Having initially started as a club night at the Cockpit venue in Leeds, Slam Dunk has done more than well enough to evolve and develop into a festival and record label. With 2010 being the first year it has managed to expand into a two day festival, (one day in Hertfordshire, the other in Leeds) itâ€™s clearly only going one way. With Leeds being the festival’s original home since its birth in 2006, DEAD PRESS! felt it was only right to fill people in with what’s going on there. Sadly we were unable to catch and review all the bands at the festival, but here’s who we did catch…
ALL OR NOTHING â€“ RELENTLESS STAGE
After previously playing Slam Dunk in 2008, Birmingham’s All Or Nothing are no strangers to relentlessly touring the country and playing to countless fans. Opening up the stage to a sea of people is a great way to start the day, with a band fully deserving of it all. With hits such as ‘I Hate Being The Dip Guy’ getting the crowd going it’s not long until the interaction goes from standing still to moshing and euphoric gang shouts. The band, consisting of Tom Chong, Richard Murphy, Tim Williams and Nick Reynolds lap it up and give the crowd cracker after cracker, but of course they stick to what they know and everyone loves it. Mixing up their set with songs from all their releases including ‘I’m Not Being Rude But I Could’ve Had Your Job’ and ‘Don’t Do This’ was a little predictable if you’ve seen the band a few times before, but it was still nonetheless enjoyable and a great way to start the day. Cue the mad rush to run from one stage to another.
ME VS. HERO â€“ VANS STAGE
As one of their first festivals to introduce them into the festival season that is summer, Me Vs. Hero don’t seem to be as psyched or exciting as they seem in their own smaller shows in clubs. The crowd are more than hyped and motivated, with fans constantly crowd surfing to the stage before diving back into the depths of the people, and a huge wall of death taking place too, but it seems more effort is coming from them than the boys onstage. ‘Star Raiders And Space Invaders’ and ‘Days That Shape Our Lives’ have that great upbeat pop-punk vibe complete with hardcore breakdowns here and then to keep the sparks on the floor alight, but Me Vs. Hero have had better days which may be all due to nerves.
GAVIN BUTLER â€“ MACBETH ACOUSTIC STAGE
Of The Blackout fame as co-vocalist beside Sean Smith, it’s nice to see Gavin step in front of his more attention receiving vocal partner to expose his talents. Reeling off both original material and covers such as Oasis‘ track and The Royle Family theme song ‘Half The World Away’, Gavin was finally put in a position where people focused on him more than usual partner Sean Smith. Setting venue of a small pub brought atmosphere and an extra touch to his performance, and with a huge crowd including friends from various bands playing the festival, he got more than he expected. Though seemingly a tad uncomfortable with being alone onstage for once, he’ll no doubt grow out of this with a couple more shows and settle with the one-man show.
WE ARE THE OCEAN – ATTICUS STAGE
With their debut full-length in stores earlier in the year, the post-hardcore Londoners have a lot of material up their sleeves to splash into their set. Though known for their energetic and exciting shows, We Are The Ocean seem a little too comfortable and relaxed with this being their third consecutive year at the festival, and on the same stage. Oldies like ‘Nothing Good Has Happened Yet’ and fresh out the oven hits like ‘Look Alive’ lack the spark this band are capable of providing, ending in a slightly disappointing and medicore performance.
ROLO TOMASSI â€“ ATTICUS STAGE
As one of the heavier bands to take up on the Atticus stage, and even the festival, Rolo Tomassi and their erratic and really-should-not-work-but-does style of music went down with the crowd better than some previous acts. Not that itâ€™s a major issue anyway. Lead vocalist Eva Spence‘s monstrous guttural roars and horrific screams are at times intimidating due to her petite size, especially when in split seconds she can convert to a voice of innocence showcased throughout ‘Kasia’. Though new album material was only released just over a week ago many fans know the words, but itâ€™s older songs like ‘I Love Turbulence’ and ‘Nine’ where the pits emerge in front of the stage. Even with the music aside, people could literally be hypnotised by the flexibility and high energy in Eva‘s dancing, clearly a girl of many talents.
FOUR YEAR STRONG â€“ GLAMOUR KILLS STAGE
Fastly rising as what could well be the new face of pop-punk, Massachusetts grown Four Year Strong are well in their stride as one of the most popular bands of the day. With the festival’s biggest stage room almost completely full, Four Year Strong need to keep up their reputation aswell as gain new fans in the process â€“ a task they confidently fulfilled with their set. New song set additions like ‘What The Hell Is A Gigawatt?’ and ‘It Must Really Suck To Be Four Year Strong Right Now’ incite mosh pits and dancing across the room like they’ve been playing those songs for years. Saying that, the 5-piece upstarts don’t pull off anything special or noteworthy, but making sure that everyone has a good time is their main objective and accomplishment. Something worth being proud of.
SKINDRED – VANS STAGE
First timers at Slam Dunk bagging themselves a main slot instantly shows you how much Skindred‘s fan base has grown in the last year. For those who still haven’t ever listened to Skindred; they mix together reggae, metal, punk and a few other bits here and there to create what they call “ragga metal”. Instantly getting the crowd going with ‘Stand For Something’ their set carried on with a similar finese, playing a good mix of all their releases still with firm favourites like ‘Nobody’, ‘Destroy The Dancefloor’ and ‘Pressure’ being played. Vocalist Benji Webbe is big on the between song banter, getting people to participate and generally interacting well with the crowd throughout the gig made this set a memorable one to watch. Probably one of the fastest rising bands of recent years, and it’s easy to see why.
BREATHE CAROLINA â€“ RELENTLESS STAGE
Electro and emo combining duo outfit Breathe Carolina are certainly well away from their early days of making and recording music on a laptop using GarageBand. With only a few UK appearances prior to this festival appearance, the reaction for their set that clocks in at just over half an hour is impressively hyped and rightly so. Though it’s simple it’s damn effective. ‘Gossip’ and ‘Can I Take You Home?’ get the dance floor bouncing, whilst ‘The Birds And The Bees’ and ‘I’m The Type Of Person To Take It Personal’ attract sing-a-longs from one side of the room to the other. Vocalist David Schmitt and screamer Kyle Even bounce off one another like family, and interact with the crowd like they’re almost a part of it too, resulting in middle fingers in the air aplenty on David‘s request and a crowd surf from Kyle towards the end of closer ‘I.D.G.A.F.’ to wrap things off with style.
CAPDOWN â€“ VANS STAGE
Being their first time playing since the very first Slam Dunk in 2006, and being their first set of gigs in 2 years, Capdown were one of the most anticipated sets playing this year. Whilst only headlining the smallest of the 3 ‘main’ stages it was perfectly suited to them, and being renowned for playing in both ska and hardcore punk styles the room got unsurprisingly packed. With almost constant mosh pits and crowd surfers to accompany their set it was a mental setting to be in. Playing many favourites including ‘Ska Wars’ and ‘Cousin Cleotis’ but not in their usual, mixing up their classic set list for a unique show. With stages antics aplenty, talking and interacting with the crowd this set went down an absolute storm, with one fan even saying it was the best gig that he’d ever been to.
NEW FOUND GLORY â€“ GLAMOUR KILLS STAGE
The main headlining attraction of the whole festival should close the curtains with a bang, and thankfully pop-punk godfathers New Found Glory are more than capable of achieving just that. Not one song goes unsung back from the fan-filled crowd, most of whom are aware of most of the lyrics in their entire back-catalogue spanning over a decade. Popular singles like ‘Head On Collision’, ‘All Downhill From Here’ and ‘Kiss Me’ are received just as positively as lesser known offerings like ‘Truth Of My Youth’ and ‘Dressed To Kill’, delivered with a level of energy and spunk many younger bands aren’t even on the edge approaching. Vocalist Jordan Pundik and guitarist Chad Gilbert are the clear forefront and leaders of the band, creating comedic and witty banter in-between songs aswell as getting literally into the crowd by either running up the barrier or in one case with Jordan clambering to the room’s upper tier to overhead spectators. An encore including their widely famous ‘My Friends Over You’ confirms two things: one being that New Found Glory are still above their younger competition today, and secondly being that Slam Dunk was yet again a great success for 2010.
Let’s hope that 2011 brings us a Slam Dunk just as good, if not better than this year!
Thanks to the guys at Devil PR for setting up DEAD PRESS! with press access to the festival, and also Emma Van Duyts of Public City PR and Ivanno of And There Will Be A Trail Of Press… for the interviews with Skindred and We Are The Ocean.
Written by Zach Redrup, Dom Wyatt and Jonathan Andrews
Founder & Editor for DEAD PRESS! | Atheist and antitheist. | Judge of the quick & the dead since 1989.