We were extremely lucky this year to be invited to Slam Dunk Festival in Leeds which is hosted throughout the city centre.
As with many big scale events there were a lot of clashes so we were obviously unable to catch every band that we would have liked to, but here is our run down of the day and the bands we did manage to see.
Slam Dunk Festival has long been a favourite of mine, it was the very first place I watched live music which in turn kick started what Riff Media has become today, so to finally be official press at the event is a great personal milestone and hopefully there is more to come in the future.
The first band that we headed to see was Puppy and having never heard their music before and going in on a recommendation from a friend I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with their set. They brought back an edgy grunge/stoner sound that I thought had long died off on the current music scene and really set me up for what the day was to have in store for us. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had know the songs, but that being said I will most probably go see them again.
After their set had finished we got to have a quick walk around the festival grounds and see just how everything was set up. The main question was always going to be regarding security with the tragic events that had occurred in Manchester a few days prior and I think the presence of armed and unarmed guards was a very reassuring sight for all in attendance.
Crossfaith were the second band we got to see on the day. The Japanese Electronica/Metal band completely blew the main stage up with their high energy performance. Having seen the band previously whilst they were on tour we had some inkling of what was to come, but they surpassed all expectations, my only comment would be that they should have maybe been pushed further up the bill on the stage but that being said they really got everybody in the mood and woke the fest-goers up!
Grumble Bee was next on our hit list. After encountering such an enormously successful year so far, Jack Bennett, or Grumble Bee was one of our tips of the festival. It was great to see the Uprawr Stage, which was hosted at Popworld, near enough completely packed out for him. He performed flawlessly (even if he did forget to plug his piano in at first, but we won't mention that) and really soaked up the attention from the crowd. It was amazing to hear so many people singing the songs back to him and we really can not wait to see what else he has in store for the remainder of the year.
Next up, the emotional one, We Are The Ocean. After what feels like an eternity of the band being out on the road and playing countless headline shows, festivals and the occasional support slot We Are The Ocean are calling it a day. WATO were one of the very first bands we ever interviewed as a journalism outlet, they were one of the very first bands that we reviewed work for and they were one of the very first bands that got us interested in the rock scene. This was their final bow at Slam Dunk Leeds and they went out in a blaze of glory playing all their hits to a crowd full of fans shouting lyrics back to them. If I could have written the script I would have had former front-man Dan Brown join them on stage, but alas I will just have to make do with what we were given, an emotional final set from one of the most hard working and dedicated band to ever grace the stage. Thank you WATO!
We then hurried our way out of the main stage and headed to catch some of the set from Cute Is What We Aim For who were also playing to a full crowd made up from fans that had followed them from their enormous debut album 'The Same Old Blood Rush With A New Touch' which the band were touring to celebrate it's 10 year anniversary. They were very passionate about the songs on stage and looked like they were loving every single minute of singing those iconic songs. It does look likely now that we will finally, after waiting for so long, see another album released from the band and potentially a UK tour in the very near future.
Beartooth were a band that I wasn't really fussed about seeing as I hadn't really listened to any of their stuff but after being persuaded to check them out I decided to give them a chance, and I definitely do not regret it. They were so tight on stage and really delivered a fantastic show from the few songs I watched (I was on a tight schedule to try fit in so many bands) as in the case with Puppy I reckon I would have enjoyed the set more had I known the songs and I will most definitely be catching them the next time they are over here.
On my way to catch the Reel Big Fish set I decided to stop by and watch a band I used to listen to quite a lot in the past, but not so much these days, The Maine. I have no idea what the hell I walked into but there was some dude on the stage singing along with the band and it looked like they were all having a great time, I only stuck around for a few songs for the nostalgia but from what I saw they were certainly having fun out there.
Reel Big Fish were a band that I had my heart on seeing and nobody was getting in the way of that. I headed towards the Fireball Stage, which was hosted at the First Direct Arena. On arrival we were greeted with a fairly large queue but didn't think much to it, but after around ten minutes of waiting the queue just kept growing and growing. All we kept saying, as we edged closer and closer to the entrance, was 'surely no this many people like Ska?!' Oh how wrong we were. We entered the area, which was absolutely jam packed, even the seated area was full. Reel Big Fish delivered the show on the day for me, they were incredible. They had the entire crowd wrapped around their finger, singing and skanking away to all of their hits, and other bands hits. Reel Big Fish really delivered something special, and like I said, were by far the greatest performance of the day.
Next up on a day full of nostalgia was Madina Lake. The band are currently on a reunion tour of the UK and were another band that we started off our journalistic routes. It's unclear as to what plans the band have with the reunion, they have stated they are planning on releasing new music so hopefully they are back for good. Live show wise the band looked as if they had never stopped playing, they were all in sync and jumping around like they had done years ago when I had last seen them. They sounded better than they ever had and hopefully this will be a new lease of life for the band.
And finally, after such a long day of incredible music, it was time for the main event, Enter Shikari on the main stage celebrating ten years since the release of 'Take to the Skies' the album that sent their band on their way to stardom.
The set was everything you would of hoped for in a Shikari set, lasers, lights, an incredible set list and with the general election looming a rallying call to the youth in the audience.
The set really demonstrated not only what the band had become over the past ten years, which is one of the biggest acts in the UK, but also what Slam Dunk Festival had become with the headline set looking like something that belonged at one of the bigger festivals in the country. I have seen some people complain over the sound quality, especially those that were stood towards the back, but after a couple of minutes I believe the issue was resolved.
To end on a high I think a write up needs to be aimed at the rallying call for the general election. It showed perfectly the power that bands have to empower the youth and to encourage and educate them on topics that they would otherwise not be interested in. Rou Reynolds made it perfectly clear who he was supporting and the crowd erupted into Jeremy Corbyn chants in support of the Labour leader and his honest intentions for the country,
A lot of credit needs to go the organisers, security, police and everyone involved behind the scenes at the festival, it ran incredibly smoothly and every effort was made to ensure the public not only were safe but felt safe as well. It showed that music is more than just noise, it's a unifying entity that brings people together and gives the bands in the spotlight chance to empower their audiences and change the world.
Thanks for a fantastic day.