Another bank holiday weekend, another fine day of live music around the centre of Leeds – this time the focus is on all things punk rock as SLAM DUNK FESTIVAL takes over the streets around Millennium Square.
Kicking things off for us on the main stage are Chicago pop-punkers THE AUDITION whose original line-up have reunited after a decade for this festival show. Not so much a blast from the past as a vital, triumphant return, yet the set focused heavily on their debut album, Controversy Loves Company, now some 13 years old.
If nostalgia had it’s place at Slam Dunk it was over on the Fireball Stage as we watch Orange County ska-punks SAVE FERRIS. It’s been 17 years since they were last in the UK, and boy is it worth the wait.
Utterly bursting with brass and sass, singer Monique and her band tears up the stage like they’ve barely been away. The party vibe is very much in full swing as they dish out all the classics, receiving the biggest cheers for chick-flick hit I Know. And yes, they ended with their cover of that Dexy’s Midnight Runners tune. Still, their set is the highlight of the day for us.
Heading indoors to the impossibly dark first direct arena for STATE CHAMPS, the New York five-piece still manage to deliver sunny vibes as they smash through a solid set kicking off with huge sing-along All You Are is History. Prowling the huge stage, frontman Derek Discanio’s vocals are matched in power and passion by the near-capacity arena crowd singing back every word up to their huge closer Secrets.
The need for vitamin D draws us away from the arena for the rest of the day, though we do head back inside to catch the last few tunes from the awesome COMEBACK KID. The Canadian hardcore outfit are pumped to be here, clearly, as they command the O2 Academy stage with might. Intense and furious, the five-piece tear through mosh anthems like there’s no tomorrow and the crowd lap it up, despite a noticeable lack of crowdsurfing. Brutal.
Back outside and back in Millennium Square, we squeeze our way into the think of it for Long Island emo lords TAKING BACK SUNDAY. King of the mic swing Adam Lazzara is a little off his game tonight, seemingly going through the motions, but the hits get everyone singing along. Liar (Takes One To Know One), A Decade Under The Influence, Cute Without The E and closer MakeDamnSure distract us from Lazzara’s nonchalance and in the end a storming time is had by all.
We wonder if all the younger members of the Slam Dunk crowd have headed off to see Good Charlotte in the arena as the audience for co-headliners JIMMY EAT WORLD seem to be of a more, ahem, mature nature.
In my eyes, this band can do no wrong (apart from their 2013 album Damage which is luckily only represented by I Will Steal You Back tonight). Live, they are in their element. With 25 years’ worth of material to pluck from, tonight’s set is a pretty solid affair. From oldies Blister and Lucky Denver Mint to recent single Love Never, we’re whisked along a joyous alt-pop journey that barely slows down for frontman Jim Adkins to address the crowd.
Squeezing all the staples into a 75-minute set was always going to see some unfortunate omissions – more noticeably Goodbye Sky Harbour – but we (and the thousands packed into Millennium Square) are having a blast singing back every word to the Arizona four-piece.
This year’s Slam Dunk boasts a flood of new blood hitting up the stages, but Jimmy Eat World rubber stamp their mark as pop punk icons, bringing their triumphant return to the city to a close with big-hitters Sweetness and The Middle.