Photo Credit: Abbi Draper – @abbidraperphoto (Photos from Slam Dunk South, 05/09/2021)
The Slam Dunk Festival 2021 line-up had been one that heavy music fans had been waiting for what seemed like eternity. Since its original announcement for Slam Dunk 2020, the line-up had gone through many changes and has somehow managed to stay absolutely brilliant. With Don Broco making their debut UK Festival headline show as well as a stacked undercard displaying the best of British heavy music, as well as some fantastic bands from across the pond, it was a day in the diary not to be missed.
Arriving at the festival, Creeper’s theatrics and massive choruses could make anyone’s eyes lean towards their show. After recently releasing their huge EP American Noir, the band were running into this show with a bucket load of momentum – and this could be told just by looking at the size of the crowd the Southampton band had pulled. Their ballads of love, loss, and cyanide had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand. The newer tracks didn’t feel like new tracks at all with the band’s massive choruses from songs like Midnight captivating both new and old fans into really testing their vocal ranges. Lead singer Will Gould really wasn’t required for the vast majority of the gig, which is the ideal scenario for any band, thus making this a gig that anyone at Slam Dunk missed will most definitely regret. 9/10
Following Creeper, the ever-present Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls graced the Punk in Drublic stage to a huge crowd. Let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be festival season without Frank Turner performing at a festival. Frank Turner is undoubtedly an established festival headliner so for him to be playing at 3:30pm on what was not the main stage is quite incredible and speaks volumes about the quality of this Slam Dunk line-up. During the set, Frank Turner did what he always does – bonds the audience with a knack for making everyone in the crowd feel like they are mates. He got people dancing during The Next Storm and Four Simple Words, whilst getting people singing uncontrollably during older tracks Photosynthesis and The Ballad of Me & My Friends. It was a proper party to set up the night’s bands perfectly. 9/10
As the sun started to set, the party was in full swing, and who’s one guest you’d invite to any party in the world? If the answer’s not Benji from Skindred then what are you doing? As the band addressed the double sided Jagermeister stage, you could tell the band were in top form, and the crowd were well and truly up for it. Benji’s hilarious stage presence was there in full flow as they essentially played greatest hits set. During Kill the Power, they had everyone’s hands bopping, during That’s my Jam, they had people ‘whooping’, and during Warning, the renowned Newport Helicopter had taken off and was showing no signs of landing anytime soon. Take note festival bookers, if you want one of the best live acts in the UK at your festival, then give Benji from Skindred a ring and give him as much money as he wants. 10/10
Following a set as huge as that is no easy task – especially when you are five minutes after and on the opposite stage on same tent. However, you really could not tell based on Bury Tomorrow’s brutal return to playing live music. From the very first chugs of Choke, you knew what was up. The whole bands stage presence of being right in the crowds faces, partnered with a very slick stage design and well-prepared lighting, Bury Tomorrow were making their return. Since the release of their fifth record Cannibal over a year ago, this was the band’s first opportunity to play these songs and gauge the crowd reaction, and the crowd were massively into it. It felt like a Bury Tomorrow sold-out gig rather than a festival performance due to the amount of people decorated in Bury Tomorrow merch at the festival solely for them. It was one of the liveliest sets of the whole of festival season with the small Jägermeister Tent being filled with gaping holes that were shortly followed by floods of raucous fans. It was a set for the ages. 9/10
After a brief break just to catch some breath and grab some ‘scran’, Sheffield metalcore outfit While She Sleeps breached the Jägermeister Stage. From the moment the band came on to the lead single SLEEPS SOCIETY from their new record, you forgot what you were doing and went straight back into the pit. Fan favourites such as Silence Speaks, The Guilty Party, and Four Walls were mixed perfectly with tracks like SYSTEMATIC and NERVOUS from their massive new record. It was yet another brilliant set to grace the Jägermeister Stage. The festival organisers must have felt a million dollars watching these sets because the people were getting more than their money’s worth. This While She Sleeps set has further cemented their claim to the top spot in the festival in the coming years as the band’s popularity has grown immensely in recent years. 9/10
Slam Dunk 2021 headliners Don Broco are a band that everyone needs to see live, and that’s why they were making their long-awaited debut as festival headliners and after this set, don’t be surprised to see the band headlining festivals near you in the immediate future. As soon as the first words of “Bedford, where’s Bedford” from the riff-heavy Pretty were blared out, you knew this show was going to be something special. Every single person was moving. Pits were everywhere. It was absolute carnage, and that was just the opening song. Tracks from their upcoming record Amazing Things were intertwined within the setlist and fitted in perfectly. The absolute bops that are Manchester Super Reds No.1 Fan, Gumshield and the live debut of One True Prince were all performed to maximum hysterics in the crowd. The more Deftones-influenced One True Prince, which signals a departure from Broco’s discography was a particular highlight. Fan favourites like You Wanna Know and Automatic were also on display and going down an absolute treat. One slight criticism of Don Broco would be that for a festival headline slot, their stage production wasn’t anything special, which was a shame, as for a headline slot you would expect the production to have gone up a level rather than stay the same all day. However, this minor issue may have been out of Broco’s control. Throughout the set, you could tell how much headlining Slam Dunk meant to the band and you literally could not wipe the smile off Rob Damiani’s face throughout the gig, and it was reflected in the band’s performance. As the band ended their set on their classic finisher T-Shirt Song, shirts were helicoptering everywhere and it was a really beautiful moment that will have marked the end of festival season for a lot of people, and what a way to sign off it was. As Slam Dunk was quite literally a Slam Dunk of a day. 9/10
Written by: Joe Loughran
Photo gallery includes: Blood Youth, Hacktivist, Loathe, Hellogoodbye, Deez Nuts, Malevolence, Creeper, Comeback Kid, Your Demise, Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls, Trash Boat, Skindred, Funeral For A Friend, Bury Tomorrow, Alkaline Trio, Holding Absence, Boston Manor and While She Sleeps.
Photos by: Abbi Draper – @abbidraperphoto (Photos from Slam Dunk South, 05/09/2021).