Slam Dunk North is wet. Soaked, downtrodden fans resembling an army of fashionable drowned rats in band t-shirts, make their way inside the venue, confused as to why what is usually the hottest day of the year has turned so dreary.
But once the dry, warm interior of Leeds University Union engulfs them, smiles and excitement return, and order is restored.
As the rain pours outside, inside, the bands take their place on the many stages SDF14 has on show, and begin to blow our god damn minds.
Check out our round-up review below, of some of the best bands Slam Dunk has to offer.
As the Atticus stage becomes uncomfortably full, our entertainment half bounce-half fall onstage in Dwarves t-shirts, full of nervous energy, and introduce themselves; “We’re Modern Baseball, and we’re not from here. We’re from somewhere else”. But god, aren’t we glad they’re here now.
In the world of pop punk today, it’s a lot of clean cut, over produced computerized sounds mixed with perfect vocal performances. But as Modern Baseball struggle through a few pre-set sound difficulties, it’s clear that we’re seeing true old school, high school nerds making raw pop punk.
The Philadelphia four piece fill their highly anticipated set with fast tempo, guitar tracks, and catchy chorus’ are emphasised even more with their footnote-like jokes in the middle of songs, making the impact of each chorus even more hard hitting and catchy. Their young age and therefore vulnerability works in their favour to make their girlfriend-related melancholic-lyrics believable.
Modern Baseball are the epitome of early 2000s pop-punk in a modern age. Team their comedic, light-hearted Blink-182 like jokes with the much-deserved hype, along with tracks that smack of United States of Whatever meets At Your Funeral, AND a Billboard article championing your band; and it’s the perfect recipe for pop-punk success.
There are many great upcoming British bands on display at Slam Dunk 2014 and Decade are one of them.
Decade enter the Macbeth stage and start with a bang, as their intro builds up before dropping into a set full of powerful punk tracks. The driving verses have an almost aggressive feel created by the vocals, and the chorus’ are such simple melodies, allowing the crowd to scream and jump along.
The five piece from Bath get the crowd’s backing early on, making them move from start to finish. Decade look grateful for the size of the crowd, and take in every moment of their Slam Dunk experience, and they certainly don’t throw their chance away.
Decade’s setlist goes down brilliantly, with songs that are so easy to move to, they are definitely a great live band to have at any festival, and with their style of punk that grabs you by the scruff of the neck, they are one band to keep an eye in the future.
Mist takes over the refectory as the body heat from the packed-like-sardines room attempts to cheer up the gloomy atmosphere brought on by today’s unfortunate weather. We The Kings, now in their “true line-up” (let’s call it their FINAL FORM for funsies), with relatively-new members Charles Trippy and Coley O’Toole, deliver a fresh dose of professional pop punk. 5 years ago We The Kings played this very festival in their first trip over to our shores, and show us in their energetic set why they’re always invited back.
Falling folly to technical problems with both bass and keys (Nord keyboards are the moniker of a good keys player, by the way) doesn’t dampen their spirits though, proven as we witness the most animated keyboard player ever. For quite a limited role (when he isn’t playing guitar, that is) Coley jumps around and holds the mic out to crowd as valiantly as his guitar playing brothers.
An acoustic performance of Say You Like Me injects a Bruno Mars vibe into the proceedings. Travis informs us this track is for “summery weather” as he mournfully looks over to the window. Yep, not quite.
Check Yes Juliet incites the stickiest lil circle pit ever. If We The Kings were one hit wonders, this endlessly charming piece would be it. Their set smacks of ’07 Warped Tour in a great nostalgic way, especially for the majority 18+ crowd today who remember them first time round.
As the final notes close the set, it’s the most cheerful we’ve ever felt at 5.30pm.
The Atticus stage has been jam packed with energetic punk bands all day, but there’s something different in the air as Neck Deep take to the stage.
The chunky riffs the five piece produce backed with the shouty, almost combative like vocals turn this small, boiling hot room into a crowd surfing sweatbox. But as the boys from Wrexham slow their set down with an acoustic track, the crowd take a much needed rest as their arms sway from side to side.
Vocalist Ben Barlow controls the crowd like it’s their own headline set, and the amount of passion on display from the crowd and from the band themselves is overwhelming. It’s easy to see why Neck Deep are one of the rising bands of 2014 with their dedicated fan base, their easy listening melodies and honest lyrics.
We Are The In Crowd were always a pop-punk band that were never rated as one of the top dogs. But since their second album ‘Weird Kids’ and their high slot at Slam Dunk, the five piece have got to do more than just give it their best shot.
As they enter the stage, the maturity of the band shines through as they open with a soft, delicate intro, drawing the crowd in before dropping into their own mix of pop-punk. Where the dual vocals from Tay and Jordan took a backwards step on their latest album, it seems more prominent live, giving We Are The In Crowd that extra push, creating a better overall vocal performance.
But Tay is certainly in the spotlight as she promotes her excited energy through their set, displaying brilliant fast paced and dainty vocals. Even with a minor slip up from Tay (forgetting which song was coming next), not being shaken, she easily laughs it off before again taking control of the performance.
The highlight of the set however comes from a gentleman so enthused by WATIC’s music that he stands on the crowd. Yep. Standing guy commands everyone’s attention as he gracefully falls into the audience. Inciting a sudden burst of elation from the crowd, we see our first real crowd-surfing action of the day on the main stage. WATIC are bringing the party, and the Slam Dunk atmosphere we’ve come to know and love stays true.
We Are The In Crowd have come a long way to get to this level. The high main stage slot could have proven to be too much for them, but it seems that they are ready for the challenge, and deserve everything they’re getting right now.
Now to the Cheer Up stage which is an unorthodox, tunnel like room, with Feed The Rhino destroying the one end.
As vocalist Lee Tobin climbs into the crowd and screams into his microphone, the five pieces’ set may be the most energetic of the day. Lee spends the set antagonising the security as he dives further and further into the crowd, leaving room on stage for the the remaining members of the band to produce their heavy, riff fuelled, hardcore noise. But the hardcore beating that Feed The Rhino produce is almost terrifying as violent energy turns the tunnel-like room into one big mosh pit.
Lee Tobin’s energy throughout their set may even challenge Letlive.’s Jason Aalon Butler as craziest frontman, as he stands on top of the crowd, rallying them to riot with an almost psychotic look in his eyes.
Feed The Rhino draw in a decent sized crowd, which includes Loz from While She Sleeps, and fill their set with guitar riffs, gut wrenching screams and brutal breakdowns.
This years’ sub-headliners for Slam Dunk 2014’s main stage is the UK’s own Mallory Knox. And as they take to the stage, they instantly drop into a high-energy fuelled set. This is the second year in a row for the five piece on main stage, and from a good set last year, this years’ prevails as a calm, relaxed set as they own the stage, with Mikey orchestrating the crowd from the off.
The Cambridge quintet smash through their set with hit after hit from their debut album ‘Signals’. But sadly, a year on from the album release, the crowd can’t help but want new material from them.
But luckily, their prayers are restored with Mallory Knox’s new song ‘Ghost In The Mirror’. The new track was awaited to nervous anticipation from the crowd, and it’s safe to say, it doesn’t disappoint. The fast paced track is highly energetic and has the Mallory Knox type chorus we’ve all become accustomed to, but with the added aggression of their older tracks from their early EP.
Mallory Knox create an electric atmosphere during their set, as well as turning the crowd into a mushy, arm swaying unit at times. The band’s set is performed perfectly and they prove they deserve this headline slot, but their second album can’t come soon enough for some in attendance.
Time and time again, ‘best live band’ awards have Letlive. in or around the top of the pile. And as the sub-headliners of the Monster tent outside, it’s again showcased exactly why they are one of the best live bands around.
Unfortunately, at the back of Monster tent the sound seems to break up and sound thin, and the legendary energy and movement from Jason Butler doesn’t come across. But as you move forward, closer to the mayhem that the five piece create, Letlive. become one of the best bands at Slam Dunk 2014.
The raw, soulful passion displayed through the music is utterly compelling from the Los Angeles post-hardcore men. Jason connects to every single person in attendance with his honest, heartfelt speeches, and the ferocity in their music turns this hot, boggy tent into a battleground.
The intense, fast paced instrumentation topped with an awesome vocal performance tares throughout their set, and as the unique hardcore, soul-punk that Letlive. create comes to an end, Jason tells the audience, “we’ve been Letlive. and so have you,” that confirms the bond that Letlive. and their fans always create at any Letlive. live set.
Hit The Lights are not only a seminal pop-punk band and a staple of Slam Dunk Festival; they are also our namesake. Sitting down in the balcony to watch their set, they’ve got a lot to prove. But we ain’t worried. The Atticus stage welcomes HTL for the millionth time as it slowly fills (although some of the crowd have wained and gone over to watch Mallory Knox) Nevertheless, they live up to expectations they’ve set in stone over the years, and offer a pitch-perfect Slam Dunk set.
Nick’s vocals seem to get better with age, as they sound smoother and more able, even with his energetic stage presence. Honestly, their tracks sound even better than on record. Whipping the audience up into a frenzy, they smash through classics such as ‘Back Breaker’ and ‘Cry Your Eyes Out’ (which have scarily similar intros) and prove that music still owns the day. Good old fashioned pop-punk: not exactly imaginative, but f*cking awesome anyway.
Somewhere between hits, Nick manages to squeeze in that HTL have been signed by Pure Noise Records and are making another album! Yay!
Bodybag closes the set and room erupts into a jumping hugging dance party; it makes a difference to seeing a violent pit. But in the end, that’s what true pop punk is about: loyalty and friendship. And that’s why the world needs Hit The Lights.
As the headliners of the Atticus stage’s backdrop is revealed, the debut album cover ‘Smart Casual’ can only mean one thing. When Kids In Glass Houses announced their break up earlier this year, they have seemed very much about reliving, and showing their gratitude towards their fans for the support they have received, and about celebrating their greatest achievement, ‘Smart Casual’.
The welsh quintet’s debut album is easily one of the best pop-punk albums released, and as Kids In Glass Houses play through the album from start to finish, the energy and appreciation from the crowd doesn’t drop one bit.
As the five piece continue through their set, reaching the end of their debut album, it seems that that band is almost acting on instinct as they continue through with ease, walking through their set. And it seems clear that Aled’s mind is in two places as he is informed of the greatly important Champions League Final score, as he declares the result to the rest of the crowd.
As their set comes to an end, Kids In Glass Houses return to the stage to play through some more of their back catalogue of songs, mostly coming from their second album ‘Dirt’. It’s clear that the boys from Wales’ early career was their better years, and the farewell from Kids In Glass Houses with their first two albums is what everyone in attendance wanted to hear, and it is certainly what will be missed most.
AAR‘s headline presence at Slam Dunk, when first announced, confused the heck out of a lot of us. As a band who haven’t released an album since 2012, haven’t even been to the UK since 2012’s brief stint as Blink-182 support, the question on everyone’s lips was; why them?
They answered that question the second they opened their set in Leeds with Dirty Little Secret, to a packed out room where every single person was mouthing their lyrics.
Frontman Tyson Ritter’s eccentric personality projects itself into your very soul, and you can’t take your eyes off him as he sways and plays to the crowd. When a Santa thong is thrown on stage he picks it up, sniffs it, and recalls “I remember you”. Delightful.
After a few more tracks (including hit I Wanna) Tyson explains how the top slot at Slam Dunk came about, in his own special way. “We got the offer, and they said ‘do you wanna play for a bunch of horny people in Leeds?’ And we said ‘hell yeah’.”
AAR’s scantily clad frontman swing-swings his hips around the stage (geddit?) in a cream threadbare shirt, as his impish swagger commands the crowd. A beautiful piano interlude in a short break oozes a 20s speakeasy vibe (setlist.fm believes this is from Always Sunny In Philadephia) and leads into It Ends Tonight. Gives You Hell (a great but particularly undanceable song) appears to be closing the set but wait! Ritter and co. launch into very old and relatively unknown (by this crowd anyway) The Last Song, which proves to be… a bad choice. A flat ending doesn’t take away from a nevertheless good set, and the guys are still welcomed back with open arms by a crowd left slightly disappointed, but much less confused.
Until next year, Slam Dunk Festival,we salute you!