SLAM DUNK FESTIVAL at Leeds City Centre, 26/5/18

On a day that looked as though it was set to buck Slam Dunk’s sunny tradition, it was only fitting to see a huge crowd gathered inside Leeds’ Academy to watch the mighty Asteroid Boys. The grime-hardcore crossover act put on a spectacular show, despite missing vocalist Traxx. The combination of trappy, sub bass littered beats with live guitar work and in-your-face vocal delivery means Asteroid Boys stick long in the memory despite their early timeslot.

Photo credit: Georgina Hurdsfield

It was time to head over to the outdoors Signature Brew stage, where Can’t Swim were set to perform as the sun slowly crept its way out. The band brought a mixture of post-hardcore and pop punk to a crowd that was very excited to hear it; with just one full length under their belt, the American’s haven’t visited these shores all that often, so fans were more than ready to hear new material like “Even in Death.”

Slam Dunk recently added the Leeds First Direct Arena to its list of venues and whilst the 13,500 cap venue might be intimidating for some bands, it seemed perfectly natural for Four Year Strong, even at 2:30 in the afternoon.  The band perfectly conduct the audience to a soundtrack of some of the greatest pop-punk and easycore tracks ever written, with final track Wasting Time (Eternal Summer) getting a particularly rapturous reception.

Photo credit: Georgina Hurdsfield

One of this festivals greatest strengths is the diversity of its lineup. Going from Four Year Strong to next band The Devil Wears Prada was certainly an example of that. The American metalcore heroes blast through a career-spanning nine song set, with three taken from latest effort Transit Blues.  Without much time for chatting the band launch into Daughter and don’t really let up until Danger:Wildman makes it’s appearance as the final song.

Next up on the Impericon Academy stage was Counterparts. Whilst The Devil Wears Prada put on a difficult show to follow, the Canadian hardcore bruisers did so with plenty of success. The success of the band’s latest record You’re Not You Anymore set them up for success at Slam Dunk and they nailed it; with a set that leaned heavily on that record, it never felt like the crowd was complacent. Mosh pits swirled from the opening of their set till the thrilling conclusion that is The Disconnect. The cathartic, punch-the-air energy of that track is still palpable even six years after release and is clearly an anthem to a huge part of the packed-out audience.

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When Frank Carter emerged to a less than-filled out arena, wearing an oversized leopard print coat and a skin tight, mesh t-shirt, he couldn’t look further away from the guy who sang “London is the Reason.” But John Lydon sells butter now, and Frank has always been a consummate performer. He embraces the rock-god persona with such ease, you can see that this chameleon effect always been there – in Gallows, he was performing as punk; the spitting, angry youth he’d seen on TV. Now, Frank is more himself than he has ever been – urging on the crowd to yell louder for him and his band, he fits perfectly on the stage. The tunes are there too; heavier tracks like the bravado-fest of Juggernaut (where Frank walks across the crowd, like a punk-pop Jesus) best slower affair like Wild Flowers, but where Frank successfully melds the two styles (I Hate You, Devil Inside of Me), he produces some of the best material of his career.

Taking Back Sunday take to the outdoor Monster Energy stage after a small delay, to an excited applause. The sun is shining, beer is flowing, and the stage is set for a festival highlight performance. The smattering of newer tracks from Happiness Is and Tidal Wave do cause lulls within the set, and whilst neither their stage presence nor musicianship is particularly  noteworthy, there is no denying the absolute anthemic power of the tracks taken from the bands early releases, especially with the Slam Dunk crowd. Everyone knows the final two-song punch of Cute Without the E and MakeDamnSure is coming, but it doesn’t render it any less powerful when it does. Adam Lazzara still manages those iconic vocals with ease, and it leaves the crowd in an ecstatic mood for the headliners.

Jimmy Eat World take to the same stage half an hour later with a set that begins with Bleed American. When you can open to such a timeless classic, it sets the stage for a pretty damn solid show. Jimmy more than deliver on that promise. The band are tight, hitting every note and putting a smile onto every face in the crowd. Slam Dunk had a particularly strong set of headliners this year, with performances from Good Charlotte and Every Time I Die beginning at the same time on different stages, but there isn’t a single person in this crowd who regrets their choice.

Written by willstevenson96

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