Slam Dunk’s northern iteration was an event that very much brought some conflicted feelings in me now that I look back on it. For those who could look past the logistical shortcomings and focus on the connection between band and audience, then Slam Dunk was correctly named. For the majority I saw on my social media accounts, they unfortunately couldn’t look past the flaws and had a less than groovy time. All I can do is share my experience of the festival, and let you make your minds up for yourselves. For those that saw my Manchester Punk Festival coverage, this coverage will be much the same. I don’t give ratings for the sets I see, the pictures included were taken by me on my smartphone and aren’t the best sometimes.
The journey I took to Slam Dunk was as much part of my experience as the bands and festival site were, and very much representative of my overall experience of the day. I set off with more than hour before my train was due to set off, yet fate conspired against me. My bus turned up after half an hour of waiting, and every red light that could possibly stop me did. I ended up jumping onto a tram without paying (I’m such a rebel) to make sure I got to Piccadilly station on time. I had to queue to print off my tickets and the tickets of my three friends coming with me. I had six minutes to spare. I bulldozed my way to the platform (that was absolutely packed) and onto my train and my reserved seats. This was due to a mixture of Industrial action from the RMT union and absolute calamity caused by Northern Rail. At least the RMT have a goal, what Northern Rail sought to prove is anyone’s guess. To any casualties I am responsible for, I apologise unreservedly. Mark, babes, I’m so sorry love. I didn’t really relax from the whole experience until I got into Leeds.
Unfortunately, queuing and having to be rude to people in order to get somewhere in time became a theme for the day. Once I’d dropped my stuff off at my hotel and had a few shots, I went to get my wristband. I snaked along the barriers for what felt like ages. Someone started singing “Wasting Time” by Four Year Strong, which was quite funny. Once that was over, I was through the other side and had little idea of where to go to watch the bands I wanted. There were no signs to point you in the right direction, the Slam Dunk app named the stages that bands were on but not their locations. After some bickering, we headed to the Jägermeister Main Stage North to watch Four Year Strong and attempted to work out where to go.
After discovering that the Jägermeister Main Stage North referred to the First Direct Arena, we began to queue to get into the venue. There were two main queues for entry, one for the standing part of the arena and one for the seated part of the arena. As you’d expect, the standing queue was a lot larger than the seated one, and I can guarantee if I’d insisted on viewing Four Year Strong standing I’d never have seen them. Once in the arena, it was difficult to find a seat as it was pitch black. This is nit-picking but some lights on the stairs would have helped a lot. Thankfully, Four Year Strong were in full swing and all the issues leading up to the festival melted away. Four Year Strong played a set stuffed with their hits, and it was great to everyone going nuts to the band’s music. I’ve been meaning to catch them live for years and I was glad they played all the bangers. I don’t know whether it was because it was 2:30 in the afternoon or because I was up in the stands but it didn’t seem as brilliant as I thought it could be. The band seemed to think the same too, based on their between-song chat with the audience. A shame, but they were still very good.
One of my friends came to join me after Four Year Strong and didn’t know who was next. I told her Creeper was next and she’d not heard of them and asked what they were like. I said they were like a mix of Meat Loaf, My Chemical Romance and AFI. She screeched with joy at the prospect and Creeper didn’t let us down. Creeper were possibly the band of the festival for me. I missed them twice playing Manchester last year, so it was great to finally see them play the songs from their brilliant album “Eternity, In Your Arms”. Every song from that album was met with a rapturous reception from the audience, and “Poison Pens” predictably blew the roof off the place. Creeper weren’t afraid to slow things down as well, proving to be adept at keeping an audience of the size of an arena’s attention. They could get used to that.
Next up at the Jägermeister Main Stage North was State Champs and they provided a wondrous change of pace from Creeper. Where Creeper played with an intensity you couldn’t take your eyes from, State Champs performed with a breathless joy and an enthusiasm that was infectious throughout the arena. Songs like “Remedy” and “All You Are Is History” made the arena shake from the collective bouncing coming from the standing area. It was so much fun to watch, and the band sounded fantastic.
Due to some logistical mishaps linked to where I was staying, the next band I saw was Northlane at the Impericon Stage. Northlane sounded good, I’d not heard of them before and they put a good show on. Songs sounded very heavy, big breakdowns and they looked like they were really going for it.
Next up was probably my most anticipated band of the festival, Buffalo NY’s Every Time I Die, and DID THEY FUCK disappoint. They kicked off with one of my favourite songs off their latest album “Low Teens”, “The Coin Has A Say”. Their whole set was just a collection of some of my favourite songs by them, which is all I could ever want. I’d never seen them before and they blew my mind. Songs like “Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space”, “It Remembers”, were just a joy to hear. The band sounded tight and were clearly having a load of fun on stage. Towards the end of the set, guitarist Jordan Buckley launched himself into the audience, which is always good.
After Every Time I Die finished, I was that knackered I went back to where I was staying. Me and my friends had tickets to the afterparty, but they were that drunk and we were all so tired we tapped out. If you partied all day and carried on at the afterparty, I salute you. When I was seeing the bands, Slam Dunk was a great festival. The line-up was top. It was massively brought down by the logistical problems. It wouldn’t kill the organisers to put a few signs up.