24/05/2012


The final weekend of May sees the Slam Dunk festival return for yet another successful year of mixed alternative music showcased in Hatfield and Leeds, and yet again, no expense is spared in pulling out all the stops and securing headliners Taking Back Sunday. A band recently returning to their break-through, and arguably finest, line-up, hot off releasing their fifth studio album. I still don't believe they realise how much they have helped influenced modern rock, let alone shape the lives of thousands of now twenty-somethings. Taking Back Sunday do not often venture overseas, let alone tour, as the years have progressed, but with the passion still burning through them, and songs now a decade old still played in clubs every weekend, drunkenly sung out in city streets and burning holes in the ears of music lovers through iPods, catching them perform live after a long day of alcoholic antics and dodgy toilets will be nothing short of a delight.

The entire line-up is impressive, glamorising today’s scene. From violent party animals Every Time I Die, to emotional heart-broken happy crew Motion City Soundtrack (which reminds me of the only time I saw them live, they introduced a song, “This song’s about children”), to some of the UK’s successful club DJs, there is something for every music fan to enjoy.

One band, in my opinion, to watch out for during the second line-up announcement, is Decade. The southern-westerly quintet exude passion and lack restraint in blasting infectious pop-punk blended hard rock anthems, that even gain the notice of Japanese record labels. You may be quick to dismiss a band actually signed to Slam Dunk records, and consider their slot an easy filler for the promoters, and a shameless plug, but I beg to differ. Without a doubt, they are one of the better bands on the bill; their music is well rehearsed and considered, but above all, they put on a fantastic display whilst performing.  I had the pleasure to catch them last summer at Rock City in Nottingham having cluttered into the back of a friend’s van, who would be supporting the headliners that night.

They too are humble, and before the show, made idle small talk with us, and handed out CDs, with no desire for money or credit, but simply to make others smile. I gained a lot of respect for Decade instantly, trying hard having just started out, yet there was not one ego among them. They were down to earth and just wanted to have fun. What’s more, live, they actually moved and knew they were performing live; aware the show was visual as well! I read that CtrlAltRock dubbed them 'the UK's best kept secret', and they couldn't be more right. They’re not the UK’s answer to Four Year Strong, or The Wonder Years, but better, the UK’s answer to your summer soundtrack. They are defiantly worth checking out at Slam Dunk.

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An interesting thought popped into my head when I first saw the second line-up announcement. As excited as I was to have to chance to see Say Anything play live once again (having been six years now), I did hope that either past grudges had dissolved, or the security on site would be excellent. I tweeted:


To elaborate the song is about John Nolan, not in the best of lights, although, you can presume that from the title alone. But why? Where does this bitterness derive from? A girl, of course. The inspiration for nearly every song ever written, quivered in bedrooms to chanted in stadiums. Laura Hirsh acted as Straylight Run’s merchandise girl for a couple of years, and as John Nolan’s girlfriend for even less, even to the lengths of taking her to her prom. John was none too nice to his young paramour, and after she ran to the comforting arms of Max Bemis, Bemis decided to write a little song about his true feelings on the matter.

So when you re-listen to ‘Skinny, Mean Man’, lyrics begin to stand out, such as: “I saw, I smelled what he did to you, girl, and to be frank, the thought makes my innards curl. How he preyed on your ripe insecurities”; “Obscure records entombed in his room with mechanical lust, diapered, desolate middle-aged doom. On your knees in his downtrodden shit-eating grin of a room”; “From his nightmares I've plucked a plan, where that prick, to the world, is revealed as a wicked man” (‘Skinny, Mean Man’, In Defense of the Genre, 2007). Bemis does not hold back.

Bemis takes the insults to another level by also rubbing in what he now has, treating Hirsch like a prize; declaring their love to his fans: “I know you love how I make it all go away, all the joy, all the pain, all thoughts in your brain [...] and no one will ever, ever, take you away from me”; “Well aware that I'm falling in love” (‘Skinny, Mean Man’, In Defense of the Genre, 2007). Above all, even the title of the (in my opinion) best track of the album is a blatant dig at the former Straylight Run frontman, which can only lead one to think there may be some tension in Leeds and Hatfield that weekend.

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Slam Dunk itself originates from a successful club night, so with that in mind, it can only have good things in store. It’s my first time attending, the North event in Leeds, and I truly don’t know what to expect, and with hope, it’ll be completely different to the now defunct Give it a Name festival. A new experience completely to share with good friends, strong drinks and over-priced burgers – even if I am on a diet. I also have high hopes and have great desire to see Wade MacNeil front Gallows (formally of the widely respected Alexisonfire), which I believe should be an exceptional treat.

With the announcement of the set times however, many attendees do feel cheated and angry at several clashes, most notably Taking Back Sunday/Mayday Parade/Architects as late-night bills. I myself found this distressing, no longer able to see every band I had wished, but I imagine that to only be natural, and adds to the chaos and fun of a festival atmosphere. It took me a while to construct, what I deem to be, a flawless plan for the bands I wanted to see the most, which goes as follows:

2.30 – 3.00: Hildamay (Vans)
Break
3.40 – 4.10: Lower than Atlantis (Atticus)
4.10 – 4.35: For the Fallen Dreams (Honour Over Glory)
4.35 – 5.20: Say Anything (Atticus)
Break
5.45 – 6.30: Motion City Soundtrack (Atticus)
6.35 – 7.10: While She Sleeps (Honour Over Glory)
Break
7.30 – 8.15: Cancer Bats (Honour Over Glory)
Break
8.35 – 9.15: Every Time I Die (Honour Over Glory)
9.15 – 10.30: Taking Back Sunday (Atticus)
10.30 – 10.55: Gallows (Vans)

The chances of the bands sticking to the times allotted and this plan working out? Slim to none.

Unfortunately, this means missing out on Mayday Parade, Forever the Sickest Kids, Architects, Decade and many others, but the beauty of music is that there will always be another chance to see such phenomenal acts live, and Slam Dunk’s purpose is to simply have a good time for the fifth year running. Don’t let the little things stress you. See you there!

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