It’s not that often you get lost in a university students union. How many of them are big enough that you end up walking in circle passing by the supermarket and terrace bar on several occasions before you realise you’ve wandered past the room you wanted twice? Well Leeds University Student Union is one such place you can do that which was why it turned out to be an excellent host for the Slam Dunk Festival North on Saturday.
Gathering together over 60 acts (including DJ sets) to perform in one day, Slam Dunk North did not mess around. It combined a variety of small and large punk and heavy metal bands across six stages and a couple of extra bar areas. Attended by a predominantly student crowd, there were high waisted denim shorts, band emblazoned tee-shirts and tattoos aplenty; a vibrant looking crowd there to see an array of energetic and high octane performances.
With the amount of talent on display it would be hard for anyone to have the same experience at Slam Dunk, but I started mine at the Vans Off The Wall Stage mostly because it was the first stage I found. I was lucky enough that I had stumbled onto a set by the seemingly very popular Marmozets and they set the tone for the whole day. Swaying evenly between melodic and heavy rock they ran around the stage showcasing their already impressive bank of material to a largely appreciative crowd.
With indoors already stifling with heat my next stop was the outdoor Red Bull Bedroom Jam stage to catch hotly-tipped ACODA and to get some much needed air. Emotive and atmospheric, this four-piece rocked their way through their set with style, demonstrating why they are garnering good press and the tent slowly filled up as they got more comfortable and hit their stride.
The main Atticus / Jagermeister stage in one of the largest halls of the union was suffering from what can only be described as a sweat haze by the time Say Anything made it on to play. The hall was absolutely rammed full of people trying to get a glimpse of the American punk band and I was glad to be able to view their show from the balcony. Despite the heat the crowd still bounced their way through the animated set with most of them singing along to every single lyric uttered. The band held the stage well and definitely livened up the afternoon with their quirky and fun performance style.
Seeking something different, I made my way down to the Honour and Glory Stage along with pretty much everyone else at the festival at around 6.30pm to find an electric atmosphere amongst the festival goers waiting for While She Sleeps. This basement set up meant there was essentially a ‘pit’ in the middle facing the stage with raised balconies all around. The minute the group kicked off their set the pit became a giant mosh pit unlike any I have ever seen and which front man Lawrence Taylor dived into with cheerful abandon at one point. I did not envy the stage hands trying to keep order at the front. Aside from the fairly distracting moshing, the northern band ploughed through their electrifying hits, escalating the room into fever pitch by the time they had finished.
It was rather refreshing to see the medium sized bands feel equal support and adoration to the larger bands like Taking Back Sunday and The Architects who finished off the day in rambunctious style. Slam Dunk Festival’s line-up dictates that it isn’t a festival that is going to appeal to everyone and its layout meant there was no way you could see everything, but even as a newcomer to this hardcore sound I still found it accessible and exciting and for the die-hard punk and heavy metal or post-hardcore fans it seemed to tick all the boxes. It presented a strong showcase of the new talent emerging from this genre of music.
Unfortunately for Slam Dunk North it happened to land on what I imagine was one of the hottest days of the year. Sunshine and festivals usually go hand in hand, but for an all in-door metal festival (save for the outdoor but undercover Red Bull Bedroom Jam Stage) the summer heat made proceedings a highly sweaty and slightly uncomfortable affair. That said spirits were high, there was no shortage of head banging, dancing and exuberance and I’m certain that the next Slam Dunk Festival will provide more of the same in abundance.