Review by Emma Torkington and Photo Copyright @ Christopher Ryan
Slam Dunk started out as a pop-punk club night at The Cockpit, Leeds in the early 00’s. Out of the success of the club night Slam Dunk started putting on international touring artists from the genre like Fallout Boy, Paramore and Panic! at The Disco in Leeds, before developing Slam Dunk Festival. Slam Dunk Festival is now the number one pop-punk, rock and alternative festival in the UK spanning three sites.
Sunday’s festival is in Hatfield.The arena had 9 stages all located in the beautiful setting of Temple Newsam Park just outside of Leeds centre.
The first artist I saw was William Ryan King performing an acoustic set on the Marshall stage. The front man from 00’s rock band Yellowcard, was doing a flashback to some of the old Yellowcard classics. Whilst I thought he would be playing his solo album it was great to hear some of his older material. As it was still early I thought the crowd would not be into it yet, I was mistaken. The entire crowd was singing along, cheering and clapping. William Ryan King really took me by surprise and has not lost that great voice that I remember being a Yellowcard fan.
The first band on at the Impericon stage was Angel Du$t, a heavy punk rock band. Personally I have heard of the name but not heard the music, so I was very excited to see them, and they kicked off the rock stages with a huge bang. The crowd was with them from start to finish. If you have not heard this band I urge you to go check them out if you like your music heavy, with that funky vibe.
Next up on the Dickies stage was Milk Teeth, a UK based punk band. Their uplifting sound and poignant lyrics make watching them live a memorable experience. The crowd started off on the smaller side but by the middle of the set the crowd had grown to take over the top of the hill where the stages where located. An amazing UK band that if you get the chance to see, I suggest you do.
Back in the metal tent, where the two stages Impericon, and Jagermeister are located. This unique set up means that no two bands clash, and with the stages facing each other you do not have to run to the other end of the complex to see the next band.
Next up was The Plot in You an American metalcore band. Front man Landon Tewers walks on stage, starts to sing, then midway through the song the rest of the band joins him. From a fan point of view this is such a great way to build the audience up. The Plot in You was one of the heavier bands I have seen but it fit in well with the line up for this stage.
Next up was Anti Flag. As I stood waiting for this iconic punk band to walk on I am in a sea of mohawks, tartan, and wonderful people, if this stage is anything to go by Punk is not dead. Anti Flag walk in stage to an upside down American flag as their backdrop. This politically charged band that stands for equal rights, anti war and anti-imperialism know how to make you stand up and listen. It is so rare now to hear lyrics that make you think about the state of this world and Anti flag do just that. You stand up, you listen and want to take action for what is going on today. Justin Sane comes on the mic and shouts “Let’s wake the f*** up together” to which the whole crowd erupts into cheers. The set continues in the same way, the thoughtful lyrics, great guitar riffs and gut hitting drums. After this set if you were not awake before you definitely are now!
Back to the Monster stage (main stage), just in time to catch Boston Manor. As the band walks on, I am a little bit taken aback by what their outfits are. All members of the band are wearing balaclavas. It is a shocking aspect but it does capture you and makes you watch. The main area in front of the stage is packed with excited fans. As the band plays the pits get bigger and bigger. The front man encourages the circle pits to be bigger, and then he finishes a song in the pit with the crowd. It was amazing to watch and a little exciting to see. This Blackpool band is one to watch!
During the Boston Manor I notice a band has been added to the Key Club stage that I had not seen on the map before today called Y3K, is this the mystery band that Slam Dunk said about on twitter? As I run over, I am stunned at what I hear, its Busted! The tent was packed with people as excited and happy as I was. Who says you can’t be surprised at a lineup after its announced?
After this unexpected yet fun add, I head over to catch Wage War on the Jagermeister stage. The metalcore band from Florida are nothing short of fantastic! The deep growling vocals, the hard hitting drums to the fans watching. Another band I will be adding to my playlist. Next is a short sprint from Jagermeister stage to Marshall stage for Australian Pop punk band Trophy Eyes. Trophy eyes are a great all round pop punk band, with their easy listening sound and upbeat lyrics. It takes me back to the pop punk era of the early 00’s.
Back over the hill to the Impericon stage for something a lot heavier, Turnstile where on. The hardcore punk band from Baltimore made a huge impact as soon as they walked on stage. The crowd was cheering, pits opened up within a few notes of the songs. The lead vocalist Brendan Yates stated to climb the support structure of the tent whilst singing! People are stood outside the tent just to listen to them, as the entire tent is packed! If you like your hardcore punk go give these guys a listen you will not be disappointed.
Heading up monster stage was British-American rock band As It Is. The band being an obvious crowd favourite as all I could see from the hill was a sea of people. I have heard of how great this band was and I was not disappointed. The band aesthetic does remind me of early My Chemical Romance, with the black suit jackets and red shirts. Lead singer Patty Walters lets the crowd know that this is their 600th show, which is nothing short of fantastic. Their sound is very much in the rock genre, it is a band that is really easy to get into and enjoy the show.
On the Dickies stage was Tigers Jaw from the States. This easy listening band, was a welcome change to the heavy sounds on main stage. With joint male and female harmonies it was no surprise that Tigers Jaw attracted a large crowd. As I was looking around even the ice cream man had come out of the van to listen better.
However no rest for the wicked I was back over to the Jagermeister stage for The World Alive. From the get go this metalcore band captured your attention with their high energy approach and hard hitting drums. Not even halfway through the first song there was crowd surfers up and over the barrier. The entire tent was packed and even people standing outside just to get a glimpse of the band. If you ever get the chance to see The World Alive, I urge you to do it, you will not regret it.
Over the hill at the Marshall stage was Canadian band Seaway, this pop punk band have such an infectious sound that you will want to stay and dance with them all. The band keep telling the crowd to pull it in nice and tight so they can see us all. All around me people are dancing, nodding along to the lyrics. Another band that just makes you smile and want to know more about them.
Time to head back to the Impericon stage for Cancer Bats. I have heard so many good things about their live shows and I was hoping this would be the same. I was not disappointed! The tent was so packed you could not move, the pits opened up very quickly, and you can’t help but jump along with the band. With crowd favourites being played like Hail Destroyer, and their intro song being the Black Sabbath Cover of War Pigs. Cancer bats did deliver on being one of the best bands I have seen today!
Making my way to the Key Club stage, I look over the the Monster stage and see that Waterparks are on. The pop rock/pop punk band are a band that can make an arena like Slam Dunk feel like an intimate gig. The crowd is packed tight in front of the main stage with more and more people coming in to get a better view. With Awsten Knight bright green hair lighting up the stage you struggle to miss this amazing band.
Also on the Key club stage was Our Hollow Our Home, this melodic metalcore band know how to make a crowd jump. Compared to what I have seen so far today this UK band are the heaviest so far. During the second track a huge pit opens up on the right side of the stage, encouraged by the band to be bigger. If you are a fan of the heavier side of things check out this band. They definitely made me stop and listen.
Back up the hill to the Jagermeister stage for Silverstein, I slowly made my way into the tent to get a good spot but there is very little room left to stand. This by far is one of the most popular bands today! As the Canadian band starts I jump at how loud the drums are and how loud the crowd is. Their style is very early 00’s metal style but I love that nostalgia feel to them. The packed out crowd sings along to every song and I can feel myself being pushed more into the tent so more people can get in. This is what festivals are all about.
Simple Plan, is up next, one of the bands I have been wanting to see for ages. Being in my 30’s I have followed this band for many years and was hoping for some of their classics from that time. I was not disappointed at all, they played Jump and the crowd came alive, even if the rain was getting heavier no one seemed to care. It was the first time they had played Slam Dunk, I was happy to have witnessed it. As the set played on, they unleashed huge blow up balls into the crowd which got taken by the wind but was still fun nonetheless. Drummer Chuck “wanted to live out his childhood fantasy of being a lead singer” came to the front of the stage and crowd surfed. It was a phenomenal set. If you have never seen Simple Plan live, I strongly suggest you do so!
The rain had gotten worse as I walked back up the hill to Story of the Year at the Jagermeister stage. This American band where hard hitting, and put on a great show. The last time they played the UK was 10 years ago!! The tent was packed out yet again but I could not tell if this was due to the rain or the popularity of the band. However they were great to watch.
I braved the rain to see Neck Deep take main stage, I have seen them previously this year on tour with Don Broco, and they were not short of fantastic then. But now on an open air stage, I was excited to see what they could bring. I was shocked at how good they were on this big stage, the crowd was packed tightly in front of the stage, people all around sat glued to the big screens to watch despite the rain. They did the Torn cover again which I actually prefer to the original, also played crowd favourites like “What did you expect”, and “Citizens of Earth”. The crowd response was so loud you almost forgot that there was other bands playing around you. I was very happy to see this Welsh band again, and will be looking out for their next tour.
Back to Impericon stage to see Gallows. From the start of the set to the finish there were pits, people jumping up and down, screaming, crow singing back and Wade MacNeil in the crowd too. The whole stage show was incredible to watch and with the rain pouring outside you had that atmosphere of being in a small venue. The UK lads made this very wet afternoon worth getting a bit damp for. I wouldn’t say I was a huge fan when I first heard them on a playlist but after seeing them live I have a better appreciation and would love to see them again soon.
Just before Gallows finished, I ran to the other side of the tent to get in prime position for Atreyu, that where due on the Jagermeister stage. As the band came on a thunderous cheer erupted around me for this iconic band. It was said that due to the lead singer Alex Varkatzas having an injury they made the decision to either cancel or to play and figure it out. Having never cancelled a show in their career they decided they would sort it out. For a band to have never cancelled a show since they started over 20 years ago is incredible. With this in mind, it was one of the best shows of the night. With guitarist heading into the crowd to play, pits opening up left, right and centre. Plus to make it even better they sang Bon Jovi “You Give Love a Bad Name”. This is one set I will not forget any time soon. I have wanted to see Atreyu for years and this was a bucket list band for me.
As the night is drawing in, I head back to the Impericon stage to wait to see the headliner on this stage GlassJaw. Even though they are not to my personal taste, they did put on a great show. There was not much crowd interaction from the band but they kept the packed crowd entertained with their extensive back catalog of tracks. As I look around the audience, I am struck by how many people are singing along, excited to see them as they would a band earlier on in the day. Even the security where I was standing was nodding along. Slam Dunk North being the first date of their tour, they brought the house down! Everyone was so engaged with the band that the 55 minute set felt like 20 minutes.
Bullet For My Valentine where the main headline at Jagermeister, the set was stacks of Peavy amps, with the drum kit in the middle, and three mic stands spaced equal distance apart. While waiting for the Welsh band to come on, the crowd was singing along to the Dj backing tracks which I could not help but get caught up in. The atmosphere they created was the best of the day for me. Everyone in the crowd was smiling, singing at the top if their lungs to the tracks. The sudden stop in the music means only one thing, BFMV where coming on stage. The crowd sings back every word, and screams when each song finishes. During Your Betrayal, there was smoke cannons and streamers coming down from the top of the tent, to which the crowd screamed. The entire set was the best I had seen by Bullet for My Valentine. They played a mixture of old and new tracks and with a spectacular drum solo and light show that was very impressive. This is one that I will never forget and will be talking about for years to come.
On the Monster stage we had pop punk veterans All Time Low. The American band have had a stream of success for over 10 years now and tonight was going to be no different. With the main stage packed, even in the rain you can feel the excitement in the air. As the band came on, you are deafened by the screams of fans. Kicking of their set was “Dammed if I do ya, (Damned if I don’t)” which got another huge cheer from the crowd. A great surprise was a guest appearance Awsten Knight (The Waterparks) singing “Break Your Little Heart”. The crowd is singing along to every song not missing a word, then in true festival style the band unveils a never-before heard song, “Getaway Green”. This was very well received by the crowd. They even had enough time to do an encore of two songs which are both huge crowd favourites “Lost In Stereo” and “Dear Maria, Count me in”. What a way to end an incredible day in Leeds.
Even though Slam Dunk is only a day festival it makes up for it with the amount of acts that are split with the stages. I would have loved to see every act that was on, but I can not clone myself just yet. My advice is if you are planning to go next year, get a list together of all the bands you want to see, as it does take planning.