The annual Slam Dunk Festival took place this weekend and for the first time GoldenPlec decided to head along to cover the action. This festival celebrates alternative music focusing on pop-punk music. The independent festival has grown from strength to strength, attracting arena level artists and delving into heavier musical realms. The one day touring festival takes place in Leeds and London on the UK bank holiday weekend. Previously the festival ran a third date in the Midlands, however the 2019 edition saw the event consolidated into two larger venues. So due to its increasing popularity and higher capacity requirements, the festival moved from Leeds City Centre out to the Temple Newsam Estate. This followed on the similar move to the Hatfield site for the South edition on the outskirts of London.
In an interesting concept, 6 of the 9 stages present at Slam Dunk Festival are adjoined, meaning that as one act is playing on one stage, the crew can be setting up the next act on the adjacent stage and clashes on the stage pair were avoided. This was the case for the Key Club stages (named simply Key Club Left and Key Club Right), the aforementioned Marshall and Dickies stages, and the Jägermeister and Impericon stages.
Once the first mosh pits of the day were seen to Milk Teeth’s stomping Owning Your Okayness, the dairy theme continued on the Key Club Stage with up-and-coming Manchester band Hot Milk. The band will be gracing Irish shores later this summer in support of another small up-and-coming band Foo Fighters. Having just released their debut EP, the band pulled in a great crowd early in the day. Some of the crowd were at the Right Key Stage for a “super secret” special act named Y3K ,who were said to be a “Present for Everyone”. However, Hot Milk quickly turned all heads their direction through their infectious tunes and engaging stage presence.
Anti-Flag opened the Punk In Drublic stage, there was a noticeably older crowd at this stage for the days acts. The first circle pits of the day soon followed Anti Flag’s arrival. To the uninitiated circle pits may look intimidating, but there was a very positive vibe to all of them. If a member was to fall, he/she was picked straight away to re-join the good-natured, albeit a little rough, pit. Anti-Flag played into this with their high tempo songs and band members who tried to defy gravity with their leaps. After a couple of songs, I had to run to see if this secret set was worth the hype, or if it would Crash and Burn.
Screams rang out as Busted made their entrance to the thumping bass sound of Air Hostess. The crowd lapped up every minute of it. Looking like they haven’t aged a day since the 2005 hiatus, the band blended new tune Shipwrecked in Atlantis with their classic early 2000’s hits. Closing with Year 3000 the band left the stage with the crowd clamouring for much more than the 30 mins they were just treated to.
Back at the Punk in Drublic stage The Interrupters gave a taster of their upcoming Academy date on June 12th with a bouncing sing along fuelled set. Later in the day, Less Than Jake carried on the momentum built up with 3 Irish dates in the week leading up to the festival. Celebrating the anniversary of their album ‘Anthem’, the band brought their fastest tunes to a crowd who were living for circle pits and crowd surfing. At one point a totally naked man came sailing over the barrier. Following Less than Jake, legendary punks Bad Religion and NOFX closed out the stage to even more mayhem, including rumours of a full pig leg being tossed around the crowd.
Seaway brought the nautical theme to the Marshall Stage, as a couple of punters dressed as Jack Sparrow were spotted. Over in the Impericon / Jäger stages Cancer Bats impressed. The intensity frontman Liam Cormier brought to the stage was matched by hardcore dancing of the crowd. Over on the Monster Energy main stage, Waterparks brought a youthful pop swagger, which luminated the crowd, matching the highlighter green hair of singer Awsten Knight. Simple Plan kicked off the sing along session; later New Found Glory continued this airing of many tracks from their recent covers EP. This is Me from The Greatest Showman and Let It Go of Frozen fame sent the younger crowd into a frenzy.
Lights delivered a slightly different vibe to the rest of the acts, the electro fuelled tunes offering a nice change of pace from the intensity of the day. Kicking off earlier on the Monster Energy stage were pop-punk headliners All Time Low who are celebrating 10 years of their breakthrough album ‘Nothing Persona’l. Playing most of the album alongside a sprinkle of newer singles, the crowd was bouncing from the first note. New song Getaway Green, from their forthcoming new album was a real treat for long-term fans ahead of a largely nostalgic set. Meanwhile Welsh metallers Bullet For My Valentine headlined the Jäger stage, Don’t Need You and the riffing Over It from latest album ‘Gravity’ provided early highlights with confetti, CO2 and streamers filling the air.
A fun filled, enjoyable festival, Slam Dunk Festival is a haven for those that grew up on the likes of Jimmy Eat World, Blink 182 and Green Day. With a fine balance of pop punk new and old and a culture of total acceptance, this festival is one to check out.