Slam Dunk has grown from this tiny little pop punk experiment to one of the UK’s most exciting young festivals. Here's this year's highlights
There are loads of bands from yesteryear here – notably Zebrahead, Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake – but the best of the old school bunch is undeniably The Ataris. They’ve gone through multiple line-up changes over the 22 years they’ve been together – but it’s barely audible. Singer Kris Roe is still pouring out tales of the girls who broke his wee heart, and for the most part, it’s genuinely enjoyable. Whatever way you cut it, you just want to hear the hits like In This Diary, anyway – and The Ataris play them like champs.
They’re lower down the bill than expected but Crossfaith have some serious metal game and always pull a decent crowd. Tracks like ‘Omen’ are predictably ace – all heavy dance metal brilliance and beyond catchy. They’re a definite early contender for band of the day – especially when Caleb from Beartooth joins them to add to the wall of noise. When they close with Countdown To Hell it creates a sizeable pit of arms and legs which flails like a sugar addled-toddler right until the ver end.
Milk Teeth are that rare band who make being entirely derivative utterly brilliant. If you were there for grunge the first time around, you’ll probably find this watered down trudging 90’s rock mildly offensive. But if you take it – as you should – as some fairly riffy, youthful pop-grunge, you’ll be entirely charmed. They race through ‘Crows Feet’ and ‘Owning Your Okayness’ with ease, and as the sun dips down it becomes evident that they’re this summer’s nu-grunge soundtrack.
Next up is Beartooth who totally slay live – every, single, time. And a little bit of noise is what this cheery festival bill needs to give it some guile. Singer Caleb Shomo is the frontman every hardcore band needs – he’s energetic (ie bouncy AF) and friendly too returning the favour by bringing on Kenta Koie, singer of Crossfaith for an entirely epic version of Body Bag which is all kinds of ace. It’s all going swimmingly – and then somebody in the crowd asks Shomo to ‘get his tits out’ to which he jovially replies with ‘hey, get me a drink first!’ Welcome to Britain, mate.
Although there’s a killer raft of headliners to choose from as the final highlight, like Enter Shikari and their awesome light show, Bowling For Soup who fun as hell and Against Me delivering a perfect slice of punk rock, it’s Don Broco are the serious evening highlight. They play the penultimate set on the Jagermeister stage- but their crowd is HUGE, and a culmination in years of relentless gigging and hard work. Though they’re pop in the very truest sense, they’ve always played the punk and metal festivals because in honesty – both technically, and as a live act – they’re always on point and just heavy enough to avoid an assault with piss-filled bottles. They blitz through the old stuff (from 2012’s Priorities) like the anthemic Whole Truth easily, and the newer tracks like What You Do To Me from 2015’s Automatic make the impending drizzle barely noticeable.
Even if you’re a thrash metal fan or just favour good old pop punk – you can’t help but warm to their infectious fun.