Ever since moving the Leeds date of Slam Dunk Festival to Millenium Square and the surrounding area, the festival organisers have set the bar high. This year is set to be no different, featuring some of the crowning jewels of the rock, pop punk and metal scene.
Taking to the main stage in an unexpectedly early slot, Crossfaith at least serve to warm up the still somewhat static crowd, even though they could have brought the house down later in the day. At first, only the front few rows are finding their feet. However, post Monolith, things are very different as the entirety of Millenium Square surges to be in the thick of it, spurred on by the aforementioned juggernaut of a track. Ghost in the Mirror sees an appearance from Beartooth’s Caleb Shomo, while frontman Ken disappears into the crowd for the majority of their cover of The Prodigy’s Omen. As it has such an unrelenting element to it, it serves to further Monolith’s tirade. While set closer Countdown To Hell unleashed the final (and most intense) assault on the mid-afternoon crowd. (Emma Louise)
We Are The Ocean are next up on the main stage. Having recently announced their split, these three festival shows are to be the last for the band. There is a packed crowd in Millennium Square to see their final hurrah and the band do not disappoint. Front man Liam Cromby’s vocals soar across the square and sound nothing less than incredible. Slam Dunk has such a ‘mates’ atmosphere to it, with really great vibes all day long and it seems like the crowd are feeling this already, even though it is relatively early on. Waiting Room is the biggest song of the set and gets the crowd off their feet and singing along. It really is sad to see another British band call it a day, but We Are The Ocean leave on such a high and with dignity, they will be missed. (Erin Moore)
Billed as the ‘secret special guests’, Bury Tomorrow are another British band dominating the Main Stage at this year’s festival. Man On Fire is an absolute tune and there isn’t a neck found without a banging head attached to it. Typical to a northern gig, there is the classic chant of ‘Yorkshire, Yorkshire!’, purely because the North takes pride in itself and the Leeds crowd wants to be remembered over the two Southern dates of the festival. One downside to BT’s set was that the sound quality seemed to be quite poor; maybe this was due to festival restraints or not enough sound check time, but it did put an overall downer on the show. (Erin Moore)
2007’s emo sensations Cute Is What We Aim For playing their debut album, Same Old Blood Rush With A New Touch, on the Monster Energy stage looks set to be something special. It’s a slight shame then, that from the off (even though, the downright irresistible tunes are still present) the whole vibe is very lacklustre – some of the cheeky, buoyant charm is missing and something about the set just isn’t quite sitting right. Maybe that’s because the band are no longer chipper 20 year olds, or something else. This is not to say the tracks are not enjoyed by today’s Slam Dunk crowd – first track Newport Living is the catchiest of all right off the bat, whilst Risque finally picks up the pace a little, before Moan injects a little strutting character to their set. (Emma Louise)
Opening with the title track from their latest release Aggressive, Beartooth smash onto the stage and immediately dominate their space. Ken from Crossfaith joins for Bodybag which hypes up the already tipsy crowd even more. The video for Sick Of Me was released a couple of days before the festival, the lyrics being the most important part of the song, so for the crowd to sing them together as one unit was a special moment. The Lines and Fairweather Friend go off and circle pits are forming and getting bigger as the set goes on. Front man Caleb Shomo doesn’t speak a lot in the set, but when he does, he is full of gratitude for the fans that are pushing this band to dizzy heights. In Between was always going to be a massive singalong and it didn’t disappoint- keep an eye out for Beartooth because they could be easily headlining this festival in a couple of years’ time. (Erin Moore)
In the three years that We The Kings haven’t been back to the UK, a lot has happened for the band. They released a new album and several members have gotten married/had children- all documented by bassist Charles Trippy on his daily YouTube vlogs. Now they’re back in the UK and mean business, dropping their most famous song Check Yes Juliet first. The band were billed to play their debut album in full but for whatever reason this doesn’t happen, instead the audience are treated to newer songs; Just Keep Breathing, about which front man Travis Clark says that he “doesn’t get tired of writing out this lyric for tattoos”, and pop rock ditty I Feel Alive- complete with two dance moves (the sorority squat and the wacky inflatable arm man). No, We The Kings aren’t going to be the next Glastonbury headliners, but are they a great band to have a bit of a drink and dance to? Absolutely. They’re also the only band aside from Europe (you know, from The Final Countdown) to do the same song as an opener and closer for the set as Check Yes Juliet gets its second play of the day. (Erin Moore)
Frank Iero keeps his raincoat on for the duration of his set with his band The Patience, despite the fairly warm temperatures Leeds is experiencing today. I’m A Mess, thanks to Frank’s raw, punky vibe, is full of urgency. It’s a different atmosphere during this set as opposed to others today – although still high in energy and in pace, the image of a small musician looking completely at home with his guitar, yet slightly awkward in front of a microphone, making a cacophony of sounds through his songs that meld together this short sharp burst of a set- seems to be something people see as a spectacle; to be taken in rather than taken part in. Weighted is the epitome of this, and the highlight of today’s set. (Emma Louise)
Set It Off’s vigour is infectious, kicking things off the right way. They take to the stage soundtracked by the opening claps of Why Worry, which is the high point of their set even though it is just the beginning. Leeds’ O2 Academy may not even be half full, but Set It Off very clearly don’t care – plus the missing energy is made up by the people who are here and committed to partaking. Forever Stuck In Our Youth is an arm bouncing frenzy, whilst The Haunting is equally as undeniable as its predecessors. (Emma Louise)
True Trans Soul Rebel is a very strong opener for the Against Me headline set on the Signature Brew stage: dropping straight into I Was A Teenage Anarchist- this band make it clear they are not holding anything back tonight. There are people young and old crowd surfing two songs in, to a stage that is essentially set down in a car park, echoing the uber-punk vibes shown on stage. The jolt-y guitar riffs echo around the centre of Leeds on this bank holiday Sunday evening, and the band rarely stop for breath between songs, never mind to speak to the crowd, yet it’s evident they want to get as many songs from their impressive back catalogue into the set. Furthermore, there is an overwhelming sense of gratitude from the performers, though which the huge smile plastered onto vocalist Laura Jane Grace’s face says it all. Against Me are a perfect festival band and a great closer for another spectacular stage at Slam Dunk festival – props to Ben Ray for consistently getting things so right with the diverse and remarkable artists that he continues to book year after year. (Erin Moore)
Bowling For Soup seem to crop up year after year with basically the same set and jokes, yet seeing them live is just still never ever a chore. The fact they admit they KNOW nobody wants to hear any new material from them, embracing their old school charm basically makes them undeniable. Typically for Bowling For Soup, the stage (in Leeds Arena, no less) is adorned with beer kegs- “we are Bowling For Soup, and we are the greatest band who has ever lived in the world” begins frontman Jaret Reddick modestly.
During The Bitch Song and Almost, the crowd are fairly static- although they seem into it, there’s very little in the way of movement for a good half of the set. Fat jokes (mainly aimed at Reddick’s weight gain) and jokes about how the band recently discovered Strongbow are in abundance tonight, and do everything to highlight the fact that BFS will never stop being fun. “How many of you drank this when you were 16?! I’m a 16 year old chick!” is the intro to Ohio (Come Back To Texas). Punctuated by an appearance by MC Lars (purely so he can add to tonight’s bad joke quota), this is one of their less whimsical and more down to earth tracks- and it goes on for quite a while as chatter ensues mid-verse.
After BFS welcome everyone to the geriatric stage of Slam Dunk- captioning the fact they’re the only people above 40 to grace that very stage today, High School Never Ends fully drives home the nostalgia, demonstrated by the biggest crowd participation of the set so far. A speedy blast through Phineas and Ferb adds pace to their already breakneck speed setlist, while Punk Rock 101 followed by a fitting cover of Stacey’s Mom are beginning to bring things to an end on a high. But what could possibly still be needed to bring this year’s Slam Dunk to a close perfectly? Girl All The Bad Guys Want and 1985 follow on from each other, undoubtedly soundtracks for many a night out for most of the people aged over 18 in the room.
Though Bowling For Soup never really do anything new or different, and most definitely not ground breaking, there’s something almost comforting in that fact, and this allows them to always exist in a class of their own. While they remain exactly, unashamedly true to the Bowling For Soup legacy, this band will always be relevant to this generation in their own way. (Emma Louise)