Slam Dunk North – Leeds 23/5/15
Reviewer: Matt Dickinson
Slam Dunk Festival has become one of the best days in the festival calendar – especially if you like pop punk and the various genres around that. Starting out in 2006 when Fall Out Boy headlined, the festival made its return to the city centre taking in numerous venues and creating a huge party atmosphere that was topped off nicely by it being a sunny day. One thing is for certain, there felt like a lot more people here than previously – maybe that was an additional boost to the atmosphere.
First band that we got to see were As It Is – a band that I’d heard plenty about but hadn’t really listened to. They had a good crowd that seemed keen to see them, and although they didn’t sell themselves to me – they seemed like a good choice to kick off with.
Next up were Knuckle Puck. This is a band that really excites me – and I can see big things happening for them in the next year or so. The crowd was pretty hyped to see them; the sound wasn’t overly great but the passion was there and there were plenty of sing-alongs and crowd action – the high points being “But Why Would You Care” and “No Good”.
Another band that I was excited to see was Beartooth. 2014’s Disgusting was an album with some big songs and I missed them last time they were in Leeds. The O2 Academy was packed, and getting in wasn’t that easy -once we were in there, Beartooth were fairly solid for the most part – but they offered up flashes of awesome when they rolled out the big guns like ‘Body Bag’ and ‘Beaten In Lips’ – maybe I should have given them more of a listen!
I’ve rated Neck Deep for quite a while now, I was keen to see how they did on the main stage – and in fairness it fell a bit flat. Maybe it was because we didn’t get fully involved as it was hot and we wanted to be elsewhere near the end but it didn’t seem like it worked that well, they sounded a little flat and the sound wasn’t really doing them any favours. I’ll see Neck Deep again on a big stage, but I think they’re more suited to a smaller venue right now.
A Loss For Words are one of the bands calling it a day in the near future, so I was keen to make sure that I got to see them while I could. They played a cracking high energy set featuring a range of their back catalogue – definite high point was getting a guest appearance from Soupy (from The Wonder Years) on ‘Conquest Of Mistakes’ but they put on the good show they’ve become known for over the last five or so years.
Zebrahead – these guys are always good fun live, they played in an alley while we were waiting for Finch, and they just helped to up the already cool party atmosphere.
Finch – I was keen to see Finch, having been a fan of them in the past and seeing them slay the Cockpit a number of years ago. They were good, but they didn’t really keep the day’s momentum up and we headed to the main stage for Taking Back Sunday.
Taking Back Sunday have headlined Slam Dunk before and you’re always in for a show when they come to town – something they showed again here. Frontman Adam LAzarra is a crowd pleaser and the band as a whole have honed their skills. Playing songs from all their albums, this was the kind of performance that makes a day like Slam Dunk – giving a bunch of fans of a band from all generations the chance to gather in a group and enjoy the moment.
One of my favourite bands Fireworks said in the week prior to Slam Dunk they were calling it a day, so naturally I had to be there. Fireworks are the most underrated band on this scene in my eyes; they have some brilliant heartfelt songs, and strong live performance. A setting like Slam Dunk was the ideal place for their send off from Leeds. I can only hope that they come back around as they made a great day even better.
My choice of headliner was always going to be The Wonder Years, and I feel it’s good they’ve been given the shot to headline a stage as they are incredible. The stage wasn’t the most suited to a large capacity and there was barrier trouble, but that aside, TWY did what they do best and ripped through a set of absolute belters from the word go. This is a band at their peak, and from seeing them live again it makes me very excited for what their future holds!
Slam Dunk 2015 was possibly one of the best incarnations of this festival. Huge credit deserves to go to them for making an amazing day packed with bands for a whole host of people. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it, only 51 1/2 weeks until next year.
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