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Slam Dunk Festival Diaries: Area 11


The room which last year hosted the Kerrang! Fresh Blood Stage, which has now been rebranded as the RockSound Breakout Stage for this year’s festival, is a room full of new discoveries for me, as the place where I discovered With Confidence at their first UK festival after their support run for As It Is last year, as well as Waterparks, at their first ever UK show exactly one year ago. However, for the band I was here to see this year, the exact opposite is true, as they were actually the first band I ever fell in love with all the way back in 2013, and who I have been following ever since: Bristol-based quartet Area 11, whose sound encompasses elements of alt rock, post hardcore and electronica, all wrapped up in wonderfully intricate, futuristic world that illustrates the creative vision as well as musical talent of its members- frontman Tom Clarke, better known by the moniker Sparkles*; guitarist Alex Parvis; drummer Leo Taylor; and bassist Jonathon Kogan.

The intimate atmosphere of the room was exactly what I have come to expect from Area 11 shows, and much of the small crowd in the room were familiar faces who I had seen and spoken to at previous shows! However, there were many new faces too, faces which lit up with smiles when the band took to the stage and came crashing in with the opening notes of ‘The Contract’ taken from their latest album ‘Modern Synthesis’, with its quavering bassline tinged with anticipation that breaks into groove-filled verses and lyrics that reflect this band’s proud rejection of the confines of major record labels and their drive to remain true to their creative vision for their band and its sound. After only a little prodding on Twitter from yours truly, Area 11 agreed to play their old pop punk inspired classic ‘Cassandra (pt ||)’, and the response was deafening, the heat in the room no barrier to a wild crowd response as a small but rowdy circle pit opened up around the columns behind me, and Sparkles* came down to the barrier, joy written all over his face as the small crowd of Elevens clustered around the barrier sang back every word in time with his own soaring vocals with passion and vigour! Delving even deeper back into the archives of their musical repertoire, the band shook the room to its core with ‘In the Blind’, a track that showcased their incredible use of electronic layers to elevate their powerful alt rock style, and the gut punching power of their infectiously bouncy closer ‘Heaven-Piercing Giga Drill’ lit sparks in the pit of your stomach as the crowd screamed at the top of their lungs ‘Who the hell do you think we are?!’, all of us sweaty and out of breath, and yet nobody could care less about any of that as everyone tore themselves reluctantly away from the stage, smiles of every face and excitable chatter floating over the heads of the slowly dispersing crowd.

Every time I write something about this band and reflect on their music in terms of its intricacy and craftsmanship as well as the emotional impact it is impossible not to feel when listening to their songs, I am always astonished that they are so underappreciated for the amount of skill and talent they all have. Their sound is something entirely unique, their refusal to compromise or be changed by the demands of any one genre, any one record label is something to be greatly admired, and the love and appreciation they have for their fans outstrips any other band I have ever come across. But what is even more special for me is the love and acceptance of the community of Elevens that surround the band- whether it be delivering messages to the band from those who cannot meet them, asking for songs to be played that mean everything to so many fans or just generally being open and supportive of anyone and everyone who finds themselves in this strange little corner of the music world, the Elevens are a not just a community, they are a family, and one that this performance at Slam Dunk made me even more proud to be a part of. Don’t sleep on this band, because mark my words, they are on the verge of something earth-shattering!

​Area 11’s second album ‘Modern Synthesis’ is out now.

Area 11’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/area11band/
​Area 11’s Twitter: @Area11Band

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Glenn van den Bosch