Slam Dunk Festival – The Review

Slam Dunk Festival – The Review

As I queue up to collect my wristband outside Leeds Art Gallery on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I can barely contain my excitement. I am in one of my favourite cities in the north of England, well away from the mundane repetitiveness that comes with working on a weekend, about to see as many great bands as I possibly can. I stand in the line, going over my day plan for who I want to see, and where they are all playing.

As I head through into the festival, me and the group of friends I am with part ways. Three of them go off to see pop punk tinged alt-rockers Moose Blood, while the other member of our group goes off to see Bethan Leadley for some reason. I however, have a different plan. I start off towards Leeds Beckett SU, which is housing the Impericon Stage this year, and the first band of the day, is The One Hundred. In terms of genre, this band are so hard to pin down, mixing elements of rap, electronica, punk and metalcore to create an incredibly unique sound. As I make my way through to the stage, I notice that the room is much fuller than I had anticipated, with well over 400 people in attendance, far more than you would expect for a relatively small, unsigned band from London at 13.30 in the afternoon.

I first saw this band supporting Hacktivist (who we will talk about later) at the tiny venue that is Sheffield Corporation, and they are just as electrifying as they were then. They open with ‘Downfall’ and then go into fan favourite ‘Breed’, which gets the pits going and everybody jumping. Their set is only 7 songs long, but they put everything they have into it, with vocalist Jacob Field displaying his expert showmanship all while going through every vocal style imaginable (bar Mongolian throat singing, which he can probably do) without ever missing a beat.

7/10

I walk out of Leeds Beckett SU and head towards the Atlas Stage, hoping for more of the quality of performance I have just seen from The One Hundred, and I was not disappointed. By the time I get to the stage, I have missed the first two songs of The Word Alive’s set, however I was not missing out too much, as they launched into ‘Trapped’ off latest album Dark Matter. Telle Smith’s vocals have certainly improved in the last couple of years, and on record they really do not do themselves justice, because live they are INSANE. Smith broke his back and fractured several of his ribs in November last year, but as he leaps around on stage the thought doesn’t even cross my mind. The delivery of his clean vocals is quite astounding, as is his stage presence, which is absolutely riveting.

7.5/10

As the crowds disperse, I realise I have no bands planned for the next hour or so, and one of my group suggests we go and see Astroid Boys, a Welsh Rap Collective from Cardiff, who are playing on the Uprawr Stage, which is being held in an underground car park.You know that scene in Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift where that guy who isn’t Paul Walker or Vin Diesel (So you don’t really care, let’s be honest) drives down into that underground car park and everyone is dancing and revving their Supras and Evos? throw in a few hundred pissed up northerners, some MDMA and a lot of strobe lights and it was kinda like that. But without the cars. Astroid Boys start their set, their blend of grime and rap mixed with a bit of hardcore goes down a treat, one minute you are skanking with the best of them, next you are throwing down in the pits. Tracks ‘Dusted’ and ‘Minging’ are played as a bit of fan service after much chanting and clapping, and they go down a treat, followed by another fan favourite ‘Taylor Swift’. Astroid Boys entire shtick is chaotic music with very few boundaries, and that is exactly how the entire experience can be described. And it was one of the most entertaining performances I have ever witnessed, be sure to check them out if you can.

7.5/10

After a slight break from it all, we headed over to see what would turn out to be the best performance of the festival: Northlane. Some bands are best suited to record, others to playing live. And then there are some you think would be better on record, then you see them live and they hit you like a juggernaut and completely melt your face and destroy your eardrums. Northlane are one of those bands. I entered the stage with some trepidation, as I had preferred their work while former vocalist Adrian Fitipaldes was a member, and while new vocalist Marcus Bridge had the voice of an angel, His unclean vocals were no match for the raw power possessed by Fitipaldes, at least on record. As I settled in for an enjoyable yet fairly tame performance, I was immediately (and pleasantly) proven wrong. They open with my favourite track, ‘Dispossession’ and I am immediately on board. Marcus Bridge’ unclean vocals have come on leaps and bounds, and I instantly forget all preconceptions and enjoy the ride. Their live performance injects new life into tracks ‘Rot’ and ‘Obelisk’ while ‘Quantum Flux’ has all the crushing power it does on record. Certainly the best band of the day, and I will not hesitate to go see them again.

9/10

Next on our list is Hacktivist, a band I hold near and dear. Their curious blend of djent and grime gets everyone moving as they open with ‘Hate’ before going into the slightly more melodic ‘False Idols’. Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari makes an appearance on ‘Taken’ while guitarist Timfy James’ former bandmate Jamie Graham takes to the stage during ‘Deceive and Defy’, which certainly gives the set some colour, however over all I am slightly disappointed. While Hacktivist are a great band, this time around, there seems to be something missing. Jay Hurley is not in time on occasion and Timfy seems to forget that Rou doesn’t come into the song until the second chorus. This really took me out of the performance, and these small yet noticeable mistakes slightly tarnish it. A good set, but could be a lot better.

6.5/10

We stick around for Cancer Bats, who deliver their own brand of hardcore punk in spectacular fashion, with ‘Hail Destroyer’ and their strange mashup of ‘Sabotage’ by the Beastie Boys and ‘Children of the Grave’ by Black Sabbath being the highlights of the set. Liam Cormier is his usual crazy self and jumps and leaps around like a man possessed, and his banterous remarks between songs are always sure to induce at least a mild chuckle. His impression of a Yorkshire accent was both hilarious and dreadful, and it all added to the show. Despite being a bit older than most of the bands we see, they prove they are just as young and crazy at heart, if not more so.

8/10

We make our final pilgrimage back to the Atlas Stage to see the headliners: Of Mice & Men. This is the band we had been waiting for. They open with ‘Bones Exposed’ which no doubt will cause many sore necks in the morning, as will next track ‘Feels Like Forever’. Sadly, the band are plagued by sound issues, the speakers cutting out constantly. But they power through it, and when the issues are eventually resolved, they absolutely tear the place down. Old fan faves ‘Second & Sebring’ and ‘The Depths’ go down as you would imagine, with thunderous applause and the sound of several thousand people singing along. Vocalist Austin Carlisle goes from intimidating presence to smiley singer in seconds, showing that as well as a fantastic vocalist and lyricist, he has the showmanship to go with it.

8/10

Chilli Peanut Butter Chicken

Chilli Peanut Butter Chicken

This delicious dish has become one of my go to meals in the past few weeks, it is really tasty and filling, and is an absolute doddle to prepare. I recently decided to start going back to the gym and being a little more health conscious, and this great little protein booster is one of my favourite dishes that I have been making since.

Serves 2 

Ingredients

2 large chicken breasts, scored

200 g crunchy peanut butter

2 red chillies, deseeded and chopped finely

150 ml chicken stock

1 1/4 tbsp. dark soy sauce

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. sugar

Handful of chopped Spring Onions (Garnish)

Salt

Pepper

Sesame Oil

Firstly, preheat your oven to 200C/180C fan/350f/Gas Mark 6, then add around a tbsp. of sesame oil to a medium sized frying pan on a high heat. Rub a little salt and pepper into the scored chicken breasts before adding to the pan. Fry for no longer than 2 minutes on each side, This gives the chicken a nice golden colour and helps retain flavour, while scoring the chicken speeds up the cooking time. After frying, add the chicken to a small roasting tin and place in the oven for approximately 20 minutes.

While the chicken is in the oven, add the soy sauce, sugar, garlic powder and 1 1/2 chillies into a small saucepan on a low heat, stirring gently. do this until the sugar has dissiolved and the chillies are lightly caramelised, before adding the peanut butter. continue to stir gently and then start adding the stock. add slowly, all the while stirring with the peanut butter to create a thick sauce.

When the chicken is cooked, serve onto plates before pouring the peanut butter sauce over the top, garnishing with the remaining chillies and spring onions. There are many side dishes which complement this, I tend to serve it with brown rice and roasted sweet potato, However it works equally well with noodles (particularly Udon) and Butternut squash.

Easy Cheesy Daupinois Potatoes

Easy Cheesy Daupinois Potatoes

Ah the noble potato. Possibly the most versatile little tuber to ever appear on a menu, it is a common accompaniment to many meals around the globe, and rightly so: the possibilities are endless. But many people’s use of potatoes is very limited, which is a shame, because most people only, to quote Samwise Gamgee: “Boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew”. It is far easier to get frozen chips and roast potatoes, so many people don’t even consider making those themselves. So here is a recipe that takes around 30 minutes to prep and takes no longer in the oven than a tray of oven chips.

Serves 4 

Ingredients

6 large washed and peeled potatoes

125 g sharp cheddar cheese

25 g butter

1 tbsp. plain flour

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

200 ml milk

Salt

Black pepper

Firstly, halve your peeled and washed potatoes before adding to a large pan of boiling, salted water and put the lid on. Boil these for around 20 minutes while you prep your other ingredients. Finely grate all your cheese and place to the side. Then get a suitably sized oven proof dish and grease it thoroughly. Then, in a small saucepan, add your butter, flour and garlic powder before stirring vigorously on a medium heat, creating a nice roux. Add your milk and stir slowly for a minute. Then slowly start adding around 50 g of the cheddar, stirring the whole time. Add salt and pepper to taste.

By this time the potatoes should be ready. Drain them and add a small amount of cold water to the pan, before draining this too and setting them aside for a couple of minutes. This helps the potatoes cool slightly quicker. This would be a good time to preheat the oven to around 180c/350f. When they are sufficiently cooled, thinly slice them, before adding to the dish evenly. between every layer of potato, add a sprinkle of cheddar, ensuring you have at least 25 g left over for the top. Then add the cheese sauce over the top and add the last of the cheese. Place the Potato Dauphinois in the centre of the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, before whacking under the grill for 5 minutes to brown on top.

Leave to settle for 5 minutes before serving. This is a great accompaniment to many dishes, particularly roast lamb and chicken wrapped in bacon. A nice alternative is to substitute the potato for celeriac, and add a little paprika to the sauce.

Lonely the Brave – Rattlesnakes Single Review

Lonely the Brave – Rattlesnakes Single Review

Cambridge stadium rockers Lonely the Brave have just dropped their new single Rattlesnakes, off forthcoming album Things Will Matter. This is their sophomore album following their monumental debut The Day’s War, one of my favourite albums of 2014. And if this single is anything to go by, Things Will Matter will be just as good.

The song starts off with a simple yet catchy guitar riff, followed by David Jakes haunting vocals. His peculiar voice is incredibly distinctive and makes them stand out from the numerous stadium-esque alternative Rock bands that seem to be all around us. There is almost certainly an Eddie Vedder influence on his style, an amazing vocalist in his own right.

The vocals seem quite quiet in the mix, although this may be intentional as during live shows Jakes is at the back near the drummer, as he has reservations about being a typical ‘frontman’. This could have influenced how the track was mixed, which although not displeasing is certainly unusual in most circumstances (unless you are in a Lo Fi band).

The riff at the end of each chorus and in the bridge has a very Biffy Clyro vibe, which is unsurprising as they are essentially their southern counterparts in many ways. Both bands being influenced by genres such as Math Rock and Grunge while putting a more radio friendly spin on it. The track builds up to a powerful crescendo, before fading out, leaving you wanting more. It clocks in at a short and sweet 3 mins 28 secs, a bit shorter than most tracks on their debut, but no worse off for it.

With that catchy riff and a soaring voice such as the one David Jakes is in possession of, you can not go too far wrong when belting out catchy radio friendly tracks such as this. The simplicity and honesty of this band, coupled with their ability to write a great hook are what make this band one to watch in the future.

7.5/10

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Dark Neccesities Single Review

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Dark Neccesities Single Review

As soon as I heard there was a new RHCP single out, I am pretty sure I let out a squeal of delight. I was introduced to Red Hot Chili Peppers at a young age and have loved them ever since. When Stadium Arcadium came out I was hooked, when I found out I’m With You was coming out, I pre-ordered it straight away. Well, I doubt that will be happening with new album Getaway, if their new single is anything to go off.

The track starts out with this melancholy bass line that sounds promising, not in the slightest reminiscent of that sweet funk we have come to expect from Flea, but it had me interested: were we returning to some of the slightly darker themes of Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik? Was this a resurgence of that stripped down back to basics sound of Californication? Or was it something new?  some quiet guitar triplets come in, all good so far, then the piano started. When it comes to RHCP, not historically great. They have always seemed to work best as one guitarist, one drummer, Anthony Kiedis beautiful vocals and the almighty Flea.

Then the piano fades and Flea shows us that his funk roots are still there with a catchy bass line that gets you back into the swing of things, only to have it all come crashing down with more piano and now some strings as well. Anthony Kiedis comes in with his beautiful lilting vocal, although even he does not live up to his potential on this track. Flea’s bass work on this is completely fine, but it is mostly drowned out by the additional instrumentation. Josh Klinghoffer’s guitar work is probably the best thing about this track, with the verse and chorus being very reminiscent of his predecessor John Frusciante’s style of minimalist riffing, and he churns out a half decent solo in the last minute of the track, but whatever it is he is playing in the bridge, it is plain annoying.

Overall I found this track fairly disappointing. The track seems crowded, with the strings and piano feeling out of place and unnecessary. Kiedis is a fantastic vocalist, but there just seems to be something lacking in this song, While I’m With You certainly had its flaws, his vocals were never called into question on that album. The arrangement seems very haphazard and lacks any of the great elements that set RHCP apart other than Flea. It honestly sounds like what The Script would come up with if you asked them to write a Red Hot Chili Peppers track. Hopefully the album will have something else that will pique my interest.

4.5/10

Amaretto Iced Tea

Amaretto Iced Tea

With Summer just around the corner, its time to ditch the cups of tea while snuggled up on the sofa watching Netflix, and get outside in the sun, while cradling something a little more refreshing. Now, I know there will be a few of you who are reluctant to ditch your brew and biscuit, so I have provided this easy cocktail for all the tea lovers out there.

Serves 1

Ingredients:

300 ml of boiling water

1 black tea bag (around 6g if using loose leaf)

a small lemon

75 ml of Amaretto liqueur (Disaronno or similar)

3 tsp. of brown sugar

Plenty of ice

The first thing you need to do is get some ice on the go if you don’t have any ready made. Depending on the size of your ice cubes give them 2-3 hours at least.

So place your tea/teabag and the boiling water into your teapot and steep for around 10 minutes. Remember the ice will dilute it slightly so do not panic if it seems a little stronger than you would normally have it. Then remove the teabag or transfer the tea into another container if using loose leaf. Then add your sugar, stirring thoroughly. After this cut your lemon in half, squeezing the juice of one half into the tea.

To measure the Amaretto use a cocktail jigger, or if you don’t have one to hand a shot glass will do. Your average shot is 25 ml (35 ml in some countries) so if you use 3 it works out perfectly. So add 25 ml of Amaretto to the tea and leave to cool for about an hour. This lets the tea settle and also ensures all the ice does not melt immediately, leaving you with a weak watered down swill rather than the glorious refreshment it is supposed to be.

When the tea is sufficiently cooled, add your ice, the other 50 ml of Amaretto and a thick slice of lemon to garnish. Give it a good stir and enjoy in whatever outside space you possibly can.

Creamy Bacon and Red Onion Pasta

Creamy Bacon and Red Onion Pasta

This pasta dish is wonderfully creamy and indulgent, with 4 of my very favourite ingredients; bacon, garlic, cheese and a good splash of alcohol. The sauce, while no friend to your waistline is very versatile, and works equally well over some grilled chicken breasts with griddled asparagus.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

450g of pasta such as fusili or rigatoni

8 rashers of smoked back bacon, diced

1 large red onion, finely sliced

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

200ml of cream

100ml of chicken stock

100ml of white wine

50g grated Parmesan

15g of butter

1 tbsp. of plain flour

1 tsp. dried parsley

1 tsp. of sugar

Olive Oil

Black pepper

First of all, heat a medium sized frying pan with 1 tbsp. of olive oil, before adding the bacon. Gently fry for a minute before adding half the onion, stirring gently for another minute. at this point you want to turn the heat down a bit before adding a tsp. of sugar. This is just to very lightly caramelise the mixture. add some black pepper and stir occasionally. Meanwhile add the pasta to a large pan, a pinch of salt and a quick drizzle of olive oil. Then add boiling water until the pasta is covered and put on a medium heat. After this, take the bacon and onions off the heat and leave to one side.

Now onto the sauce. Firstly melt the butter in a medium saucepan before adding the garlic, 1 tbsp. of olive oil and a pinch of black pepper. stir vigorously for 30 seconds before adding the flour, again mixing vigorously to create a roux. then add the chicken stock, cream and the wine. For the best results, use a nice dry white wine, and remember, never use a wine you would not drink. lower the heat and stir gently for 2 minutes. Then, slowly add the parmesan and finally the parsley, stirring all the while.

The next thing you need to do is bring the bacon back on a high heat for a minute, adding the rest of the onions, which you want to retain a bit of bite. By this time the pasta should be cooked, so drain and put to the side. Then add the bacon and onions to the sauce and reduce down over a high heat. Then mix in with the pasta and serve. Add some black pepper and serve with some nice peppery rocket.