The fact that Leeds was the first of the three Slam Dunk festival shows to sell out is a telling factor when it comes to this cult pop-punk event. While the festival extended its stretch to Hatfield in 2011 and Wolverhampton for the 2013 campaign, Leeds will always be its true home, and the experience on offer was one certainly worthy of a homecoming centrepiece.
Indeed, with Slam Dunk boasting more famous names this year than the register of a Hollywood rehab centre, the all too familiar festival puzzlement over which acts to commit to was always inevitable, but the artists spread out across the seven stylish stages there was really no wrong choice when it came to band selection.
The likes of up and coming rockers Mallory Knox and We are the Ocean lit up the main stage during the day, with Knox particularly impressing as front man Mikey Chapman conducted a series of mosh pits along to an edgily wild rendition of the best tracks from their debut album Signals.
Wake Up was a particular highlight of Mallory Knox’s half hour set, with an irresistibly rhythmic drum and guitar intro leading into an anthemic chorus which translated perfectly to the live stage. With Knox also smashing it with Beggars, a tune driven by progressive riffs and neat vocals, and finishing on latest single Lighthouse, a banger that showcases the team’s all-round musical talent, it was certainly one to remember.
Sleeping With Sirens followed soon after on the main stage and charismatic lead singer Kellin Quinn put on a striking vocal performance as he switched effortlessly from his unique brand of pitch-perfect vocals to a deep stage-shaking scream on a variety of the fans favourite tracks.
Deaf Havana were up next with a quality upbeat display that showcased the band’s raw talent, with James Veck-Gilodi commanding an audience that repeated his every word after cleverly opening with Robbie William’s Let Me Entertain You and new single Boston Square to get the crowd jumping from the start.
All Time Low were left to end the main stage festivities (check out our full ATL review here), sending the band’s predominantly female teen audience into hysterics as they sounded out the highlights of their extensive song list. The tunes from Nothing Personal in particular were played to perfection, while the wit of the band members added an extra edge to the concert, but while the Don’t Panic numbers were also appealing, they didn’t carry quite the same live thrill as the classics.
To focus on the main stage merriments is to only touch the surface of Slam Dunk festival however. Elsewhere, pop-punk sensations the Wonder Years rocked the MacBeth Footwear stage after The Story So Far had impressively warmed the crowd of the jam-packed venue, and Four Years Strong concluded the stage with a killer performance.
The Wonder Years may not have played a British gig in a few years but they did not disappoint on their return, and the festival goers showed they certainly hadn’t forgotten them by singing along to the extend where they ensured their vocal chords would be suffering shortly.
Memphis May Fire and Pierce The Veil combined to close the Monster Stage, putting on a massive show that left hardcore fans grinning and provided the mega mosh pits of the festival. Attendees were given an extra bonus at Pierce The Veil when Kellin Quinn jumped over to join the band on stage for feature King For a Day.
Andrew McMahon stirred up a range of emotions on the Keep a Breast stage too, playing a mixture of tunes from his new solo EP alongside crowd favourites from Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate. While these old classics left joyful watchers yelling happily along, ten minute marathon track Konstanstine left certain onlookers on the edge of tears, and it seems for sure that wherever fans chose to close out their festival night, they will have left the venue with a satisfied feeling as thick as their newly attained coating of sweat.
To cram so many amazing acts into a University union is a wonderful concept, but not one that you would expect to run so smoothly, successful, and spectacularly. Slam Dunk festival manages to pull this feat off in style, supplying an irreplaceable all-day experience in a manner that leaves fans more content than Adele at an all you can eat buffet.
A must see for any pop-punk, ska, rock or metal fan.