Slamdunk By The Sea, Southampton Guildhall

Where do I start! Slam Dunk Festival seems to amaze me every year with a line-up to ripen the taste buds of any music fan with metal, hardcore, punk and rap combined to create one of the best one day festivals in the world. With the ridiculous amount of demand the festival brings each year for the North and South editions, an expansion was once again agreed and Birmingham and Southampton were selected to host a show with four of the bands from the festival. Less Than Jake who headlined Slam Dunk this year, along with Reel Big Fish were joined by Anti-Flag, Goldfinger and Set Your Goals.

The Guildhall is pretty empty with only a few minutes to go and sadly it stayed that way as Set Your Goals made their way on stage. They are a band who have collaborated with legendary front girl Hayley Williams, but it was clear that their reputation in Southampton is hardly anything special as the band urged on an inanimate crowd. To be fair to them, the sound wasn’t sorted properly and the vocals were echoing round the venue along with the guitars not being loud enough. Despite this, they gave it a good shot with enthusiastic pop punk anthems fuelled by frantic drumming and edgy guitar riffs. Their vocals seemed shaky for the first part of their set which was no doubt due to the crowd showing no emotion during their songs and minimal applause greeting the end of each song, which can’t have done wonders for their confidence. Suddenly, the band came to life as their front man and their guitarist swapped roles and unleashed some screams, which fused well to their straight edge punk anthems to spark a comeback. Luckily, their set remained strong for the second half of the set and they left on a good note.

Goldfinger are up next and as soon as first track, ‘Spokesman’ is fired up, the crowd explodes and hundreds of their fans sing the lyrics back to ecstatic front man, John Feldmann as the mosh pits start to build. Feldmann takes off his hat to reveal his grey hair and revels in the time when he was compared to Harry Potter character, Draco Malfoy by ‘some kid’. There is no shame that the band aren’t as young as they used to be, which I love to see in a band who just want to keep going until they are physically impaired. In a surge of confidence, the band urge the crowd to start a huge circle pit and with ease, the crowd respond and send the room into a giant spiral. The energy of the band is still there after seventeen years as a band and with a large number of the crowd responding to every song; it’s obvious that their fan base is still continuing to grow. Their set continues to surge with no nerves exposed and classic tune, ’99 Red Balloons’ has the room singing in full volume. If Goldfinger keep playing shows at this velocity, they will no doubt maintain their role as one of the hottest punk rock bands on the circuit.

I honestly thought that the intensity of the evening couldn’t have been greater after Goldfinger’s incredible set, but out came Anti-Flag to prove me wrong. With the look of a punk rock band down to a tee, the band broke out into their huge punk anthems and I even took a pre-empted deep breath as it was almost like I automatically anticipated the crowd to erupt. Bodies flew across the venue as the band continued to bellow their political statements with songs like ‘You’ve Got to Die for the Government’ resulting in the crowd raising their fists and shouting back the lyrics to the energy fuelled band. During ‘Fuck Police Brutality’, front man Justin Sane announcing that he wanted to see ‘the biggest fucking circle pit the venue has ever seen’. Obviously, it happened. My god did it happen. Infact, it resulted in my ankle now looking like a genetically modified pumpkin. Limping back to the front, the adrenaline kept me going as the band ended their set to a sweaty mass screaming their appreciation to the band. There was no doubt that it was an unbelievable set.

My leg is swelling and the adrenaline is starting to wear off, so the pain I’m feeling is ridiculous. Luckily, Less Than Jake are bang on time for their set to begin and kick off with crowd favourite ‘Automatic’. Again, I couldn’t believe it could be any more mental than Anti-Flag, but I was proven wrong again! I was right at the front and as one of my heroes, bassist Roger Manganelli walked on stage, it was a truly special moment for me. The band smashed through their many classic songs with standouts including, ‘The Science of Selling Yourself Short’, ‘All My Best Friends Are Metal heads’, ‘Plastic Cup Politics’, ‘Jonny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts’ and more recent track, ‘Conviction Notice’. Their energy on stage is something else, with Roger and their trombone player running around the stage. Their vocals were flawless, the brass section were as flamboyant as ever and their punk riffs and straight edge drumming meant that their performance was ska punk perfection. Without getting too carried away, after final song ‘The Ghosts of Me and You’, I must say; Less Than Jake are the best live band I have seen so far in my life.

Less Than Jake
Suburban Myth
Sugar In Your Gas Tank
Conviction Notice
All My Best Friends Are Metalheads
Look What Happened
Scott Farcas Takes It On The Chin
The Science of Selling Yourself Short
Animaniacs Theme
Spongebob Squarepants Theme
History of a Boring Town
Plastic Cup Politics
Nervous in the Alley
How’s My Driving, Doug Hastings?
Al’s War
Last One Out of Liberty City
Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts
The Ghosts Of Me And You

Words by;

George Fullerton

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