After what’s felt like an eternity of lineup carryovers and reshuffling, Slam Dunk finally returns, bringing forward a good amount of its ill-fated 2020 lineup to 2021. But unlike some other festivals this year which have felt like a main objective was to just get something onboard, Slam Dunk’s knack for catering to its audience has gone undeterred, in the usual mix of punk, pop-punk, emo, hardcore and metalcore that always seems to go down a treat. It’s slimmed down a bit, sure—such is the case with the majority of lineups this year, honestly—but that’s not say it hasn’t packed in more than its fair share of highlights. So with that in mind, let’s break down the entire lineup to see what can be expected for Slam Dunk Festival 2021.
Rock Scene Stage
For the longest time, the top of the Slam Dunk bill felt like something to really look forward to, but with Sum 41 withdrawing their slot as co-headliners, it’s down to Don Broco to take it up on their own. That’s not an unfeasible task, given how their dense, weighty alt-rock has ballooned in size over the years, and they’ll likely fare rather well given how popular they are, but there’s still plenty more of interest to be found just on their immediate undercard. Of course, the standouts are and always will be Creeper, who bring a much-needed injection of gloom and theatricality to a typically sunny set of acts, in what still feels like such a natural environment for them to take over. They’ve got their own mood entirely, especially for this bill, but there’s still the energy and unstoppable hooks to rub shoulders with the effervescent alt-pop of Waterparks, or some crunchy pop-punk bounding from State Champs and As It Is. At the same time, this wouldn’t be Slam Dunk without a hefty dose of nostalgia, coming in the form of Mayday Parade whose pop-rock popularity never seems to wane, as well as some alt-pop charm from Hellogoodbye, and the long-awaited return of We Are The In Crowd, which feels as though it’s been teased for an eternity, and is finally—finally!—coming to fruition now. Rounding off is a double shot of newer pop-punk from ROAM and The Bottom Line, both of whom serve as easy marks for the Slam Dunk crowd, but ones that feel no less effective in their appeal.
Punk In Drublic Stage
In what’s now become a festival mainstay, the Punk In Drublic Stage returns to bring a more traditional, hard-edged brand of punk to Slam Dunk, naturally topped by NOFX as the de facto flag-bearers for this scene at the festival. Similarly, some of their peers beneath them are just as predictable here, but no less welcome, where Pennywise’s frenetic skate-punk always hits the mark; Alkaline Trio achieve the same result, albeit with some more gothic drama in their punk; and Zebrahead are here pretty much every year, but with a new lead vocalist now, at least there’s more of a stake to meet this time. Elsewhere, Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls might fall on the more folk-centric side of punk, but have the dyed-in-the-wool ethos that their stage’s peers hold so prominently; the same can be said for Days N Daze, with the sort of gonzo, makeshift folk-punk that’s by far one of the most intriguing inclusions to this year’s bill. Finally, there are the acts that go hand-in-hand with Slam Dunk’s tacit appreciation for underrated classics and ska-punk, and while Snuff are certainly more in line with the former, there’s no doubt that Capdown wholeheartedly fit in both camps, joined by the ever-fascinating reggae-punk of The Skints, and the out-there garage-ska-punk of The Baboon Show.
Home to Slam Dunk’s heavier contingents, the Jägermeister Stages once again serves as a testament to this festival’s efficiency at running a show, with two stages that find bands alternate between one another for a packed run with no clashes. And even with the last-minute dropout of Stray From The Path, there’s no shortage of killer fare to be found here, starting right at the top with the ever-reliable monarchs of 21st Century Brit-metal, While She Sleeps and Bury Tomorrow. That in itself promises a great show, but when that’s flanked by a pair of highly-anticipated returns from Funeral For A Friend and Your Demise, the hardcore end of Slam Dunk that’s regularly its strongest limb continues to avoid slouching. For a start, there’s the brand new addition of Skindred to replace a late-minute dropout from Escape The Fate, to solidify the fact that there’s top-tier hardcore and metal all the way down. In the former camp, Comeback Kid and Malevolence always put on great shows; Deez Nuts come to inject a slamming raucousness; and Brutality Will Prevail and Blood Youth hold firm as two of British hardcore’s shining lights. Meanwhile, Loathe’s heady metalcore and Hacktivist’s serrated rap-metal have both never been better than they are now, and Trash Boat to top off feels like a reintroduction to a band at the peak of their powers, moving into post-hardcore and ready to blast forward.
The Key Club Stages
Similar in setup to the Jägermeister Stages are The Key Club Stages, though filling their ever-rotating lineup with a crop of smaller acts holding fast around all of Slam Dunk’s demographics. There’s definitely something a bit questionable about a band like A topping a bill primarily focused on newer, upcoming bands, but their cheesy, vintage pop-rock is likable enough, though mostly overshadowed by the high-flying atmospheric post-hardcore of Holding Absence, and—to a lesser extent—the typically fun ska-punk of [spunge] and Popes Of Chillitown (not to mention a special guest headliner that’s been kept under wraps at time of writing). Really though, there’s more appeal to be found in the jagged alt-rock of Vukovi, the salt-of-the-earth punk of Weatherstate and the spacious post-hardcore of Normandie, all of whom seem ready to graduate to bigger stages, and that can’t come soon enough. Similarly, Wargasm and Static Dress are ready to move up to their positions with their respective electro-punk and post-hardcore, while Lizzy Farrall’s tight alt-pop, Doll Skin’s fiery punk, The Hara’s ever-growing pop-rock, Noahfinnce’s bedroom-pop / garage-rock fusion and For You The Moon’s heartfelt pop-rock serve as glimpses of the scene’s next big stars to come.
Words by Luke Nuttall
Slam Dunk Festival takes place on 4th September at Temple Newsam, Leeds and 5th September at Hatfield Park, Hatfield. More information can be found at https://www.slamdunkfestival.com.