“I’ve heard Slam Dunk Fest is better than Warped Tour ever was!”
Right now, Slam Dunk feels a thousand miles away from its American counterpart. Kellin Quinn of Sleeping With Sirens yells the comparison from inside a pitch dark, half-empty arena, his fanbase too big to be confined to one of the outside stages.
The comparison falls flat out there too; instead of legions of young alterna-kids baking in black skinny jeans, vans and wristbands, the crowd is far more eclectic. Glittery, pastel-haired teens sit alongside sunburned gangs of lads with Hawaiian shirts and pints, who sit alongside vaguely bewildered looking middle-aged mum’s sporting Taking Back Sunday shirts.
Still, it’s nice to see what looks like the contents of a hundred Hot Topic’s descend upon Leeds City Centre, and even the sun seemed to give its blessing as the first bands started sound check. The Faim were a particular stand out, playing to a packed-out Leeds Beckett despite the earliness of the hour, and the fact that they’ve currently only got three songs available to stream.
Frontman Josh Raven belted, crooned and whispered his way through a set comprised mainly of songs fans currently cannot purchase, and yet that didn’t stop the crowd from knowing every single word. The excitement, which was already tangible, hit fever pitch when the band played actual releases – with anthemic Summer Is A Curse, uplifting Midland Line and brutally powerful Saints Of The Sinners all getting a wild reception.
Add the stellar setlist to Josh frequently leaping into and wading through the crowd, and it’s easy to picture fans looking back at the intimate show in longing disbelief in a few years when The Faim have inevitably reached stratospheric heights.
Over in Millenium Square, Twin Atlantic proved once again that their status as a summer festival staple was well deserved. Knocking out three of their most loved tracks in quick succession, the triple-whammy of The Chaser, Free and Make A Beast Of Myself had every person in the crowd bouncing hard enough to spill their beers. Having not played Slam Dunk in almost ten years, the Scottish rockers were back with a vengeance, with Sam McTrusty belting out Whispers famous hook, “If you think dying is the easy part”, with enough soul to soften even the hardest of punk hearts.
First Direct Arena was consistently brilliant also, but hosted two bands that didn’t know quite what to do with some of the festival’s northern quirks. American pop-punk heroes Four Year Strong responded to the relentless chants of “Yorkshire” by snarkily remarking that it was an inside joke they “just didn’t get”, while Kellin Quinn and co tried unsuccessfully to just wait it out, eventually just giving up and talking over it. Despite that, both put on an amazing and unfailingly energetic show to those seeking a respite from the heat, proving that the all-American Warped Tour spirit really could translate transatlantically.
However, it wouldn’t be a festival without hijinks, and this time they were literally high. Around 5pm, just as people were getting hyped up for the festival’s headliners, proceedings temporarily ground to a halt as two festival-goers were found to have climbed to the top of a crane. Thankfully they were unharmed, and arrested on suspicion of causing a public nuisance before Taking Back Sunday played a single brilliant chord, but the jury is still out on whether they were trying to get the best possible view or not.
Photo Credit: www.lfxevents.co.uk