Slam Dunk Festival 2019 (North)
As the sun rose over Leeds on the May Bank Holiday Weekend, the city seemed to be taken over by every form of the alternative community, from the old school punk rockers with Mohawks stacked high to pop punk fans covered glitter to the metalheads draped in black, and everything in between. It could only mean one thing – Slam Dunk Festival 2019 was upon us! With a beautiful new outdoor site to explore there was certainly an air of curiosity as we boarded the shuttle bus up to Temple Newsam Park for an incredible day of music.
As it turns out the new outdoor site really helped with the authentic festival feel and the lack of queuing to get into venues really made for an enjoyable experience. Given the close proximity of the stages as well and the awesome dual stages across the site we managed to catch far more bands than originally planned.
Kublai Khan – The Key Club Stage, Left Key
Opening up the day on the Left Key Stage were the mighty Kublai Khan. After hearing a bunch of great things about the band it was amazing to finally check them out. Despite playing early on the day it was clear that the hardcore crew were out in force. As the band ripped through their huge set the pit was burst wide open with plenty of hardcore dancers filling the space. As the band smashed their way through possibly their most well-known track ‘The Hammer’ it was clear to see just how well the band were playing and how powerful the vocals were. Kublai Khan are certainly one of Hardcore’s best kept secrets and one that I’ll be keeping a close eye on for their next return to the UK.
A Loss For Words – Marshall Stage
Next up was a trip over to the Marshall Stage for the first pop punk band of the day and it was the unmissable A Loss For Words. Playing their first UK shows since coming off hiatus, they really showed why they were so in demand. Pulling on their greatest hits thorough the set really got the crowd on board with the usual Whoa’s and angry finger pointing in full force during the set. As the set went on there was no sign of stopping other than a moment of silence dedicated to Tim Landers from Transit before launching into ‘Pirouette’. A Loss For Words finished the set on a high note with a huge sing along to ‘Stamp Of Approval’ with the crowd surfers starting early really set the feeling for this triumphant return. A great set that really hit the feel of the festival bang on.
Hot Milk – The Key Club Stage, Left Key
Having planned and re-planned my day at least three times on the journey to the new site I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to see the up and coming pop punkers in Hot Milk. Luckily with the secret guest announcement playing just after them on the next stage it was fantastic to walk into the tent and hear them. As the band worked their way through the tracks from their debut EP alongside a few unreleased tracks it was clear to see that they are definitely the band to take over the festival circuit this year. Main singles ‘Awful Ever After’ and ‘Take Your Jacket’ went down a treat and the crowd really reciprocated the energy coming off the stage by bouncing and clapping along throughout. It was fantastic to see them playing to a much larger crowd in such a short space of time and I can’t wait to see them on a headline tour in the future.
Y3K (Busted) – The Key Club Stage, Right Key
In one of the worst kept secrets in festival history it was no surprise to find out that the special guests Y3K were in fact Busted. As they took to the stage a packed tent really signalled the nostalgia and excitement held for the band. Since their reunion they seem to have picked up right where they left off as one of the top pop punk boybands. Very much playing into the crowds hands the band took to the stage with ‘Air Hostess’ causing complete mayhem. With the trio bouncing around the stage even during newer track ‘Shipwrecked in Atlantis’ the energy was just as intense and by the time the set closed with the huge Year ‘3000’ it was clear that this was a set to be remembered.
Turnstile – Impericon Stage
Following a couple of lighter band it was time to get back into the heavier side of Slam Dunk and who better to see than Turnstile. Coming from their roots in hardcore they clearly are no longer the hidden underground band that I thought as the Impericon stage was packed to the limits. Their brand of hardcore went down a treat with the crowd and the amount of energy coming of the stage was infections with tracks such as Generator and Big Smile showing off the incredible ability of the band. With crowd surfers flying left, right, and centre the smiles from the stage could be seen for miles around. It’s fantastic to see them playing to a massive audience that all seemed on board with the band and with the huge amount of great tracks on their latest album ‘Time & Space’ it’s no surprise that Turnstile are jumping from strength to strength. Expect to see this band headlining stages in the next few years that’s just how impressive they are.
The Interrupters – Punk In Drublic Stage
Keeping up the theme of bands going from strength to strength at the moment but changing the genre completely, next up were The Interrupters. The LA Ska-punks had a pride of place position on the Punk in Drublic stage and it was clear to see how they had got this far. With catchy hooks and amazing vocals the bands their set seemed to fly by. With tracks from all across their discography it was clear to see that the quality ran deep with the band. With cries of equality and standing up for what you believe in before crashing through ‘Title Holder’ to finishing with the “little known B side”- ‘She’s Kerosene’ – it was clear that the packed crowd were having a good time and dancing along. A great set from The Interrupters that showed the future of Ska is in very good hands.
Our Hollow, Our Home – The Key Club Stage, Right Key
Switching things back to the heavier side next up were Our Hollow, Our Home. Showing their brand of metalcore off finely, the dual vocalists worked to perfection with the contrast shining through their set. Following the release of ‘In Moment / In Memory’ the band are really picking up pace and the huge crowd present really showed the expectations for them as one of the strongest names in the scene currently. Starting out their set with older hits such as Hartsick and Karmadillo went down a treat for the fans both old and new. Following up with a few of the newer tracks created pits galore. Huge singalongs rang out to Wraiths as a high point of the set before transitioning into the breakdowns which shook the entire tent. Our Hollow, Our Home are really showing the bright future metalcore has following in the footsteps of bands like Bury Tomorrow and Wage War and I can’t wait to see them smashing sets on much larger stages.
Pagan – The Key Club Stage, Left Key
Keeping up the theme of up and coming bands that deserve their breakthrough, a short trip to the other side of The Key Club Stage meant that it was time for Pagan. Filling their 30 minute set with non-stop energy from start to finish really showed how much fun the band were having on stage. The Australian band are known for their mixing of genres with their brand of Disco Punk ‘n’ Roll being very hard to define. With fan favourites ‘Death before Disco’ and ‘Silver’ going down fantastically with the crowd, it’s clear that Pagan are on a roll at the moment. Clearly captivated by the on stage antics of vocalist Nikki Brumen and the pure musicianship of the rest of the band, by the end of the set they had almost doubled the size of the already large crowd. Definitely one of my sets of the day and one band that I’ll be following very closely in the coming year.
The Bronx – Impericon Stage
Following on from the high energy of Pagan would be tough for any band, any band other than The Bronx that is! As soon as the first few notes of ‘The Unholy Hand’ rang out a circle pit the size of the stage opened up in the middle of the tent. With the high energy hardcore that The Bronx are known for it was no surprise that there was only a couple of brief respites throughout their 40 minute set. A rare airing of ‘Under the Rabbit’ got the crowd shouting back the lyrics. The defining moment for the show however was during ‘Knifeman’ when vocalist Matt Caughthran jumped into the centre of the pit to join in. by the time the band finished up with ‘Around the Horn’ it was clear that both the band and the crowd had really given it their all. The Bronx are a must see band if you haven’t already seen them live as they really do put on one hell of a show
Story Of The Year – Jägermeister Stage
Next up for the day were Story Of The Year. Their set was a huge nostalgia trip for the original days of metal and looking at the size of the crowd that was bursting out of the Jägermeister Stage tent it was clear to see that a lot of people felt the same way. Amazingly for a band set in that kind of nostalgia some of their best moments came during their more recent tracks. ‘Bang Bang’ went down a storm with the crowd shouting along to the chorus all through the song. Older hits such as ‘Until The Day I Die’ also went down exactly as expected somehow managing to sound even better than the original recordings. It’s hard to find a metal band these days that managed to work each part of the genre together so to see Story Of The Year managing it so well who knows where these guys will be in another 10 years.
grandson – The Key Club Stage, Left Key
Switching things up completely from the nostalgic to the brand new it was time to head back to The Key Club Stage to catch the most exciting artist on the bill – grandson. Despite this being his first UK tour ever and up against down heavy competition on the other stages, word must have got around just how impressive he is as the tent was packed out with an expectant crowd. As he took to the stage with his brand of political punk it was clear just how special of a performance this was. To hear the comparisons to bands such as Rage Against the Machine may seem like a flash in the pan but the uniqueness of grandson and his ability to command a crowd certainly mean that it’s possible for him to be just as iconic in the future. The only negative to take from his set was that it was too short for an artist of his calibre only fitting 6 songs into his 30 mins. For the tracks he did deliver they were mixed perfectly with every member of the band playing their part perfectly. The whole crowd were electric and as the last notes of ‘Blood/Water’ rang out there was a definite feeling in the air that everyone in the room had just witnessed something special. It’s only a matter of time before grandson is headlining huge stages.
Touché Amoré – Dickies Stage
Usually with the rain pouring at a festival it dampens the crowds’ spirit, luckily for us Slam Dunk was the exception as a huge crowd were on show to see Touché Amore. With their unique take on Post-Hardcore it really complemented the pouring rain. Each song hit like a hammer with the band playing incredibly and the vocals from Jeremy Bolm soaring across the crowd. Playing through a selection of their best tracks it was easy to see how they’re managed to pull in their huge crowd. With fan favourite tracks such as ‘Palm Dreams’ and ‘Flowers And You’ getting a huge reaction to the impressive ‘~’ which the crowd took the lead on the vocals. It will be great to finally see them live as headliners when they tour later this year with Deafheaven as I only seem to be able to catch Touche Amore in small doses at festivals currently.
Plain White T’s – Marshall Stage
As the Plain White T’s prepared to take to the stage to headline the Marshall Stage, it appeared that the weather gods had other ideas. With the microphone connections deciding to pack it in the crowd were left to look at the band standing sheepishly on the stage trying to get the kit working again. Unfortunately by the time that the crew had fixed the microphone issue there was very little chance to play many songs. It was clear that the crowds’ patience was appreciated as lead singer Tom Higgenson thanked the crowd for hanging around in the rain before cracking his way through their most known song ‘Hey There Delilah’. As a contrast to the weather the acoustic pop managed to get a great singalong throughout the rest of their shortened set. Whilst it was a shame that the set was cut short its certainly a solid excuse for them to come back via Leeds on a tour in the near future.
The Menzingers – Dickies Stage
As the main band of the day for me it was fantastic to see The Menzingers pull off a perfect Slam Dunk headline set. Starting their set with ‘Tellin Lies’ got the party off to a great start and it never came down from there with a constant mosh towards the front of the crowd. ‘Lookers’ and ‘The Obituaries’ got huge singalongs with crowd surfers galore from start to finish. Even the sun made appearance during their set to really set the mood perfectly. The entire band were sounding incredible and there was an incredible feeling of fun throughout their show. Whilst sometimes punk rock can feel a bit so-so this was very much the opposite for The Menzingers as they delivered their incredible set without a hitch. Finishing their set with the incredible and heartfelt ‘In Remission’ lead to huge chants all across the Dickies stage of ‘If everyone needs a crutch, then I need a wheelchair’ as the band left the stage. The Menzingers are certainly no strangers to playing to huge crowds and this was no different but the sense of community that they managed to create in just a brief 50 minute set was incredibly .I’m certainly excited for the future to hear their new album and the possibility of a tour at the start of 2020.
All Time Low – Monster Energy Stage
Having finished with The Menzingers being my high point of the festival it only felt right to keep the good vibe going and catch the tail end of All Time Low’s Set on the Monster Energy Stage. As I arrived just over halfway into the set they were powering through the fantastic ‘Somewhere in Neverland’ which really kept the atmosphere across Temple Newsam Park. The rain had well and truly finished and the festival was going down with a party. Despite missing most of the ‘Nothing Personal’ play through I still managed to catch the bands greatest hits with both ‘Somethings Gotta’ Give’ and ‘Time-bomb’ making the crowd reach deafening levels. As the band joked about on stage to dance to this next song like it was your favourite, they broke out brand new track ‘Getaway Green’ which seemed to go down fantastically, blending in well with the rest of their tracks in the set. As the fireworks rose on the stage for the end of ‘Kids in the Dark’ it was clear that everyone was expecting the encore. Starting out with arguably the best track on Nothing Personal – ‘Lost In Stereo’ (conveniently the first All Time Low track I ever heard). Had the crowd jumping dancing and screaming all across the park. Finishing up the night in style with the perfect ‘Dear Maria, Count Me In’ had enough people jumping that it could have shook the entire UK, as the song drew to an end it was clear that both the fans in attendance and the band on stage had a brilliant time during the set. Say what you want about All Time Low they certainly know how to put on an entertaining show and a fantastic end to a brilliant day of music.