Following the tragic events that took place in Manchester, mere days before the beginning of the Slam Dunk weekend, whether or not the festival would go ahead was very up in the air. However, finally the silence was broken and thankfully the festival was announced to go ahead. People weren’t deterred by the unusual sight of armed guards patrolling the festival grounds, in fact comfort was found and many stopped them for a chat or to pose for a picture. All this aside, the weather was at it’s peak with plenty of sunshine, the bars are open and the queue was moving – slightly slowly, but it was moving at least. Under the watchful eye of mass security, Slam Dunk North 2017 was finally underway.
Opening up main stage with some delightful acoustic melodies, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness (6) was not quite the opening act to get the crowd off their feet but instead gave them a chance to do a little shimmy, offering only the sounds of a grand piano and a shout to his old band Jacks Mannequin.
The umbrella of genres on this years bill is pretty vast and Andrew McMahon couldn’t be more opposite than the next band on the Main Stage, Crossfaith (9). Any time they get given the chance to play any main stage at any festival they make sure at the very least every head is turned their way. The Japanese ‘electronicore’ band from Osaka had a premature start to their set, playing one song before retreating off stage, maybe their eagerness got the better of them. They did return five minutes later, much to the crowds joy and made up for that stunted start with masses of energy and face-melting riffs. Beartooth’s own Caleb Shomo, who’d lended his voice for ‘Ghost In The Mirror’ on Crossfaith’s Xeno album, made a live appearance half way through the set to that very track.
Milk Teeth (7) certainly drew the crowd before their set on the Signature Brew Stage, ‘Brickwork’ proved a likeable opening and they only continued to shine till the very end. As far as female fronted bands go, Milk Teeth are truly one of the best. Though they don’t give off the most punk vibe with their looks, the tracks speak for themselves and it goes down an absolute treat.
Back on the main stage Bury Tomorrow’s (6) sound quality wasn’t quite up to scratch but their back catalogue of mosh worthy tracks like fan favourite ‘Lionheart’ was more than enough to keep them afloat. Whereas next act on, Beartooth (9), hit the stage with a bang, carrying with them a plethora of tracks to prove why they are one of the best live bands to watch. ‘Body Bag’, with a little help from Crossfaith’s Kenta Koie, demonstrated to be exactly what the crowd needed to start off the set. Their new video for track ‘Sick Of Me’, a sort of documentary style take on dealing with depression, from then on its resonated with fans at every live show, including at these shows at Slam Dunk.
For nostalgia sake, Cute Is What We Aim For (9) were a highlight. It’s been 11 years since their debut album Same Old Blood Rush, With A New Touch, was released and the band have been embarking on their anniversary tour of it across the world. Imagine the inner teenage excitement when they were announced to be playing this at Slam Dunk Festival and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Those old songs, particularly ‘Moan’ and ‘Sweet Talk 101’, breathed new life in the open setting and it was quite touching to see vocalist Shaant, no matter how problematic he may be online, give an ode to his mom as he snapped a picture of the crowd to show to her.
You could imagine what the crowd for Frank Iero and The Patience (8) looked like, but you probably wouldn’t expect the amount of crowd surfers the kept the security more on their toes than they were hoping. As much as he’s had the time to mould himself into the frontman he wants to be there still an aura of nervousness about his performance that is quite endearing. Of course he’s never going to kick the My Chemical Romance background but the bands he’s had since the breakup have been nothing but wonderful.
When announced for the festival, We The Kings (7) were mentioned to be playing their self-titled album in full, as much as this wasn’t the case they still got an outstanding turnout at the Monster Stage. To sum up their laid back mentality, before ‘I Feel Alive’ lead singer Travis Clark tried to get the audience to do a specific dance move explaining “It’s not as stupid as you think it is, it’s more stupid.” However self-titled tracks like ‘Secret Valentine’ and ‘Check Yes Juliet’ did make their way into the set but it wasn’t enough to quench the desire for their entire self-titled album like fans were expecting.
Every direction you looked, at least one person was wearing the slightly horrifying Don Broco (8), masks of Rob Damiani’s face, with their new track’s title ‘Pretty’ written like carved into his forehead. As weird as they were, their set was a lot less horrifying. In fact it was quite impressive. Being the epitome of a ‘lads band’ fronted by Rob Damiani and his unique accented voice being quite the staple in their music. Tracks like ‘You Wanna Know’ and ‘Whole Truth’ are enough to set the crowd alight but Bury Tomorrow’s Dani Winter-Bates joining the band for one of their oldest and most unlike the current Don Broco tracks ‘Thug Workout’, proved to be the most memorable part of the set, and if you’ve never heard the song before, quite the confusing.
Although they didn’t pull a big crowd like they’d have hoped for, Tonight Alive (9) proved than you can contend with the likes of Neck Deep, Bowling For Soup and more all playing at the same time and still have the fans sing louder than the music. Their latest album Limitless pushed their musical boundaries even further away from when they once started, however it was the tracks like ‘Listening’ and ‘Wasting Away’ from the earlier years that made the most impact. It was a set filled with laughter, some serious speeches from vocalist Jenna McDougall and the kind of bond between artist and fans that felt like there was no barrier to separate. The last time they played the festival was back in 2013 playing second on the main stage, now they’ve had to time to grow and land themselves a headlining spot of their own, and they couldn’t have looked happier.
Rounding off the night was not the anniversary offering of Take To The Skies by Enter Shikari but the melodic punk onslaught brought by none other than Against Me! (10) The band have become somewhat of a beacon of light for young LGBT youth, much in thanks to trans vocalist Laura Jane Grace, and there is truly nothing more powerful than a crowd full of fans who can relate, belting out the lyrics to ‘True Trans Soul Rebel’. Grace is radiant as she sings, looking out onto all those united and singing to drown out the hate in the world. Whether or not you think that political punk is the best send off for a festival, Against Me! prove to be the perfect example as to why we need music now more than ever. No matter what adversity you may face, battling with dysphoria, bullies or trying to grieve from a terrifying attack; there will always be those that try to divide us, or beat us down, but we will always come back stronger, happier and singing louder than we ever did before.
All images by Kelly Hamilton.