Slam Dunk Festival is always a great day out and 2017 was no different. With plenty of bands from different genres to pick from, fans were guaranteed to have a good time. Rock Sins was present at the final part of the triple header, Slam Dunk South at The University of Hertfordshire.
Kicking the festival off on the Signature Stage was Puppy (8) who are far from your typical Slam Dunk band. Their mix of 90’s Alt Rock and crushing riffs could not sound further than the typical pop-punk and metalcore that Slam Dunk is now known for. This largely helps Puppy stand out as one of the most unique bands on the line up. The likes of “Arabella” and “Entombed” sound massive and the band have really gelled as a live unit. With vocalist and guitarist Jock striking all the right rock star poses during his solos.
Over on the main stage Crossfaith (9) really get the party started. Rock Sins have always backed Crossfaith as one of the best live bands around and this set is a strong reminder why. Before the band have even full arrived on stage during their intro track the crowd is bouncing along and generally losing their minds. Then once they fully start with “Xeno” things just kick up a level. “Monolith” still sounds just as exciting and fresh now as it did 5 years ago and their Omen cover is still ridiculous fun. The addition of a second guitarist live has really bulked out the guitars making things heavier. Teru also seems to take a more active role with the electronics live rather than just being a hype man. It all peaks with a brilliant guest appearence from Caleb Shomo for “Ghost In The Mirror”. Crossfaith set the bar insanely high for every other band still to come at this year’s Slam Dunk.
It’s a bar that We Are The Ocean (7) just cannot hope to match as they play their last show ever. That’s not to say this is a disappointing farewell for the band. They’ve never been the biggest British rock band but their passion has never dipped. The run of “Confessions”, “The Waiting Room” and “Young Heart” really shows off just what We Are The Ocean were capable of. Before they wrap things up for the final time the Slam Dunk organiser arrives on stage to congratulate the band for playing the festival more than anyone else. This was a great feel good moment for the band and the fans watching. Finally the band end their set with the “Nothing Good Has Happened Yet” which is the song that started it all back in 2008.
Over on the Signature stage, Crime In Stereo (8) deliver a great set to a tiny crowd. The band don’t seem bothered but it is a shame more people aren’t here to see them. The few dedicated fans who are there love every second as the band deliver a nostalgic blast for them. There’s the promise of a new Crime In Stereo album next year but for now the focus is purely on giving fans a dose of the bands older material. And there are no complaints from anyone watching. Crime In Stereo show why they are one of the more under appreciated bands from the world of punk.
Back on the main stage Bury Tomorrow (8) are busy repping for metal. This is very much business as usual for Bury Tomorrow in that they crush the main stage with ease. The pit doesn’t stop as they fill their 40 minute slot with wall to wall bangers. Sceptres still sounds as crushing as ever but it’s the material off Earthbound which really stands out. Dani’s stage banter might still be as predictable as ever but when he once again goes on about hating paid meet and greets, it’s clear he means every word. Bury Tomorrow are just so good at delivering 40 minute festival sets now.
There’s no stopping the mosh as Beartooth (8) look to one up Bury Tomorrow and Crossfaith. In terms of pit size they definitely manage to, as the huge circle pit to “Always Dead” is not matched by any other band. A surprise appearance from Crossfaiths Kenta Koie for “Body Bag is an early highlight but Beartooth don’t let things drop once. Whether its encouraging people to get on each others shoulders for “Sick Of Me” or Caleb’s brilliant improvised mosh call of “Fuck with this riff” during “The Lines”, Beartooth pack their set with great moments. If it wasn’t for some odd setlist choices this could have been the stand out set of the day.
Following this, Deaf Havana (6) just come across as a bit damp (and that’s not just because of the weather). James Veck Gilodi’s vocals sound as impressive as ever but the band just feel a bit sloppy. The band are clearly enjoying themselves on stage, especially when they launch into newer material but their performance just doesn’t feel as tight as it could be. It’s still enjoyable enough but it’s hard not to feel a little disappointed considering what Deaf Havana are capable of.
Over on the Impericon stage, Stray From The Path (9) are exclusively representing hardcore this year and they do so in spectacular fashion. Within the first few songs a fan runs out of the room with a face covered in blood which summed up exactly how rowdy the pit was for Stray From The Path. Drawing heavily from 2015’s Subliminal Criminals the energy just doesn’t stop. Every riff gets the room bouncing and Drew is as venomous as ever with his vocal delivery. Before “D.I.E.P.I.G.” Drew takes a moment to call out bands who will take advantage of their fans, which is something more bands need to take a stand against. A guest appearance from Rou Reynolds is briefly dampened when his mic initially doesn’t work but that is resolved and still ends up being a fun moment. In a day filled with some great heavy bands, Stray From The Path manage to emerge victorious over the others.
By the time The Bronx (9) arrive on stage it feels like most of the crowd are suitably drunk and what follows is an absolutely riot. Beers are flung around the crowd and it feels like every one is trying to pile on top of one another. Things only get more chaotic as vocalist Matt Caughthran makes his way into the crowd. Standing in the middle of a wall of death, he clearly doesn’t mind getting in the thick of it. This easily ends up being the most fun set of the day as The Bronx just rip through every fan favourite.
Finally it was time for Against Me! (10) to close out the Signature stage and with this they delivered the best set of the day. There are so many elements that make Against Me! shows so special. Whether its the sense of community among the fans or what the band represent to the trans/non-binary community. But it’s their performance that really makes them such a brilliant band. The way just come on stage, plug their instruments in and tear through as many songs as they can in one hour. And what songs they have, the opening combo of “True Trans Soul Rebel” and “I Was A Teenage Anarchist” is unbeatable. And there isn’t a single dip in the set. They pick all the best songs off of their latest album and mix them in with fan favourites. It’s the sort of set where you could replace every song they played with a different one but wouldn’t want to. And the band are just having so much fun on stage. Laura Jane Grace is just one of the most likeable front women in punk right now. By the time “Sink Florida, Sink” and “Black Me Out” bring the set to a close, Against Me! ensured that every fans had the best night watching them. And with that, Slam Dunk 2017 was done with for another year.