LIVE REVIEW: Slam Dunk Festival @ Leeds (26/05/2018)

Date: May 26th 2018
Venue: City Centre, Leeds

Kicking off the festival season in superb style, Slam Dunk Festival returns for yet another mighty May Bank Holiday weekend. Stopping off at three locations in the UK over three days – and a brand-spanking new park site for Hatfield – it’s a truly unique festival that only seems to be growing in popularity year after year.

With a tricky choice of deciding which out of Good Charlotte or Jimmy Eat World are the main stage headliner for you, it only shows the scale of big names that this favoured event can attract.


With the plethora of pop-punk acts Slam Dunk has to offer over this weekend, it’s amazing just how well State Champs stand out from the rest. Packing full an almost capacity crowd in the First Direct Arena, the Albany quintet smash out fan favourites such as ‘All You Are Is History’ and ‘Secrets’, before sending the arena into hysteria for older classic ‘Elevated’.

Frontman Derek Discanio and bassist Ryan Scott Graham are seamless at sharing vocal duties with pitch perfect delivery, not that you can hear them over the sea of people screaming along to tracks like ‘Dead And Gone’ and ‘Crystal Ball’. This is easily one of the best performances of the day.


Over on the Monster Energy stage, there’s a reunion taking place. Chicago’s The Audition have reunited for the festival, having been separated since 2012. There’s a bit of a buzz around as the band come out and perform for the first time in six years, although not as big as some may have been expecting. None-the-less, the nostalgic sounds of ‘Warm Me Up’ and ‘Dance Floors Turn To Ghost Towns’ are enough to get some moving, and the band seem supremely grateful for the warm reception. It’s just a shame that there’s not a few more watching their rebirth.

Watford’s Lower Than Atlantis jump on stage, and are greeted with an air of anticipation from a hefty gathering in the Millennium Square. Playing mainly through tracks taken from ‘Safe In Sound’ and their 2014 self-titled record, there’s bulky riffs and sing-a-longs a plenty with tracks like ‘English Kids In America’ and ‘Emily’. You could argue the backing tracks may be a tad high in the mix, but it only guides the pretty pissed crowd to where they’re needed to chant along to the band’s anthems. Near the end of their set, half the band begin downing cans of craft beer to get into the Slam Dunk spirit, and frontman Mike Duce lobs a can into the crowd for a fan to drink, although missing his shot completely. It’s fair to say these lads know how to work a festival crowd.

Another firmly established band that Slam Dunkers have been looking forward to are Taking Back Sunday, and luckily they never seem to disappoint. Despite being ten minutes late on stage, fans don’t see too bothered, and if anything anticipation is just built further for their big entrance, coming out swinging (quite literally) to ‘You Know How I Do’. As ever, Adam Lazzara’s presence is as uber cool, and yes, he’s still the king of the mic swing. It feels to be a very similar set to the last time the New Yorkers played the festival back in 2015 with a lack of fresh material, but there are plenty of classics which, to be fair, is exactly what most are hoping for. Forever favourites like ‘Liar (It Takes One To Know One)’, ‘Cute Without The E’, and, of course, ‘MakeDamnSure’ have the whole main stage screaming their lungs out under the setting sun. Taking Back Sunday are the perfect band for Slam Dunk, and ever-reliable to bring the belters.


Having been around for almost thirty years (yes, thirty), Guttermouth have become quite a reputable punk band. Frontman Mark Adkins remarks, “We haven’t been to the UK for over ten years,” but by the reception that they get from the unwilling crowd, it’s unlikely that they’ll be back anytime soon either. Adkins repeatedly mocks the “dead, dry crowd” whilst also ironically being the reason they aren’t up for it by insulting audience members’ hair colour, nationality, appearance, and anything else that he can get a cheap laugh out of. When the band do decide to play through some songs, it’s amid Adkins cringle-inducingly stripping down to his underwear and met with a mediocre applause and a pit formed of two lone and pretty drunk moshers. The whole thing just feels a bit dated.

If you’re going to watch a Zebrahead set, you pretty much know it’s going to be a bit of a laugh, and today was no exception. Taking up a prime evening slot on the Fireball Stage, the band jump straight into ‘Rescue Me’ and ‘Hell Yeah’, playing to one of the biggest audiences that the festival has seen thus far today. As they progress through the set, they’re joined on stage by fans, some dudes in beer bottle costumes, a fake Prince Harry and Megan Markle, and best of all, a set of brass players who add a nice touch of ska on tracks like ‘Falling Apart’ and ‘Anthem’. Oh, and ending the set by blaring Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ through the speakers gets this crowd in full voice. With the sun scorching down on a sea of cheerful partiers, Zebrahead feels like the right band to be watching on a day like this.


Unfortunately, we were unable to catch any acts that performed on this stage on this date.


AS IT IS – 9/10
With both Good Charlotte and Jimmy Eat World gathering the main extent of festival goers, it means that the other stages’ headline acts may be slightly lacking in crowd members, but that won’t stop As It Is. The pop-punk favourites arrive in Leeds to headline the Signature Brew stage in the car park where, back in 2015, they made their Slam Dunk debut. Despite the lack of bodies in the crowd, the Brighton four-piece are still able to blister through a fantastic festival closing set, and those loyal fans who are in attendance help to make it a night to remember.

Dressed in black, and with a much more emo than pop-punk look to mark the start of the band’s ‘The Great Depression’ era, they kick straight into recent single ‘The Wounded World’ and demand a circle pit as singer Patty Walters spits the screamed-vocals bridge out. Despite that being the only new track on show, the band excel at performing less fresher songs from sophomore album ‘okay.’, with ‘Hey Rachel’ and ‘Pretty Little Distance’ highlighting the early moments of the set.

As we approach the end of the set, with acoustic guitar in hand, Walters asks to slow things down real quick, as they perform the stripped back ‘Still Remembering’ to a swaying crowd. Finally, the pace is picked up from the floor (literally for some who sat on the ground) as the band’s two biggest hits ‘okay.’ and ‘Dial Tones’ turn up the volume one last time.


Getting us going are hometown favourites This Time Last Year, who are this year’s winners of the Rock Sound Breakout competition, giving them the opportunity to open the festival on the Rock Sound Breakout Stage. The room is modestly packed with a lot of friends and family of the band, giving it a great, welcoming atmosphere. As for the tunes, the Leeds lot chug through a brief catalogue of their own feel good pop-punk melodies, and even drop in a sneaky cover of Taking Back Sunday’s hit ‘Cute Without The E’, which proves to be an early a crowd pleaser.


Unfortunately, we were unable to catch any acts that performed on this stage on this date.

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