Slam Dunk Festival is by far the greatest day in a UK pop-punk fans year. It’s a one to keep on the calender, it’s a one to remember and look forward to – it’s a one to discuss where the nearest Nando’s is. With a lineup that beasts any previous years, we’ve got the cream of the UK crop, the 2008 Easycore Tour, reunions, acoustic one-offs, signings, DJ Sets, and of course, Millionaires all rolled into one. What more could you want for 25 quid?
The Skints open up the Vans Stage to a staggering amount of people. It’s exactly what they deserve, as they’re a very special act to behold. Flourishing with their reggae-ska hybrid, they deliver a tight-knit set as ever. An outing for Bright Girl proves to be a highlight, with the half-hour being tied up in dreamy, easy going interludes and midway points – no Murderer, but we’ll live. The London 4-piece have their punk moments too, and when they get a chance to shine, the room shines too – the crowd mirroring the mood and setting off like fireworks (Not the band). It echoes a strong set, and a pleasing start to the day.
On the other side back in the Stylus, Young Guns take their time in getting onstage, leaving their ever-gathering crowd restless. However, they certainly don’t fail to disappoint, blasting into new single Sons Of Apathy – although, still new to most people, is still highly relished by it’s audience. It sadly takes the High Wycombe quintet quite a while to get up to speed, not many people are giving the energy, surprising for such an early point in the afternoon. Once the Mirrors EP tracks are busted out in the latter half of the set, however, it makes for great listening – Gustav Wood is a natural frontman with a hugely talented voice, and it shows in the beauty of Weight Of The World, down to the gritty, rifftastic Daughter Of The Sea. Slow start, but Young Guns pull out in the end, and cap off a great set.
Mixed reviews greet US 3-piece Millionaires as they take to the stage – many are here just for a bit of a laugh, while others are genuinely interested in the group’s musical abilities, and then there’s people there to ogle a bit of side-boob. The truth is, nobody really knows how to react when the trio – Melissa, Allison, and Dani, take to the stage. They’ve got immense charisma, and although many argue their lyrics are something to be desired, they’ve got great voices and a great look for three girls singing on top of a pre-recorded beat. The highlight is a clear cut winner – members of Four Year Strong, Fireworks and Set Your Goals doing as the girls imply, and take their shirts off, spin them around and dance awkwardly around the crowd in a conga line. Possibly more entertaining than the band itself, possibly a little disturbing, but it’s clear that whatever pre-conceived notion of Millionaires people had before today has definitely been changed, in some way or form.
Watford quintet Blackhole, fronted by hip-wiggling frontman Rich Carter, deliver what is an easy contender for set of the day. Their apathy-tinged brand of punk ‘n’ roll sets alight the pulse, despite the turnout falling a little short. The riff-fuelled Witches and the chantalongs of Scared To Change get the best reactions, and are an entertainment to behold – almost as much so as the band’s pint-sized vocalist’s facial expressions and constant pacing in and out of whoever may get close. It’s powerful and fast stuff, and those who’ve made the effort to come check the band out have witnessed a really great set.
St Albans hardcore outfit Your Demise, however, are the polar opposites. Whilst the crowd who have made their way inside and filled out the Imperial Stage are clearly stoked (you know the types), as soon as the band take to the stage, it’s simply not worth the wait – drowned out guitars make Black Veins sound terribly flat, and vocalist Ed McRae is surely having the worst off-day today – his vocal chords not being able to hold anything for any more than a second at best. The crowd are clearly overjoyed just to be able to jump around and have a good time, but a couple more songs and only about 20% of the scheduled vocals for the set, this reviewer is out of here.
On the other side of the refectory, Four Year Strong take to a room which seems highly overfilled. It Must Really Suck… proves the perfect opener – it’s meaty, riffy, and has the catchiest chorus. Everyone currently jammed into the room is quite obviously familiar, and seeing over two thousand people belt back the tracks word for word proves just how far Four Year Strong have come. Vocal duo Dan O’Connor and Alan Day swap, chop, and change their duties with ease and both sound spot on. Old songs get great outings – Bada Bing!… sounds fantastic, and new tracks like perfect singalong Wasting Time truly cement what this festival is all about – fun, sweat, and more fun!
Skindred on the other hand, slowly gather an ever-expanding crowd over at the Vans Stage, and it’s clear to see why people are filing in – it doesn’t matter how many times one watches this band, they never ever cease to be anything short of fantastic, and a whole lot of good fun! Bursting into the synth driven Start For Something, ever-charismatic frontman Benji Webbe makes light work of making the crowd his for the entire fourty-odd minutes, and demands constant attention, movement and fun-having, whilst rolling in the odd story, joke, and synth solo. Oldies like moshpit anthem Bruises still get outings with great receptions, and even when the set is taken down a notch with the more chilled, reggae side of the hybrid, there’s still so much flow in the room it’s barely containable. A blistering Nobody finishes off a fantastic set, and an unexpected Pantera riff shows Skindred are as unpredictable, and incredible as ever – they’ve stolen the weekend with ease.
London mob My Passion dish out their disco punk anthems to a criminal sized crowd – whilst many opt for the bigger acts from across the seas today, a hardcore following has decided to stick with arguably one of the UK’s most hard-working and talented bands. Opener Crazy and Me doesn’t get the usual frenzy it deserves, but it still sounds fantastic nonetheless, and the crowd are endlessly entertained. Poster-boy frontman Laurence René is a born leader – entertaining to say the least, (to be fair, one would be entertained enough just looking at the quartet) he belts out all manner of highs, lows and “YYYYYYYYYYYEAHHHHH!”‘s to his and the audiences content. New tracks blow old out of the water in a live setting – they’ve got a definite mature feel to them, and it’ll be interesting to hear on record in the future. While they’ve not exactly set out to gain any new fans like a lot of bands playing today, My Passion have certainly kept their friends happy – great set, great end to the day.
– George Cannings.
New interviews with Four Year Strong and Millionaires coming soon!