Live Review: Slam Dunk Festival North, Leeds – 28/05/2016

After all the hype and talk, Slam Dunk 2016 is here and is welcomed by good weather and a sell out crowd who seem in good spirits.

A year on from closing the “Fresh Blood” stage, Moose Blood have made the leap and open up the main stage with their radiant brand of emo-pop. Although second album ‘Blush,’ is set for release in August, the Canterbury quartet opts for celebrating their debut with ‘Boston’ and ‘Gum’ giving fans the first chance to sing along in unison. Like we said previously, Moose Blood’s inevitable growth means we’ll be seeing them on bigger stages more often, and this short but strong showing verifies that. (4/5)

With Confidence may only have played their first ever UK shows a few weeks ago whilst on tour with As It Is, but now you’d be sure they had been visiting these shores for years with the level of carefreeness they exhibit on stage. Their sugary sweet pop punk offerings have pulled in quite a substantial crowd for so early in the day and they are rewarded with what proves to be a wholly confident and air tight set. ‘London Lights’ and ‘Godzilla’ hit with youthful vigour and neck snapping bounce whilst the sing-along that compliments closer ‘We’ll Be Okay’ cements this as another notch in the belt for a definite “one to watch” for the rest of 2016. (3.5/5)

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WSTR seem in a buoyant mood today and take to the Impericon stage to the theme song from ‘Space Jam’ before delving straight into a double hit of ‘Brain Sick’ and ‘Fair Weather’. The reaction is instantly volatile with bodies flying, fingers pointing and voices giving way. For a band who have been plagued with comparisons since day 1, when you can incite the sort of riot that takes place when ‘Graveyard Shift’ kicks in, it starts to feel more and more like WSTR are becoming capable of standing on their own two feet and truly making a name for themselves in the pop punk stratosphere. (3/5)

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This year’s Slam Dunk brought about a whirlwind of nostalgia. So, who better to transport us back to the good old days than noughties’ emo band Mayday Parade. The Florida band produce a career-spanning set, with highlights coming in the form ‘Three Cheers for Five Years’ and ‘Black Cat’ (3.5/5)

Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! have always been a sort of marmite option within the scene, but based on today’s showing “TEAM LOVE IT” are slowly edging it. Opening with a battering ‘Haters Gonna Hate’ before new offering ‘Playing Dead’ has the whole room spinning, the band play with a humbled confidence mixed in with a dash of pulsing venom. Music can often become way too serious, but when the sort of fun that comes with a cover of ‘All Star’ and ‘In Friends We Trust’ exists, it’s nice to remember it’s ok to let loose every now and then.(3.5/5)

For just three people, Gnarwolves sure know how to make an almighty racket. Taking to the stage with cheeky grins plastered across their chops they delve straight into ‘Bottle To Bottle’ and don’t let the good vibes drop until the very last chord is thrashed out. Bodies clamber on top of each just for a taste of the action as voices echo from front to back with unbridled passion as the band bash out cuts such as ‘Day Man’ and ‘The Waiting Line’ with impeccable ferocity. Gnarwolves have always had it in them to put on a proper show, but today they are onto something really special. Once again they prove that hard work, grit and dedication to your cause will always lead to the sweetest of success. (4.5/5)

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Northlane take to the Atlas stage to a hero’s welcome and instantly show why they are still one of the most exciting things metalcore is currently nurturing. Though the stage they are playing is pitched down a side street, that doesn’t stop them creating both a haunting and intimate atmosphere with their progressively brutal riffing. Newer jams ‘Rot’ and ‘Obelisk’ sound devastating in the open air while ‘Quantum Flux’ and ‘Masquerade’ still sound so huge that they could move tectonic plates. The feeling is felt throughout all in attendance as the floor erupts in crowd surfers and mosh merchants. With more shows of this inch perfect ilk, Northlane will be drawing in crowds this hefty on a much more regular basis. (4/5)

The much-anticipated performance of Yellowcard’s ‘Ocean Avenue’ in full doesn’t quite go off as planned. Due to half of their allocated set being delayed due to technical issues, we only get half of the album. Nevertheless with the sun shining bright, the Florida group treat us to a selection of uplifting pop-rock. ‘Breathing,’ ‘Way Away’ and, of course, ‘Ocean Avenue’ are received by a wave of singing voices. Unfortunately, some of the crowd disperse following that hat-trick of songs. Those left over still sing back every word. (3/5)

Chicago’s pop-punk four-piece Real Friends return to Leeds is a delight, as they exceed expectations. Dan Lambton’s vocals were faultless throughout with new cuts ‘Mess’ and ‘I’ve Given Up On You’ receiving a great response alongside old favourites such as ’Floorboards’. With each number being welcomed by a plethora of diving bodies, Real Friends produce one of today’s more memorable sets. (4.5/5)

Massachusetts’ Four Year Strong reminded us of their heavy pop punk goodness with a set made of fan favourites; ‘Find My Way Back,’ ‘Heroes Get Remembered, Legends Never Die’ and ‘Go Down In History.’ They may not have been closing the festival like they have in the past, they still showed they’re more than capable of potentially doing that once again in the future. Do we suspect a FYS renaissance? (4/5)

Arriving at the “Fresh Blood” stage early for Creeper, we’re welcomed by local boys Blood Youth in the middle of their set. The melodic metalcore band provide a decent account of themselves with their blasting guitars, impassioned vocals and thick breakdowns dominating their set. They’ve achieved a lot in the space of a year, and the future continues to be bright for the Harrogate quartet. (3.5/5)

Although they’re on later than planned, from the start Creeper are ready to leave their stamp on Slam Dunk, and oh boy do they! The “Creeper Cult” is growing and through their lyrical doom and gloom, the sextet and this packed out crowd unite in celebration with Will Gould serving as the ringleader. From the punk-fuelled ‘VCR,’ ‘Honeymoon Suite’ and ‘Valentine’ to the crooning ‘Henley’s Ghost,’ there’s a sense of something special is happening with this band, and they’re more than willing to invite you along. Witnessing ‘Misery’ live especially highlights Creeper’s ability to unite a room; stripped down and truly powerful. (5/5)

Norma Jean have always delivered on the live circuit but it feels as though they have been dealt a bit of a short straw with their placing at the festival this year. In a room that is substantially emptier than it should be, the band pull out all of the stops to make an impression to those who have made the effort with their uniquely vicious brand of abrasive hardcore. Though they do deliver absolutely crushing slabs of distorted riffs and uncomforting grit, a grey cloud lingers over as the group looking noticeably disappointed by the turnout. If clashes went their way this room would have been decimated. It’s a shame that today was just not Norma Jean’s day. (3/5)

A true veteran of Slam Dunk, Rob Lynch has been dishing out his acoustic loveliness at this festival for years. Today he is faced with a room at full capacity and uses it to his advantage brilliantly with ‘Whisky’ and ‘Plans’ hitting delicate but deeply, whilst a triumphant showing of ‘Hawking’, has the whole place singing in true spine-tingling fashion. With a new album due in just over a month and with these sort of performances up his sleeves, it’s looking like it will be hard to escape the name Lynch in the latter half of this year. (4/5)

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Over on the main stage New Found Glory are once again showing why they are one of pop punk’s most celebrated and loved entities. The sound may not be their friend today but that doesn’t stop them from delivering a career-spanning set with a little bit of something for everyone. With the combination of the new (Selfless), the old (Hit & Miss) and the covered (Kiss Me), the legends play with the passion of a band 10 years their junior and have the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands. Every other band, make sure you take note. This is how it’s done. (3.5/5)

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The Impericon stage closes with Every Time I Die delivering a frantic, heavy-as-f*ck set that is intent on delivering carnage. We wouldn’t expect it any other way as the New Yorkers tear through ‘Ebolarama,’ ‘Decayin’ With the Boys’ and ‘Thirst’ with new song ‘Glitches’ simply adding the devastation on show. With Keith Buckley’s raspy roars and barking vocals, Andy Williams crunching guitars, and Jordan Buckley’s relentless energy bringing the muscle to their set, bassist Stephen Micciche and drummer Daniel Davison keep things ticking over. Although not a set that will go down in history, ETID justifies their position as headliners even if the room was three-quarters full. (3.5/5)

As candidly expected, California’s most acclaimed pop-punk band, The Story So Far, closed The Key Club Stage in a superb and energetic fashion. From opening rumble of ‘Heavy Gloom’ all the way through to the concluding blast of ‘High Regard,’ Parker Cannon and company prove to be in a radiant, positive mood as they solidify their place at the top of the bill. As they pick out the best cuts from their career so far, there is no let up the band’s momentum with Cannon particularly producing an impressive vocal display. (4.5/5)

10 years down the line from ‘A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out’ and Panic! At The Disco are undoubtedly bigger and better than ever. Brendon Urie is a showman through and through and revels in the spotlight that he takes up, be it with his no shirt/shiny blazer combo or the throat-ruining high notes that he pulls out like it’s second nature. The setlist isn’t half bad either. From ‘LA Devotee’ to ‘Nine In The Afternoon’, ‘Time To Dance’ to ‘Hallelujah’ and all the way through to a spine-tingling ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ cover, it is hit after timeless hit performed with the highest degree of pomp and pageantry. As ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ sees out the set with a sass spangled bang, it’s more evident than ever that Urie and Panic! At The Disco deserve every single nugget of success that comes their way. Those rather big shows taking place in November will something truly special to behold. (5/5)

Besides the long queues, Slam Dunk 2016 lived up to the expectations in delivering a consistent and varied stream of brilliant performances from all corners of the alternative music. Although it may not have been perfect and we may have not seen all that we wanted to, what we did see left us satisfied as Slam Dunk proved, once again, to be a success.


View more of Already Heard’s coverage from Slam Dunk Festival 2016 here.

Words by Sêan Reid, Jack Rogers and Lucy Jones. Photos by Carrie-Anne Pollard.


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