Words by Emma Louise and Cal Ripley
Slam Dunk North has undergone some changes this year. After enjoying four years occupying Leeds’ City Centre, it has now followed in the footsteps of its Southern counterpart, and this year took place in a field instead- at Temple Newsam Park. Though there were some pros to the move, and some definite cons, all in all the festival ran without much of a hitch- with enough space for everyone.
WAGE WAR– Wage War bring their uniquely forceful take on the metalcore formula to the Jagermeister stage, following on from Knocked Looses vocalists signature high and crackly vocal tone, the guttural bellows of Wage War frontman Briton Bond demand the attention of the crowd as they launch straight into the winding riffs of Don’t Let Me Fade Away. When Cody Quistad’s chorus vocals come through crisp and clear, it’s apparent why this metalcore powerhouse are developing such a name for themselves in their scene. Latest single Low incites cheers from the crowd as they launch into the infectiously groovy opening riff and by the chorus, everyone is giving as much energy as the band. Working in more of the best material from their two albums including the ferocious Alive, Witness and the nu-metal infused Stitch make Wage War’s brief set memorable and impactful. (CAL RIPLEY)
BUSTED– There was a fair bit of hype surrounding a secret set by an unknown band at this year’s Slam Dunk- much debate ensued on Twitter after the festival teased who it could be. The fervour was only further increased with the spare time slot on the line-up being filled with the name ‘Y3K’. People flooded (and very much overflowed) the Key Club tent at 1.45, convinced Y3K must mean Busted (like Year 3000, in case you were unsure). Sure enough, the opening sounds of Air Hostess were met with delighted screams. Playing the perfect mix of old and new tracks, Busted did a great job in making sure fans of all eras were kept happy. Highlights were 3AM and Crashed The Wedding- along with the accompanying feeling that Busted were having the best time getting to do this kind of thing; a surprise set at a pop-punk festival is not the kind of thing that would have happened during Busted’s first evolution. (EMMA LOUISE)
AS IT IS– People are met with a different view as they take in As It Is these days; where once stood four pop-punk boys, now stands a much darker spectacle. Overhauling their image these past couple of years, As It Is are now making their stamp on the music scene with a heavier image, in keeping with their latest album The Great Depression. Looking at their pale faces- etched with eyeliner and clad all in black- stamped against the sunny (for now) skies behind the main stage, is quite the juxtaposition, but they’re making it work.
The Reaper with its rolling intro, is perfect for getting everyone going, however the highlight comes mid-set when the band decide to do something a little different. Earlier this year, As It Is released an EP, Anger: Reimagined, through which they explored different versions of three of the songs from The Great Depression. ‘Now we have one version of this song which is a ballad and one that’s a little heavier!’ announces frontman Patty Walters to their crowd, who already know what’s coming. ‘We’re going to play the ballad tomorrow, because we know Leeds likes to get down!’ he yells, before launching into The Question, The Answer: Reimagined, to a frenzy of movement from the audience. Taking it back a few years in this plethora of new material, older bop Dial Tones is just as welcome. As they end with The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry), the general vibe is that As It Is have definitely shaken things up today. (EMMA LOUISE)
CANCER BATS– Toronto’s Cancer Bats are perfectly at home on the Impericon stage, bringing their distinctively metal influenced punk rock to Slam Dunk. Opener Brightest Day draws in the crowd with its high intensity energy before relaxing into the sludgy groove of the chorus. You can hear the years of experience behind the musicians onstage as they churn out relentless punk rock with seemingly little effort. Hail Destroyer is a highlight of the set with Liam Cormier’s vicious delivery of the chorus, whilst their iconic cover of the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage feels a little brushed past. Maybe they feel it needs no introduction, or they feel as though they want their own material to be at the foreground. Regardless of its delivery, the crowd goes wild and Cormier stomps around the stage giving it all the right energy and gravity. (CAL RIPLEY)
SIMPLE PLAN– Simple Plan are, at this point in their career, king pins in the pop-punk scene. I’d Do Anything has a perfect jagged intro riff to get the crowd to forget about the miserable weather for a few minutes. This closely followed by Shut Up! Which is as high energy as ever, and definitely gets the best crowd reaction of their set. ‘This next song’s called Jump, so what’re we gonna do!?’ yells frontman Pierre Bouvier to an obliging crowd, who (shockingly) all jump along when the intro kicks in- turning the wet grass in front of the main stage into some serious mud. Simple Plan most certainly have not lot any passion or conviction for their live show, which is shown today during their Slam Dunk debut. (EMMA LOUISE)
GRANDSON– As the unassuming Jordan Benjamin approaches the front of the stage, sporting a smart long sleeve shirt and a head of curly brown hair, he wouldn’t strike anyone as a candidate for the Key Club stage at Slam Dunk. His fresh, genre-bending fusion of soulful hard rock, EDM and hip-hop is equally as surprising and powerful as the whirlwind of movement he becomes onstage. As he slowly builds into the electronically fuelled drop in Stigmata, a small group of highly enthusiastic fans are clustered at his feet throwing their hands in the air and screaming the words back at him. The blend of powerful riffs and drums, with synths and electronic elements sitting clearly in the foreground offers a refreshing new sound amongst a festival that, at times, seems fairly one-dimensional. Despicable continues to subvert expectations, opening with a gentle winding guitar that descends into a pulsing, heavy drop. Grandson’s impassioned, politically driven speeches between songs echo the likes of Rage Against The Machine, resonating heavily with his fans from across the pond as both our countries go through political turmoil. Blood // Water closes the set perfectly, the whole song drenched in dirty, heavy distortion. (CAL RIPLEY)
GLASSJAW– Post Hardcore veterans Glassjaw give an abrupt but effective introduction to the show with ‘Cut and Run’, wasting no time soldiering through their set. Moving on to fan favourites like Tip Your Bartender and You Think You’re (John Fucking Lennon), the band create a wall of sound rich with morose vocal melodies and intelligent riffs. The band’s lack of interest in communicating with the crowd however, makes them feel somewhat shut off and disengaged. Daryl Palumbo’s reliance on his mic stand and the band’s general inclination to appear glued to the floor may be an intentional stylistic choice, but doesn’t offer much in terms of spectacle on a barren festival stage. The meandering, intriguing melodies of Ape Dos Mil is a crowd favourite, but the maniacal and venomous Siberian Kiss is where the band truly show how angry their music can get. Had they matched the energy of their peers on the Impericon stage, this performance would have been electric. (CAL RIPLEY)
ATREYU– Atreyu have undergone some interesting last minute line-up changes for these shows, due to frontman Alex Vakatsas sustaining an injury and being unable to perform. Drummer and clean vocalist Brandon Saller has ditched his drums to front the band, as well as bringing in a few special guests to provide the screams. Surprisingly, he moves into the role effortlessly and competently fills the void left by the absence of his bandmate with every bit of the charisma you would expect from a frontman. Opening with Atreyu classic Becoming The Bull, the powerful groovy riff provides a perfect introduction to the set whilst simultaneously allowing Brandon to open the set without any help. Dan Marsala of Story of the Year provides the screams for Right Side Of The Bed, which the band follows with an extremely well received cover of It’s My Life. Bon Jovi’s classic rock anthem gives Brandon the ideal platform to showcase his commanding voice. With help from Briton Bond of Wage War, the band take their fans back to 2004 once again with the groovy and pacy Bleeding Mascara before closing the set with ‘Blow’, a dirty, hard rock anthem. It’s not clear why the bands new material is notably absent from their brief set, but the crowd’s interest does not seem to be diminished. (CAL RIPLEY)
ALL TIME LOW– All too soon, it’s time for tonight’s main stage headliner All Time Low, who couldn’t be a more ideal to close out Slam Dunk Festival. Although being in a field makes the crowd feel smaller than what ATL are probably used to these days, they didn’t show this at all. During this set they honour all eras, so there’s something for pretty much everyone.
Starting with Damned If I Do Ya (an absolute dance anthem), they’re pretty much setting the pace from the word go. As it’s the 10 year anniversary of their pivotal third album Nothing Personal, the band said they wanted to honour that in some way- they start this off with the jaunty Stella, met with many an enthused sing-a-long, into the newer Dark Side Of Your Room which in its maturity is a little less groovy, but catchy all the same.
Weightless brings it back, a true pop punk classic if there ever was on, followed by another Nothing Personal track, Break Your Little Heart, featuring a cheeky appearance from Waterparks’ Austen Knight. All Time Low haven’t dropped the ball yet, but after the soaring Somewhere In Neverland it’s time for a welcome change of pace. Therapy does just that, rousing a sing along across the field. ‘If anyone can get on someone’s shoulders, get up and we can do this song together!’ shouts frontman Alex Gaskarth as a few people then bob obligingly into the air ahead of Somethings Gotta Give.
Next, All Time Low premier a new song entitled Getaway Green. ‘This shit can be awkward, I know! You’ve never heard this song in your life, so you’re like, paying attention! But I need every single one of you to dance like it’s your favourite song on earth!’ The new track is (aside from being obviously jaunty and upbeat) a culmination of sounds from Nothing Personal and Don’t Panic; needless to say it goes down very well. They end the set before the encore with Kids In The Dark.
During this break, several people start leaving – whether it’s to miss the rush, or because they don’t realise things aren’t wrapped up yet, who knows? But the queues on the way out are well worth it after hearing the last two classics, Lost In Stereo and Dear Maria, Count Me In. What better way to end a festival than everyone singing and dancing to this undeniable track (some backing slowly towards the exits to beat the rush)- that most everyone, a fan or not, will definitely know in some capacity. (EMMA LOUISE)