Reel Big Fish – Leeds University

By paul

Last year’s Slam Dunk festival wasn’t so hot. It wasn’t just that the weather was a bit nippy; more the fact the wind swept the sound away for miles and the high-profile bands let down the crowds with sub-par performances. Perhaps noting the problems, this time round Ben Ray and co at Futuresound moved the event indoors and went for smaller, yet just as entertaining, bands. And it worked a treat.

YOU ME AT 6 opened up just as we walked in the door and it’s very clear to see why this Surrey quintet are very quickly becoming one of the most talked about unsigned bands in the UK. Rock Sound and Kerrang (as well as PT, obviously) have picked up on them and singer Josh’s confidence as a frontman belittles their youthful exuberance. He prowls the stage like a madman, making it look as though the band have played in front of big crowds forever. And while their sound may not be the most original, they’re excellent at what they do and will only get better. Ones to watch, that’s for sure. (8)

BEAT UNION get a lot of stick on PT, simply because they get a lot of support slots on UK tours. But on this performance it is easy to understand why. While Joe Strummer would perhaps turn in his grave, Beat Union are tight as hell; brash, brazen yet very melodic and full of energy. Their cover of ‘Message In A Bottle’ is a decent novelty and my low expectations are pleasingly exceeded. If you’re yet to see them, don’t believe the internet negativity. (8)

A late ferry means MAD CADDIES are on early doors and the first big crowd gathers for the self-proclaimed pirate-core mob. An excellent festival band, the group run through a greatest hits set which mixes new songs with classics such as ‘Road Rash’ and ‘Monkeys’. The band really are on form, whipping the crowd up into a frenzy with plenty of interaction. I’ve seen the Mad Cads a few times over the years and this was possibly the best they’ve been. I prefer the older material to the newer songs, but they’re a great tight band and a lot of fun live. (9)

FAILSAFE, on the other hand, don’t get the same crowd but are equally as brilliant. There’s an aggressive edge to their live show which doesn’t come across on CD, but each song is played with a furious energy which does get the medium-sized gathering very, very excited indeed. ‘Unity In Progress’ is fan-fucking-tastic, a word which actually sums up the entire set. One of the UK’s best live bands and deservedly on the line-up. (9)

I’ve seen SONIC BOOM SIX a number of times over the years, but haven’t seen them for about 18 months – their time playing on bigger bills really has paid off. SB6 own the stage, probably get the best reaction of the entire day and, put simply, could well be the UK’s most entertaining live act. And, I’ll be honest, I don’t even ‘get’ every single part of their sound. But their among the most interesting and unique bands around and deservedly lap up every single second. Band of the day? Quite probably. (9.5)

PARAMORE are like marmite – you love them or you hate them. I love them and while the band are no more than Hayley and a backing band, complete with choerographed headbanging and jumping, they’re a great pop band on the crest of a wave. There aren’t many bands bigger than Paramore right now and new record ‘Riot’ will send them supernova. ‘Misery Business’ kicks things off in style and the band run through four new songs and a stack of older ones. ‘Woah’ is brilliant, the crowd love it. Not the greatest set of the day – although probably the most contrived – but a lot of fun nonetheless. And Hayley is a fantastic show(wo)man. (8)

I’ve seen REEL BIG FISH many, many times in the last 10 years and they’ve been fantastic and awful in equal measure. This performance, however, rolls back the years. And while their 80-minute set was a little long for me – 3 covers, no less – they’re extremely fun when they’re on form. A couple of new songs are aired which sound promising, harking back to the brassy pop-ska sound they nailed during the ‘Beer’ years, while ‘Sell Out’ and many others go down a treat. Laila SB6 guests, Hayley Paramore makes a brief skanking appearance – although we say her windmilling in the VIP section – and fun is had by all. It kind of tops off a very successful day, the best Slam Dunk Fest by far and a vindication of moving it inside. here’s to 2008.