Over the past two years Slam Dunk Festival has become one of my favourite days of the year. I've enjoyed myself so much at the past two years that I booked the day off from work without even getting a peak at this year's line up. Another reason I love going to Slam Dunk is that it's one of the few gigs of the year where a nice sized group of my friends will come along with me. This year my friends Dan Moles, Smurf, Marilyn and Emily would be coming and I couldn't wait.
After arriving at Hatfield University and joining seemingly the world's longest queue (I hate queuing for gigs) we made our way into the festival site and Dan Moles, Smurf and I made our way to the Desperados stage where Survay Says were already a good way through their set. The New Jersey based pop punk/ska band were playing their first ever run of shows in the UK and from what I caught of their performance it was obvious to see that they were giving everyone who came to see them a fantastic show. Definitely a band on the rise. After Survay Says we headed over to the Monster Stage (via a food stand) to meet Marilyn and Emily to watch a hardcore band named The Color Morale. I had never heard of The Color Morale before and in all honesty their music isn't really my glass of coke but I did enjoy watching the kids get excited for them. It was very entertaining watching the smaller kids in the pit just bounce off this massive guy with ginger dreadlocks. At the conclusion on their set I asked Marilyn what she thought of the band and she said "they were alright, I only wanted to watch because the singer is friends with Jonny Craig." Brilliant.
Next up it was time for my day to really get started. Long running Boston ska punks Big D & The Kids Table were making their first appearance in England in years and it would be my first time seeing them so you can only imagine how excited I was. I clearly wasn't the only one because as soon as the band started playing the floor began skanking as Big D ripped through songs from their entire catalogue, whether it was fast paced ska punk like LAX or slower summer ska like Shining On everything went down a storm. The highlights of the set for me was the cover of The Specials song Little Bitch, closing song Noise Complaint and of course the classic LAX, a song which I helped start a circle pit for the first time ever, which was great fun. Big D & The Kids Table done often tour the United Kingdom anymore so when they do you have to make sure you go and see them. Another band that never tours anymore is legendary Derbyshire ska punk band Lightyear. I was lucky enough to see Lightyear at their last ever show at the Islington Academy back in 2012 and to this day it remains one of my all time favourite gigs. A Lightyear show has always been just pure unadulterated fun and nonsense and this would be no different. From a giant backdrop of a crudely drawn penis, a picture of bass player Bars as a young child or attempting to crowd surf as a pantomime horse Lightyear were on a mission to have as much fun as possible. The good times that the band were having were infectious, the smiles on the faces of the crowd indicated that they were having just as good a time as the band. I wish Lightyear would play more, there isn't a more entertaining band in the world. After Lightyear finished with the excellent Pack Of Dogs I reluctantly wondered over to the Monster Stage with Dan Moles and Smurf to see Bury Tomorrow. A massive crowd had gathered to see this Portsmouth based five piece. Just like The Color Morale this type of music is not a genre I'm a massive fan of but I could certainly see why they are so popular. I watched from a far as the crowd went mental for them. The dual vocals worked brilliantly as they switched from a clean vocal to a more throaty growl. Bury Tomorrow are certainly leading the way in the UK's metal scene.
Up next were festival favourites Zebrahead. I won't lie I can't actually remember a thing from they're performance on the stage because the pit was insane. I described it to a friend as part dance floor, part fight for survival (Smurf came out of it with a cut next to his eye and I had a bruise between my eyes) but 100% awesome. This would be my sixth time seeing Orange County pop punk/rap group and like every other time they stole the show. The crowd for their set was one of the best I've ever been in, everyone fully focused on having as much fun as humanly possible and making sure everyone around them was as well. One guy lost his shoes and another lost his phone but they were looked after as they attempted to find them. Crowd surfers (of which there were many) were carried, sometimes two at a time. If anyone hit the floor they were picked up straight away. This is the kind of spirit that a punk show should be all about. Absolutely loved it. Up next was the only time throughout the day when things got a little negative. Unfortunately there were some technical difficulties that delayed the start of Goldfingers set. Obviously this was one of those things but it was frustrating having to wait around not really knowing when Goldfinger would be on stage. As soon as Goldfinger were ready everyone's mood was instantly lifted. Coming onto stage to that song Let It Go from that Frozen movie, which even the security guards (who were fantastic all day) sung along to Goldfinger exploded into Spokesman and the crowd went nuts. Dan Moles, Smurf and I had all been wanting to see Goldfinger for a long time and now it was finally happening. Goldfinger were a big part of my introduction into punk music as a teenager and I was immediately hit with a feeling of nostalgia listening to songs such as Counting The Days, Superman and 99 Red Balloons. I loved the surprise cover of Knowledge by Operation Ivy as well. I'd waited a long long time to see Goldfinger but it was completely worth the wait, just brilliant.
The day was beginning to beat us so we decided to hang out towards the back for the final two bands of the day. The first of which was Swedish skate punk legends Millencolin. A while ago I wrote a couple of blogs showcasing some of Europe's best punk bands, Millencolin are the godfathers of that scene - at the time of writing this I cannot think of a band that's had more success all over the world. They were back in England for the first time in a long time promoting brand new album True Brew. I had purposely not listened to True Brew before Slam Dunk as I always enjoy hearing new material live first and I have to say it sounded fantastic. The same can be said about the bands older stuff, this was my first time seeing Millencolin and even from the back of the room I was blown away. The songs were all great and the performance was as energetic and fun as you would expect. I'm looking forward to Millencolin coming back to England to do a run of headline shows, hopefully sooner rather than later. Slam Dunk 2015 would be finished for me by Reel BigFish. The long running ska punk band have had plenty of line up changes over the years but have always remained one of the best live acts in the scene, no matter how many times I've see them I always come away with a great big smile on my face whistling the tunes to some ska classics. This night would be no different as they played songs from all of their albums, all of which got fantastic receptions. The band through in a couple of nice surprises as well by throwing in their cover of Veronica Sawyer by Edna's Goldfish (one for the old school ska punk fans), mixing in Self Esteem by The Offspring during Beer and bringing out Laila and Barney from Sonic Boom Six to perform Hiding In My Headphones. Nobody would ever accuse Reel Big Fish of reinventing the wheel and you do basically know exactly what you are going to get from their live show. That's by no means a bad thing though, I can't think of many better bands to close another brilliant Slam Dunk Festival.
Now listening to I Can Not Live Without You by The Apers