Slam Dunk Festival at Leeds University on 24th May 2014

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Someone might have informed me that the Leeds Food Festival was also occurring on the same day as Slam Dunk. The premier Pop Punk festival of the UK, now well established as a favourite amongst fans, has been giving an alternative to the US’s ‘Warped Tour’ since inception. That being said, it was pretty tempting not to make the trip from the train station to Leeds University and instead the amazing culinary dishes on display in the City Centre. But then they say you’d have to be a fool to miss Slam Dunk and – to be fair – I’m no fool. So I went.

Action takes place across 7 stages and, as I’m only one man, it would be incredibly difficult to be present at every single moment that this festival has in store. But I think that’s also part of the appeal because taking a chance on someone who isn’t completely well known – up and coming – or even Pop Punk can provide you with something quite special for your musical taste buds. I do make a note of catching Canterbury again, having seen and spoken to them at Newcastle’s Radstock festival in March; the room consists of extremely enthusiastic fans (mainly girls) who belt out the words to their songs with a furiousness I’ve not witnessed for a long time.

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Caliban (pictured above), on the Monster Energy stage, draws in pretty much anyone with a faint appreciation of Metal. The tent is packed and the band – with 15 years of live experience – that provide strong claim to the cause that Germany produces the best quality metal bands in Europe. Anyone looking for a more vicious turn might be disappointed; however, Feed the Rhino certainly give it their best shot. The circle pits forming across their set remind us just why these are one of the best bands on the circuit and a necesscity at any UK festival.

For something a little different, the acoustic stage is providing a mellow and relaxed offering, Rob Lynch giving us a taste of what he’ll be doing on the Acoustic Basement across the Warped Tour this Summer.

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Having spoken with front man Kris Roe only a few months ago when he appeared at Think Tank in Newcastle for a stripped down and acoustic set, it’s brilliant to see The Atari’s (above) on fine form and back in Leeds as an electronic quartet, though the replacement of Ska legends Goldfinger has seemed to leave just a few fans slightly miserable. This is always a shame. The Atari’s album ‘So Long Astoria’ from 2002 was, quite literally, one of the soundtracks of my youth – alongside Nickelback’s ‘Silver Side Up’ (FYI) so to see them perform Don Henley’s ‘Boys of Summer’ once again is a personal festival highlight for me and reminds me of a time when, aged 19, I went to see them perform at Dublin’s Temple Bar Music Centre.

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By the time headliners Less Than Jake (above and main picture) are ready to begin, the room as become full past capacity, which says a lot for those unwilling to take a chance on any other acts finishing up across the six stages. Much like Metallica at Rock Am Ring and KISS at Hellfest this band are attracting virtually every attendee. It doesn’t take long for some pits to break out, the performance of ‘Great American Sharpshooter’ has everyone moving and grooving like the best of them. With a combination of energy, showmanship and talent, Less Than Jake are the perfect headliners for Slam Dunk. Even the more recent tracks – perhaps less well liked by hardcore fans – there is still an appreciation for the fact the band is producing and experimenting with new music in 2014.

It’s a mad dash back to the train station and a reminder of the energy of Leeds, a city which provides excitement and loud music at every corner, but which today has squarely belonged – whether they like it or not – to the Slam Dunk Festival. Warped? Who needs it!

Reviewer: Wayne Madden

Photographer: Jade Till

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