LIVE: Slam Dunk Festival @ University, Leeds (25/05/2013)

Date: May 25th, 2013
Venue: University, Leeds
Website: www.slamdunkmusic.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/slamdunkltd
Twitter: www.twitter.com/slamdunkmusic

Rating:

Gallery: Click here!

Each and every year, Slam Dunk, the UK’s premier festival for pop-punk and punk rock, seems to get ever bigger and ever better. With several rooms/stages across the University of Leeds kitted out to host a plethora of bands across the day, including stage headliners like All Time Low and Pierce The Veil, we headed to the original North date of the festival to be involved in what’s always one of the best independant festivals of the year.


SLAM DUNK (REFECTORY) MAIN STAGE:

THE SUMMER SET
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

TONIGHT ALIVE – 8/10
Bands from Australia can sometimes have a hard time breaking into the UK music scene, for such a large country they don’t get too many acts out this far. This doesn’t seem to affect Tonight Alive though, with their crowd being made up of the younger age range of the festival, their more easy going pop-punk stylings have the crowd going instantly. With the crowd singing along, the band don’t need to do too much to warm them up. This doesn’t make them hold back though, as they bring plenty of energy and more than enough hooks to their set. [JA]

MALLORY KNOX – 8/10
In a space of less than 12 months, we have seen Mallory Knox rise from an underground alternative rock outfit to now standing in front of a few hundred fans on the main stage of Slam Dunk Festival. With songs like ‘Hello’ and ‘Lighthouse’ to back them, there’s no wonder. Frontman Mikey Chapman is an almost fully fledge posterboy teenage heartthrob, evident when he’s just a few feet from the front row and fans shriek at his almost every action. At their current rate, by this time next year Mallory Knox will be nearing the headline spot of the stage. [ZR]

WE ARE THE OCEAN – 5/10
Anyone who knows We Are The Ocean is aware of a few changes the band have had over the years, originally having a screamer and singer but now are just down to clean vocals. They’ve progressed from an Alexisonfire-type style to just a more general melodic rock sound. The crowd lap up their set and, whilst their songs were played well, there was just nothing of particular interest happening during the set. Fans and, by the looks of it, most of the crowd enjoyed it, but nothing during their impact had any kind of impact or effect for me. [JA]

SLEEPING WITH SIRENS – 7/10
Coming on more than 10 minutes later than scheduled, Sleeping With Sirens are forced to shed off 2 or 3 songs from their intended setlist, opening with fresh online offering ‘These Things I’ve Done’. Frontman paces across the stage, injecting far more screams into the band’s performance than usual, leaving it mainly to Matty Mullins of Memphis May Fire during ‘Tally It Up, Settle The Score’, but it’s his soaring cleans which stick out. The highlight of their set, however, comes in the closing one-two of ‘If I’m James Dean, You’re Audrey Hepburn’ and ‘If You Can’t Hang…’, the latter seeing most of the room singing the infectious chorus right back at the rising Floridians. [ZR]

KIDS IN GLASS HOUSES – 7/10
Welsh rockers Kids In Glass Houses have been going from strength to strength over the years, with their sets being full of energy accompanied by hook-filled choruses. Fans love it, and and for those who found themselves at main stage, they’ll have no doubt been won over as well. Whilst their newer songs have taken a heavier more hard rock approach, they still leave in older, poppier songs like ‘Give Me What I Want’, appeasing to fans introduced to the band at any stage of their career. [JA]

DEAF HAVANA – 8/10
It could be considered a brave move to open your set with ‘Let Me Entertain You’ by Robbie Williams, however, this is what Deaf Havana did and to say it caused a storm was an understatement. The crowd go wild for them and the song, bold move paid off, eh? Their set brings forth more of their new songs and style, where they’ve moved towards a more rock orientated sound, abandoning their post-hardcore roots. The crowd however are won over, and with a slot set to play with Bruce Springsteen later this year, expect Deaf Havana to explode in the music world over the next year. [JA]

ALL TIME LOW – 8/10
Main headliners of the day All Time Low, probably one of the most popular pop-punk bands of today, are ones to be nothing too serious but not let that get in their way of putting on a good show either. Despite having to wait around 45 minutes extra due to delays for their set to start, the crowd are still all jumping along so enthusiastically, the whole floor is bouncing along with them. As you’d expect, they play with a lot of flair, and keep going even through several technical difficulties, not letting this stop their performance. Their big songs, opening with ‘Lost In Stereo’ and closing their encore with probably their most well-known track ‘Dear Maria, Count Me In’, they provide a set that will still appeal to those less familiar with their work. Ultimately, All Time Low bring a great show to finish off the main stage for this year’s Slam Dunk Festival. [JA]


MACBETH (STYLUS) STAGE:

THE AMERICAN SCENE – 6/10
As one of the earlier bands of the entire festival, The American Scene have one of the more difficult tasks of warming the crowd up and getting that festival vibe in there nice and early. From the general reaction of the crowd before them, that didn’t happen entirely. The American Scene are a bit more of a chilled out punk/indie act, and in that sense they delivered. A great opener for the Macbeth Stage roster for sure. [ZR]

TRANSIT
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

THE STORY SO FAR – 7/10
If you’re at all a fan of modern pop-punk, you’ll be more than aware of The Story So Far‘s presence on the scene. Clearly, from the packed out Macbeth Stage room, their reputation as everyone’s favourite pop-punk band is evidently true. People bounce and sing along to the likes of ‘Sword And Pens’ and newer album offerings ‘Four Years’ and ‘Daughters’. To avoid overcrowd and the immense sweaty and stuffiness of this year, Slam Dunk will have to bunk them to a bigger room next time. [ZR]

MAN OVERBOARD
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

FIREWORKS – 6/10
Keeping the pop-punk vibes strong on the Macbeth Stage, Fireworks keep the crowd bouncing along to upbeat melodies, despite the ever increasing levels of heat and sweat in the room. Through songs like ‘Arrows’ and ‘When We Stand On Each Other We Block Out The Sun’, credit must be given for their efforts on stage. There’s still work to be done to join some of the big leagues of pop-punk, but Fireworks are well on their way. [ZR]

ALLISTER
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

THE WONDER YEARS
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

THE EARLY NOVEMBER
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

FOUR YEAR STRONG – 8/10
Now solid champions and forerunners in the genre, backed up even further by their stage headline slot at this year’s Slam Dunk Festival, Massachusetts outfit Four Year Strong are everything you could want from a modern pop-punk band. Live they’re engaging and their songs encourage live involvement, from the huge sing-alongs of ‘Eternal Summer’ to the catchy chunky riff hooks of ‘It Must Really Suck To Be Four Year Strong Right Now’. Essentially, if you’re looking for a pop-punk band equipped for festivals, look no further than Four Year Strong to get the job done. [ZR]


MONSTER ENERGY (MARQUEE) STAGE:

HEART IN HAND – 7/10
Entrusted to be the very first band of the whole day, melodic hardcore troupe Heart In Hand step up to the task valiantly. Tracks from their latest album like ‘Almost There’ already go down well with the fans, who are clapping along and incite the very first few pits of the day. Frontman Charlie Holmes works the crowd up, getting them to move and warm themselves up for the onslaught of bands to follow on for the rest of the day. [ZR]

HOUSE VS. HURRICANE
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

OUR LAST NIGHT
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

HEIGHTS – 6/10
With a spazzy and frenetic appearance, Heights vocalist Alex Monty spazzes around on stage, causing intentional feedback, smashing his mic around causing a tense and caustic atmosphere to the more ambient and more prog themed music in the background. The crowd came across as being too stunned or mesmerised to make much in the way of a reaction. They’re definitely an interesting band to watch, one to catch for something a bit different and provoking. [JA]

HANDS LIKE HOUSES – 9/10
Soulful post-hardcore which is Emarosa-esque is the method of attack for Australia’s Hands Like Houses, easily the band furthest from home on the entire festival bill. Though their future on UK shores has only newly come to be for the band, from shows like this alone it’s the start of something brilliant. Trenton Woodley has a voice as incredible live as it is on record, and the likes of ‘Lion Skin’ and ‘Antartica’ are signs of things to come for the sextet from down under. You have been warned. [ZR]

THE WORD ALIVE – 8/10
Since the release of sophomore album, ‘Life Cycles’, Arizona’s The Word Alive have been visiting the UK an awful lot, and with sets like their one today it’s definitely something to be thankful for. Opening with the one-two of ‘2012’ and ‘Dragon Spell’, they immediately get the crowd involved in inciting circle pits. It is, however, the huge chorus of ‘Life Cycles’ that sticks out the strongest throughout their set, displaying the band’s message of unity and family right there for all to experience. [ZR]

BURY TOMORROW – 7/10
It seems like British metalcore mob Bury Tomorrow never ever stop touring, and their continuous on stage experience is on display today. Opening with ‘Lionheart’, followed by what frontman Dani Winter-Bates claims to the be “the heaviest song” they’ve ever wrote, ‘Sceptres’, there’s clearly a strong reason why they’re always on the road: everyone bloody loves them. Maybe it’s the intense heaviness from Dani combined with the sweet cleans of Jason Cameron or the fact they truly appreciate their fans, but whatever it is, it’s working. [ZR]

WOE, IS ME
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

MEMPHIS MAY FIRE
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

PIERCE THE VEIL – 8/10
It’s crazy to think how big Pierce The Veil have become following the release of ‘Collide With The Sky’ last year. Before then, in the UK at least, Pierce The Veil were barely known, but now they’re headlining the Monster Energy stage at Slam Dunk Festival. Right from the beginning, the fans are screaming and singing along throuhout the San Diego outfit’s setlist, whether it be ‘Caraphernelia’ or ‘Bulls In The Bronx’. Frontman Vic Fuentes goes alone mid-set for an acoustic take of ‘I’m Low On Gas And You Need A Jacket’, and the majority of the crowd sing louder than Vic can. However, it’s when Kellin Quinn of Sleeping With Sirens joins the band onstage for closer ‘King For A Day’ when things go mental. The screams and shrieks are almost deafening, and the trade-off between Vic and Kellin is a match made to be.


VANS (RILEY SMITH) STAGE:

GNARWOLVES – 9/10
They might be a name that will be new to a lot of people, but at the Vans Stage, Gnarwolves seem to be the talk of the town. Despite an early set, these 3 guys fill the room out. Opening with the main riff of ‘Reign In Blood’ by Slayer before descending into a set made up of tracks off their ‘Cru’, ‘Fun Club’ and forthcoming ‘Funemployed’ EP, their set goes down an absolute storm. You can’t help but think things would be even better had their not been a barrier. [JA]

MC LARS – 7/10
Now performing at Slam Dunk Festival for the third year in a row, MC Lars is a festival veteran and a favourite of the regulars. This time around, he’s not backed by a band, just himself and a laptop, and it’s incredible what he can do with this alone. Opening with ‘Hurricane Fresh’, Lars has a the backing track from his laptop accompanied with a projector displaying images syncing with his lyrics. This, along with huge gang sing-alongs to the likes of ‘Generic Crunk Rap’ whilst Lars shows off his “8-bit bling” of a Nintendo game cartridge solidifies the reason why MC Lars is a constant addition to the festival bill. [ZR]

ITCH
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

[SPUNGE]
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

ME VS. HERO
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

POLAR BEAR CLUB – 5/10
The guys in Polar Bear Club are known for their great live performances, and though they’re keeping that reputation of being lively and energetic true, as a whole it just seems a tad boring and predictable. It’s true that Jimmy Stadt is an engaging frontman, but the constant shoving of a microphone into the crowd doesn’t equate into an instant great show. Maybe it’s just an off show, or maybe it’s just me. [ZR]

STREETLIGHT MANIFESTO – 9/10
This band have got a few rumours surrounding them at the moment; first is that this is their last tour and a possibility with them splitting up, and that with their latest record ‘The Hand That Thieves’ being leaked, that it has been pulled from going to press. Streetlight Manifesto are one of ska punk’s favourite bands to come about from the US. As always, their set is full of flair and energy, causing the crowd to get going very quickly. With skanking and crowd surfing happening from the word go, everyone’s into the events at hand. It’s rare for bands to have as many members so active on stage, with the brass section dancing around and Tomas Kalnoky not wanting to ever be still when he’s not singing lead to a visually full set. [JA]

THE SKINTS – 7/10
After a day of mainly fast-paced and energetic sets, it’s time to unwind for a minute with the relaxing reggae forms of The Skints. With their down tempo bass heavy rhythms, they get a slow moving skanking going through the crowd they unwind slowly to the pulsing rhythms provided. With the set blending together with jams, The Skints show off their talent at being able to improvise around one other throughout the set. [JA]

KING PRAWN
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.


TIGER (THE MINE) STAGE:

THE KING IS DEAD – 7/10
Despite being less than a year old and only putting out their debut EP ‘Once Upon A Burning House’ just over a week beforehand, locals The King Is Dead manage to bag an early slot at Slam Dunk North. With only a limited amount of material, the band perform the EP and full. Converted into a live performance, the band still have a few kinks to tweak, but on a whole the band are on the right track. Omar M’Saouri and frontman Daneel Johnstone trade off one another well and ‘Losing Faith’ sees half the room clapping along, but it’s definitely closer ‘Hell Or High Water’ which stands as set highlight. [ZR]

HEROES FOR HIRE
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

HANDGUNS – 4/10
Rising the ranks in the pop-punk game, Handguns still have to work at proving their worth over here on British soil. Though admittedly frontman Taylor Eby looks absolutely over the moon to see people on the front rows clambering to sing-along to the likes of ‘A Year In Review’, with the rose tinted glasses removed of firmly established fandom, their set is very one-dimensional and, ultimately, a little dull. It’s a shame that Handguns still have a long way to go before they’ll be a pop-punk favourite alongside so many of their peers. [ZR]

CHUNK! NO, CAPTAIN CHUNK! – 2/10
Adding “being from France” to A Day To Remember doesn’t make any difference to your band, especially with silly American-styled accents when singing. Sure, their pop-punk sensibilities follow the structure and formula for success, but ultimately their set and songs all come across as a little less genuine and far too by-the-books, which didn’t help alongside the forced American twang on the vocals. The kids who came to watch loved it, but other than that there’s very little positivity to be said for their set. [JA]

BLITZ KIDS
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

YASHIN – 7/10
Five parts Scottish and one part American sextet Yashin are steadily making themselves into a British rock/punk festival staple band, and with their soaring choruses and pop-tinged hooks it’s easy to understand why. Heavier numbers like ‘Runaway Train’ get the crowd moving and bouncing along, whereas ‘Sound The Alarm (For Us Tonight)’ gets everyone at the front singing along proud and strong. It’s clear, however, that what the fans are desperate for now is another album and, from the mouth of frontman Harry Radford himself, it won’t be long until they get just that. [ZR]

DEVIL SOLD HIS SOUL – 9/10
Standing as the first of frontman Edward Gibbs‘ final three shows with the band (leaving after their Slam Dunk Festival performances and being replaced by The Arusha Accord vocalist, Paul Green), it’s clear there’s some emotion in the air. Coming out and tearing through the set like it’s already his last, Ed screams and sings his heart out for one of the last times ever through the likes of ‘VIII’ and ‘Crusader’. His intensity, passion and love of his time with his bandmates doesn’t burn stronger however than through set closer ‘End Of Days’. In their closing minutes, he jumps from the stage to the front barrier into the faces of their fans, and bids farewell with sincere thanks and gratitude, hugging his fellow bandmates before walking offstage for what will be his final Northern date with the band. This is the end of one era for DSHS, but also the start of another. [ZR]

SENSES FAIL
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

CANCER BATS
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.


KEEP A BREAST (PULSE) STAGE:

MARC HALLS
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

SOPHOMORE – 7/10
Performing what will be his second ever show under his solo guise of Sophomore at Slam Dunk Festival is an impressive feat for Decade frontman Alex Sears. Stripped from their full band familiarities and moulded into acoustic reworkings, ‘House Spider’ and ‘Young Adult’ sound both haunting yet beautiful. It’s the friendly and intimate nature of the show which makes this performance special however. A couple of people fetch Alex some pints from the bar and, in return, he delivers a cover of Wheatus classic, ‘Teenage Dirtbag’. [ZR]

CLASS OF ’92
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

CHAS PALMER WILLIAMS
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

ACE ENDERS
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

WILLIAM BECKETT
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

GAVIN BUTLER
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.

JONNY CRAIG – 8/10
Always carrying a tag of danger and controversy, Jonny Craig is often referred to as a devil with an angel’s voice. Whilst he’s still successfully shaking the bad perceptions, the angelic and soulful voice has always remained true, even today. Of course, it’s the familiar numbers ‘I Still Feel Her, Pt. III’ and closer ‘Children Of Divorce’ which get the biggest cheers, a look into new material such as ‘Diamond’ and ‘The Upgrade’ (a song dedicated to his fiance) seems to promise a bright future ahead of Jonny Craig, assuming he manages to stay out of trouble. So far, so good. [ZR]

ANDREW MCMAHON
Sadly, we were unable to catch this set.


Written by Zach Redrup [ZR] and Jon Andrews [JA]