Slam Dunk, Leeds’s annual punk and rock festival, expanded into various venues in the city centre, including Millennium Square, on Saturday. Our reviewers Lee Howorth and Neil Short report. Pictures by Anthony Longstaff.
Lee Howorth’s Slam Dunk
After a brief circle of the festival site to find my bearings, I caught Brighton’s As It Is open up the Macbeth Stage and was lucky enough to see Set It Off in the main square. Hints of Fall Out Boy and strangely, gospel music and N-Sync!
Female-fronted Pvris became the surprise revelation of the whole event. Their set opener St Patrick was possibly the best introduction to a new band’s music I have ever enjoyed.
It was then about time I checked out the Desperados stage. Big D & the Kids Table have a charismatic frontman and classic ska and skacore elements complete with horn section. But I wasn’t completely won over.
Cartel from Atlanta, Georgia, displayed pop punk at its finest. Handclapping aplenty, but the crowd wasn’t nearly big enough for such impressive talent.
New York rockers Bayside also impressed but ultimately I ambled away disappointed at the exclusion of one of the band’s standout hits Carry On.
Don Broco had the best staging of the day by far – smoke cannons and neon lights! Despite problems with the sound dipping, it was a really promising display.
Goldfinger gave proof that experience counts. Their most famous song Superman, with Reel Big Fish on brass, became one of the moments of the festival. Synchronised jumping and balloon swordfights all the way down Cookridge St!
Taking Back Sunday and a rare chance to see Swedish punks Millencolin both seemed too good an opportunity to miss, but sadly neither hit the high bar already set by earlier acts.
Headliners on the Desperados stage Reel Big Fish provided the emotional high to end on. Friends linked arms, lovers embraced and almost everyone danced as the narrow street was filled by a never-ending sea of faces. Almost all the hits were present, and so was the on-stage banter and supreme guitar shredding skills of frontman Aaron Barratt. The crowd filed out with smiles aplenty alongside cheers of olé!
Neil Short’s Slam Dunk
Last year, after winning the Kerrang! award for best festival, Slam Dunk promised us that they would come back this year, bigger and better than before, and they delivered on a scale that surpassed all expectations.
Taking over Leeds city centre, thousands of people turned up to watch bands such as You Me At Six, Taking Back Sunday, Reel Big Fish, Patent Pending, and so many more good bands, it was simply mind blowing to see my home town flooded with brilliant music flowing through the streets, almost bringing a carnival-like atmosphere with it.
Inevitably, festivals of this size are bound to have some set times clashing through out the course of the day, but this year the clashes seemed to have been kept down to a minimum, allowing anyone to catch at least a little bit of each bands set if they wanted.
I managed to catch Patent Pending first of all, breaking equipment, then performing one of their best sets I have ever seen them play. Complete with pirate hooks and crowd swimming competitions, really catchy tunes, these crowd pleasers will be back in Leeds this November.
PVRIS and We Are The Ocean over on the main stage didn’t fail to deliver punchy sets and crowd pleasers either, as did Thy Art Is Murder and Bury Tomorrow – heavy, brutal music from the Monster Stage in the O2 Academy that chewed me up and spat me out just in time for Zebrahead’s set on the Desperado stage, who are absolutely outstanding with foot tapping tunes, and the horn section from Reel Big Fish.
Just managing to catch the last track of the Goldfinger set, I could tell I had just missed a belter, but I managed to console myself with Taking Back Sunday, who headlined the festival back in 2013, and are still banging out incredible sets and performances. The last couple of bands, You Me At Six, and Reel Big Fish were absolutely amazing, and kept the tired festival-goers partying on until the bitter sweet end.
All in all, Slam Dunk have done it again, giving the best value for money on ticket prices, keeping the thousand of revellers happy, and lifting Leeds back in to the limelight and hopefully inspiring youngsters to keep the music scene beating for another twelve months until they return.
Slam Dunk 2015 truly has been the best to date and the organisers need to stop and take credit for the amazing job they have done, creating a festival that surely should be inspirational to all other overpriced and mainstream festivals.
Gig date: May 23