LIVE REVIEW: Slam Dunk Festival – Leeds University, UK – 5/24/14

May 24th saw the return of the UK’s annual festival Slam Dunk, docking in Leeds. It of course can only mean two things – incredibly unpredictable weather and great music. Fans didn’t seem deterred by the pouring rain however; two hours into the festival kids were still streaming in – queuing right out of the venue. For the day, the student union of Leeds University is split up into six stages ready for the utter pandemonium that is bound to take place, while drinks flow and people pile into each room to see their favourite bands.

Starting off the day is Canterbury, self-acclaimed ‘sweet rock’ band hailing from the south of England. They are a must-see, taking to the main stage like pros with their opening track “Expensive Imitation.” It’s a surprise from their set that they haven’t taken off as much as other British bands, they’ve been around long enough and their songs have an eerie feel to them setting them apart from the rest.

Outside as the sun begins to shine, Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! take to the Monster Energy stage. The French natives are welcomed warmly and it’s no wonder, on this side of the water they continue to increase in popularity. Possibly due to how fun they are to watch, especially with an added performance of their Smash Mouth cover “All Star.”

Following them is Crown The Empire, the six-piece receive a slim response though it only seems to encourage the guys to amp it up a little. The band works every angle of the stage in an attempt to keep the crowd engaged. It works, of course, with an extra effort coming from singer Andrew Velasquez whose dance moves are erratic and even cause him to fall off the stage at one point. Laughing it off, he recovers gracefully and is back to his feet in no time at all. Making a live debut was a new song “Initiation” from their upcoming album and if it’s anything to go by, the album looks incredibly promising.

Pop punk found a home at the Atticus stage and up next is Neck Deep. They seemingly rose to overwhelming success out of nowhere, perhaps due to their striking similarity to The Story So Far. However, putting that thought aside, from their energy on stage it isn’t hard to see why they are huge in the genre as of right now.

We Are The In Crowd are slightly underwhelming, despite performing to a packed room. The band were all smiles as they ran through their eleven-song set and though they are great at working the stage, the similar sound that weaved throughout each song left little to buzz about.

As always letlive., the band famous for their outrageous stage antics, are an absolute delight. Before the first song is even in full swing, singer Jason Butler is launching himself into the crowd, rolling over the plethora of hands desperately grasping at him to hold him up. Midway through the set, Butler takes a few moments for a heartfelt speech about becoming the man he always wanted to be. Goosebumps are raised as he continues to disclose that it is all thanks to his mother, who stood proudly at side stage to support and naturally the crowd applauded in her direction. Following was a more emotional performance of their highly popular track “Muther.” You can’t help but think, with such a personal touch weaved amongst their usual frenetic set that it’s a shame they weren’t the headliner for the night. Fans can only hope it will come next year.

Old school favourites All American Rejects come set to satisfy the hearts of a nostalgic crowd. There is a long introduction, with the band simply standing under the cover of dimmed lights while shrill screams fill the dead air. It isn’t needed but the band is quick to redeem themselves as they jump into their first song “Dirty Little Secret.” They do not disappoint as performers, singer Tyson Ritter is frantic as he moves around the stage through the instrumental parts of his songs, displaying a colourful array of wacky facial expressions. They’re everything fans could have hoped for, a lot of whom are reminiscing as they drunkenly dance throughout.

Gracing Slam Dunk with their presence for the first time is Chiodos, they are headlining one of the smaller stages in the basement of the venue. Singer Craig Owens promptly requests for the house lights to be brought up, commenting that the set already has the feel of an ‘old hardcore show.’ It makes the set more intimate as they are able to pin point and sing along with those who are belting out the lyrics from the crowd as they mosh. There is the mere issue of sound, being in such close quarters with a slightly bigger stage along the hall and suffering from playing such a tiny room themselves, the real quality seems to get lost. It’s a shame but regardless, fans aren’t disappointed.

Lastly for the night are Welsh natives Kids In Glass Houses. Earlier in the year the band announced that after an upcoming farewell tour, they’d be splitting – meaning Slam Dunk is one of their last appearances as a full band. They make a note to mention it toward the end of their set, leaving a few fans with a tear in their eyes. Their set was made up of old favourites, pleasing the fans that have been with them through their long eight year journey. Despite the somber note to their set, the band is set on making sure everyone leaves with a smile. Their energy is akin to their earlier shows as a band, if they’re to be remembered for anything it should be for their live shows. The poppy sound to their tracks is infectious, leaving some tapping their feet but most unashamedly dancing along and it’s clearly reflected onstage also. For Slam Dunk North, Kids In Glass Houses make sure that it ends on the best possible high.


Photos and review by Kelly Hamilton