Slam Dunk Festival finally managed to go ahead last weekend, after being rescheduled several times due to the pandemic. There were some concerns about how the festival would be handled due to covid 19 but everything seemed to go ahead without a hitch. Proof of vaccination or a negative lateral flow test was required before entry but people seemed to be admitted fairly quickly and the entry requirements didn’t take too long to pass.
Review by Jane Howkins
Photos by Danny Peart
When we arrived we headed over to The Key Club stage to see who the secret band were. 2 years ago Busted were the secret band so it should have been of no surprise that McFly would be the secret band this year. We stayed for a song or two and I found myself quite surprised at how heavy they sounded, considering that they’re probably one of the more poppier bands on show across the festival. We then left to see As It Is on the Amazon Music stage. Admittedly, I wasn’t too aware of their music before seeing them, but As It Is put on a good show and the crowd seemed fairly full, despite the early set time. The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry) was a particular highlight.
We headed over to see A on The Key Club stage yet. A had a fairly big hit in the 2000s called Nothing but I also found myself recognising quite a few of their other songs, surprisingly. The band were fairly energetic and encouraged people to get up and mosh, but it was too early for most of the crowd. However, when Nothing was finally played at the end of their set, they finally got into it and a mass singalong was had with the band.
I went to see Creeper on the Amazon Music stage next – I’ve been wanting to see them ever since I checked out their album Sex, Death & The Infinite Void last year (it’s a great album, check it out if you haven’t already) and they did not disappoint. They played a variety of songs from their back catalogue but the highlight of the set was closing song Misery, which ended with a huge singalong between the band and crowd.
We rushed over to see Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls on the Punk In Drublic stage afterwards – I’ve seen Frank perform many a time (he does a lot of UK festivals) so I knew what to expect – circle jigs, witty banter and catchy folk punk songs. Frank knows how to interact with a crowd fairly well and he’s become something of a legend on the festival circuit, and his performance here shows why, with Recovery being my favourite song of the set.
I decided to stay at the Punk In Drublic stage to see Zebrahead, a band that have attended pretty much every single Slam Dunk Festival since it started. They always put on a fantastic show and today was of no exception. They were filming a music video and put some giant inflatable dragons in the crowd and got people to joust on them, which was very entertaining, alongside all the crowdsurfing that goes hand in hand with a Zebrahead set. New singer Adrian Estralla has a fantastic voice and this was his very first live show with the band, making it even more impressive.
Funeral For A Friend played the Jagermeister stage next, putting on a brutal performance. Our only issue was with the organisation of the stage – Slam Dunk have a set up with this stage and The Key Club stage where there are two stages set up so bands can alternate easily instead of having to wait to set their gear up. It’s a good idea in practice but one that didn’t quite work here due to the sheer size of the crowd – it seemed like the event had been oversold. We were going to attempt to see Skindred afterwards but couldn’t get into the tent to see them – they play a lot of UK festivals though, so I’m sure I’ll get to see them again soon.
I headed back to the Punk In Drublic stage to catch Anti-Flag – they put on a rather energetic performance and there were a lot of people singing along in the crowd, however I felt the sound quality needed improving a little as the bass sounded far too loud at times. Fans of the band will know they’re rather political and whilst they do triumph some worthy causes, it did come across as a little insincere and preachy at times, but the music itself shone through in the end.
Bury Tomorrow were the penultimate band we saw, and from all accounts it was quite a frenetic performance, with huge mosh pits occurring across the crowd. They were perhaps the heaviest band of the entire day and we would be surprised if nobody broke any bones inside the pits.
Alkaline Trio were the final band I saw, and the band I was looking forward to seeing most. I didn’t leave disappointed, with the band cracking out some witty banter and playing a huge variety of songs from across their wealthy back catalogue. They’re old hands at this now, and despite this being their first show since the pandemic, they sounded fantastic. They’ve recently announced a UK tour for 2022, so make sure you catch them live next year!
All in all, Slam Dunk Festival North 2021 was a blinding success, and despite the coronavirus concerns, seemed to go ahead largely without a hitch. There were some organisational issues but that seems commonplace for festivals nowadays – in terms of the music, all the bands we saw were fantastic, and it was great to finally be able to go to a festival again after so long without due to the pandemic.