By Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)
One of the finest pleasures of the late May Bank Holiday weekend is the fact you get a three-day weekend, but better yet, there’s bound to be some tasty musical action at Slam Dunk Festival, one of the UK’s finest touring pop punk/metal/rock festivals. Every year the festival offers great variety, with the bands and headliners presenting something for everyone, with a few upsetting clashes along the way. Plus, at under £50 for the ticket, it’s a great way to discover some brand new favourites as well.
Also, it’s a brilliant excuse to get on the beer. Six cans deep and thirsty for more, I decided to fully immerse myself into the day’s action, offering gonzo journalism from the pit. A metal Hunter S Thompson if you will. Whilst I can’t confirm that the Doctor didn’t enjoy opening this place up, I doubt he’s ever been headbutted during Bury Tomorrow and couldn’t stop sneezing.
Kicking off the day’s personal schedule were Japanese electrometal enthusiasts Crossfaith, whose brand of full-frontal metal mixed with some heavy synth produces a sound akin to the Prodigy having angry sex with a wasps nest. Despite being on at half 2 in the afternoon and only the second band on, they nearly managed to fill out the entirety of the Genting Arena‘s floor, which is, give or take, about 8,000 people, and will host the likes of fellow metal heads Take That and Little Mix in the coming week. Mega.
But it’s not hard to see why Crossfaith pulled in such a big crowd so early. The energy carried by their band was enough to send the arena into a mosh-heavy, fist-pumping frenzy during their six-song set, featuring an appearance from Beartooth‘s Caleb Shomo for an adrenaline laced performance of Ghost in the Mirror. One of their party pieces is a full-blown cover of Omen by the Prodigy, which does the original justice, but adds a smidgen more of ruthless aggression. Setting the bar high for the day’s action, Crossfaith were the perfect hors d’ouvere on the Slam Dunk menu.
Rating – 7/10
Beers consumed – 1 pint Amstel (7 total)
Appearing in the middle of the Genting‘s food court on the Key Master stage, young and hungry Exter rockers Black Foxxes were one of the top dishes available in the food court. Perfectly enjoyed with a slice of overpriced pizza and a bottle of warm Heineken despite asking for a cold bottle, Black Foxxes banged out some proper, good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.
Their debut album, I’m Not Well came out towards the latter half of last year, with songs like Husk, Wilder People and River steadily impressing everyone passing through the food court at that point. In retrospect it’s a fucking great idea to stick up and comers in the middle of a food court , because you’ll reach a wider audience. Great bunch of lads playing great rock ‘n’ roll with a shite slice of pizza. Lovely.
Rating – 8/10
Beers Consumed – 1 bottle of lukewarm Heineken, 1 pint of Amstel (8 total)
Yes, yes, oh yay! At this point I was actually a bit pissed, which made the fact I was going to see Bury Tomorrow, a band I’d actually discovered at the same festival some two years back and met frontman Dan Winter-Bates whilst cuddling a two-pinter even more exciting than usual. There’s a theme developing here, isn’t there.
Unfortunately the start of Bury Tomorrow‘s set was delayed by technical issues, something that would plague the Jagermeister Stage for the rest of the day. However, what was short was undoubtedly sweet as the set began with the scintillating Man on Fire, turning the floor of the Genting into a frenzy as pits opened up quicker than Maggie Thatcher could close them. Somewhere in between Lionheart and Sceptres I’d acquired an Obey snapback, something which oddly suited me and would stay on my head from that point onwards. Interesting side note, none of the bands I like make snapbacks, rendering this discovery void.
During the final song Cemetery, I took damage in a moshpit, getting headbutted in the nose, causing me to sneeze uncontrollably, which meant I was unable to hear that their set was only going to be as long as that. Whilst technical glitches scuppered their set, they certainly made up for it in power and delivery.
Rating – 6/10 (based on injury and technical glitches)
Beers Consumed – 1 Amstel (9 total)
No time to spare as Bury Tomorrow would be directly followed by their metal counterparts Beartooth. Well, there was time for a wee and another beer, so that bit’s a lie.
The main offering of today’s action was always going to be Enter Shikari‘s tenth birthday party for Take to the Skies, but Beartooth‘s lightning set would mean that the Shikari boys would have to go some to beat this performance. On fire from start to finish, the Columbus crowd pleasers got a nearly full arena bouncing, jumping and moshing to their sound.
Returning the favour that Caleb Shlom payed earlier, Crossfaith frontman Kenta Koie came out for a louder-than-hell duet on Body Bag, with a mix of old tracks such as In Between from debut album Disgusting rubbing shoulders with songs from 2016’s sophomore album Aggressive (which is only £9.99 on vinyl in HMV, get on it lads), getting a hungry Birmingham crowd hyped up. The set was jam packed with action, energy and passion, producing one of the standout performances of the day, and would definitely require a huge effort from other bands to beat that whirlwind performance.
Rating – 8/10
Beers Consumed – 2 Amstel (11 total)
Fucks sake. We didn’t get to the poorly placed Impericon Stage in time and we can’t even see the bastard thing. It’s like hidden behind some bushes, how bloody stupid. Pretty sure they were great anyway. Might as well have a pint and watch the FA Cup Final. Saw some of Citizen as well, they were good, if not my bag. Also saw some of Waterparks as well. Ended up doing an impression of the front man and sounded like a stereotypical American teenager. Like, oh my god Kelly.
Rating – ???
Beers Consumed – 2 Amstel (13 total)
Christ Jesus I can’t stand Don Broco. I’ve got no idea where they fall into the musical spectrum but they sound and look like someone fed a Topman catalogue after midnight. They opened with Everybody which is a pretty enjoyable track mind you, but at the point it ended I descended into a fiftieth circle of musical hell which I am going to dub Fuckboicore, because why not?
It’s easy to understand why people like Broco, because it’s something a bit heavier but not too heavy, but they’re wearing short sleeve shirts from Topman so they’re just okay, I guess? Frontman looks like a young Jeremy Clarkson, and I struggle to comprehend why anybody under the age of 50 tucks a t shirt in. My dad does that and I wouldn’t want to see him front Don Broco either. To be honest I got distracted trying to get my booze-laden pal to calm himself down, which was a comical interlude as we all ended up wrestling. Whole reason I was there to get into pole position for Shikari so I’m really not the guy to ask about it.
Rating – 5/10
Beers Consumed – 1 Water, 1 Amstel (14 total)
LADIEEEEEES AND GENTLEMEN, SHOW YOUR YOUR APPRECIATION FOR ENTER SHIKARI!
Being honest the rest of this review is just slightly comical preamble to the main event. No more beer, no more comedy, it’s time for Enter Shikari to host the latest leg of the Take to the Skies anniversary tour.
The atmosphere was tangiable and the excitement could be bottled and sold as a performance enhancing drug as the lights went out at the intro to Stand Your Ground/Enter Shikari hit, with the crowd going into a frenzy during, with the excitement carrying straight over into Mothership. At some point I lost my found snapback, but there was no room for passengers aboard the mothership. The excitement and ecstasy carried over into Anything Can Happen in the Next Half Hour, and it did, as Labyrinth followed directly after. This is brilliant, the production values were amazing if not a few technical niggles, and the passion interweaved in these old songs was incredible, but there was just as much love for the new classics as The Last Garrison, Anaesthetist and Redshift all made an appearance with The Appeal and the Mindsweep II bringing the set to an aggressive end.
What a joy it was to see tracks like No Sssssweat, Jonny Sniper and Adieu, especially, performed live, with the crowd reaction showing that Take to the Skies still has the same impact and effect it did ten years ago, except this time, Shikari are now deservedly an arena filling band. However, whether they should be playing arenas is up for debate, as the sheer power of their sound, their message and their fans has caused severe structural damage in every venue they’ve played. That damn good.
With a tribute to the people of Manchester weaved in, there was an emotional sing along to a cover of Oasis’ Half the World Away before the beginning of Adieu.
In between songs, frontman Rou Reynolds made us all aware that June 8th is our opportunity to get rid of Theresa May once and for all, but if you’re a Shikari fan, and you’re not politically engaged, you’ve gotta get on the trolley. It’s music with a message, stupid!
All in all, I’ve been to lots of gigs in my time, ranging from small-time gigs where there’s more band members than fans, to blockbuster gigs from some of the biggest and best, but I’ve rarely seen a 10/10, to the point they barely take up one hand. But this, my dear reader, with the passion, the sweat, the love and the energy, makes this 10th birthday party one of the best gigs, and 10th birthday parties I’ve ever been to.
Rating – 10/10
BEER TOTAL – 14 beers and I felt good enough to drive! But I didn’t. We got a taxi. OH and I had a few cans when I got in.
SURPRISE PACKAGE – Black Foxxes, rock and fucking roll!
BEST BAND – Shikari, no doubt about it.
PERSONAL HIGHLIGHT – Finding out that snapbacks suit your man. Swag, motherfuckers!