LIVE: Slam Dunk Festival 2012

By Tom Aylott

Punktastic were in attendance at both days of this year’s Slam Dunk festival, and alongside our photos from across the weekend, we’ve got a full review. We’ve done things as confusingly as possible and mixed all the sets up from both days, but you’ll figure it out as you go….

There isn’t a better band to open a pop-punk festival in the UK at the moment than Straight Lines. The Welsh four-piece fill the large space of the refectory with melody and pitch-perfect tone thanks to the pipes of frontman Tom Jenkins. There are few upcoming bands that could rival the atmosphere created today, as they effortlessly swan through a setlist made up of old and new prospective hits. ‘Set Me On Fire and Feed Me To The Wolves’ and ‘Commitments’ spark the biggest sing along moments, and although the room is still being filled, Straight Lines have those in early eating out of their hands. -BT [North]

We opened up our stage on both days with a set from Cartel, and both days were a sweaty pack out for the special guests. Big singalongs were had on both days, and more than a few people had trouble getting in the doors in North and South. The acoustic stage was bigger than ever this year, and after having problems with his voice and missing his acoustic set in Slam Dunk South, James from Deaf Havana snuck in a 20 minute blast on both days after charming sets from Portia Conn. Recent Deaf Havana single ‘Little White Lies’ (featuring Portia) gets what might be the biggest singalong of the day on the stage, and it’s a great treat for those paying attention to Twitter before the festival! -TA [North]

As the clashes began arriving swiftly in North, we headed to see Marmozets take on the Vans Off The Wall Stage. We’ve been harping on about the band for well over a year now, and as they get to perform in front of more and more people at events like Slam Dunk, we can see them going from strength to strength. Their sets at Slam Dunk were frankly really fucking good. The words intense, fun and raucous come to mind, but even when two members of the band are in the crowd, the musicianship is spot on throughout. -CM [North]

Next, a dash across the university sees Lower Than Atlantis playing to a now swelled crowd. From the vantage point of the balcony above the main stage, we got a swift, reminder that LTA are a very, very good live band with plenty of hits. -CM [North]

We invited Transit to come and play our acoustic stage at Slam Dunk at a time that worked with their scheduled apperance, and the result was quite brilliant. We’ve never seen the band acoustic before, and now we can’t wait to see it again. A real afternoon treat, even in the Slam Dunk South sweatbox. -TA [South]

As Max Bemis and co. saunter onto the stage in Leeds, the screaming crowd becomes almost deafening, and after a lengthy absence from UK shores, Say Anything are back, rolling through a set combining the old with the new to great success. Max Bemis proves to be a perfect front man, engaging wonderfully with the crowd while the musicianship of the band is completely spot on behind him. All in all, the band are a massive treat for the Slam Dunk faithful today and a fantastic watch. -CM [North]

The hype machine surrounding Make Do and Mend is about to go into overdrive once their new album drops, and what we saw of their set at Slam Dunk was crushing. New single “Lucky” sounds absolutely massive live – even bigger times lie ahead for the band, and you can mark our words on that. The band’s guest appearance on the acoustic stage was a blast on both days, and tracks from their recent acoustic effort got a rare, stripped down outing. -CM/TA [South]

Punktastic favourite Rob Lynch is a regular at Slam Dunk, and having been on tour with Shane Henderson of Valencia the week prior to Slam Dunk, he’s in his stride. It really seems as if Rob has upped his live game recently and he did drew a fairly big crowd at both Slam Dunk dates. The obvious highlight of South and North was an incredible human pyramid to his anthem ‘My Friends & I’. -CM [South]

Almost filling up the vast front portion of the Leeds University Refectory, the crowd is clearly pumped for Minnesota pop-punk veterans Motion City Soundtrack. Following a two date full album residency at XOYO in London and European dates, they’re ready to go and on fine form. Delivering 13 songs during their 45 minute set, they leave little time for crowd interaction – disappointing considering the usual humour – but once the final double-whammy of ‘Everything Is Alright’ and ‘The Future Freaks Me Out’ are reached, Motion City Soundtrack can be excused by delivering a set overflowing with energy and delectation. -BT [North]

Some five days prior to Slam Dunk Festival, Funeral for A Friend issued a statement announcing the departure of drummer and founding member Ryan Richards. Despite finding a more-than-capable replacement in the form of Rise to Remain sticks-man Pat Lundy, it is clear that the band are yet to settle into their new formation. Not least, frontman Matthew Davies-Kreye appears to be actively struggling to find his voice, switching between screams and clean vocals at sporadic intervals. The sound is altogether slaughtered by unfortunate levels which negate the opportunity to distinguish between instruments, and overall, Funeral for a Friend were caught very off-form in Leeds. Technical problems stopped any sort of flow in the set, and it’s just not their day. -BT [North]

Into It. Over It put in a fine performance on the acoustic stage, and Evan becomes better and better at his craft on every visit. He manages to have the crowd largely transfixed on his every move, and his story telling singer song writing style is truly one of the best out there. -CM [South]

Ska heroes Capdown were back at the festivals with a set on the Vans Off The Wall stage, and they produced what can only be described as pure fun. It takes a lot for a band to get a crowd so largely involved, but when you see 15+ people skanking on a balcony overlooking the stage, you can pretty much be sure that they’re doing a damn good job of it. Heroes of the scene, they’re more than welcome at Slam Dunk every year. -CM [South]

An acoustic set from Shane Henderson (former/current singer of the criminally underrated Valencia) proved an excellent choice for the later evening. Joined on stage by band mate Trevor Leonard and performing a mix of Shane’s solo work and classic Valencia hits, the Valencia sing-alongs go down a treat (obviously), but what’s obvious and the real highlight here is Shanes undying love for music and for his band. You can tell this when ‘Safe To Say’ provides one of the bigger sing-alongs of the night, leaving Shane with perhaps the biggest smile at the festival. -CM [South]

Sandwiched between two heavyweights of the emotional hardcore scene, The Blackout may not be to everyone’s tastes, and their inclusion (especially right near the top) on the main stage didn’t set well with everyone. Their sound is often simplistic, and the change in style between albums runs the risk of destroying any coherent structure to a live set, but tonight they are simply on fire. As many have come to expect from the band, duo frontmen Sean Smith and Gavin Butler put on one hell of a show; bouncing off each other at every possible occasion. ‘I’m A Riot? You’re a Fucking Riot’ immediately has the audience bouncing around the venue, and they show no sign of calming down as the set continues. The Blackout may not be to everyone’s taste, but they sure as hell don’t care. This is as close to a master-class in live performance that you are going to get. -BT [North]

Only certain bands are able to invite the entire audience on to the stage and actively stop security from undertaking their job. More so, only an extreme select few are able to continue delivering the punishing southern rock infused metalcore while surrounded by a multitude of somewhat inebriated fans. As Every Time I Die reach the end of their ferocious set, this is exactly the situation they find themselves in. The stage invasion caps off a brutal combination of new and old, interposed by frontman Keith Buckley’s oddball sense of humour… including one curious moment involving a fishbowl and some persistent mass peer pressure. -BT [North]

Competing with Architects, Gallows and Mayday Parade for their mainstage headline slot, Taking Back Sunday have an impressive back catalogue to draw in the crowds to the main stage. Adam Lazzara (vocals) has opted for an unusual gospel minister stage persona, which grates on the audience as much as it entertains – there’s definitely a limit to the amount of times an individual can proclaim himself part of the greatest band in the world. Tracks such as ‘You Know How I Do’, ‘A Decade Under The Influence’ and closer ‘MakeDamnSure’ offer some support to the overhyped claim, but there are some equally as questionable additions in the eighteen song setlist. ‘Everything Must Go’ (taken from the poorly received ‘New Again’) could have been replaced by a more accessible number, as could some of the weaker songs from ‘Louder Now’. Even the addition of the Straylight Run favourite ‘Existentialism on Prom Night’ is beginning to feel like a gimmick following its position in the tour set last year. The crowd are certainly lapping up every moment, but Taking Back Sunday feel as if they are riding on the waves of their back-catalogue, rather than offering something truly memorable. -BT [North]

Finishing the day off on the Punktastic stage was Charlie Simpson, and there’s few better ways to end a festival. Make no bones about it, this is a big booking for the acoustic stage this year, and it’s completely justified by the performance. Working his way through a set of hits from his brilliant album ‘Young Pilgrim’, Charlie’s set is sing-alongs a plenty, and everything is neat and professional. Stage banter is kept to a minimum (not too surprisingly), but the quality of the set was there for all to see. A stunning way to end an incredible festival. -CM [South]

We had a blast at this year’s Slam Dunk Festival, and the line up was just crammed with awesome bands. Obviously, we couldn’t watch every single one of them! It was the biggest year ever for Slam Dunk, and it’s still a true highlight of the festival calendar.

We’re hoping to be back again with our stage next year, and with Charlie Simpson being such an overwhelming success, who knows what could happen!

Words by Tom Aylott, Ben Tipple and Chris Marshman,

For photography from the weekend, head to our photos section for a look at highlights from every stage and both days.