Words by Emma Louise and Erin Moore
Its that time of year again – where Slam Dunk Festival hits three cities in the UK over the May bank holiday weekend! Saturday saw the first day of the festival, spanning across the centre of Leeds – including the arena, O2 Academy and Millennium Square.
Taking on the main stage fairly early are The Audition, easing festival goers into the day with their old school pop punk vibes. Dance Halls Turn To Ghost Town provides some quality groove to get people moving, whilst the moodier Smoke and Mirrors adds some weighty dynamics to the sunny early afternoon. Closer Don’t Be So Hard is a highlight though, and if anything can be taken from this set, it’s that their 15 years as a band shows incredibly, as this is the tightest set the main stage sees – at least until a lot later in the day. – EMMA LOUISE
At first struggling to get the relaxed Leeds crowd moving, Twin Atlantic prove over their set to be the main stage staple band that we all know them to be. Tracks like Free and Make A Beast of Myself get people mumbling the words along, but it’s the big hitter Brothers and Sisters and the summer vibes of No Sleep that really hype the crowd up as the sun beats down on Millennium Square, as straight-talking vocalist Sam McTrusty basically tells his crowd to give “100% or fuck off”. The radio 1 playlisters put on a solid show of hits that you’ve probably heard on the radio when driving in the car at some point. Everyone is doing their best Scottish accents during Heart and Soul which is a strong finisher for the set, Slam Dunk have done a great job getting them on the bill this year. – ERIN MOORE
Creeper managed to fill the arena to a very good capacity – the standing section especially is filled with people eagerly awaiting their biggest Slam Dunk slot to date. They don’t disappoint either; kicking things off with Black Rain, they don’t seem as slick as usual. However as they move into Poison Pens, the section of the crowd that is participating moves further and further back, as Creeper entice more people into their grasp. Later in the set, the band exit leaving just keyboardist Hannah Hermione centre stage, and Ian on guitar. This marks Crickets’ first showcasing at a festival, and as Hannah’s vocals echo through the busy arena, its clear before the audience has even reacted that its gone down incredibly well. Hiding With Boys has a stripped down intro bringing out a new layer of emotion that wasn’t present– or as apparent in the original recording. Leaving the crowd to sing most of the final song Misery, frontman Will Gould dives into the crowd and delves into the more indulgent side of showmanship whilst his band and the audience sing most of the lyrics for him. Its safe to say, Creeper nailed their sot on the arena stage today. – EMMA LOUISE
Sleeping With Sirens pack out the Leeds Arena and get possibly the loudest screams from the crowd so far. Kellin Quinn has their largely younger audience in the palm of his hand; their unique brand of pop punk crossed with hardcore elements going down well with neutrals too, who may be waiting for later bands. The biggest singalong of the day so far goes to the emo classic If You Can’t Hang, as the infectious chorus swells around the room, this is a solid performance from the American rockers. – ERIN MOORE
It’s down to the O2 next for Crown The Empire, who start things off with Zero. The crowd are seeming a little disengaged at first – perhaps its because everyone has come into the dark room straight from the sunny, beer soaked streets of Leeds. By Memories Of A Broken Heart though, the pace has picked up significantly. ‘Lets get weird!’ screams vocalist Andy Leo ‘If you’re in this room you’re already weird so lets take it from a four to like, a six and a half.’ The definite highlight is The Fallout, because of the sheer catchiness and because its executed perfectly by the band- familiarity and comfortability are definitely key here. Their set ends with Andy Leo knocking back all manner of unidentified shots that he asked audience members to buy for him, so all in all it’s a pretty fun time. – EMMA LOUISE
Frank Carter has fronted a couple of bands in his time, but never have these outfits brought him to the Slam Dunk festival. Accompanied by his Rattlesnakes, Carter graces the stage in a faux fur leopard print full length coat- a sight definitely not to be missed. It takes Carter just two songs to descend into the crowd; a headstand isn’t usually a typical move that a frontman might attempt whilst stood atop a crowd, but the Rattlesnakes aren’t your typical band; also inviting women only to crowd surf to feel safe enough to do so in a secure environment during Wild Flowers. During 59 second track Jackals, FC&TR get the entire standing section to partake in the biggest circle pit of the day- to which they oblige- the pit circling from barricade to the sound desk. The juddering guitar of Devil Inside Me further excites the already raucous crowd and the anthemic I Hate You is an incredible closer for the set- cut slightly short due to technical difficulties at the start. Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes are only just beginning, they will continue to play bigger shows each time they tour, and rightfully so, their irreplaceable brand of punk is refreshing and just what the rock scene needs right now. – ERIN MOORE
Here at Backseat Mafia we caught Northlane back in November 2017 at The Key Club- a packed 500 capacity venue, full of sweaty metalcore fans, so it was great to see them transition to playing the bigger venues at Slam Dunk 2018- still full of perspiring lovers of heavier music. That night in November there was absolutely no room to swing a cat and there’s definitely no feline frolics happening in the O2 Academy tonight either. Frontman Marcus Bridge’s vocals are explosive and swirl around the room, specially highlighted on Obelisk. The switch between Bridge’s ethereal clean vocals and devilish screams is seamless- Colourwave a great example of this; the heavy hitting bass contrasting incredibly well with the echoey vibes from the vocal. Citizen from latest album Mesmer gets a great reaction, and the performance is mesmerising (no pun intended). Northlane deserve to be playing the bigger stages and tonights show proves this with overwhelming evidence. – ERIN MOORE
As the sun goes in and the day starts to get a little colder, emo veterans Taking Back Sunday take to the Monster Energy stage in Millennium Square. It’s quite the lacklustre performance to say the least, with very little connection between band and audience – vocalist Adam Lazzara seems to be on another planet entirely. Second song Liar (It Takes One To Know One) goes down pretty well though, followed by a monologue from Lazzara about shampooing his hair in the shower, and encouraging everyone to appreciate his mane. Other highlights of this otherwise uninspiring set include With Without The ‘E’ – a Taking Back Sunday classic that clearly a lot of people had been waiting around to see, and MakeDamnSure, the reaction to which carried a similar vibe. – EMMA LOUISE
The problem with having the best bands play last at these festivals is that the audience have drunk a little too much and occasionally lack the energy needed for the main act, however the crowd at Jimmy Eat World have definitely had their Weetabix this morning as they’re still ready to partake come 9:30pm. Jimmy could absolutely play a show with their eyes closed and it would still be a perfect performance, and the pop punk legends bring the Millennium Square stage to a superb close. Their set is filled with an ideal balance of older and newer tracks but they don’t forget their roots- making sure they fit in classics like Bleed American and Sweetness. But it’s obviously staple anthem The Middle that everyone is waiting for and it does not disappoint for one second- from Wakefield to Bradford there would be an echo in the air of the Slam Dunk crowd screaming the lyrics of this song back to the pop punk veterans. The younger bands playing the festival gain a real insight of how to perform a faultless set by Jimmy- they put on a showcase of musical perfection and show no signs of slowing. Another fantastic booking by Ben Ray and the Slam Dunk Festival. – ERIN MOORE
Headlining the arena stage are Good Charlotte, who do nothing less than deliver 100%. They’re taking the arena by storm as soon as they hit the stage – kicking off with The Anthem and a fair amount of pyro, this is definitely the best entrance Slam Dunk has seen all day. Its set to continue too, as The Anthem rolls into Keep Your Hands Off My Girl, followed by Girls and Boys, which leads into Riot Girl – for a while it seemed like they might just keep hitting it with the old school Good Charlotte Jams, providing Leeds with a night of nostalgia. This is not quite how it goes though – although there are a lot of older, lesser played songs, it is still punctuated by some newer efforts – and a lot of talking from Joel Madden. ‘We’re just playing what we think you guys wanna hear!’ he announces before they launch into Hold On.
The live debut of their new track Actual Pain seems to go down pretty well, especially with the younger people in the crowd. The best thing about bands showcasing new stuff live, is seeing that they actually still love what they do and are genuinely still having the best time making and playing music, which is unequivocally the case here.
Theres only a few newer songs though, other than this Good Charlotte are completely bringing the greatest hits during this set. After Little Things into The Young and the Hopeless, Benji Madden casually roams around the stage and throws out ‘does anyone want to be baptised!?’ and all hell breaks loose for The River, which is undoubtedly the set highlight.
As I Just Wanna Live and Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous close the Leeds portion of the Slam Dunk Festival (accompanied by flares of pyro for days) there’s a definite feeling that Good Charlotte should be applauded for taking such a simple but clever move to ensure their set is the most memorable of the whole weekend. – EMMA LOUISE