Following on from the hugely popular Live At Leeds festival, the northern incarnation of SlamDunk, which took place in Leeds city centre on Sunday 28 May, had a lot to live up to. Taking the rather controversial decision to not publish or print a program but rather to only make the stage times and line up available via an app, made it rather difficult to plan the festival, especially for less technology literates or those with old phones.
Nonetheless, I managed to talk a security guard into giving me a copy of their briefing handout, which included the stage times in addition to all of the festival’s profiling and security details, so that I could plan out which of the many amazing bands that were billed I was going to see on the day.
Organisational mishaps aside, the festival catered to music fans who like the heavier as well as the two-tone ska-punk sound, which Live At Leeds was lacking. The festival was spread over three sites. The main area included three outdoor stages and the Key Club stage inside the O2 Academy venue.
The Fireball stage, which hosted the festival’s ska-punk bands was set up at the Arena and saw big hitter such as Bowling for Soup, Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, and Mad Caddies perform. And lastly, Leeds Beckett University saw performances on its two stages.
The decision to have an indoor ska stage was widely criticised before the festival, but somehow it worked, even though the venue never really filled up. However, the sound was terrible, which greatly took away from the experience. Overall there also seemed to be general disaccord between security personnel and event workers, with many not having been briefed properly, which was apparent at the Arena.
Talking to festival goers of all ages and from all corners of the UK, there was a general consensus that the excellent lineup provided something for everyone, with bands like Enter Shikari and Neck Deep playing side by side with Goldfinger, Tonight Alive, Memphis May Fire, and Against Me!
People seemed to have a fantastic time on the sunny weekend in Leeds listening to their favourite bands, and plenty of new ones, and the atmosphere was very positive and friendly. The good vibes of the crowd also translated to the bands, all of whom were on top form. My personal highlight, by far, were the pumping tunes of up-and-coming Scottish alt-rockers Vukovi.
Despite being sold out and the lengthy queues at the entrances to the venues, the festival felt like it wasn’t running at full capacity, especially at the indoor stages. This was great for dancing and for accessing the bars, without impacting the party atmosphere.
Overall, the compact nature of SlamDunk made the venues easily accessible and posed a nice contrast to the organisation of other city festivals, which are often strewn across a mix of locations. I very much enjoyed the diverse selection of music on offer this year and will carefully look out for next year’s lineup for when I choose which festivals to attend.
Live Review by Gunnar Mallon at SlamDunk North on Sunday 28 May at and around Leeds Millennium Square