Reviewed by Adam Smith
The second May Bank Holiday is synonymous with pop-punk for thousands of music fans across the UK, and it’s all thanks to Slam Dunk Festival. For several years, the line-up has included some of the top names in pop-punk, metal-core and punk rock. The event is the best place to see the most exciting new bands in the scene play alongside the inspirational veterans that went before them.
The day begins with one of the festival’s stalwarts, Save Your Breath, on the Atticus Stage. The Welsh pop-punkers are regulars here and have built a modest, yet dedicated following over the years. Stay Young and set-closer Nothing Worth Having Comes Easy are flawlessly infectious and incite jubilation at the barrier. Slam Dunk has helped to promote many into the big leagues, but Save Your Breath are one band that definitely deserve more recognition.
A Loss For Words are also well-acquainted with much of the crowd here today and the contagious enthusiasm of front-man, Matty Arsenault, grabs the attention of everyone in the room. The Massachusetts outfit may not have the hits or the status of their peers in The Wonder Years and The Story So Far, but that doesn’t matter when their cover of the Jackson 5’s I Want You Back leads to a good old boogie.
Despite this being their first ever visit to Leeds, State Champs are greeted by the full-capacity crowd as if they’re local heroes. The New Yorkers leap around the stage with unbridled energy, while hitting every note perfectly. The band play with a swagger that belies their age. Critical and Remedy whip the crowd into a frenzy as bodies fly towards the stage. Every few years, one band sets the festival alight and stakes their claim as the next big thing. This year, State Champs are definitely that band.
On the main stage, Motion City Soundtrack reinforce exactly why they’re so revered at this festival. Their set is a lesson in how to command an audience. My Favourite Accident and The Future Freaks Me Out roll back the years before Everything Is Alright ensures the set ends on a galactic high. Simply sublime.
As one of the heaviest acts playing on a pop-punk-heavy bill, it would be understandable if The Ghost Inside attracted a modest crowd, but the Monster Stage is crowded. Pits open up almost immediately and the metal-core troupe’s earth-shaking breakdowns in Faith or Forgiveness threaten to blow the tent off its hinges. It’s just a shame that the sound is muddier than the wet ground.
After being touted as one of the most unpredictable live acts in rock, Letlive have something to prove every time they play and the ferocious opener of 27 Club does not disappoint. Jason Aalon Butler leaps around the stage like a madman, displaying inimitable intensity. It’s chaos and it’s outstanding. The only problem is the dark lighting, which makes it difficult to see the madness unfold.
Kids In Glass Houses look genuinely overawed by the crowd they attract in their headline slot. The Welsh pop-rock maestros have played to crowds much bigger than this, but vocalist Aled Phillips‘ look of sheer joy during the note-perfect Saturday suggests they may never have had as much fun. The set is a joy to watch, with the crowd singing back every word passionately. KIGH are evidently treasured by everyone in this room and it makes for an unforgettable atmosphere. Their forthcoming break-up means this will be their Slam Dunk swan song, and it’s a fantastic way to bow out.