Slam Drunk 2018: Dying of Shame

words and photos by oliver butler (@notoliverbutler)

Maybe to you, a boring idiot, Slam Dunk Festival is a pretty nifty one day festival that spreads its rich mix of bands across the four corners of this land (apart from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, because fuck those guys right?!), but to the more experienced and festival-savvy of us, Slam Dunk is a test of endurance; a one day alcoholic assault course that pushes your drinking tolerance, fitness and mental endurance.

Of course, those of you who followed last year’s boozy commentary, or had the severe misfortune of running into me will attest that I push my physical, mental and emotional limits to the maximum when it comes to Slam Drunk. Slam Drunk is for slamming beers, maybe for grabbing a £30 slice of pizza, and absolutely not about sticking to an itinerary of bands you wish to see. The compact nature of the festival makes it ideal to stumble around from stage to stage, spending the whole time trying to work out who the fuck this band is, but largely enjoying their sound.

Same rules as last year apply: a running tally of all beers must be kept, a beer must be drank between or during bands, and the third inning is known as the beer inning.

We run into the NEC with the Official Transistor Beer Counter at 8, and the first band on today are:

Four Year Strong (Jagermeister Stage)

For me, Four Year Strong are that band that did that really good cover of Love Song by Sara Bareilles. I don’t mean that in a negative way, I just remember slamming that Punk Goes Pop album on repeat with FYS getting a LOT of playtime, and that obviously introduced me to the band’s wider work. Maybe I was late to the party then, but I was certainly late to the party today as I rocked up halfway through their set… blame widespread rail cancellations, nationalise it all.

However, if the first half was as good as the second, Four Year Strong put on a blinding show, sounding tight throughout Find My Way Back, Maniac, It Must Really Suck to be Four Year Strong Right Now, closing the set out with Wasting Time. It was at this point the stars aligned and I found some of my friends, so as the final notes from Four Year Strong’s set resonated throughout the NEC’s main hall, I heard the sweetest sound of all as someone said “Beer?”.

BAND RATING: 7/10
BEER COUNTER: 10 (one in Spoons pre-FYS, one post FYS)

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Sure, It Must Really Suck to be Four Year Strong Right Now, but not as much as it sucks to be me, as I dropped my beer. Some might argue it was down to a high level of intoxication, however, I dropped my beer because I saw several assassins approaching my friends, and in the process of performing several highly complex martial arts manoeuvres to save their lives, I dropped my beer. They will not be able to confirm this story due to the high speed in which these moves were performed, but I’m sure they are most grateful. Coming up after that dramatic fight were a band I’m so very excited about, and even more excited about to see for the first time…

Creeper (Jagermeister Stage)

Possibly one of, if not the most exciting bands in the United Kingdom right now, I have been excited to see Creeper since they were announced. Let’s be honest, compared to recent years, the line up’s a bit shit, but Creeper are one of the bands to justify the ticket fee alone. Sure, I was late to the party, as the first time I heard Eternity, In Your Arms, Creeper were just bringing their headline UK tour to a close, but when I did, it was easily one of the best albums I’d heard in 2017. Not too heavy, not too light, it was the Goldilocks of albums in 2017 as it was juuuust right.

As soon as the lights went out, the first bar of Black Rain struck and there was a buzz in the air as, and I didn’t have my glasses on, a suitably filling NEC greeted Creeper to the stage. It was an expertly crafted set from the Southampton band, giving a perfect mix of beginning to present, including Astral Projection, Suzanne and Black Mass. Something I noted on when giving an end of year review to Eternity, In Your Arms was how impressive the vocal blend of Will Gould and Hannah Greenwood was, and in the live arena, it’s no different, but the latter was simply sublime when performing a huge rendition of Crickets, with the vocal blend switching to between Hannah and the NEC. Hiding With Boys was also a highlight, it’s got a real bouncy feel to it.

Fingers crossed these guys get back on it soon and carry on building on the strong foundations they laid in 2017. I’m looking forward to seeing them again at 2000 Trees, where I promise to be more lucid.

BAND RATING: 9/10

BEER COUNTER: 11

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Shit… what happened after Creeper? I’m pretty sure something happened after Creeper. There was a wrestling match before or after. Look, I paid fifty quid to see Creeper and sink a beer. It’s my money pal, if I want to blow it on indulgent and unnecessary things, you’re gonna have a hard time stopping me. Oh, oh, and if I want to stall for time to fill an article where I can’t remember what happened, I fucking well will. Yeah? Anyway, I remember what happened and we went to the food court, which, seeing as it’s Slam Dunk, meant seeing another band, and oh boy, was this gonna be good as we saw…

Counterparts (Impericon Stage)

I was gutted to have missed Counterparts supporting Architects at Alexandra Palace earlier in the year, so seeing they’d be at Slam Drunk made everything okay again. The good news was the Impericon Stage has been moved into the food court this year, meaning everyone could enjoy something heavy whilst getting a £5,000,000 shawarma. Not for me thank you, I’m on a liquid diet.

Mightily impressed by these guys, especially with their stage presence as they tore it up as everyone grabbed an early tea. Their Spotify bio is just literally “nice music”, which is probably the most honest and least pretentious Spotify bio I’ve ever seen. Oh, and nice it was as they dropped hardcore bombs like Bouquets, Thieves, Choke and Rope. Simple, quick, one word songs. No idea what they opened with as I was still at Creeper as they came on, and beer makes me slow.

However, I turned 25 this year, which means I’m a very old man and must divert my attention to doing things like having dinner parties, and of course, what DO you play for ambient music at a dinner party? Considering that they delightfully soundtracked a room full of people eating dinner, Counterparts are my number one choice for dinner music.

BAND RATING: 8/10

BEER COUNTER: 12

Seriously, why have I drank so much today? Thank fuck I’ve got tomorrow off. I need a wee. I could do with some food but £9,000,000,000 for pizza? Fuck off pal. Sat outside and listened to Capdown on the Fireball Stage. Maybe these guys deserve a review but I can’t really remember anything about them apart from the fact they were pretty good. In this time I also missed Twin Atlantic, due to numerous scheduling conflicts. Basically I’d jump out here, as we’re hitting peak levels of “fucked it” right now. Then you sort of hit a swirl where you’ve seen about fourteen bands in the space of five minutes but you’ve no clue who the fuck any of them are, or who you are. Saw Creeper signing autographs, thought about joining the queue, decided against as I was too drunk and I’d end up interviewing them, but about their favourite drunk takeaway food as several presumably burly security guards whisked me away.

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Whatever, want me to talk about another band? I don’t. I don’t know why anyone reads the bollocks that comes off the end of my fingers and onto your screen. Anyway, here’s…

Trash Boat (Signature Brew Stage)

Oh these guys were fun, I couldn’t have told you a thing about them before, but they’re definitely one of those you’re pleasantly surprised by. The Hertfordshire punks played a great set to a brilliant crowd, firing blasts like Catharsis, Pangea and Shade. Again, nice one word songs, easy for the drunk, tired brain to process, meaning you can put more time into bipedal humanoid functions like walking, talking and stopping yourself from screaming every five seconds.

I’d say if I had to pick a “surprise” band of the day, it’d be Trash Boat, largely because I was surprised to be seeing them, but overwhelmingly because I was so impressed with their sound and their stage presence. Some bands you see at a festival one year and discard, but Trash Boat sold themselves well, pretty amazing considering they are named after a boat that has garbage on it.

BAND RATING: 8/10

BEER COUNTER: 15 (Saw someone serving two pinters and hot damn did my day go uphill)

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Nothing will ever beat Slam Drunk 2015 though, I got blasted, saw a load of metal bands including a headline set from Architects, met Dan from Bury Tomorrow and didn’t have a hangover the next day. Also it was at Wolverhampton Civic which is a far superior venue in a far superior city. The NEC is a cold, unloving monolith, the Civic is a warm, caring building. However, I know a band who’d make up for all that, and I’m hoping that band would be…

Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes (Jagermeister Stage)

All day. All fucking day we’d been chomping at the bit for Juggernaut. Electricity followed us as we were just anticipating Juggernaut, and Juggernaut did not disappoint as Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes rattled the NEC with their sonic assault opening the proceedings. Someone got crowdsurfed and booted me in the head. Straight out the game. Big headache. However, that did not stop my fun during Fangs, and did not stop me doing my duty during Wild Flowers. I’ve said it before, but I love how it’s used to have girls safely crowdsurf, of course, this should be every song of every show by every band, but I love the fact that’s what Wild Flowers is for. Neck canes though, when you’re 6″4, you are the stairway to crowdsurfing. I love seeing Vampires in the setlist too, it’s a real simple song but that’s why it’s so good, the chorus is thumping and the drums and the Ooohohwowowowoah in the bridge is sublime.

It was a whistle stop tour through their discography, with Paradise, Snake Eyes and Devil Inside Me rocking up, and rocking out. It’s a shame really, as you can’t help but feel they’ve got the clout to be a bit higher on the bill, maybe at the top on say the Monster Stage? Maybe it’s too soon, but when you have such a plethora of stages available, throwing a box office band in at the top could pay off massively. It would’ve been good to see Beautiful Death, Primary Explosive and Spray Paint Love, but when you’re third from the top, you’ve got to go shock and awe. And awe it was.

It’s at this point I’d like to apologise to Frank Carter, his security guard, my fan and my future children, as during er, Jackals(?), a man called Frank jumped into the crowd, right in front of me! It was at this point a maverick journalist decided he’d get a “selfie”‘ with this man, for the sake of a good story. The selfie didn’t take, I just couldn’t take a good selfie, and I ruined everything. Frank probably doesn’t remember a fat, sweaty drunk man in a Spray Paint Love t shirt fucking up a photo op, because stuff like that is water off a duck’s back to a pro like him, but it will haunt me for the rest of my life. If I saw Frank Carter in the street, I’d cross the road, out of shame, I couldn’t face him. A week ago I’d have shook his hand with enthusiasm, now I couldn’t even look him in the eye. I can’t listen to Blossom or Modern Ruin any more, because I’m so full of shame for trying to take a selfie. Who the fuck am I, Philip fucking Schofield? It’s been five days now and I can’t sleep, I can’t look at myself in the mirror, because the man who stares back is a man who can’t take a selfie. Frank, I’m so sorry…

In my mind, Frank sang I Hate You about me, because I was the man who tried taking a photo. I’ve done some cringe things when drunk but this really takes the cake. To borrow a lyric, “What did I do last night, and will I be ashamed?”. Fuck sake.

BAND RATING: 9/10

BEER COUNTER: 16

ME RATING: -1,000,000/10

Right so, this is where I died of shame and my friend decided he was actually dead so I rescued him and kept everyone awake on the train home. I did see PVRIS, but only like, thirty seconds of them, so just imagine they were fucking brilliant.

As for me, I shall never go to a gig or drink again, apart from tonight where I am drinking, and tomorrow night where I am going to a gig. However, seeing as I died of shame, I shall be doing both of these as a ghost.

If you were at Slam Drunk, please let me know how it was for you, and how you managed to make an arse out of yourself in one of your favourite singers, it would soothe my weeping wounds greatly.

Slammin’ Beers: A Slam Dunk Review

By Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Prologue

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. 

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Crossfaith

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)

Black Foxxes

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)

Bury Tomorrow

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)

Beartooth

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)

I Prevail 

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)

Don Broco

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)

Enter Shikari

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.  

FINAL OPINION

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! 


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