Over any given Bank Holiday in the UK the weather can range from snowstorms to blazing heat, as Slam Dunk 2018 rolls into Leeds the thousands of fans packing out the city are thankfully, treated to the latter. As we make our way down to the main stage area, the queue snaking along the street even as early in the day as lunchtime is testament to how popular this touring festival has become.
This year is no exception as fans from all genres of “alternative” music are treated to everything from pop-punk to electro to pop to emo to punk to hardcore to metal across multiple venues and our first couple of calls sees Aussie rockers The Faim flinging themselves around the Beckett University stage while, back over on the main stage, we manage to catch the back end of The Dangerous Summer’s set.
“I don’t give a squirt of piss if you like us or not!” heckles Guttermouth frontman Mark Adkins as the California punk rockers entertainingly drag the festival down into the gutter for half an hour much to the hilarity of the crowd. Loathe on the otherhand showcase the diversity of the festival with the dense, suffocating brutality filling the air of the O2 Academy a few hundred yards down the road.
Up at the First Direct Arena one of the security staff admits she’s never seen anything like this just before thrash punks Four Year Strong smash through their set. The poor girl is taken aback by the kids flying over the barrier so we kept quiet about the chaos about to hit the place when Frank Carter takes to the stage later in the day.
Back outside and both King Prawn and Capdown put in suitably energetic sets but, quite honestly, the performance of the afternoon and possibly the day goes to Save Ferris who pull in a massive crowd all eager to spend time with a band who have been away from the UK for over seventeen long years. Led by the sassy Monique Powell the Californian ska-punks are simply a joy to watch under the baking afternoon sun.
Elsewhere Brutality Will Prevail are causing all sorts of metallic hardcore mischief in the O2 Academy while media faves Creeper put a gloomy twist on proceedings with their brand of dark gothic rock. The press see them as Britain’s answer to My Chemical Romance, the arena is packed with kids who love them. Me personally, I don’t get the appeal.
Over on the main stage a huge roar goes up as Moose Blood stride out and saunter through their emotional rock. As has been the case with each passing month, the crowd goes suitably batshit for the band singing back every word throughout the duration of their stint on the main stage. The same reaction also greets Sleeping With Sirens as, again, a packed First Direct Arena goes bonkers for the high pitched vocals of SWS frontman Kellin Quinn.
Despite missing Lower Than Atlantis we take up our spot for Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes and there is a noticeably larger security presence in the pit as Carter strides out adorning a full length fake fur coat before his band kick off the mayhem. For the next hour, Carter makes the most of his first appearance at Slam Dunk as, barely two songs in, he takes off into the crowd much to the annoyance of security. A couple of songs later Carter is encouraging many of the females in attendance to crowd surf, again, to the annoyance of security and, when their set is cut short due to time restraints, they finish with a suitably vicious rendition of “I Hate You”.
Lynn Gunn has fast become the face and voice for women in rock music in 2018 and, judging by the number of girls in the arena as her band PVRIS take to the stage, it’s clear that she is doing something very right. Heavy, emotional, dark, powerful, moving, Gunn’s lyrics match the music she and her band mates create so much so that even in cavernous surroundings of the Arena, it’s hard not to fall under their spell as so many have done so already.
The Northern date of Slam Dunk is drawing to a close so we head over to Becketts University to catch a bit of headliners Palaye Royale who are currently being lauded as the next big thing. Mixing trashy glam rock with just the right amount of chaos. We spent too little time in the company of these Canadians to make any real judgement but they’re heading back this way soon enough so will reserve our thoughts until then.
Dilemma time as we look on how to end our evening – do we go for the emo musings of Jimmy Eat World, the hardcore insanity of Every Time I Die or the pop-punk fun of Good Charlotte? Well, sun-frazzled and exhausted, the choice is made to finish our night off in the company of the Madden brothers and Good Charlotte who help us find that last ounce of energy by hitting us with a barrage of pop-punk gems like “The Anthem” and “Girls & Boys”.
As we walk back to the car we head over to catch a bit of As It Is who have pulled in an impressive crowd for their headline set but, quite frankly, we’re done. Slam Dunk delivered everything its audience wanted. From the great weather to the awesome bands, Slam Dunk 2018 had it all setting the bar high for the rest of this year’s festival season.