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Live Review: Slam Dunk Festival 2011 - Leeds University, Leeds & Hatfield University, Herfordshire - 28/6/2011 & 29/6/2011

The annual Slam Dunk Festival for many has become a must-see and year after year the anticipation grows. 2011 is no different with over 50 acts spread across seven stages, fans are spoiled for choice with a mix of emerging UK and US bands and established bands making their mark all over the festival. For many its impossible to see everyone they want to, but here at Alter The Press! we did our best to cover the festival as best as possible, with writers at both sites; Leeds and Hatfield. In addition we also covered Slam Dunk Birmingham and Slam Dunk By The Sea.

Much like last year's event, Slam Dunk once again showed why its one of the best UK alternative festivals with its wide variety and clear understanding of what is happening in the current music scene, with vast line-up covering hardcore, pop-punk, rock, ska punk, hip-hop and even dubstep.

Slam Dunk North|Slam Dunk South
Slam Dunk Birmingham|Slam Dunk By The Sea

Slam Dunk Festival North (Leeds)
After a longer then expected wait to get into the venue, [b]Hellogoodbye[/b] were finishing up on the The Jagermeister Stage with their brand of fun indie pop that has seen the band somewhat reinvent themselves yet still please old fans with a rendition of 'Here (In Your Arms)'. [Sean Reid]

Me Vs Hero were the opening act of the day on the Macbeth stage, which was primarily dedicated to the majority of the festival’s Pop-Punk line up. An impressive gathering of fans filled the room as they played their way through their set. Numerous pits were conducted along the way in response to front man Sam Thompson’s request. The first human pyramid ensued before the band finished off their set with ‘Days That Shape Our Lives’. The crowd’s interaction with the band made it a very enjoyable start to the day. [Laura-May Fox]

Following their hugely successful acoustic set at Slam Dunk North in 2010, Hit The Lights returned to help kick off the Punktastic Acoustic stage with a bang, taking requests from the crowd as well as busting out the classics, 'Bodybag' was a massive highlight, but if truth be told, each song got a rousing reaction from the crowd, in what will go down as another classic Slam Dunk moment. [Chris Marshman]

It’s fairly easy to forget just how much hype Blitz Kids have behind them, and if anything their set on the Kerrang introducing stage was a sharp reminder that they’re ready to explode onto the scene when their album drops in July, with a packed out room, they charmed the crowd with an albeit disappointingly short set, lead singer Joe’s vocals have improved massively and give the band an extra live edge that makes them ones to watch in the second half of this year.[CM]

Whilst a trip back downstairs sees The Dangerous Summer providing an equally pleasing acoustic set, with AJ Perdomo and company performing the best moments from 2009's 'Reach For The Sun' with the most notable being 'Weathered' and 'Where I Want to Be'.[Sean Reid]

One of the most anticipated sets of the day did not disappoint as Sam Little took to the stage with a massive response from the packed out Acoustic venue, with the highlight being the long awaited announcement of the return of Fleeing From Finales, followed by an incredible version of Mighty Ducks vs. Thundercats' that got the absolute best from the crowd, Sam Little rarely disappoints, and this was no exception, fantastic set.[CM]

Throughout the day the Jagermeister Stage was the setting to bring back fond memories and an all-round sense of nostalgia. Goldfinger gave the fans what they wanted with hit after hit in the form of 'Here in Your Bedroom', 'Open Your Eyes', 'Superman' and of course their novelty take on Nene's 80's classic - '99 Red Balloons'.[SR]

The intimate setting of the old bar was always going to get more of a response out of me than Hellogoodbye’s previous performance on the main stage, lead singer, Forrest is as unusual as they come, and the whole vibe is more suited to the smaller room, with a set largely made up of songs from their fantastic album 'Would It Kill You' and their brilliant rapport with the audience made for an acoustic set that left everyone feeling more than happy.[CM]

What more can we say about Tiger Please that we haven’t already said, what started off as a crowd full of people that were obvious fans of the band turned into a head turning performance that pulled most people casually walking past to see just who was making this utterly brilliant music. Leon’s vocals were top notch, with special praise reserved for their spine tingling performance of 'Autumn Came The Fall' this was one set that I was not missing for the world, these boys gained themselves more fans this weekend and it’s only a matter of time until the long awaited album drops and they’re propelled even further into the spotlight.[CM]

A Loss For Words from Boston, MA definitely set the bar over on the Macbeth stage at the half-point mark of the day. The 5-piece launched into a set which included ‘Stamp Of Approval’, ‘40 Thieves’, ‘Hold Your Breath’, the Motown cover of ‘My Girl’ along with ‘Mt St Joseph’ – a song which was written in the memory of a close friend’s battle with drug abuse, which inevitably resulted in an overdose. The entire audience chanted along to the chorus with Matt, as he glanced up to the roof, hand held high. It was quite phenomenal to witness the band pursue a set in front of a couple of hundred fans against a barrier. This band definitely carry themselves off in any live environment, as Matty still finds his way to constantly jump crowd side to pass the mike along the barrier. [LF]

Back at the Punktasic acoustic stage, someone thought it'd be a good idea to show the Champions League final in a room right next to where an act is playing. It is just showing plain disrespect to both the artist himself and their fans, and despite the fact that Rob Lynch (Lost On Campus) looked just as gutted as the rest of us, he pulled out a performance the ended on a version of 'My Friends and I' that was so special, it was a performance of a song that contained Party Poppers, Human Pyramids and the general sense of fun and community that this festival does so well, it was like a rescue operation for his set that worked absolutely perfectly, and the smile on his face as he left the stage said it all, Lost On Campus is a huge talent that deserved better, thankfully he gave it his all, and it made for a pretty spectacular moment. [CM]

Whereas The Starting Line's return to the UK is highly anticpated it falls a bit flat in places. Though opening 'Up And Go' gets the reaction it should do, tracks like 'Inspired By The $' and 'Making Love To The Camera' go amiss. However the band make up for this with 'Somebody's Gonna Miss Us' and the obvious closer, 'The Best of Me', two tracks that instantly remind you how good The Starting Line are. [SR]

Basement from Ipswich were one of the festival highlights as they took to the Kerrang! Introducing stage just ahead of Summerlin. Basement’s set is always fascinatingly raw to watch, as the Hardcore tones creep into their set from the very beginning. The band once again played out a great set comprising of songs mainly from their 7” (‘Songs About The Weather’.) The band has just recently been announced as main support for Title Fight’s upcoming UK tour next month, and no doubt will return to the festival in the near future.[LF]

Closing the Acoustic Stage was the super talented Jimmy Holland, a guy who was clearly quite nervous at pretty much headlining the day, turned those nerves into a great performance to round off a pretty much perfect day, Jimmy looked genuinely happy throughout the set and in turn that vibe hit the crowd, as he finished off his set, he was ordered straight back on by the crowd, and these are the kind of moments that Slam Dunk as a festival live off. [CM]

Mayday Parade were the second last band ahead of 3OH!3 to take to the Atticus stage. The room filled to capacity as the band delved into a great deal of older songs in between their newer material, which seemed to please a great number of fans across the entire room. The crowd erupted in cheers as the Tallahassee 5-piece announced their love for the UK and fans, as they kicked off their set with songs such as ‘Anywhere But Here’, ‘The Last Something That Meant Anything’, ‘Three Cheers For Five Years’, and ‘Save Your Heart’. Mayday Parade’s set was very enjoyable, keeping all the old and newer fans alike happy throughout, which I wasn’t expecting. If they were put on a bigger stage they would have set it off just as nicely.[LF]

Over at the nostagia fest that was the Jagermeister Stage, Less Than Jake provided a set that went through their extensive back catalog and beyond; 'Automatic', 'All My Best Friends Are Metalheads', 'Look What Happened', 'Plastic Cup Politics' and 'Last One Out Of Liberty City' are all well received very well. Whilst the bands cheeky take on various TV show themes ('Spongebob Squarepants' and''Scooby Doo') add to the party-like atmosphere.

Whilst Reel Big Fish round off the Jagermeister Stage with a fun, loose set that was on par with Less Than Jake's. The Ska Punk legends show why they're headliners and why the organizers picked them to celebrate ten years of Slam Dunk. Tracks like 'Good Thing', 'Where Have You Been' and 'Beer' are all brilliantly received, with the latter being played twice in succession before the inevitable concluding combination of 'Sell Out' and 'Take On Me' cap off the set and the festival as a whole.[SR]

3OH!3 were a surprise to many on such an alternative bracket of bands across the Festival. When you hear complaints from the Hardcore fans expressing their feelings on the Festival lacking in Hardcore more and more as each year go by, this headlining act certainly seems a bit of a setback in terms of what this FEstival perhaps set out to be. The band set out on a good note, playing their chart hit ‘L.O.V.E’. The highlight of the set was most definitely seeing every member of the audience hold up the 3OH!3 signature band sign with their hands. Somehow I feel this band wasn’t in keeping with the rest of the stage’s line up, but most in attendance did seem to enjoy it, however, an obvious number of people were also leaving a few songs in to go see Set Your Goals over on the Macbeth stage. I just managed to catch the end of Set Your Goal’s set, but was well worth the queue to get into the full to capacity room – which was filled with many older and younger fans, numerous pits, crowd surfing and interaction from the band. This was the second year in a row that Set Your Goals have performed at the Festival - a deserved headliner, and a band that definitely signifies everything that the Slam Dunk Festival should be about – pure Pop-Punk fun.[LF]

Slam Dunk Festival South (Hatfield)
Seeing Feed The Rhino play in broad daylight feels a little strange at first, truth be told. They are as gut-thunderingly brutal as ever but could certainly get a little more back from the crowd, who might be described as more polite than frenzied. It's not, perhaps, quite the response they are used to but their class shines through and they make the best of it. As frontman Lee scales the side-stage speaker stacks and hangs precariously from a beam, it’s evident that that are trying their hardest to inject a little danger into what is a pretty tame bill.[Nick Worpole]

A Rocket To The Moon seem utterly unbound by the shackles of an early set that would be the death of a lesser band, going about their cosy sing-along pop rock business with style, the mood made all the more snug by front-man Nick Santino's exclamation that his grandparents are up on the balcony looking down. There's a atmosphere in and around the Atticus Stage during their set, and especially during offerings like 'Baby Blue Eyes' and 'Like We Used To', that leaves smiles etched across the faces of those lucky enough to be involved.[Liam McGarry]

Failsafe have been doing the rounds for longer than most of the other British bands on today's bill and, despite a decent level of success, the killer breakthrough has eluded them; a peculiar shame because their talent and output outstrips that of many of their younger peers. Today though, they play a very solid set to a decent turn out and prove to merely interested parties that they are very much worth their place at the table. Old songs are tight, with the bands trademark harmonies coming to the fore, while the new track on show is similarly impressive and especially well-received by the hardcore at the front.[NW]

Having played a much smaller stage at last year's festival, Southampton's Not Advised relish the opportunity to exert their gritty pop punk energy on a bigger scale, careering through tracks like 'Jane Says Left' and 'Right Now' with a bravado and competence more at home in the performance of a group far greater in stature. [LM]

Goldfinger, meanwhile, are the sort of band born to play festivals and, after having played so many in their long career, they deliver a well-oiled set of the purest fun. A spectacular circle pit around the sound tent sets the tone and tracks like 'Still Counting The Days' and 'San Simeon' have the entire Jagermeister Stage crowd off their feet, bouncing in harmony. Even the loss of power can't end the goodwill, as when John Feldmann returns to the stage, he strikes up a Harry Potter themed singalong; when you're John Feldman you can pretty much do whatever you want on these sorts of occasions can't you?![NW]

Much anticipation meets the arrival of Florida's VersaEmerge. You get the sense that for many in the room this is going to be the highlight of their day, but from just as many a feeling that this is a chance for the band to justify the hype. After a turbulent year that has seen the acrimonious departure of former drummer Anthony Martone and the recent loss of bassist David Ingelido (Former bassist Nick Osborne is filling in for their UK and Europe dates) the remaining members Sierra Kusterbeck and Blake Harnage would have been forgiven for struggling to hold it together. But it's a measure of their quality that their set is almost flawless, their eerie rock and Kusterbeck's intoxicating on-stage persona making for a powerful performance.[LM]

Over at the Punktastic acoustic stage, I arrive to see The Lion Ands The Wolf (Tom George) stem away from the mic and into the crowd to perform a stirring rendition of 'Hand Of Applause' before Tiger Please demonstrate their versatility with a stripped back set that fully showcases singer Leon's wonderful voice. New tracks sit comfortably with old favourites such as 'Strawberry Moon', while final song 'Autumn Came The Fall' provokes a mass sing along to its anthemic vocal lines.[NW]

Crossing over to the Macbeth stage to find Cartel bringing an arsenal of punch packing pop punk to the troop of devoted fans surrounding one of Slam Dunk South's more intimate venues. A tirade of beauts including 'Say Anything (Else)' 'Burn This City' and 'If I Fail' is more than enough for the eager throng of die hards, a whoop of appreciation meeting vocalist Will Pugh's promise to grace our shores more often. [LM]

Sadly Goldfinger weren’t has high up the bill as you’d expect given the legendary status of John Feldman. A generator failure then blighted the punk legend’s set, which unfortunately lost them a small chunk of the audience who had to rush off to other stages for other bands. 'Superman', however, came to the rescue and both 'Open Your Eyes' and '99 Red Balloons' rounded off the punk legend’s somewhat short and mediocre set.[CG]

Earlier on Anti Flag seemed to bear the brunt of the generator issues, yet made the most of the chaos and got some great fan participation on the go. With the help of bassist Chris Baker and frontman Justin Sane took to the front of the crowd with a megaphone to appease the baying crowd and play classics like 'Die For Your Government' and 'Turncoat'. [CG]

"Back in the day", this author counted The Starting Line amongst his very favourite few bands and so is a moment of the finest teenage wish fulfilment when they step out on stage. From the noise that greets them, it's safe to say that I'm the only one wearing rose spectacles. Thankfully though, they are on form and old classics such as 'Up And Go' sound as brilliant as ever, even though some of the tracks from 'Direction' fall a little flatter. Especially in such an environment as Slam Dunk, it's easy to see how much of an influence that they have had on many of the bands on the bill and by the time they leave the stage to the sound of the crowd chanting the words to 'Best Of Me' they have proven that there is life in them yet. All they have to do now is convince people not to judge their forthcoming record on past glories.[NW]

Over at the Front Bar, MC Lars rounded off a 3 week UK tour by playing a blinding set with Weerd Science, and guaranteed to get everyone dancing. So fresh and a great way to mix up your day at Slam Dunk with all the ska and pop-punk being played on the other stages. The room was packed with kids busting a move to Lars’ original brand of post-punk laptop rap with songs like 'Ahab' and 'Mr Raven'. I mean, who doesn’t love lit-hop? [CG]

Lower Than Atlantis play a hugely passionate set to a packed room on the Kerrang stage and impress throughout. Riding high on the back of an excellent reception for their second full-length, it's a confident performance. Choice cuts from the aforementioned release such as '(Motor) Way Of Life' and 'Deadliest Catch' sound quite magnificent with the crowd roaring them along, but songs from previous record 'Far Q' fare equally as well. In the end, despite a misjudged attempt at crowd particiption where they sit the audience down, à la Slipknot, at the finale of the set only to see them struggle up rather haphazardly, it is hard to call this showing anything less than triumphant. [NW]

Mayday Parade are always certain to put in a good performance, and this, there fourth visit to the UK is no exception. A well devised set of older songs goes down a treat with those well versed in the Tallahassee 5-piece's back catalogue, 'Three Cheers For Five Years' and 'Black Cat' accompanying the glossy glaze of 'Kids In Love' which is performed with a rather less 'parental advisory' feel than the song's infamous 2009 video. [LM]

Lost On Campus, better known to his family as Rob Lynch, has the unenviable task of headlining the acoustic stage and pitting himself against some pretty illustrious names. Though the room reflects this, what he is left with is a core group of fans who sing along to almost every word of his set. As the room heats up to furnace-like levels and the set reaches a climax with the belting 'My Friends And I', from his forthcoming EP, riotus scenes see the stage invaded and portions of the ceiling pulled down. You can hardly blame him for having a smile on his face as the chorus of the song repeats for some time after he has finished playing; its well deserved.[NW]

Closing up the Macbeth were Set Your Goals, who delivered a conservatively rabble-rousing set before heading over for the superb finale of We Are The Ocean's closing of the Honour Over Glory stage. Such a billing is a mark of just how far they have come in a very short time, but they look and sound as if they've been doing it at this level for years. On the back of performances like the one I caught the end of, they'll believe they could go all the way and I wouldn't lay 'em.

Capping things off outside on the Jagermeister stage are punk ska stalwarts Less Than Jake. Crude, playful, yet still somehow utterly professional, everyone's favourite Floridian jesters bring a set jammed with classics and perform them just the way you expect a band with almost 20 years nous to, with just a bit more jazz. Inciting naked circle pits and tree climbing whilst consuming copious amounts of beer, Chris Demakes and Co. chortle through the likes of 'All My Friends are Metalheads', 'Plastic Cup Politics' ,'The Ghost of You and Me' and renditions of cartoon anthems 'Animaniacs' and 'Spongebob' that leave the security utterly bemused as to what's going on. It's so much more than just a few middle aged guys on a stage. It's riotous. A feel good, carnival vibe that raucous quintet have become synonymous for creating. It emanates from them, and is a fitting way to see the sun go down on a day to remember in Hertfordshire. [LM]

Reel Big Fish have been around the block more than a few times but their happy-go-lucky timeless classics bring the sunshine every time. In a mainly ska-oriented line up this year on Slam Dunk’s main stage tracks like 'Beer', 'Somebody Hates Me' and 'Everything Sucks' go down a treat. With their witty banter and loud shirts you can almost overlook that their biggest hits are almost a decade old. [CG]

Words by:
Slam Dunk North: Sean Reid (SR) Chris Marshman (CM) and Laura-May Fox (LM])
Slam Dunk South: Nick Worpole (NW), Liam McGarry (LM), and Chantelle Goodchild (CG)

Alter The Press!