Slam Dunk is an alternative music festival that takes place once a year, across England in Leeds, Birmingham and Hatfield. This year I hit up the Midlands date to see some of my favourite bands, after years of wanting to attend, and was not disappointed. In this post, I’ll give you the low down on the day, and tell you about the bands that played, as well as the facilities on offer!
On arrival, security was tighter than usual due to the unfortunate events that took place in Manchester earlier in the week. However, Slam Dunk were amazing at keeping everything organised and getting everyone through quickly, despite the extra checks. My boyfriend attended with me and said he hated the Leeds date last year as it felt so unorganised and it took forever to queue, but he was pleasantly surprised by the organisation this year!
The Venue and Stages
Once inside, you actually get taken back outside again, which confused me as I thought most of it was inside. I never knew the NEC had so much outdoor space!! The first stage I walk past is the Monster Stage which has a good amount of space for the crowd, and has a TV screen for those at the back who won’t be able to see the stage. At the time, I didn’t realise that just before this stage, before stepping outside, was the Fireball Stage. This was right next to the security checks but felt very hidden away, and it’s not easy to notice because as soon as you go through security, you are naturally lead outside away from this stage. We went to have a look at this stage too and the room was huge but the stage was tiny in the corner of the room, so if you were stood on the left side of the room, you wouldn’t be able to see the stage. It was very odd and could’ve done with a TV screen on the left side at the very least. Luckily, I wasn’t too bothered about the bands on this stage as they just weren’t my taste.
What’s great about the festival is that there is something for a variety of tastes in music. I love pop-punk and whatever genre the acts on the Signature Stage can be placed into, but there’s also Ska, Metal and Acoustic music, amongst over varied genres!
As we walked on past the Monster stage, there were various food vans, including one that sold vegan falafel hot dogs, so straight away I was able to see there was something available for me! By here, there was a signing tent and merch, before we got inside again to another area of the arena, which lead to the Key Club Stage, where acts like Seaway and Decade were to play later on. Again, there were more food stalls around here including a pizza stall for all your pop-punk needs, aptly situated next to the stage where most pop-punk acts were to be playing. At this point, you could turn right and head to the Jagermeister stage, or head left to go outside yet again, and go to my favourite stage of the day: The Signature Stage.
The signature stage was one of the smaller stages, but was perfect for the bands that played, and I was still able to see the bands even when stood at the back. At the back, more merch was sold too where I picked up a cute turnover tee for £15! I also wanted to buy a Citizen Hoodie but didn’t have enough cash, and the queue for the ATM machines were soooo long all day long, and I wasn’t ready to miss a whole set whilst queuing for money!! If you plan on going next year, I definitely recommend bringing enough cash with you to avoid the queues, although you could still pay by contactless/card at some food stalls and bars.
Now for the exciting part, the bands! The first act I saw was Puppy, who have become a recent favourite of mine, and I can see getting big by the end of this year! They provide an emo feel alongside grungey riffs that somehow, work so well together. If you’ve never listened to them before and are into that whole 90’s grunge feel, give them a listen! They played the signature stage, where I stayed most of the day, and they built up a pretty good crowd for one of the first acts of the day.
Not long after came Sorority Noise, who were one of my absolute favourites from the day. During the break in between both bands, me and my boyfriend went to look at the merch desk and he bought a sorority noise tshirt. The vocalist for Sorority Noise (Cameron Boucher) was manning the stall, which was great to see in itself as most bands tend to hire someone to look after their merch for them, so it was lovely you got the chance to meet him without having to wait in a huge queue at a meet and greet. Then to add to this, he was the loveliest person to speak to and was so humble and genuine, which is why I love bands like Sorority Noise. They’re all just normal people like us who are so grateful to be where they are, and have put in a lot of work to get there. Then on stage, he delivered such raw emotion alongside the rest of the band, and proceeded to make a quick speech about mental health which really touched home with me, and may have had me fighting back tears! He admitted he suffers with manic depression and anxiety, and it takes a lot to be in big crowds, and he let the crowd know that they’re not alone when suffering with mental health, and it was just so awesome to hear that from a band I idolise, especially as I had a huge depressive stage the night before!
Then sticking at the signature stage still, we awaited Milk Teeth to arrive on stage who have risen in popularity since I heard Smiling Politely back in 2015. That popularity is well deserved though, as they have such a huge stage presence, and really know how to own the stage and get the crowd involved. I mean, they even played Smashmouth – All Star part way through, iconic right??? (see it in the video at the end of this post!)
After Milk Teeth, there was a wait in between them and Turnover, with a couple bands playing in between, so we hit up We Are The Ocean. Whilst they delivered some classics which 14 year old me was overjoyed to finally see live, the sound felt somewhat lacking. They played the Jägermeister Stage which was the main stage, and the room was absolutely huge, but it felt as though the sound didn’t quite stretch across the room enough. When Don Broco were to later play, the sound was fine, so it was annoying it wasn’t quite up to scratch for this set. Nonetheless, they still had the whole crowd singing along and I loved it.
We then caught Vinnie Caruana, vocalist of The Movielife and I Am The Avalanche, on the acoustic/uprawr stage. Whilst the set was advertised as a I Am The Avalanche solo acoustic set, it consisted more of Caruana’s solo work, with Brooklyn Dodgers from I Am The Avalanche played towards the end. Whilst I was sad to not see more IATA, his solo work was a nice surprise and was still lovely to watch. He had a great connection with the crowd, and seemed so laid back.
After this, it was the moment I had been waiting all day for. Turnover followed by Citizen. I’m still not over it. It was so good. Turnover have been one of my favourite bands for a long time now, and every time I see them they never disappoint. They provided a more relaxing tone in between all the hectic-ness of the day, and are a band you just sit back and watch in awe, and get lost in every single word. Highly recommend you see them if you ever get the chance! My boyfriend was sad they didn’t play Sasha from their first EP, but I feel as though it wouldn’t have fit the tone of the set as it isn’t as soft as the rest of their music.
Citizen have also been one of my favourite bands for a while, but this was my first time seeing them live. I got right to the front and sang every single lyric back along with the rest of the crowd, and finger pointed my heart out. They delivered an amazing, energetic set which brought the mood back up and had everyone going wild. The same can be said for Seaway who I caught afterwards, who also brought a huge amount of energy, and involved me getting caught in a pushpit whilst dancing at the front, also finger pointing, oops. Citizen also announced during their set that they’re coming back in Autumn, GET PUMPED, I’LL SEE YOU THERE.
Don Broco played not long after at the main stage, and are a band I think everyone into rock music needs to see once in their life. They’re just so darn fun to watch, and so darn fun to dance along with. Their set was heavily based around their 2012 album Priorities, with a few hits from their more recent album Automatic. I think at a festival, bands tend to play their most popular songs rather than their most recent stuff, which was noticeable for this set. They even played Thug Workout, one of my favourite classics from them. I even tweeted saying all I want is for them to play some old music, do you reckon they saw it? That was definitely the highlight of their set, as well as finishing off with Pretty, their latest release which has fast become a favourite of mine.
I caught the first couple Enter Shikari songs, but I was a little underwhelmed. I think it would have been amazing for long time fans of the band, but for me it consisted of too many flashing lights and noises, that it took away from the overall performance. Playing in such a huge room, the entire first half of the room was packed full, so we sat at the back to get a birds eye view of the stage and the rest of the room, but I was getting blinded by the constant flickering of lights that it just ruined it for me, so we moved onto Neck Deep.
Neck Deep used to be my favourite band of all time back in 2014. I had Rain In July / A History of Bad Decisions on vinyl and Fil followed me on twitter, and my instagram username was ndhayley (the nd being short for neck deep), but I guess I kind of grew out of them. I must admit, when I saw them I wasn’t disappointed and I actually quite enjoyed it. I liked that their stage had a TV screen to catch all the action upclose on too, but it striked me as strange that they didn’t have this for the huge room that was the Jägermeister stage, or the Fireball Stage, where I literally could not see the artists at all compared to the Monster Stage.
A Brief Overview TL;DR
Overall, my highlights from the day were of course Turnover and Citizen, which I expected with my love of their music. Sorority Noise were a really nice surprise, as I liked them before, but enjoyed them so much more in person. Vinnie Caruana was also a great surprise, not playing as much I Am The Avalanche as I expected. The only real disappointment of the day was the sound at We Are The Ocean, and the overall experience at Enter Shikari, with too much of a light show going on. Both being on the main stage, I had hoped a little more work had gone into making it a good experience for everyone, not just those stood at the front. The facilities and organisation of the event as a whole were fantastic, I could not fault it at all. There were never any queues to get to the toilets, there were various spaces to go relax and sit down when needed, and there was a huge variety of restaurants dotted around, which also had pretty good queuing times.
I hope I get to go again next year, and would love to see Turnover and Citizen there again, as well as Pinegrove, who are said to have skipped it to play Dot to Dot Festival instead, which was on the same weekend. It would also be cool to see Balance and Composure play, after they had to cancel their EU tour earlier this year.
What do you think of this years lineup? Is there anyone you would add to it next year? Let me know in the comments! Until next time, check out a little video I made below, and follow me on my social media in the side bar!