LIVE: Slam Dunk Festival @ University, Leeds (24/05/2014)

Date: May 24th, 2014
Venue: University, Leeds
Website: www.slamdunkmusic.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/slamdunkltd
Twitter: www.twitter.com/slamdunkmusic

Rating:

Gallery:
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Known across the UK and beyond as the premium British pop-punk festival, Slam Dunk Festival has returned once again for another stint this year, this time around boasting The All-American Rejects as main stage headliners, with other stages being closed off by Less Than Jake, Bury Tomorrow, Chiodos and more. As it is with every year, you’d be a fool to miss out. We’re not fools, so we went.


MAIN STAGE:

BLITZ KIDS – 7/10
Cheshire based rockers Blitz Kids are bunked up to the main stage this year, and they manage to fit into it naturally. Songs like ‘Never Die’ and ‘All I Want Is Everything’ are as anthemic as most songs come from main stage line-up additions and, with large balloons falling from the balcony onto the crowd below, Blitz Kids have truly earned their place here today. Expect them higher up the bill next time around. [ZR]

CANTERBURY – 8/10
Lovable, floppy-fringed scamps Canterbury pack the room with their infectious and inoffensive pop-rock anthems. The crowd consists almost entirely of enthusiastic fans (mainly girls) who belt out every word of every song on their short but sweet setlist. Luckily though, they don’t drown out the flawless vocals on the likes of ‘Wrapped In Rainbows’ and ‘Think It Over’, as Luke Prebble and Mike Sparks‘ voices ring out loud and true. With the addition of ‘Saviour’, a song so catchy your feet will be moving all by themselves, and you have a damn fine set right there. [AR]

THE SKINTS
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

WE THE KINGS
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

MOTION CITY SOUNDTRACK – 8/10
Hands up who likes Motion City Soundtrack. Everyone over at main stage by the looks of it, as there isn’t a set of lips in the room that aren’t singing along to every one of their bouncy pop-punk tunes. Their setlist is essentially an 11-track best of compilation, free of any plugging and promotion of their latest and forthcoming releases, and that’s just what the crowd want to hear. Even after 15 years of playing the same songs, it’s so refreshing to see every member of the band still getting caught up in the moment of their songs and moshing away on stage. Ending on the almighty ‘Everything Is Alright’, Motion City Soundtrack once again prove their worth as a Slam Dunk essential. [AR]

WE ARE THE IN CROWD
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

MALLORY KNOX
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

THE ALL-AMERICAN REJECTS
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.


MACBETH STAGE:

FANDANGLE – 7/10
Camberley’s own Fandangle kick off the day’s ska-centric festivities in true style. While it’s never easy being the opening act at a festival, these guys hold their own. Even after a 6 year hiatus, they still nail every song, all of which are similar to those of ska punk legends, Less Than Jake. Their set is met with a warm and welcoming response, but sadly little movement from the crowd, but they’re probably still waking up and drying off. Towards the end of the set, Fandangle manage to stir up a bit of a commotion, with old favourites ‘I’m High’ and ‘Oliver Twist’. [AR]

JESSE JAMES – 6/10
Slam Dunk seems to be like one big reunion show, with many acts dusting off the instruments and returning to the spot light. One of which is Britain’s own ska favourites, Jesse James. Though they draw a somewhat older crowd, they sure know how to get them to move and have the whole floor skanking away to the more bouncier numbers in a matter of seconds. There’s the inventible midset lull, but Jesse James manage to get things kicking again by closing with fan favourite, ‘Shoes’. [AR]

DECADE – 8/10
Huge sing alongs from across the room and arms waving side-to-side are the main agenda for Decade‘s set. The Bath based pop-rockers have taken huge strides in the past year, and their last time here they were playing to crowd half the size before them today, at the most. With a set consisting mainly with cuts from recent debut ‘Good Luck’, including ‘Brainfreeze’ and ‘Fake Teeth’, and a stage presence that has truly evolved to fit with their bigger atmosphere, count on us when we say Decade are set to be superstars of the UK rock scene. [ZR]

GNARWOLVES
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

I AM THE AVALANCHE
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

ZEBRAHEAD
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

CAPDOWN – 9/10
British ska punk favourites Capdown dominate the Macbeth Stage from start to finish. Their unique 90s mix of ska punk, reggae and dub (not dubstep) is truly a spectacle to witness, and the crowd love every minute of it. Frontman Shakey claims they’ve only had one rehearsal and one warm-up gig prior to this, but you wouldn’t know as they nail their high-octane set with blistering saxophone solos on the likes of ‘Cousin Cleotis’ and ‘Ska Wars’, coupled with furious, fast-paced punk rock choruses. The pits are utter chaos. When bodies aren’t crowdsurfing, they’re instead tossed like rag dolls during the constant moshing throughout Capdown‘s phenomenal set. [AR]

THE ATARIS – 7/10
Replacing ska legends Goldfinger (who pulled out due to illness) are pop-punk veterans The Ataris, who draw an impressive crowd. Their summer drenched pop-punk tunes are a welcome addition to today’s line-up and are well received by the crowd. Though every last person is belting out the words, most just nod along with only a few little pits breaking out here and there. Perhaps not as lively as some of the other acts on today’s bill, they’re still enjoyable to watch, especially with their cover of Don Henley‘s ‘The Boys Of Summer’.

LESS THAN JAKE – 9/10
Before Less Than Jake even start, the room is at maximum capacity and the pit is so jam-packed that for the first few songs, there’s no room to mosh. Instead, the crowd sway. It doesn’t take long for some intense pits to break out during ‘Great American Sharpshooter’ and, of course, during fan favourites like ‘All My Best Friends Are Metalheads’, said pits turn into utter mayhem. There’s never a full moment during Less Than Jake‘s set. Even during the newer and, dare I say, less popular songs, the vast majority crowd are always singing and dancing away. With the combination of outstanding showmanship, phenomenal talent and an incredible backcatalogue of catchy-as-fuck songs, Less Than Jake are without a doubt the perfect headliners for any Slam Dunk Festival. [AR]


MONSTER ENERGY STAGE:

HEART OF A COWARD – 7/10
It seems like lately, Heart Of A Coward are making an appearance at as many UK festivals as possible. Already they’ve laid waste to Takedown and Radstock, and today at Slam Dunk is no different. It may be pouring with rain outside, but it’s HOAC who are conducting the storm within the dry confines of the tent. Frontman Jamie Graham carries the roar of a tyrant and with a metallic stomp with songs like ‘Deadweight’. Expect this to be the start of a very strong future. [ZR]

CALIBAN – 8/10
Even though only one band has performed in the Monster Energy tent, the ground is already fucked and as you enter, you’re greeted with the familiar festival smell of churned up grass and mud. Germany’s Caliban attract a sizeable crowd and the tent is damn near packed, perhaps due to the awful British weather. Fan or not, these metalcore legends blow everyone away; the down-tuned, punishing riffs of ‘Devils Night’ and ‘We Are The Many’ cause havoc in the pits and by the second song there are already crowdsurfers floating their way towards the barrier. Having over 15 years of live experience, Caliban sure know how to put on one hell of a show, and they did just that today. [AR]

I KILLED THE PROM QUEEN – 6/10
Entering the battleground of the Monster Energy stage, equipped with riffs as heavy as steel thanks to axe-men Jona Weinhofen and Kevin Cameron, the Australian powerhouse IKTPQ instrumentally sound bigger than the tent their confinded in. However, sadly what lets things down is this all majorly overshadows the vocal work of frontman, Jamie Hope. Indeed, through songs like ‘Thirty One & Sevens’, there’s minimal presence in his screams, but admittedly this could be a sounddesk issue. [ZR]

CHUNK! NO, CAPTAIN CHUNK! – 7/10
Providing the only breath of pop-punk in the tent this year, albeit being the heaviest pop-punk band on the bill, Parisians Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! enter the stage to 8-bit chiptune intro track and their mix of pop-punk and metalcore, similar to a less developed A Day To Remember, the likes of ‘Taking Chances’ sound as upbeat as they do headbang inducing. At one point, frontman Bertrand Poncet thanks the energetic crowd; “you guys are so much better than last year”. So are you, C!NCC!. [ZR]

CROWN THE EMPIRE – 6/10
Their appearances on UK shores aren’t regular occurences, so the chance to catch Crown The Empire must be seized by any fan. Sadly, compared to most other bands who have already taken to the Monster Energy stage, the tent isn’t quite packed out, but the crowd stood before the Texas post-hardcore outfit is one of their biggest here to date, and songs like ‘Makeshift Chemistry’ and new offering ‘Ignition’ sound crushing. On occassion, vocalists Andy Leo and David Escamilla, try and get the crowd to sing along, but more often than not the amount of fans singing back is minimal. Maybe after a few more visits, CTE will be a firm contender in the post-hardcore crowd. [ZR]

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA – 7/10
Wrapping up their recent EU/UK tour alongside a selection of other bands playing the Monster Energy stage today, The Devil Wears Prada are a ferocious prospect. Despite the vocals from both Mike Hranica and Jeremy DePoyster sounding a little lacklustre and sluggish, seemingly down to the sounddesk, things start to pick up and the likes of ‘Born To Lose’ and ‘Danger: Wildman’ bring forth the TDWP that we’ve all come to know over their various visits to our shores. [ZR]

THE GHOST INSIDE – 8/10
Much like a selection of other bands also showing their faces on the Monster Energy stage, The Ghost Inside are wrapping up their latest stint across Europe at these Slam Dunk dates. Entering to fan favourite ‘Engine 45’, from here on out TGI prove their worth as one of the best bands on the metalcore market today. The crowd erupts, yelling the anthemic “What do you stand for?” for ‘Between The Lines’, and the pits for ‘Dark Horse’ begin kicking up the grass in the condensed tent. Prepare yourselves for album number four. [ZR]

LETLIVE. – 10/10
With the amount of shirts on peoples’ backs and the words uttered both today and in the run up to this year’s Slam Dunk, it’s safe to say that letlive. are one of the biggest drawing points on this year’s line-up. A packed-out tent backs this up, and right away they initiate what is easily one of the best sets of this year’s event. Jason Butler is hands down one of the best frontmen you will ever see. His performance is sporadic, energetic, and it’s clear this is more than just a show for him. This is an outlet, this is catharsis. Between songs like ‘Dreamer’s Disease’ and ‘Virgin Dirt’, his short statements about being a truthful man and a better man are inspirational, but nothing induces goosebumps more than the speech about the love for his mother, who is also in attendance, before launching into ‘Muther’. May I ask, why weren’t letlive. headlining? [ZR]

BURY TOMORROW
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.


ATTICUS STAGE:

LIGHT YOU UP
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

MODERN BASEBALL – 6/10
Greeted to a rather packed out room for their first ever Slam Dunk Festival appearance, Philadelphia’s Modern Baseball and their early era Brand New-esque punk rock comes across as less of a show to paying fans, but more of a unity of friends. Guitarists Brendan Lukens and Jake Ewald along with bassist Ian Farmer each shift the role of lead vocals, helping with the already affirmed care-free tone of the set, and if nothing else, leaving with a reputation of being fun. [ZR]

SAVE YOUR BREATH – 6/10
Newport’s Save Your Breath are met with a considerable turnout. Their brand of pop-punk is well received with a few small pockets of movement breaking out here and there as they kick off their slot, though the majority of the crowd remain static through their performance. Nevertheless, they keep a tight set, with frontman Kristian Richards‘ excellent voice holding strong throughout. Things do end on a high note with fan favourite, ‘Nothing Worth Having Comes Easy’, to which the crowd erupts into a lively and bouncy pit. [AR]

A LOSS FOR WORDS – 9/10
Up next on the Atticus Stage is Massachusetts’ own A Loss For Words, who give an outstanding performance. The crowd are jumping and dancing away as if the floor was on fire from the first note, especially during their fantastic cover of The Jackson 5‘s ‘I Want You Back’, which sees crowdsurfing galore. A mention of ‘Mt. St. Joseph’ must be made; a slow and sombre number, dedicated to their fallen friend in combat, and a truly beautiful song that really tugs on the heartstrings. Even though the song diminishes the momentum they’ve built up, they soon whip the crowd back into a storm with the likes of ‘Distance’ before ending on the highest of notes with ‘Stamp Of Approval’. An excellent set from an exceptional band. [AR]

STATE CHAMPS
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

NECK DEEP – 9/10
Wrexham’s answer to The Story So Far, aka Neck Deep, simply kill it over at the Atticus Stage and have every last person in the room belting out the words to their raw, pop-punk anthems. Even though their music isn’t necessarily hardcore, it sure as hell looks like a hardcore show with room-wide, vicious circle pits and copious amounts of crowd surfing to the likes of ‘Over And Over’. Neck Deep deliver a exceptional set, one that the crowd will be talking about for months to come. [AR]

REAL FRIENDS
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

HIT THE LIGHTS
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.


CHEER UP! CLOTHING STAGE:

AMONGST THIEVES
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

THE FIRST
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

VERSES
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

NATIVES
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

GHOST TOWN
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

LANDSCAPES – 8/10
Wearing their heart on their sleeves right from the get go, Somerset melodic hardcore outfit Landscapes are rising the ranks on the live circuit, despite just having one album under their belts. Frontman Shaun Milton jumps into the midst of the crowd just a few minutes into their set, screaming alongside the fans and clearly unleashing some demons. The security are clearly a bit new to this scene, gathering around Milton as if he was going to start mowing people down, but ultimately Landscapes‘ empassioned delivery leaves them as one of this year’s highlights. [ZR]

MARMOZETS
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

FEED THE RHINO – 9/10
Things take a more vicious turn as Kent’s merciless five-piece Feed The Rhino unleash their brand of spine-breaking hardcore. As soon as they begin, frontman Lee Tobin is screaming his throat raw, climbing the stage and barriers like a toddler possessed by a demon. He spends more time in the crowd than onstage, either stirring up a fierce pit or splitting the room in two to initiate a chaotic wall of death. Each song is executed flawlessly and induce havoc in the pit, which only reinforces the fact that Feed The Rhino are a necessity at any festival and one of Britain’s best live hardcore bands today. [AR]

THE RED JUMPSUIT APPARATUS – 8/10
Though perhaps not as heavy as some of the other acts featured on the Cheer Up! Clothing stage, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus still prove their worth and exhibit some incredible live vocals, both rough and clean, from frontman Ronnie Winters. It’s in intimate venues like this that the best gig memories are made, and fans of TRJA lap up every second of classics like ‘Face Down’ and ‘Damn Regret’. Winters is joined onstage by his girlfriend during ‘Your Guardian Angel’, who unfortunately hinders one of the band’s most prominent songs, but still allows TRJA to leave the room to happy fans. [AR]

CHIODOS – 9/10
Michigan post-hardcore favourites Chiodos are left with the task of closing off the Cheer Up! Clothing stage, which seems a bit cramped for the sextet to fit on comfortably. Unfazed by this, frontman Craig Owens and his merry men launch into a lacerating yet emotive set, mainly showcasing cuts from their latest full-length ‘Devil’, such as the heart-tugging ‘Under Your Halo’ and the supremely pissed off ‘Expensive Conversations In Cheap Motels’. Along with Owens‘ ability to pull off the most angelic cleans beside the most hell born screams, what makes Chiodos an even more interesting band to watch is Thomas Erak, whose fretwork sorcery is a spectacle in itself. [ZR]


ANTIQUE ACOUSTIC STAGE:

THE LION & THE WOLF
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

CHAS PALMER-WILLIAMS
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

ROB LYNCH
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

YOU, ME AND EVERYONE WE KNOW
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

VINNIE CARUANA
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.


UPRAWR STAGE:

MC LARS – 10/10
With numerous appearances at this pop-punk weekend, to the point where he is like a regular at your local bar, MC Lars is always welcome at Slam Dunk. With a massive crowd before him, MC Lars has the whole room bouncing to ‘Space Game’, screaming their lungs out to the emo chorus of ‘Signing Emo’ and skanking like 90s kids to ‘This Gigantic Robot Kills’. He exhibits his phenomenal skills as an MC by performing a mesmerising, lightning speed additional verse of ‘Download This Song’ and also boasts his insane freestyle ability by rapping based on whatever random items people held up. No doubt Lars will be back at Slam Dunk next year and, if he is, be there. You won’t regret it. [AR]

TEK-ONE
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.

DJ YODA
Sadly, we were unable to catch this act’s set.


Written by Zach Redrup [ZR] and Andy Roberts [AR]