Festival Review: Slam Dunk Italy

Published on 14 July 2023 at 21:32

By Craig McInnes


As many all know, Slam Dunk Festival is one of most well known festivals of this particular scene and within the U.K. it’s one of the most anticipated days out of the year whether you go to Leeds or down south in Hatfield. This year we were in for a special treat as the festival organisers were taking things international as they announced visits to France and also a trip to the beach as they took over Bay Arena, Bellaria Igea Marina in Rimini, Italy. 


I took the trip over to Italy for this very special and momentous occasion to not only see Europe's first Slam Dunk, but to also attend my first European festival - I mean what’s not to love, a festival in the sun, on a beach with a killer lineup filled with mostly acts I’ve never seen before who have lay on my bucket list since I was a kid so for me personally, this was shaped to be a massive weekend. 


The location of this event was seriously stunning. Placed in the middle of Beky Bay with the gorgeous backdrop of sand and sea with the views of trees separating the festival from on looking hotels in the area. It had a very different feel to the usual mud back home but I for one felt more at peace knowing  the use of wellies wouldn’t be a concern here - however the sand filled shoes were a different issue entirely, even to this day I’m still finding little grains here and there. 


With the festival being over 3 days and absolutely no clashes (amazing huh?), it’s hard to capture the full event in just one review. I'll be discussing my top 5 bands across the weekend plus some stand out talking points that have hopefully made Slam Dunk Italy a yearly event. 


To start, the Thursday night saw the opening party, with a later start and fewer bands on the bill, but still a strong start to the weekend - with their recent news of their incredible journey coming to an end, pop punk icons Sum 41 took to the main stage for the last headline festival shows you’ll see them do. Being one of the last, it added that extra emotion to the set and as a long term fan, the emotions were certainly pouring from me in the crowd. 


The sun setting beautifully over night, one of the festival's very first outings and an iconic pop punk band taking to the stage is just a fitting mix. Opening with Motivation straight into The Hell Song is a real stunning thing to witness - the crowd are instantly causing all sorts of chaos as the dust rises to the clouds. Between the pyro & fire on stage and the sun burning on me, this evening is a certainty to be a hot one for all. The carnage continues as the classics are continuously pumped out, We’re All To Blame, Fake My Own Death and Underclass Hero all received the same reactions as the last song before Walking Disaster closes off the first half of the set. 


It’s the emotional, slow part of the set that sees With Me and Pieces both bring the crowd to a stand still but in complete unison as they all scream word for word with such passion. Even with a set filled with constant classics, the band stick to regular protocol as they drop their usual cover of Queens We Will Rock You before closing off their stunning night with Fat Lip and Still Waiting. To see this band announce they’re rounding their career off is a heartbreaking read. To be able to be part of their farewell journey is a special feeling and one that will be cherished. 



The Friday highlight saw British royalty take to the stage and put on a classic punk rock show. Frank Turner brought his Sleeping Souls along for a night of fun, dancing and iconic singalongs - any show by Frank is guaranteed to leave you desperate for more, a true iconic of the music scene. 


The thing I love the most about Frank is regardless if you know his music or not, you’ll be involved in his show in one way or another and just have the best time. The energy from the stage instantly spreads to the crowd and the engagement is so wholesome to witness. Songs like 1933, Recovery & Get Better all setting the crowd off into mosh pits, and country mixed with punk rock pits are endless fun let me say. The closing songs of the set were pretty special - I Still Believe always gets the feels going in ways other songs can’t, another song that means so much in Polaroid Picture, a song the ends with simple yet effective lyrics “Let go of the little distractions, hold close to the ones that you love, because we won't all be here this time next year, while you can take a picture of us” - lyrics that have stuck with me since I first heard them and when I can, take those photos that will last a lifetime. 


Saturday rolls in and it’s sadly the final day of music but a day that is jam packed with goodness from opening right through the day. St Albans rockers Trash Boat bring the action to the Beky Bay stage - with stunning views of the beach, ocean & palm trees, it’s an unusual setting to be watching a heavier band but I’m absolutely all for it. The best thing about this festival is the no clashing and it gives bands the chance to play to an audience who may not know them, the crowd gathered for Trash Boat was massive and exactly what I wanted to see for these boys. 


Singer Tobi Duncan leaps on to the stage and the band kick in with early days classic Strangers and the crowd are instantly on board. Next up see’s more recent sounds and one of the best collaborations in the scene with Wargasm’s Milkey Way, Bad Entertainment landed in our ears in 2021 as a hit at how things are wrongfully viewed in the media rather than an accurate representation. Cover time and ever since the band dropped this as part of Songs That Saved My Life, it’s become a regular and every time it’s crushed. Linkin Park's Given Up gets the loudest reception and Tobi’s vocals on this just get better and better, that notable 17 second scream slaps every time. 


The band then closed off a sick set with album three titled Don’t You Feel Amazing followed by He’s So Good. A fitting closer because this set was one of the highlights of the weekend and left me feeling amazing! 



From English rising stars, to Canadian heroes who have grown to be one of the most iconic names in pop punk with notable songs that relate so well to when we were young little emo kids - Simple Plan


When the lineup dropped my eyes were instantly drawn to this band. For as long as I can remember I’ve always loved Simple Plan and the idea of seeing them for the first time on a beach in Italy just felt incredibly wholesome in some way. Walking out to the theme tune of Star Wars and kicking straight off with I’d Do Anything, the screams of the crowd were deafening seconds into those first chords. Shut Up closely follows and the energy from the crowd is a thing to behold.


Welcome To My Life is one of those special songs that just connect instantly when you first hear it. Released in 2014, the song was written about feeling lost and unwanted and the frustrations of being a teenager and how no one understands. It’s a song that for me and many others hits hard and to hear live was a surreal experience. Where I Belong & the classic I’m Just a Kid follow, before playing singer Pierre Bouvier thanks the TikTok stars for getting the song famous again (let’s be serious, it’s always been our anthem and always will be). To conclude, the set it’s rounded off by a sneak cover of What’s New Scooby-Doo? Yeah really they played this live and it was incredible - fittingly ending with Perfect, the best way to sum up how that set was. At that point, everything just felt perfect. 


Another St Albans representative on the bill to close off the Beky Bay stage - after huge headline shows in Hatfield and Leeds, Enter Shikari bring another headline performance to the second stage in Italy. The production, the set and performance at England’s Slam Dunk will go down in the festival's history for sure and the excitement for this show was beyond anything I’ve felt for this band before. 


As the backdrop screen lights up with flames, you know exactly what’s coming. Straight off their first number one album, (pls) Set Me On Fire opens and the crowd are straight away kicking off, the vibes are insane! Straight into Labyrinth causing even more chaos, nowhere stood still. Album title and opening track A Kiss For the Whole World x comes next before a slight bit of calm for Satellites. 


One thing that is certain to cause the ultimate pit is the quick fire round - if you know, you know. 4 songs, seven minutes, one big mosh pit. There was no holding back from this Italian crowd for this and it’s exactly what I wanted. Havoc B, Bull, The Last Garrison & rounded off by the 2023 remix of Sorry You’re Not a Winner concluded the madness - this was as insane as I’ve ever experienced the quick fire round to the extent I burst my shoe open. Live Outside followed by The Dreamers Hotel closes the insanity off with a huge crowd bounce and singalong. 


For their first year trying this festival abroad, the organisers of Slam Dunk have nailed it. An incredible lineup in such a perfect setting of Bay Arena, chilling on a beach by day and moshing to iconic punk rock at night just gives you that special happiness in life. 


A huge congratulations to the organisers of the festival for such a massive success in year one and I for one hope they will make a return again in 2024. 


See you in the sand? 

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