Slam Dunk Festival – North – Leeds City Centre – 26/05/18
It’s Slam Dunk 2018, which means it is officially festival season and the kick off party is here. With arguably one of the most ambitious and diverse line-ups seen in Slam Dunk’s history, with the venues growing bigger each year (this year having two main stages…mental!), we were spoilt for choice throughout the day. However, let’s start as we mean to go on…
Off the back of a huge UK tour with Lower Than Atlantis, The Faim (7) have earned themselves some new fans, and enough to fill out the Beckett SU as they pull an early crowd out of the sun for a short set of energetic rock. Frontman Josh Raven works the crowd well and glides around the stage full of confidence. ‘Midland Line’ as expected goes down a treat, and just like that, Slam Dunk Festival is go! (D.P)
Walking onto the stage to a majority full Impericon stage, Loathe (9) erupt into their unique blend of non stop, relenting riffs, vocals and ripping drums. Whilst a minor technical issue hindered the performance ever so slightly, it was obvious that Loathe felt as comfortable on this stage as they did any other, more than rising to the occasion. This is not the first time you will see Loathe play shows as huge as this, and after that Slam Dunk performance, it wouldn’t surprise us if they headlined that stage in the not so distant future. (A.J)
We follow up by making a move to Sharptone label mates, Holding Absence (9) who are playing the Rocksound Breakthrough stage. Once again, a majority full crowd at such an early time of the day is an impressive feet, but with good reasoning. Walking out onto the stage with purpose, Wales’ post hardcore, emotive darlings proceeded to give the performance of their lives. Given a recent lineup change, any sort of apprehensiveness that may have been before was gone in an instant, tearing through a dynamic and versatile set, as representative of the group. With Lucas Woodland sometimes on the verge of being drowned out by the crowd and even seeing someone stood atop the massed during Penance, HA are (and we’ve said it before, we’ll say it until it happens) on the cusp of stardom. (A.J)
Over on the Signature Brew stage, electrical problems are giving Can’t Swim (7.5) a hard time. After helplessly hanging around the stage for a little while apologising to the crowd, someone saves the day and the set is underway. The New Jersey rockers certainly haven’t flown thousands of miles to let this one slip, so they make up for lost time with a furious set leaving smiles all around. (D.P)
Creeper (8) follow as they take to the Jagermeister main stage in the Leeds First Direct arena. A huge flock of fans await, Creeper rose to the occasion of such a huge stage and space to fill, opening with their punk belter Black Rain and rocketing into Poison Pens, it was movement from the go. Of course, they still played songs such as Crickets and closed with Misery, to bring a more chilled and sombre tone to the set, much to the huge admiration of the crowd. (A.J)
Back in the O2 Academy, Counterparts (10) take to the stage. Full of admiration for those being there, but also proclaiming “whatever, we’ve already been paid in full in advance”, Canada’s best Metalcore band proceed to make the venue dance, sing and crowd surf to know end. Opening as they mean to go on with Stranger straight into No Servant Of Mine, the band are on fire (or they seem to be, there was a lot of the smoke machine being used). A tumultuous set continues, as frontman Brendan Murphy continues making little quirks between songs, adding humour as they go, but he also addresses a wider known issue in the current scene and targets abusers with a formidable torrent before launching into Thieves. Fuck yeah. Closing the set with The Disconnect, they walk off the stage after their set, easily to a crowd left behind that could’ve seen another hour of them. (A.J)
We would be lying if we said we wasn’t a little bit excited for the return of Twin Atlantic (9) to the stage at Slam Dunk Festival. It seems like it’s been to long since the last time the Scottish rockers were on the road, and it takes a matter on seconds for us to remember why we love them so much. Front man Sam McTrusty strolls out to the sound of ‘Gold Elephant :: Cherry Aligator’ stomping his way across the stage in a rather dapper red suit. With belters such as ‘Hold on’, ‘Make A Beast Of Myself’, and ‘Free’, it’s no surprise to see the biggest turn out to the Millennium Square so far. The set closes with ‘No Sleep’ and ‘Heart and Soul’ which finds Sam crowd surfing his way through the final songs to join in with the fun! (D.P)
Sticking to the Monster Energy stage, Moose Blood (6.5) follow up with a rather steady set, leaving us feeling a little underwhelmed. ‘Honey’ kicks off the set with plenty of intent, but the British lads just seem to have something missing from their set which feels a little stagnant. Non the less it’s easy listening as the crowd sink a few more beers soaking up the sun. (D.P)
We wander to the O2 Academy just witness hardcore legends, Comeback Kid (9). On a festival that sometimes may be built around arguable nostalgia acts, Comeback Kid despite their long standing tenure do not fall into that category as their message is as relevant today as it was over a decade ago. With a set that spanned their near twenty year career with songs such as Talk Is Cheap and Wake The Dead through to singles from their latest album, Outsider, in the form of Somewhere, Somehow and Surrender Control, the ferocious set further solidified that like a fine wine, Comeback Kid are just getting better and better.
Another quick trip to the Jagermeister stage lead us into the thick of Sleeping With Sirens (7.5) set. Frontman Kellin Quinn looked to be on top form as ever, as his bandmates covered every available space on the stage making sure everyone was fully involved. SWS are and always have been fantastic live, and this is no different. ‘Better Off Dead’ causes chaos all around, and ‘Kick Me’ is the perfect with it’s bursting energy to make it the perfect live song to go out strong with. (D.P)
One act we had to check out this year was Stand Atlantic (8.5). The Aussie Punk Rockers are playing Slam Dunk as their first ever festival off the back of their recent debut E.P ‘Sidewinder’, so no prize for guessing what’s going to be on the setlist! Frontwoman Bonnie Fraser leads the way through a bouncing set worthy of every mosh pit and crowd-surfer in the room. Recent single ‘Chemicals’ and ‘Coffee at Midnight’ sound brilliant live and are delivered furiously by the band. It’s no surprise to see them head out with the likes of Neck Deep on their US tour, and back to the UK later this year with State Champs. We’ll sure as damn be there!
Sprinting back over to Leeds Arena leaves us breathless, but it’s more than worth it to catch PVRIS (9) return to Slam Dunk Festival! They turned many heads on the mainstage back in 2015 after their debut album ‘White Noise’ blew up big on the scene. With last years follow up ‘All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell’ mixed into the setlist, PVRIS deliver a set on the Jagermeister stage worthy of a headline performance. Pulling out all the corkers like the furious ‘No Mercy’, ‘Anyone Else’, and the set closing fan favourite ‘My House’, PVRIS are on top form once again. Unfortunately the likes of ‘Mirrors’, ‘Smoke’ & ‘Holy’ had to be dropped due to the band running behind schedule for one reason or another, but the 9 song set was more than enough to feed our PVRIS fix!
Making their second appearance at the festival, Northlane (8) bring the thunder, opening their set with Quantum Flux and tearing into Leeds as though there’s no tomorrow. The crowd dance and sway along, as only you can do to Northlane with their piercing melodies and monstrously huge low end. Frontman Marcus Butler continues to rile the crowd up, songs like Rot and Obelisk getting particularly large reactions, to then conclude with Masquerade, as the strobe filled the room, the pit opened a final time and proceeded to drop heavy as a crescendo of ‘PIECE OF SHIT’ echoed around the Academy. (A.J)
Emo kings Taking Back Sunday (9) are subbing the Monster Energy stage in the main square, and they are throwing one hell of a fight to keep the crown from being stolen by headliners Jimmy Eat World. Frontman Adam Lazzara’s eccentric personality on stage alone is enough to keep our eyes glued to the stage as he glides around, swinging his microphone around in the air, around his arms, legs and even his neck as he screams the lyrics to the faces of those at the barrier. ‘Liar (Takes One to Know One)’, and ‘What’s It Feel Like To Be a Ghost’ pull out highlights of the set before ‘MakeDamnSure’ closes with an electric atmosphere. Another job well done from the Long Island lads proving they always earn their spot at the top end of the Slam Dunk bill.
We make our way to one of our evening headliners in the form of Every Time I Die (10). We have seen ETID before, naming them one of the best live acts on the planet and having already headlined the very same stage in 2016, we think Slam Dunk agree with us. From the moment of walking out on stage, the tone was set and so began one of the most un-relenting and chaotic sets we’ve ever witnessed, yet simultaneously remain one of the tightest bands of the day. Frontman Keith Buckley dominates any stage he sets foot on as brother and guitarist, Jordan Buckley proceeds to dive off of it. Opening with The Coin Has A Say, there was no stopping the hardcore unit, beginning a 17 song setlist which kept the crowd more than entertained. If Buckley’s vocal styling was humanised, it would form guitarist, Andy Williams, who commanded the right side of the stage in front of his stacks of amplifiers, that’s nearly covered up due to William’s huge chest and shoulders (he just keeps getting more jacked – you need that with riffs as big as these).
Tearing through the set, songs from ETID’s long time discography appeared, more than appeasing the ETIDiots taste as they grew even rowdier than before. Songs such as Floater, Pigs Is Pigs and No Son of Mine pay tribute to early ETID as they sit in the same set as songs such as It Remembers and I Didn’t Want To Join Your Stupid Cult Anyway cohesively, truly showing the diversity of the band. As time flies, it soon comes to the end of the set, closing with Map Change as Jordan Buckley stands tall at the very end, with ear shattering feedback ringing through the adorning crowd. We said it at the beginning and we’ll say it again and again, Every Time I Die continue to be one of the best bands on the planet. (A.J)
Finally it’s battle of the bands for the top spot at Slam Dunk Festival. When both Good Charlotte & Jimmy Eat World were announced as co-headliners, it’s safe to say we were all pretty stoked. Having a headliner clash between the two however provided quite the opposite reaction (yup Slam Dunk, why would you do this to us?). As we couldn’t pick between the two, we had to do our best to catch both!
Starting out at the Jagermeister Stage, Good Charlotte (10) stroll out to screams as they kick off the set on the front foot with the brilliant ‘The Anthem’, which instantly starts with an explosion of confetti and blasts of fire from the stage. It’s safe to say Good Charlotte don’t do things in halves. They have clearly thrown everything into their set to make sure nobody swans off to watch Jimmy Eat World (like we did, sorry guys!). What we did catch was a solid performance of ‘Keep Your Hands Off My Girl’ and ‘Girls & Boys’ which seemed to be Good Charlotte at their very best. The set even included the live debut of new track ‘Actual Pain’ which sounded pretty awesome as it kicks in with a blast of Co2 for good measure.
We may not have caught the very end of the set but we can only imagine the chaos that erupted in the arena for set closer ‘Lifestyle of The Rich and the Famous’. It goes to show Good Charlotte remain among the best live acts around. We can’t wait to hear what the forthcoming album ‘Generation Rx’ has to throw our way! (D.P)
Heading over the second part of Jimmy Eat World’s set, I’m hoping to see a performance worth leaving Good Charlotte for. In all honesty, the last time I caught them they just didn’t seem to bring their game. They sold themselves short and were underwhelming at times which it rubbed off on the atmosphere. As I approach the Monster Energy stage it’s clear tonight is very much the opposite (thank goodness). Jimmy Eat World (9) seem to have this crowd chomping at the bit. ‘Pain’ has the mosh pits in full swing with its guitar welding solo and hefty riffs. ‘Always Be’ & ‘23’ may not have the drive that ‘Pain’ has, but they sure as hell have the crowd singing their hearts out. Even the newer material such as ‘Love Never’ gets a great reception and sounds brilliant live.
The night comes to a close with the fantastic ‘Sweetness’ which has the Millennium Square screaming along to the chorus so loud you could probably hear them from the arena. There was only one way the day was going to end and it was with ‘The Middle’. It sends the Leeds crowd into pandemonium as the whole floor is bouncing along from front to back for the highlight of the day. It’s the perfect way to close out a day’s worth of incredible live music, and one we and Jimmy Eat World won’t forget.
Another year is successfully ticked off for Slam Dunk Festival. With the line ups growing stronger, the sites growing bigger, and the crowds gathering in their thousands, everything is heading in the right direction as SDF continues to be one of the best festivals of the summer! (D.P)
Review: Adam Jones & Danny Peart
Photos: © Danny Peart Photography 2018