It really is the most wonderful time of the year and Slam Dunk Leeds kicked off proceedings for the one the first UK festivals of the summer and boy did it live up the the exceptional expectations it had on the build up. For me this was the best ‘Slammy D’ yet – come along on the journey of the day and see exactly why it set the bar for the summer.
Bathed in the baking Yorkshire sun, Slam Dunk kicks off the first of its double header in the North before traveling down south the following day in Hatfield. Sun, an eager crowd and a perfect line-up, what more could you possibly ask for from a festival?
Across the day I was able to catch some of the best up and coming bands and artists as well as some of the very best festival regulars spread over 6 stages – from Manchester, to Sydney and even Ohio, just some of the wide spread locations represented in Leeds – here’s what went down.
A Slam Dunk debut and a curtain raiser saw ‘electro pop princess’ Cassyette whip up a storm on the Jägermeister Stage. She certainly lived up to the one to watch for the weekend label – a set that was filled with so much energy and excitement. New single Sad Girl Summer was an instant hit with her fans but there was certainly no sad girl on that stage – a smile the length of Leeds and beyond was never leaving. A set that was a must see at the weekend and an artist that is a must see for the future – the alt music scene is at its very best and Cassyette is on her way to the top.
Aussie pop-punk rising stars Yours Truly take to the stage in one of the days lunchtime slots bringing in a jampacked crowd. The UK is always said deemed a top favourite by the band and its easy to see why – lead singer Mikaila Delgado bounced about the stage like it was her own headline show and the crowd were ingulfed in the whole thing – singing back word for word from bangers from the early years like Circles and High Hopes
I could write a full scale review on this set alone. Performance of the day for me, the energy on and off that stage from the very start was on levels you rarely see that early on at a festival and when you do, you know its a set that’ll last in the memory. Manchester’s Hot Milk brought the carnage and left their mark on the Temple Newsam turf.
Kicking off with I Just Wanna Know What Happens When I’m Dead – the pits were open before the intro even drops. Han Mee as always has the crowd right where she wants them, from chaos to crowd sing-alongs for Candy Coated Lies & one of last years singles I Think I Hate Myself. Fresh of the back of its release, new single Teenage Runaways received the expected reception that could potentially be heard in the bands hometown just down the road.
At any festival you want to leave a mark on punters who may not know you before the set – the band closing an explosive set with Split Personality with a pit the width of the tent would certainly have an impact on that happening. The perfect ending that just sums up the Hot Milk experience – absolute chaos.
The Amity Affliction
Aussie metalcore heroes make their long awaited return to UK soil and they came with a bang – one of the heavier sets of the day and as expected the crowd brought the action. The Queensland 4 piece are no strangers to the UK festival scene and this killer set proved exactly why they are brought back at any given opportunity.
They dive head first in with 2021 single Like Love – a song that eases you into things with its slow melodic intro before fully kicking it with the screams of vocalist Joel Birch sending the Leeds crowd into chaos. Keeping the fast tempo moving they throw things back to 2014 dropping one of their early classics Pittsburgh.
Now, you can’t come to a show like The Amity Affliction and not expect a full crowd interaction that will leave any first timer eager for more – that’s exactly what we got with fan favourite Don’t Lean On Me, a special moment to witness weather you’re a hardcore Amity fan or just someone who popped along for the show.
The set sadly brings itself to a close and its undoubtable ended on an insane high – 2020 record Everyone Loves You… Once You Leave Them saw great success charting at number 2 in the Aussie charts – proceedings came to a finish closing with All My Friends Are Dead and another crowd pleaser, Soak Me In Bleach.
Its the second half of the day, the sun is still shining and sending you to the bar for a cold one – you fancy a set that literally brings the heat and some serious mosh pits, then look no further than the Jägermeister stage. Beartooth take to stage to an explosion of fire and pyrotechnics as they open their set with 2014 hard hitting The Lines before smashing straight into Devastation.
The band have continued to have line-up changes since their formation in 2012 but despite this they continue to blow crowds away with their live shows – frontman Caleb Shomo shows exactly why they are a must see band – his insane vocals crash through the full festival as he sets the crowd into a mosh frenzy with early single Body Bag.
Before performing and dedicating In Between to his partner who was proudly watching in the mix of the chaos – Shomo tells the crowd of his struggles and how far he has now come being sober for 1 year to a huge cheer and applause from his fans – a truly hard hitting yet lovely moment to witness.
The Past Is Dead with a huge pyro show closes off the set before the band leave and rush back on for one last explosive finale rounding off proceedings with The Last Riff that saw Shomo throw himself around the stage and he shreds his guitar around for the only sighting of this in the show. A 45 minute set that if you took one eye off you missed something incredible – the band will return for a huge headline tour in March 2022, something that cannot be missed.
From competition winners to festival headliners – Neck Deep have climbed their way to the top through endless amounts of hard work and sheer dedication to what they love. Weather it was now or 2012, Neck Deep’s set brings the type of fun and happiness you can only really experience at their shows – they are staking their own claim as pop punk heroes.
The Rock Scene tent was packed and ready as the Welsh icons kick off their highly anticipated set with newly dropped single STFU making its live debut and the crowd reaction would have anyone think its been a classic for years. From the new to the old saw us go back to 2015 and the Life’s Not Out To Get You era for Serpents and Citizens of Earth.
Reminiscing of where things all began 10 years ago while hinting at some anniversary shows, the boys throw it back to 2012 dropping What Did You Expect? followed by Over and Over – a fine nod to anthems that got the band to where they stand now.
It might have been June, but the band told us of a long lonely December, but this was certainly not the last thing we remember – we just never saw a guest appearance from punk legend Mark Hoppus. The thing is with a Neck Deep show, you never want it to end – the closing of this set was, not to sound to biased, but it was perfect – for any lifelong ND fan, these songs are what we were brought on and it is exactly how you close a festival set.
A shout to out to a place we all call home, a song that’s dedicated to the town, city or village you are from of were brought up in that’s not quite the best, but it yours – Cant Kick Up The Roots is that song, written of the bands hometown in Wrexham, its certainly a song we can all relate to. Gold Steps and finally and In Bloom closed us off in incredible fashion. Neck Deep are a special band and this set alone proved exactly why they should be topping festival bills.
They had been booked for Slam Dunk 3 years ago, but some things happened in between that halted things but at long last pop punk icons had their moment to finally headline Slam Dunk Festival. In 1996 the band were originally formed as Kaspir before changing their name in 1999 to Sum 41 where they were later signed by Island Records that lead to the birth of their debut album in 2001, All Killer No Filler.
Since then the Canadian’s have risen from the bottom to the very top and well and truly staked their claim in punk and rock history. From countless chart topping records, nominations and awards to having their songs appear in movies and tv shows – most notably In Too Deep appearing in American Pie 2 & 2000 American Thriller, American Psycho.
The day was almost over, the main stage is packed and ready for their headliners as the bands devil backdrops looks over what’s about to kick off. The cheers are deafening as they receive a hero’s welcome and head straight into the action with Motivation before a straight move into The Hell Song – both timeless classics setting the tone for what was to come.
You can just tell how happy the boys are being back on stage in the UK after a notable absence – singer Deryck Whibley stops for a second to take in what is before him to the demand a circle pit for their next number, 2004 killer Were All To Blame. The crowd and band alike were fully engrossed in all that was happening soaking in every single second like it was their last ever show. Underclass Hero & Walking Disaster make appearances midway in a so far insanely sick set.
The ultimate crowd bounce was about to kick off as the intro to timeless classic In Too Deep echo’s around the field – something you can imagine in your head just how good this will be, times it by 100 and you got it, a truly incredible thing to witness such an iconic song of many peoples younger days live during a headline slot. From bounce to slow dance, Deryck and co slow things down with the emotional Pieces.
After such a stunning sing along, we are treated to a cover of Queen’s, We Will Rock You before rounding off what was a special evening with Fat Lip and Still Waiting – the song ends to a simple ‘ok bye’ from Deryck as the band applaud an insane crowd on their way off.
Despite its challenges on the build up to the festival – Slam Dunk North was an incredible success and the weather just made it that extra bit better. A day filled with countless talented bands who are ones to watch for the future and the old school vets you never tire of seeing. Thank You Slam Dunk Festival – we’ll see you again in 2023.