

Against Me! live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017 - South. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals
Against Me! live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017 – South. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals

Closing the day on the Signature Brew stage this evening is the one and only AGAINST ME!, although they might have one of the smallest crowd for a headliner today, they without a doubt have the most passionate. Fans have packed themselves in, as close to the front and the smiles on their faces just show how excited they all are to sing their hearts out to some punk rock anthems. AGAINST ME! come on and fire straight into True Trans Soul Rebel and instantly it’s impossible to tell who’s having more fun tonight out of the band and the fans. This opener is a pretty high energy one, but no one seems ready for the band to drop I Was A Teenage Anarchist second in the set. The energy in this set didn’t drop for a single second, from the moment AGAINST ME! stepped out onstage to close with Black Me Out. It was just an hour jammed full of brilliant punk rock and one of the best ways to close out any festival.

Rating: 9/10

Words: Fran Dignon

ENTER SHIKARI – Jagermeister Stage

Enter Shikari live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017 - South. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals
Enter Shikari live @ Slam Dunk Festival 2017 – South. Photo Credit: Fran Dignon Visuals

Meanwhile on mainstage ENTER SHIKARI might be performing songs a decade old but you’d hardly be able to tell both with the level of passion that the band deliver them. The electronic elements of Take to the Skies sound excellent having clearly been updated to be more in line with the technology that ENTER SHIKARI can draw upon ten years later. With some of the bands normal set staples scattered throughout the ‘album in full’ it’s a set that doesn’t lose momentum like a lot of these types of sets tend to do. The passion that the songs are delivered with further reinforces that this is only ENTER SHIKARI doing these songs because they really want to.

Of course, it does help that they’ve got ten years plus experience of delivering incredible live performances and both the band, from Rou Reynold’s mad professor outfit and dancing to a characteristically incredible light set-up speak of a world class band on the top of their game. Yet, somehow, those decade old songs that dominate the set just make the night feel so much more special. “This is the end of an era for our band” Rou observes: and tonight does feel special. If anything, that ENTER SHIKARI can make songs from their debut sound this good it speaks volumes of whatever they do next will sound like. It’s a festival headlining set that no one here tonight will be forgetting anytime soon.

Rating: 9/10

Words: James Halstead

Check out our photo gallery of all the action at Slam Dunk Festival 2017 South from Fran Dignon Visuals: 

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