Slam Dunk Festival has become quite the heavyweight in the world of festivals since their humble beginnings back in 2006. Over the 13 years since it was founded, it has grown out of its one stage of Leeds, most of its time there being nestled in the city’s University, and attracts bands and fans worldwide.
The organisers ditched its three day approach by not having a Midlands site, return to just a North and South location, but for the first year ever made it a completely outdoor festival to take itself one step closer to competing with the big dogs.
For 2019, they’ve enlisted some of the greatest across the pop-punk, rock, metalcore, and post-hardcore genres, and heading it all are All Time Low, celebrating the tenth anniversary of their breakthrough LP, ‘Nothing Personal’. Of course, we headed to the new North site to check out what’s what.
MONSTER ENERGY STAGE:
WSTR – 9/10
First up on the main stage is Liverpudlian crew WSTR, and boy, are they bringing their A game. Starting with an injection of energy, Sammy Clifford spews “What does it feel like to get clocked by promiscuous eyes?”, and with that the crowd push forward and the chaos unfolds. Often pop-punk can seem a little timid on bigger stages, and especially early on in the day, but regardless of time and place, this crowd are up for it and the four-piece are capable of delivering the goods.
Much of the set is comprised of songs from last year’s ‘Identity Crisis’, barring the much-adored ‘Eastbound And Down’, as well as a couple of snippets of recently released covers, like The 1975’s ‘Give Yourself A Try’ and The All-American Rejects’ classic, ‘Give You Hell’. Bodies are getting chucked over heads like nobody’s business, and it’s difficult to find much wrong with this set. Put short, WSTR just keep getting better. [DT]
BOSTON MANOR – 8/10
Blackpool’s Boston Manor have gone from strength-to-strength over the past couple of years; a rise signified by their move from the festival’s smaller stages to now be on its main platform. The group rush out to the pounding tones of ‘Flowers In Your Dustbin’, all donning white balaclavas to fit with the ‘Welcome To The Neighbourhood’ aesthetic.
Frontman Henry Cox presses the crowd to be more up for it, but unfortunately (for some reason) he has to keep asking, as the energy in the pit isn’t as high as it should be. It’s not until he himself takes to the middle of a circle pit for ‘If I Can’t Have It No One Can’, mic wire held aloft by those at the barriers, that the intensity racks up. Never-the-less, the five-piece are still able to smash through some of ‘Welcome To The Neighbourhood”s best tracks and produce a solid set. There’s no doubt that these guys are just going to keep rising up the bill of this festival for years to come. [DT]
AS IT IS – 7/10
Pop-punk boys turned goth boys As It Is have had quite a stellar surge of success thanks to last year’s full-length, ‘The Great Depression’, so it’s no surprise that all that today’s set is composed primarily of cuts from that record, starting off with ‘The Reaper’. They face a bit of a staggered start, with the vocals dipping in and out of the mix through the song and follow-up ‘The Handwritten Letter’, but everything gets straightened out by third cut, ‘No Way Out’.
The title-track of their latest record follows suit, and frontman Patty Walters is swinging his microphone around like he’s Adam Lazzara. Today is a special milestone for As It Is, with it being their 600th show as a band, and with that they jump into a hardcore reworking of ‘The Question, The Answer’ and before you know it, we’re saying goodbye with anthemic call-to-arms closer, ‘The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry)’. [ZR]
WATERPARKS – 7/10
Days after signing to Hopeless Records, dropping new single ‘Turbulent’, and starting a new, green ‘era’, the Texan trio of Waterparks head over to Slam Dunk for a spot on the main stage. The screams pierce the ears as Awsten Knight – kitted out in pink shoes and jumper, and green floral trousers with neon hair – steps out to the sounds of ‘Blonde’.
Plenty of bodies proceed to jump on Knight’s command, as the group plough through some of their catchiest cuts, like ‘Not Warriors’ and ‘Stupid For You’. ‘Turbulent’ even gets its first live outing, which provides a cool moment, with the audience already knowing the majority of the words and screaming “Hi!” back at Knight on cue in a gap in the song’s verse, almost catching the frontman off-guard. While the group aren’t as intense in performance as some of the other names on the stage, the three-piece still have enough in the tank to deliver an enjoyable set of hook-filled numbers. [DT]
SIMPLE PLAN – 9/10
Something that will most likely be a surprise to many is the fact that this slot on the Monster Energy stage for pop-punk veterans will be their very first time playing at Slam Dunk Festival. As such, there’s a truly massive crowd awaiting their debut – probably the biggest gathering the stage has seen so far today. While most bands generally feel pressure to perform on their festival debut, Simple Plan show straight away why they’ve been doing what they do so well for almost 20 years. The nostalgic notes of ‘I’d Do Anything’ and ‘Shut Up’ ring around Temple Newsam, and ensure that voices are raised to full volume from the off.
Around halfway through the set, the clouds begin to turn black above the stage as their set goes on, providing some weird juxtaposition to ‘Summer Paradise’ (which sounds about a thousand times better without the Sean Paul feature, by the way), as beach balls make their way into the lightly drizzled crowd. As they close on two more classic hits in ‘I’m Just A Kid’ and ‘Perfect’, thus ends one of the best sets of the day, and proves what Slam Dunk have been missing out on all these years previous. [DT]
NECK DEEP – 9/10
What was perpetual drizzle for the last band has now become full on pissing it down, and yet still, there’s a plentiful crowd of loyal fans gathered to watch the Wrexham pop-punk warriors of Neck Deep. Thin Lizzy’s ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ allows for them to make a comical ‘homecoming’ entrance, before the more familiar tones of ‘Motion Sickness’ brings the crowd to life. The rise in Neck Deep’s live performances over the years has been astonishing, and the serial performers bring that energy once more here as they gloss over some of their discography’s best cuts, as well as a great rendition of their recent cover of Natalie Imbruglia’s ‘Torn’.
Ben Barlow’s vocals also sound better than ever, as the soaring highs of ‘In Bloom’ prove no mean feat for the frontman. As the back-to-back closers of ‘Can’t Kick Up The Roots’ and ‘Where Do We Go When We Go’ caps this pop-punk party with a bang, Barlow reveals the group are off to record their fourth record soon, to great applause. At the rate they’re going, it’s probably not too far to expect a headline set within a few years for the Welsh lads. [DT]
NEW FOUND GLORY – 7/10
While Slam Dunk is great for discovering new bands, it’s equally brilliant at casting an eye back to the punk classics, and New Found Glory return to the festival to do exactly that. If there’s one thing the punk legends know how to do, it’s how to have a good time, and as the rain continues to absolutely bucket down, that’s exactly what this crowd needs. Coming out to a pumped-up cover of ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ feels a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it’s sure as hell worth a little jump around to.
New Found Glory undoubtedly have a great range of hit tracks to delve through – ‘Understatement’, ‘All Downhill From Here’, and ‘Dressed To Kill’ certainly show that – while a bid to make their set more accessible by dropping a fair few covers, (some which are a bit questionable) like Frozen’s ‘Let It Go’ and The Greatest Showman’s ‘This Is Me’ are all in good fun, if not a bit of a novelty. The expected and yet still brilliant finish of ‘My Friends Over You’ never seems to get old, and sees the most audience involvement of the entire set. There’s a reason why New Found Glory keep coming back to Slam Dunk, and you don’t have to look hard to see why. [DT]
ALL TIME LOW – 9/10
Having stuck it out through the wind and rain, those dedicated fans glued to the barriers all day ready and waiting for the headliners are finally about to get their just rewards, as the sun begins to shine once more, and Baltimore heart-throbs All Time Low take to the stage for their long-awaited performance. Celebrating the ten-year anniversary of arguably their most popular release to date, 2009’s ‘Nothing Personal’, it’s only right that they kick things off with a classic from said record in ‘Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don’t)’.
As was rumoured, much of the set consists of tracks from that record that haven’t seen a live setting for many a year, like fan-favourites ‘Stella’, ‘Keep The Change You Filthy Animal’, ‘The Party Song (The Walk Of Shame)’, and ‘Break Your Little Heart’ – the latter even getting a cameo appearance from Awsten Knight (Waterparks) too. Judging from the great energy in the middle, and the many drunk punters singing and dancing around the back of the crowd, the flashbacks to older material seems to be a winner with the audience.
As picking the rest of the set list goes, All Time Low’s almost writes itself, with the huge hooks of ‘Backseat Serenade’ and ‘Weightless’ being inevitable and yet duly great still. There’s even a live debut for a brand-new, as yet unheard and unreleased track ‘Getaway Green’ – a track which surprisingly seems to fit the older, pop-punk All Time Low more than their newer material, and of course sends fans into meltdown. Some fans even get the opportunity to go on stage, as Gaskarth and guitarist Jack Barakat call members of the crowd to come up and party along to ‘Time Bomb’, with one young lad getting a go on Barakat’s guitar for the song, providing a really nice moment for the crowd, and one hell of a memory for said fan.
As the show progresses, focus switches from the ‘Nothing Personal’ era into more recent albums, with ‘Life Of The Party’ contrasting sounds of their early material with the more pop focused direction ‘Last Young Renegade’ took, before a faux-finale of ‘Kids In The Dark’. One final return to ‘Nothing Personal’ sees ‘Lost In Stereo’ provide warm-up for the classic ‘Dear Maria, Count Me In’, which wraps up a memorable, nostalgic set for the heavyweights, and closes a greatly successful first outing at Temple Newsam for Slam Dunk. [DT]
THE PLOT IN YOU – 8/10
They’ve only been granted half an hour to play with, but The Plot In You make their early set and debut appearance at Slam Dunk Festival one to remember. Frontman Landon Tewers takes to the front of the stage alone for the first moments of set opener ‘Rigged’, before the remaining members join him in time for the song to take its full form.
From here on out, the Ohio metalcore outfit prove they’re more than worthy of their spot here. Following number ‘Not Just Breathing’ sounds huge, especially during its anthemic chorus of the soaring “I’m alive” chants, older cut ‘My Old Ways’ still packs an impressive stomp, and it’s hard to not be in awe of Tewers’ vocal dominance, holding monstrous screams even when several inches away from the microphone. [ZR]
WAGE WAR – 7/10
Even though metalcore has arguably dwindled a little in recent years, it has definitely been far from its deathbed, and with fresh faced bands like Wage War ready to claim and carry the torch, it’s in pretty safe hands.
Opener ‘Don’t Let Me Fade Away’ funnels and encapsulates their strengths into one song; towering choruses, pummelling rhythms, and primal roars. ‘The River’ also sounds mighty in stature, ‘Stitch’ is tailor-made for pitting, and if latest single ‘Low’ is anything to go by, Wage could very well become worthy contenders in the world of metalcore. [ZR]
THE WORD ALIVE – 7/10
Ten years is a hell of a long time to maintain and commit to something, and a band is certainly not exception. Arizona’s The Word Alive have reached such a milestone, and today’s Slam Dunk set follows a career-spanning on in London a few days prior.
Some of the super old cuts are omitted on today’s smaller set, but the crowd pleasers are still here in force. ‘Made This Way’ in particular sounds grand and catered to venues and tents twice this size, a circle pit ensues during ‘Sellout’, a crouch and bounce a la Slipknot is encouraged by frontman Telle Smith for ‘Misery’, and his vocal range shows its true prowess during ‘Trapped’. All in all, a set to please any fan of the mosh. [ZR]
SILVERSTEIN – 7/10
True veterans of the post-hardcore world, Canadian darlings Silverstein are, much like The Word Alive, celebrating their past this year, celebrating their first decade of records by re-recording and releasing a selection of hits on ‘Redux: The First Ten Years’. Even after many years, the songs still manage to hold their own on record, and today is evidence that they hold up live too.
Shane Told can seamlessly acrobat between slick cleans and emotive screams on golden oldies like ‘Smile In Your Sleep’ and ‘Smashed Into Pieces’, and frankly they don’t sound like songs that are older than some of the people in attendance here today. Newer cuts ‘Ghost’ and ‘Retrograde’ in comparison to the other cuts show how the band have evolved, and it’s clear how Silverstein have managed to stay afloat and stay relevant against many of their contemporaries at the time of their inception who’ve mostly sunk under a sea of competitors. [ZR]
ATREYU – 6/10
A few days ahead of their scheduled appearances on their UK and European, a massive stroke of bad luck befell California’s Atreyu, with vocalist Alex Varkatzas being forced to sit out the run due to health reasons. Still, the band have decided to press on regardless, with drummer Brandon Saller getting out from behind the kit to take on frontman duties.
For the most part, bassist Marc “Porter” McKnight handles the screaming, but they manage to pull in a few friends to help them out with their little set back. Dan Marsala (Story Of The Year) comes out for ‘Right Side Of The Bed’, Briton Bond (Wage War) lends a helping hand – or voice – on ‘Bleeding Mascara’, and even newcomers get involved with their cover of ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ by Bon Jovi. Considering the situation that Atreyu had been handed, they managed to pull through. [ZR]
KNOCKED LOOSE – 9/10
Not many heavy bands ride on continued touring and swelling success off their debut for three solid years, but Kentucky monsters Knocked Loose did just that with 2016’s ‘Laugh Tracks’, and with a new album around the corner and a couple of cuts from it out in the world already, it’s expected to see quite a packed crowd for their set today, but their turnout this afternoon is gigantic.
Bryan Garris sounds like a demonic banshee with his shrieks, and songs like ‘Oblivions Peak’ (which also sees a mammoth pit) and newer number ‘Mistakes Like Fractures’ sound like they’re built to destroy planets. Somehow, the crowd manage to overpower the band as they roar back the lyrics to ‘All My Friends’, but none of this compares to ‘Deadringer’, the energy from which is so consuming that Garris himself dives into the crowd for its brutish bridge. [ZR]
CANCER BATS – 8/10
Canadian punk favourites Cancer Bats have been around the block plenty of times, and as a result their live shows are down so tight that it’s like second nature to them. Hits like ‘Hail Destroyer’ and ‘Bricks & Mortar’ are every bit as vitriol and urgent as when they first came to be, and the more thrash metal driven ‘Road Sick’ sees metal horns soar high as Scott Middleton’s razor riffs hit hard.
Liam Cormier always comes across as one of the loveliest frontmen in hardcore punk, even when he’s pacing around the stage and screaming his along to ‘Winterpeg’. The band invite Nikki Brumen (Pagan) onstage to scream along with Cormier during ‘Pneumonia Hawk’, and, it’s absolutely safe to say that their cover of ‘Sabotage’ by Beastie Boys still slaps hard, conjuring one hell of a pit. [ZR]
GALLOWS – 9/10
Over the past few months, Gallows have steadily rearing their head a little bit after a few years of downtime, and it goes without saying that they’ve been sorely missed, so much so that as soon as they step onstage into opener ‘Misery’, which Wade MacNeil stops a few seconds in. Why? So he can climb his way down into the pit to scream shoulder-to-shoulder with the fans in the midst of the pit.
This is just the start of the adrenaline fuelled 40 minutes or so to follow. The band appropriately change the word “London” to “Yorkshire” in ‘London Is The Reason’, ‘In The Belly Of A Shark’ still maintains every measure of its snarl, and MacNeil encourages the British fans to “keep throwing milkshakes at fascists” before launching into ‘Last June’, accompanied briefly by Liam Cormier (Cancer Bats). Yep, Gallows are fucking back. [ZR]
GLASSJAW – 9/10
New York post-hardcore luminaries Glassjaw seldom make visits over to the UK, and that, coupled with their cult-like following reels the fans to them in droves. ‘Cut And Run’ starts off the Impericon Stage headlining set, and they maintain the fast paced, hard-hitting, and visceral cuts coming one after another.
‘Tip Your Bartender’ and ‘You Think You’re (John Fucking Lennon)’ is a one-two double freight train to the senses, largely thanks to Justin Beck’s larger than life crunching chord work, and Chad Hasty’s drum work completely dominates on ‘Mu Empire’.
It’s not all ruthless savagery, though. Popular sombre number ‘Ape Dos Mil’ brings their more toned down repertoire to light, and if the towering hooks in the choruses of ‘Shira’ don’t consume you then, well, there might be something wrong with you. This is all before the loathe-ridden and wrathful closer ‘Siberian Kiss’, in which we see vocalist Daryl Palumbo scream at speeds and levels of intensity that very few can dare even attempt to match.
There’s a reason why Glassjaw have always been such a reputable, beloved, and important name, and even 26 years deep into their career, they remain a band that you need to unflinchingly worship and tribute your love to. [ZR]
TIGERS JAW – 7/10
Philadelphia duo of Ben Walsh and Brianna Collin, more commonly known as Tigers Jaw, seem to be a much-adored band around the alternative scene, and their passionate set over on the sun-lathered Dickies stage seems to back up why. Opening up with the catchy single ‘Favorite’, the large gathering of people smothering the stage at once begin to bounce and sing jubilantly. Boasting quite a discography littered with indie-emo hooks and grooves, like ‘Frame You’ and ‘Chemicals’, there’s rarely a moment when the crowd aren’t in good voice to join in on the duo’s vocal duties.
It’s the material from the band’s 2010 self-titled record that seems to go down the best, however, with the slow-burning, fan favourite ‘Plants Vs. Tank Vs. Submarine’ and the lively ‘I Saw Water’ gearing the crowd up to sing loud, jump wildly, and just generally have a belting time. [DT]
TOUCHÉ AMORÉ – 7/10
Would a British music festival really be a British music festival if there wasn’t a decent bout of rain? Of course not, and that’s exactly what Touché Amoré have to contest with over on the Dickies stage this evening, but on the plus side, it’s a perfect aid to help you mask those tears from their emotional and tragedy stricken material.
It’s a shame that the weather affects the turnout for their set, stacked with the likes of ‘Just Exist’, ‘Harbour’ and ‘Art Official’, but they still manage to bring in the fans who act like the weather isn’t miserable at all. Jeremy Bolm’s vocals are emotionally wracked and pitch perfect, and there’s even a bit of moshing in the mud during ‘~’. We can only imagine how less restrained this would all be though if the sun stayed out a little bit longer. [ZR]
WILLIAM RYAN KEY – 7/10
As the festival gates open, and the hordes of happy, heavy music lovers enter in their droves, one of the first acts to welcome the crowd is former Yellowcard frontman – and now solo artist – William Ryan Key, who seems incapable of disappointing. As the sun beams down on the Marshall stage, a rather large number of people are gathered in front of the lone singer, as he holds acoustic guitar in hand and thanks everyone for coming to see him kick off proceedings.
While he encourages those unaware of his newer, non-Yellowcard solo material to go check it out, Key knows how to play the role of people-pleaser, and instead of playing much of his more recent tracks, glosses through some acoustic covers of Yellowcard classics. It’s a nice touch and a really pleasant, calm first act of the festival, made even better some accompanying, beaming sunshine. [DT]
TROPHY EYES – 9/10
It’s probably only down to the huge number of great bands around the festival today that Trophy Eyes don’t find themselves on the main stage themselves. Either way, the Aussies are basking in some moderate British sunshine over on the Marshall stage, with a generous crowd ready and waiting. The chanty, sing-along feel to tracks found on ‘The American Dream’, like ‘Something Bigger Than This’, ‘More Like You’, and ‘Lavender Bay’, have the crowd in fine voice, while hark backs to the ‘Chemical Miracle’ ensure that the set is well balanced and, most importantly, god damn fun.
All is going swimmingly, until the final chorus of ‘You Can Count On Me’, where an unfortunate injury to a crowd surfer means that the band have to stop cut the set short. While we hope those involved are all okay, the sour end didn’t dampen the set overall, and we can keep our fingers crossed to see Trophy Eyes around the UK again soon. [DT]
THE KEY CLUB STAGE:
SHVPES – 6/10
Birmingham’s SHVPES have come a long way over the past few years, moving away from their more standard post-hardcore template during their days under the name of Cytota and instead incorporating more rap and electronica influences. This is especially true on their recent LP, ‘Greater Than’, cuts from which dominate their set today.
Griffin Dickinson is energetic as hell, not taking a moment to stand still through the likes of ‘Counterfeit’, ‘Undertones’, and slightly older number, ‘Skin & Bones’. At one point, he even clambers on top of Harry Jennings’ kit, with one foot on the cymbal. ‘Renegades’ is a certain highlight and, as we arrive at the set’s close, what can’t be disputed is the band’s liveliness, but there’s an air that their potential is yet to be reached. [ZR]
EMPLOYED TO SERVE – 8/10
Hardcore superstars-in-the-making Employed To Serve have really surged up the ranks in recent years, and recent record ‘Eternal Forward Motion’ is only set to catapult them further. Speaking of catapults, that’s exactly it feels like you’ve been hit by during every moment of their savage set.
Somehow, ‘Owed Zero’ sounds even more menacing live than it does on record, and vocalist Justine Jones sounds like a woman possessed by a demon with her infernal and hellish vocal capabilities. From the get go there’s a huge pit consuming most of the floor, complete with fists, limbs, and bodies flying here there and every where. One particular body that goes flying is guitarist/vocalist Sammy Urwin, who propels himself on top of the crowd and surfs the front rows as he and Jones roar the closing refrains of ‘Force Fed’.
A full photo gallery from the event can be found here.
Written by Dylan Tuck [DT] and Zach Redrup [ZR].
Photos by Jay Sanderson.