Live Review: Slam Dunk Winter Jam Tour, 26/01/24

London's Electric Ballroom hosts a kind of pre-Slam Dunk warm up on a cold January night with an epic four band lineup!

The fun-filled day out that is Slam Dunk Festival is still a good four months away, and we’re getting impatient!

Luckily the organisers have realised we need a little cheering up on these winter nights, so they’ve rounded up four bands who’ve played the festival in recent years and brought them together for a brief jaunt around the UK.

Tonight, the Electric Ballroom is either sold-out or very close, and there’s a sense that folks are ready to unleash some pent-up energy at what may well be their first gig of the year. 

If a painfully early 6:30pm start is the Goliath of tasks, then Millie Manders And The Shut Up are David slinging a rock right between the giant’s eyes. And my goodness, do they knock him out. Millie herself has become confident almost (but not quite) to the point of cockiness, and that’s probably because she knows just how damn good the likes of ‘Not OK’ and ‘Bitter’ (complete with some great call-and-response vocal action from the crowd) are. They deserve to be higher up the bill, but then that’s true for just about everywhere they play these days. 

Millie Manders and The Shut Up. Electric Ballroom, 26/01/24. Pic by Alex Goose.

Some of veteran ska-punks Spunge’s material has dated better than the rest, and to be honest, we don’t really need a bunch of guys in their late 40s/early 50s singing (or talking) about threesomes. Elsewhere, however, the likes of ‘Jump On Demand’, ‘Skanking Song’ and – of course – ‘Kicking Pigeons’ – make us bounce like caffeinated kangaroos. Of all the bands on the bill, they’re probably the best suited to a summer afternoon, and manage to bring some musical sunshine to the Ballroom on a bitterly chilly evening.

Spunge, Electric Ballroom, 26/01. Pic by Alex Goose.

The moment Teenage Bottlerocket hit the stage, they press the ‘GO’ button and rarely let up. And hey, why would they with this many quality tunes and this short a set time? The pit bursts into action, and so it should; this is punk rock in the spirit of the Ramones, stripped of all unnecessary excess and played with maximum enthusiasm.

Truly, from somewhere up there, Joey and da bruddas are looking down and nodding in approval. Be it with the breakneck speed ‘Fatso Goes Nutzoid’ or the punchy power pop of ‘They Call Me Steve’, Teenage Bottlerocket simply can’t fail tonight, and they raise the bar in fine style. 

Teenage Bottlerocket, Electric Ballroom, 26/01. Pic by Alex Goose

Ultimately, headliners Zebrahead can’t quite measure up. They certainly aren’t helped by Ali Tabatabaee’s annoying stage patter; this is a man who comes across as someone who’d be lining up the Jäger Bombs when all you want is a quiet pint. There are plenty of folks in Zebrahead t-shirts here, so perhaps the problem is us, but it’s hard to imagine these guys being anyone’s favourite band. There’s nothing really wrong with songs like ‘Anthem’ and ‘Hell Yeah’; it’s just that their genre-hopping approach constantly recalls other, better bands. 

Something of an anti-climax, for sure, but no great disappointment on what has been, overall, a great evening. Now all that’s left is to sit back and look forward to Slam Dunk Festival. We have a feeling that it’s going to be a loooooooong four months…

Slam Dunk Festival 2024 will take place on Saturday 25th May at Hatfield Park, Herts and then on Sunday 26th May at Leeds Temple Newsam. For ticket and lineup info, look HERE

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