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Slam Dunk Festival @ Millenium Square (Leeds, UK) on May 28, 2017 [Show Review]

It’s been a turbulent few weeks for the UK music world so it was a joy to see so many music fans enjoying the weather and an endless stream of punk, rock and hardcore as Slam Dunk returned for its 2017 event. We joined the masses in Leeds and you can read our review here…

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Ah, Slam Dunk, bringing some of the best punk and hardcore bands from around the world both established and upcoming.

I have had the pleasure of attending Slam Dunk’s southern event in Hatfield but for a change this year, I thought why not see what the original festivals home had to offer. The first thing that struck me, was the event was held in the city centre and was spread out over several outdoor and indoor venues. It was also a pleasure to see so many music fans out in force given the tragedy that struck that struck Manchester Arena only a week before, a true testament to the refusal to not allow fear to rule.

Sadly, arriving a little late due to traffic driving up from the south Slam Dunk was already in full swing with Japanese crossover crew Crossfaith tearing up the main stage as they have done at the many UK festivals they have appeared at and set the tone for an afternoon of brutality as both special guests Bury Tomorrow and US metalcore favourites Beartooth had the buildings around the main stage site shaking under a barrage of metallic riffs.

I made a beeline to the Fireball stage held at the Leeds First Direct Arena to catch Goldfinger. Unfortunately, there was a hell of a line to get in and simply did not appear to be moving. After a while the news came down the line that the venue was full and it was now operating on a one out one in policy.

So, having made my way to the seating area the first thing I found was that, unlike most venues I’ve been in where there is at least low light, it was pitch black to the point you could barely see your hand in front of your face and people were constantly moving past meaning I was up out of my seat every few minutes. Truth be told, after about fifteen minutes I’d had enough and made the decision that I didn’t need to see Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake enough to keep this up, plus I’d much rather be outside in the glorious sunshine.

So, onto Millennium Square to the Jagermeister stage to relax with a beer in the sun and catch a bit of Deaf Havana. Now, I had never intended to see these guys as I had planned to be elsewhere, however, my disappointment was short lived as Deaf Havana delivered a set that was simply flawless throughout their ten-song set from “Ashes, Ashes” to “Pensacola, 2013”.

The unexpected highlight of the entire festival was Don Broco. It’s always pure delight when you catch a band you know next to nothing about. It was a set list that literally blew me away from when they hit the stage with “Everybody”, enticing the whole square to jump with “Automatic”, “Fire” and “Nerve” before cracking the volume to eleven for the song everyone was waiting for, “Pretty”.

Back in the O2 Academy and following a supporting cast that has included With Confidence, Waterparks and Seaway, Tampa rockers Set It Off get up to all sorts of mischief with the crowd culminating in frontman Cody Carson getting told in no uncertain terms to not scale the PA.

While not uncomfortable temperature-wise inside the Academy, the Florida pop-punks have certainly raised the temperature while headliners Tonight Alive send the heat crashing through the roof with a slick, polished set pulled from the spread of their career including “The Edge”, “The Greatest” and a smattering of new tracks. Yes, the fact they were running up against headliners Enter Shikari may have resulted in a less than full Academy but you just know that the Australians won’t have this problem next time they return to Leeds.

Closing out the festival at the Jagermeister stage was the mighty Enter Shikari. This was truly a powerful set covering all the hits and fan favourites. The highlight being their rendition of Oasis’ “Half the World Away” dedicated to all the unsung heroes of Manchester who opened their homes and offering stranded concert goers free rides. In this moment there was truly a sense all barriers between music genres were broken down and the true way to fight hate is with love.

So, as our Slam Dunk 2017 draws to a close, the extra security, expansive layout and long queues meant we saw fewer bands than we would have liked leaving it to UK pop-punk favourites Neck Deep to bring our day to a close. That being said we couldn’t have done in better company with a beer in hand, a packed stage and a sack load of great tunes to see Slam Dunk out in style.

Next year, let’s see how Birmingham stands up.

Music

Boyz II Men Bring Bangers to Boston’s MGM Music Hall [Photos]

On February 9th Boston, MA fans at MGM Music Hall were transported back to the ’90s/early 2000s with a nostalgic performance by Boyz II Men.

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Boyz II Men on Feb 9, 2024, photo by Kaitlin Prince
Boyz II Men on Feb 9, 2024, photo by Kaitlin Prince

On February 9th, a Friday night in Boston, MA, fans at MGM Music Hall were transported back to the ’90s and early 2000s with a nostalgic performance by Boyz II Men.

Boyz II Men, originally a quartet, now a trio, rose to fame in the early ’90s with their R&B style after being discovered by New Editions member Michael Bivens. They went on to earn recognition from Billboard Magazine as the “biggest boy band” during the period from 1990 to 2012. The crowd at MGM Music Hall definitely reflected this time period, with the average age of those in attendance seeming to be between 40 and 50 years old.

The three remaining members of Boyz II Men, Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris, and Shawn Stockman, might be in their 50s, but they did not act like it! Coming out to start the show in all-white outfits and impressive dance moves, they fittingly began with a performance of their very first song and single, “Motownphilly.” This was their first-ever song released in 1991, and it got every person in the crowd on their feet and dancing. Followed by their hit song, “On Bended Knee.” It was clear these three men were experienced pros and knew how to put on a show.

A favorite moment of the show was when the trio started singing their song “I’ll Make Love to You” from their sophomore album II. Nathan, Wanya and Shawn all came on stage holding bouquets of roses, which they passed out to adoring females in the crowd. Before this song, they had stopped singing to have a short dialogue with Shawn and Wanya about how much the fans meant to them. They discussed how honored they were that people were still showing up to see them perform over 30 years after their debut album dropped.

All three members of the group really put in effort to interact with the audience by doing things such as pointing and singling people out in the crowd and posing for pictures on stage after the show was over. It was very clear that Nathan, Wanya and Shawn loved and appreciated their fans and were grateful for all the continued support.

I was also impressed to see both Nathan Morris and Shawn Stockman playing guitars during the performance, with Nathan playing bass and Shawn playing lead guitar. Wanya Morris explained to the crowd that this was a skill the two had added to their repertoire back in the mid-2000s after Nathan had suggested they all buy guitars and learn how to play them.

My biggest critique of the show was that I thought the sound system and music overpowered the vocals a bit. At times, it was hard to hear the men singing with their talented voices over the instruments. Another piece to note would be that the trio mainly performed songs from their first four albums and did not really dive into their later albums and most recent songs. However, this was not a problem for me because I loved their old hits, and it seemed like most people in the crowd would have agreed.

To finish the show, Boyz II Men performed their most popular song, “End of the Road.” An emotional ballad about going through a breakup but not wanting to let that person go quite yet. This was a powerful moment, with every person on their feet, singing right along with them. At the finale, the men went totally acapella, and to hear just their voices singing with the crowd was a beautiful and fitting end to an amazing performance!

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Alternative/Rock

Letters Sent Home Release New Single “Ignorance” (feat. Sumner Peterson)

On February 19th, German quartet Letters Sent Home released their newest single, “Ignorance,” featuring Dead Lakes vocalist Sumner Peterson.

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Letters Sent Home, photo by Jana Boese
Letters Sent Home, photo by Jana Boese

On February 19th, German quartet Letters Sent Home released their newest single, “Ignorance,” featuring Dead Lakes vocalist Sumner Peterson via SharpTone Records off their upcoming debut album Forever Undone.

The band said of the latest release:

“‘Ignorance’ represents the frustration and helplessness of young people regarding the climate crisis. At the same time, it is begging the people in power to start working with us to try and save the planet.”

Recently, Letters Sent Home announced their debut album, Forever Undone, set to be released on April 12 via SharpTone Records. The album features new single “Ignorance” as well as recently released singles “Request Denied,” “Elements,” and “I Hope I Die First,” alongside seven new, ambitious tracks.

Vocalist Emily Paschke said of the of the upcoming record:

“We have been told that people mostly like our music due to relatability and personality in our songs. We believe to have pushed this to an extreme, for this album is as personal as it could possibly get. I am truly nervous about some of these songs being heard by certain people but writing this album has been very therapeutic in the way that I finally started dealing with stuff I have been consciously and subconsciously ignoring for the past years.”

Across three well-received EPs of “sad, hard music,” the German quartet has made their name as a band that match infectious melody and huge choruses with the lyrical depth and heart of people with a lot to say.

Letters Sent Home ‘Forever Undone’ album artwork

Letters Sent Home ‘Forever Undone’ album artwork

Forever Undone Track Listing:

1. Earthquake
2. Request Denied
3. Ignorance
4. Pedestal
5. Elements
6. Hysteria
7. Seven
8. Gaslight
9. Sadists
10. Final Battle
11. I hope I die first.

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Metal

Fit For a King and The Devil Wears Prada Crush Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom [Photos]

The “Metalcore Dropout Tour” hit Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom and Fit For a King, The Devil Wears Prada, Counterparts and Avoid brought the heat!

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Fit For a King on Feb 15, 2024, photo by Randy Romero
Fit For a King on Feb 15, 2024, photo by Randy Romero

The Commodore Ballroom became a Metalhead Institute the night of February 15th for the “Metalcore Dropout 2nd Semester” tour. The trek, headlined by Fit For a King and The Devil Wears Prada, included supporting acts Counterparts and added Avoid instead of Landmvrks, who were on the first leg of the tour.  

The Vancouverites were hungry for the lights, drums and growls from this lineup, something evident because a large majority of the crowd was at the venue to enjoy the opening act performed by Avoid. The Seattle natives delivered a substantial set that included some of their most popular songs like “Whatever,” “Cowabunga Can’t Take This Away,” and “Hostage at a Beach House Party.”

Counterparts opened their set with “Love Me,” the hit single from their 2019 Album Nothing Left to Love. Throughout the set, they played songs from all their albums, including A Eulogy for Those Still Here, the latest one, the one they played most songs from with a total of five, “07/26/2020,” “Bound to the Burn,” “Unwavering Vow,” “What Mirrors Might Reflect” and “Whispers of Your Death,” which they closed their performance with.

The crowd was euphoric, hands with the sign of the horns were all over the place, there was a huge mosh pit in the middle of the crowd and security had to help the crowd surfers to land safely in front of the stage.

When Fit For a King hit the stage the crowd went nuts, the band started their set with “End (The Other Side)” from their latest album The Hell We Create. The crowd was highly engaged with the band and sang each song word by word. In their set, they included their last single, released about a month ago, “Keeping Secrets,” and other fan favourites like “Breaking the Mirror,” “Vendetta,” “The End’s Beginning,and “When Everything Means Nothing.” They did a total of 14 songs, and if it weren’t for the time, the set would have been much longer.

What can be better than one headliner? Of course, 2. The Devil Wears Prada brought the perfect energy to the stage. Opening their set with “Exhibition” from their latest full-length project Color Decay Deluxe. Continuing with their set, the vocalist Mike Hranica encouraged the crowd surfers to be more active and sang a few of their big hits, including “Salt,” “Reasons,” “Dez Moines,” and “Broken,” closing with “Hey John, what’s your name again?” for a total of 13 songs.

We must highlight that both headliners praised the Vancouver crowd, calling them the best crowd of the entire tour yet and the best in Canada ever.

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