Friday, 17 March 2017

Column: Slam Dunk Festival 2017

One weekend that is always a highlight of the year for many alternative music fans in the UK is the second May bank holiday weekend, the traditional weekend of Slam Dunk Festival. This year will be my fifth time (in a row) visiting the South version of the festival, at The University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield, and it's a day I always look forward to.

In the months leading up to the festival, the organisers slowly release details of the massive list of artists playing the festival and every year it's a who's who of the best in rock, punk, metal, ska and alternative music - whether it's old favourites, current superstars or hot up and comers, I've always felt there's something for everyone attending. This is probably a little naughty of me but I absolutely love reading people's comments about each line up announcement on Facebook. Despite each and every year producing an incredible line up, you still get so many people moaning because their favourite band hasn't been announced and start to slag off the festival. It's ridiculous, petty, childish but bloody hilarious. In my four previous years I've always felt that the line up has been one of the best of any UK festival that year. The thing I personally love about Slam Dunk announcements is the sense of nostalgia with so many bands I loved growing up always playing the festival. In previous years legendary (to me anyway) bands such as King Prawn, Streetlight Manifesto, [Spunge], Capdown, Jesse James, Fandangle, Millencolin, Lightyear, Big D & The Kids Table and Catch 22 have all played. In case you hadn't guessed, I love the ska element of Slam Dunk Festival. This year the organisers have really taken things up a notch. If you were a fan of ska and pop punk in the 90s and early 2000s then you absolutely love this line up. Let's check it out.

This year the punk/ska stage will be known as The Fireball Stage and headlining this year will be Bowling For Soup. A band I've never seen but were an integral part of my discovery of punk rock music. Surprisingly it will be the Texans' first time playing Slam Dunk Festival. I expect a massive crowd to gather to see the band for which is now a rare UK performance. This fun filled, sing-a-long pop punk will have everyone who goes to see them smiling and humming songs to themselves as they leave the festival… for the long wait to get out of the car park.

One band that has played Slam Dunk many times over the years is Orange County rap/pop punk legends Zebrahead. This will be the fourth year in a row Zebrahead have played Slam Dunk, which I think pretty much makes them the Slam Dunk house band. There's one big reason that the band come back every year, they absolutely slay it live. Pulling in some of the biggest crowds and creating some of the craziest mosh pits at the festival, last year I think I actually paid more attention to the crowd than I did to all the antics that were happening on the stage. Zebrahead are the ultimate party band for the Slam Dunk Party.

When you think of 90s ska punk two bands that instantly come to mind are Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish. This year Slam Dunk have managed to book both bands! Less Than Jake are one of my all time favourite bands and one of the bands I've seen the most. Every time I come away on a massive high because they are one of the greatest live bands I've ever seen. It amazes me that they are still so enthusiastic after all these years as a band. With a discography spanning over twenty years, there's bound to be some old classics mixed in with some newer tracks from this year's Sound The Alarm EP.

Everything I've just written about Less Than Jake I can easily repeat for Reel Big Fish, except the part about the new EP named Sound The Alarm. Reel Big Fish didn't release that, Less Than Jake did. I'm hoping for Reel Big Fish to debut some new material at the festival as it's been five years since the band released its last full length album, Candy Coated Fury.

Completing a trio of 90s ska bands are The Mad Caddies. The Californian band have been going since 1995 and have established themselves as one of the top live acts around. Combining punk, ska, reggae, polka, jazz, swing and many more styles the Caddies are a band like no other. If you've never seen The Mad Caddies live before you will be in for an absolute treat. Lead by lead singer Chuck Robertson, the band will have you dancing from the opening note to the last trumpet blast and it will be a set not to forget.

Goldfinger bring some more of the 90s pop punk sound to the Fireball stage. Making a surprising return to the festival after just one year away, I can't wait to see Goldfinger again. Last time the set was massively delayed due to some technical issues but this didn't stop Goldfinger putting on an incredible performance. Hearing tracks such as Superman, 99 Red Balloons, Spokesman, Counting The Days and Mabel will be a Slam Dunk highlight for sure!

One band I really didn't expect Slam Dunk to announce was Fenix TX! Fenix TX! Despite breaking up in 2002 the band have often done reunion shows and I believe that this could be the band's first trip to the UK in a long time. It seems to be Slam Dunk tradition that they announce a band I never expected to get the chance to see and I really can't wait to be singing songs such as Pheobe Cate, All My Fault and Threesome with the band.

The Fireball Stage will be compered by another Slam Dunk Legend - MC Lars. MC Lars has been a Slam Dunk regular for years so it feels right to see him back for the 12th year of the festival. He's another act who always brings the party with his own brand of laptop rap. A whole host of people playing the festival have had guest roles on his songs so expect to see some surprises on stage with Lars.

Of course The Fireball Stage isn't the only stage at Slam Dunk Festival and there are a handful of other bands I'm also really hoping to see. The first being Against Me!. Arguably the biggest punk band on planet Earth right now. Always putting on a fantastic live show, it's loud, ferocious and packed with massive sing-a-longs from the band's loyal and hardcore group of fans. Against Me! are one of the most important bands in the world right now - you will be entertained, you will be moved and you will learn some important life lessons from the band.

Long Island, New York, melodic hardcore/pop punk band The Movielife make a rare appearance at Slam Dunk Festival this year. Like Fenix TX, the band were part of the legendary Drive Thru Records roster in the late 90s/early 2000s that spawned so many of my favourite bands of the era. The Movielife got back together for some shows in 2011 and have been playing shows and festivals here and there ever since. They've also been working on some new music which I'm hoping to hear included in their set at Slam Dunk.

Finally we have Sorority Noise. In a time where pop punk is becoming absolutely massive again Sorority Noise are a band that have really stood out to me. Combining pop punk, indie and emo the band have created an honest and captivating sound that really grabs your attention. With a new album out today named You're Not As _______ As You Think, I expect the Sorority Noise to be one of the breakthrough artists at this year's Slam Dunk Festival.