This time last week I went to Slam Dunk South, a one-day festival in the United Kingdom. The festival travels across three locations in the UK, starting in Birmingham, followed by Leeds and ending in Hatfield, north of London. After years of admiring their always great lineup of bands across many different alternative genres, this was the first year I actually visited. The programmers put up a busy day program filled with bands I (used to) love. Among the artists I saw performing were:
Cute is What We Aim For
The first band on the very large bill that I was really looking forward to see, was Cute is What We Aim For. This poppunk band has been around for quite some time, despite the fact they have not released a new album since sophomore album Rotation in 2008. Even then, the setlist solely consisted of songs from their 2006 debut album The Same Old Blood Rush With a New Touch. The band has gone through plenty of lineup changes since their inception and the recording of the album, as well as having aged 11 years since its release and having outgrown most of their former emo-ness. Despite the nostalgia of their set, filled with songs that all were sang along with lots of enthusiasm from the crowd, the execution of the songs and all-over vibe of the band was sadly enough a bit half-arsed. It was fun from a sentimental point of view, but the musicality was kept to a bare minimum.
We Are the Ocean at Slam Dunk South, 29 May 2017. Photo by Ben Gibson, courtesy Rock Sound / Ben Gibson.
We Are the Ocean
Another band that I used to love ‘back in the day’ (say 2007-2011-ish, my teen years and the era when my musical taste developed into what it is now), is Essex-based We Are the Ocean. The band have been around since 2007, but decided to pull the plug after ten years of writing music, releasing four studio albums and playing numerous shows. Slam Dunk South was set to be their last ever show. The set was filled with hits, old and new, that sounded just as good and fresh as when I first saw the band perform for no more than a hundred people back in 2010. It’s a shame that good bands like this break up. But to be fair, there’s a Dutch saying ‘stop at your peak’, and it is debatable whether We Are the Ocean can achieve anything more in terms of creativity. That does not take away from the fact they will be missed from the British music scene. Their performance at Slam Dunk South therefore reminds me of another famous saying: going out with a bang.
Rob Damiani of Don Broco at Slam Dunk South, 29 May 2017. Photo by Ben Gibson, courtesy Rock Sound / Ben Gibson.
One of the highlights of Slam Dunk, if not the best performance of the day, came from Bedford-bred boys Don Broco. The band are currently working on their third album and have recently released their newest single ‘Pretty’. If they don’t take home the award for ‘best performance at Slam Dunk’, they will definitely win in the category ‘Best marketing stunt at Slam Dunk’ (and possibly ‘Best Dressed’). The video for ‘Pretty’ features a slightly disturbing wedding, where lead singer Rob Damiani slices off bass player Tom Doyle’s face to fool his bride-to-be into marrying him. Rob’s face was made into a mask that could be picked up for free at Don Broco’s merchandise table, and as a result the festival site was flooded with hundreds of Rob Damiani-wannabe’s. Luckily their one-hour long set wasn’t nearly as creepy as the masks or the video for Pretty. The crowd was treated to jams from albums Priorities (2012) and Automatic (2015), as well as their latest singles Everybody and of course Pretty.
Don Broco shows can be described in one simple, short word: FUN. The band members are clearly having fun on stage and it works contagiously on the audience. Having had the tough task to warm up an audience before Enter Shikari would take the stage to put the festival to an end, the Broco lads delivered a stand out performance that definitely stood out as the highlight of the day.