Slam Dunk Festival
Leeds University Union
31st May 2010
The UK festival season is one quite unlike any other. From the Isle of Wight of the banks of Loch Ness, there is something out there for everyone but for those of the pop-punk persuasion there is no better way to kick off the summer than with Slam Dunk Festival. Since its conception in 2006 this annual one-dayer has already leapt to the top of the value-for-money stakes with the 2010 edition seeing 40 acts playing over six stage – all for under thirty quid.
The organisers seemed to have learned from the mistakes of 2009 as lengthy queues into Leeds University’s student union were replaced by a ticket-wristband exchange that opened two hours before doors. The scrapping of the ridiculous one way system within the building itself and an extended merch area also helped to alleviate any congestion and meant that the overall logistics of the day’s festivities were second to none.
Here at VivaLaScene we kicked off our day of musical wonderment with the lovelyFrancesqa who were worthy winners of an opening slot on the Kerrang! Introducing stage. Despite have a few technical issues to contend with, these five guys exploded into life with the vigour and noise worthy of headliners. Despite the small stage, Francesqa boast a big, melodic sound that managed to fill the back half of the main hall, even drawing those awaiting the opening of the main stage across to see what all the fuss was about. There’s an exciting buzz around this promising band – and rightly so. With new CD ‘We Lived’ set for release on July 19th we’re confident that Francesqa are about to start making big waves in the UK music pool.
‘Slick’ was to be the name of the game in the main hall and as Francesqa left their stage to a rapturous response, the unmistakable sound of tuning up emanated from the Glamour Kills stage. However it was a task that may as well have been skipped for stage openers Every Avenue, as the sound pumping from the speakers was nothing short of atrocious. Yet as we struggled to pick up any vocals above the mix of guitars and drums, Every Avenue’s dedicated fan base were giving it their all down the front. Fair enough.
As the humans streaming in through the double door began to steadily fill the main hall there was a feeling that many were settling in for the afternoon. However, VLS decided to bail early and headed downstairs towards the new-for-this-year Macbeth Acoustic Stage where Sam Little, formally of Fleeing From Finales, was busy woo-ing the packed room with his irresistibly beautiful songs. This was perhaps one of the most enthusiastic and responsive crowds this stage would see all day and with Sam’s instantly likeable charm it was easy to see why. Aimless chatter introduced a cover of none other than 5ive, as Sam admitted that, after playing all his songs, he still had fifteen minutes left. It was a beautiful moment with a mass sing-a-long that would have been worthy of the brightest campfire. A hidden gem in the jam-packed Slam Dunk line up, Sam Little was most definitely one of the highlights of VLS’ day. His EP ‘Trust Me, Something Beautiful Will Happen’ is available now and is well worth adding to your library.
Next up was a trek down the labyrinth-like corridors of Leeds’ University Union to the Relentless Stage, where the crowd was already pushing capacity level. As we managed to wedge ourselves into a spot between the sound booth and some large sweating men, This Time Next Year burst onto the stage and the crowd exploded. From then on in the set was a blur of high-energy, raucous songs from the band’s full length debut that sounded absolutely phenomenal live. Not even rogue technology could dampen spirits. As every microphone on the stage failed simultaneously and the sound guy bolted from behind his mixing desk with sheer panic plastered all over his face the crowd used their lungs to bounce the lyrics off the ceiling. With the band bouncing around the stage with such vigour and passion you’d have been hard pushed to release that anything was wrong at all. Let’s hope it’s not too long before This Time Next Year are back on our shores.
As we pushed our way through the crowd towards pre-arranged press commitments we were met with one of the longest queues that Slam Dunk ’10 would see, as festival goers waiting out the dreaded one-in-one-out policy in attempt to catch The Wonder Years, surely one of the most anticipated sets of the afternoon.
A chance to cool down and re-hydrate was teamed with a return to the Macbeth Acoustic Stage to catch The Blackout’s Gavin Butler launching into a stripped down version of ‘Half The World Away’, dedicated to the one and only Royale Family. A nod should be sent the way of band mate Sean Smith who was amongst the crowd, sporting a rather fetching sailor’s hat. Aye, aye, Capt’n.
Pretty acoustic songs aside it was time for to brave the immense heat of the Glamour Kills stage to catch Hit The Lights, whilst the infamous Millionaires clamoured upon the BabyCakes Bar. As Drop The Girl and Bodybag extracted mosh and noise from the main hall, Let’s Get Fucked Up was dividing those in the bar area. Looks of adoration, confusion, intrigue and, at times, horror were all to be found in The Millionaires’ audience as punters tried their hardest to figure out if what they were watching was a piss-take or not. The arrival of Take Your Shirt Off brought about the appearance of some unlikely fans in the shape of Set Your Goals and New Found Glory. Shirts were indeed off as the collective of pop-punk heroes began crowd-surfing their way towards to stage. The Millionaires were never going to earn any points for musical credibility with their thirty minute set, yet they did what they came to do – entertain. Both band and the crowd gathered before them appeared to have a good time and at the end of the day perhaps that’s all that matters.
One thing that Slam Dunk offers is diversity and for those who had had their fill of pop-punk, the BabyCakes Bar was again to on hand to provide some electro relief. It was Sean Smith’s turn to take to the decks with bright pink headphones and a barrage of dirty floor fillers. A remix of the A-team soundtrack followed by a bit of Dizzee Rascal certainly went down well with VLS, as recharged the batteries ahead of our chosen headline act.
As legends New Found Glory and Alkaline Trio took to their respective stages, we found ourselves amongst one of the smallest crowds we’d encountered all day, waiting for electro Goths My Passion to take to the stage. For many this would seem a strange choice of headliner, just we here at VLS saw this as the perfect end to our musically eclectic day. What the crowd lacked in quantity it more than made up for in quality, clamouring at the stage and screeching the lyrics of opener ‘Crazy & Me’ back to the band. Passion was definitely the buzz word of the set as ring leader Lawrence René leaning into the baying front row and guitarist Simon Rowlands twirling around the stage like a man possessed. Before the end of the first song, John Be had clambered onto the bar as the sheer intensity of My Passion shone through.
There’s something about My Passion that we can’t quite put our figure on – an unignorable spark that grabs your attention with both hands and refuses to let it go. Musically, we still can’t decide what the hell they are, but theirs is a live performance that can’t be beaten and shouldn’t be missed.
A fitting end to a perfect day, Slam Dunk 2010 further cemented our opinion that when it comes to festivals, the UK definitely does it best.