Friday, June 14, 2024

Slam Dunk 2024 Review – A new era of pop-punk awaits

Slam Dunk has been a UK institution in the alternative scene since 2006 

Slam Dunk has gone on to create legends of countless bands in the scene including You Me at Six, who will be playing their final UK festival show ever before retiring in 2025 following an extensive UK tour. 

It’s unlikely you’ll meet someone who would call Slam Dunk North 2023 a flawless experience, there were issues with parking, extremely long lines obstructed areas with heavy foot traffic and transport to and from Temple Newsam was problematic, to say the least. 

The site was smaller, there were fewer stages and the huge mountainous hills were replaced by slight slopes with wide open spaces that were easy to traverse. In a lot of ways, it was a more compact experience. 

Slam Dunk have worked diligently to create a better experience

Since last year, Slam Dunk have been very welcoming of criticism and have taken on board a great deal of festival-goers feedback. I spent the night before actively trying to find reports on Slam Dunk South in Hatfield but found very little, festival goers seemed to have a wonderful time. From a cursory glance Slam Dunk North seemed like it would be perfect but then the rain started… 

Nobody can predict the rain 

Given the fact the rain started the previous night during Live at Leeds and caused problems, it would have been hard to implement any kind of contingency plan with such short notice. Most outdoor festivals in the UK take place during the summer and given our famously nonsensical weather patterns, it’s impossible to predict what is going to happen so closing all car parks at Temple Newsam the morning of the festival was a massive letdown but there really wasn’t any better way to do it. 

Despite getting confused about the gate entrances and getting lost on a side road, photographer Christopher James Ryan and myself entered the compound and got ourselves ready for a day of sludge and punk as we prepared for one of the most beloved one-day festivals in the UK. 

And so it begins…

Honey Revenge

The first band we saw at Slam Dunk North was Honey Revenge, this band has been gaining a lot of attention lately with their breed of bright colourful power pop rock. Their sound is driven by really infectious basslines and bright sounding positivity. 

Honey Revenge

The Clueless aesthetic felt like an integral part of their image and added to this aesthetic of being underestimated amongst the greater landscape of music, perhaps that’s just me misremembering Clueless or confusing it with Legally Blonde but my point is they looked good.

Vocalist Devin Papodol asked the Kerrang tent “are you impressed?” before getting into the sweet and sour rocker which woke up the crowd and got everyone moving. A personal favourite of this set (and of writing the preview, to be honest) was discovering ‘Airhead,’ a magical riot grrrl rager with a glorious vocal hook that has been thoroughly embedded in my brain for months. 

Honey Revenge

Should Honey Revenge return to the UK to ask “where are my f*cking Airhead at?”, we’ll be there to scream our lungs out. Highly recommended.

10/10: The mix was amazing, the energy was perfect and the day was off to a killer start… 

As December Falls

Exting shelter to the rain for the Slam Dunk stage and armed with my trusty hat and Poundland poncho, As December Falls were ready to go. They had all the melodic riffs and the classic iconic pop punk yarl but they still felt like they stood out amongst the crowd. 

As December Falls

As December Falls are another band that gained some attention following their UK tour last November/December and it’s quick to see why they were so well received. The synth breaks, powerful d drumming and anthemic emotive hooks made a rained-out field in Leeds feel like a Superbowl halftime show. It even brought Waldo out of hiding as he appeared on the giant screens by the sides of the stage. 

As December Falls

‘Little by Little’ and ‘Go Away’ were colossal mega hits among the audience, it might not be anything you’ve never heard before but it’s a very well done version of it. The ultra heavy closer ‘Carousel’ felt reminiscent of Tonight Alive with it’s drop-tuned riffing and Bethany Curtis’ vocals had just as much emotionally driven power as the song just kept building to a guitar solo that was surprisingly technical for this genre. 

7/10: A decent blend of several things we’ve already seen in pop punk and emo but repackaged in a new and exciting way. 

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus 

Moving over to the GoPro stage, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus were starting their set which was almost entirely comprised of tracks from their 2006 classic, Don’t You Fake It. They opened with a warning, ‘Brace Yourself,’ the drop-tuned guitar chuggery (yes, it’s a real word) and boot-camp-booty-camp drumming made for a killer opening. 

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus 

Ronnie Winter’s vocals were a little pitchy at times but that was easy to ignore because of how much energy he put into his stage presence and the fact that he’s doing double duty on piano. Tracks like ‘False Pretence’ and ‘In Fate’s Hands’ felt like moments of catharsis for elder emos in the audience and as someone who discovered RJA late in life, I can’t help but feel jealous of the people who got to live their lives with this music. 

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus 

There were some deadly clashes this year and this was arguably my first upset, I didn’t get to hear ‘Face Down’ because of Head Automatica starting their set over on the Slam Dunk stage. 

7/10: Really high energy makes up for some minimal problems but a headline UK tour would more than make up for that… Hint hint. 

Head Automatica 

“Let’s get this f*ckin’ sun out” demanded Daryl Palumbo as the skies parted and the sun hit Temple Newsam for the first time that day. This momentous event was cause for glorious celebration and disco/funk/emo/rock was the only way to do it as Head Automatica kicked off their set with ‘At the Speed of a Yellow Bullet’

Head Automatica

Head Automatica have just one album and a new single so seeing them at Slam Dunk is the perfect way to get a feel for what they have to offer. The rhythm section is airtight and the disco vibes are immaculate on tracks like ‘Brooklyn is Burning’ and ‘Solid Gold Telephone’ as Daryl Palumbo prances around the stage with his flowing coat and killer dance moves. 

Head Automatica

If you had sharp eyes, you could see Sean Smith of The Blackout having the time of his life at this side of the stage singing along and having a little dance. ‘Graduation Day’ seemed to get a particularly energised reaction from the audience, from Sean and myself as we all tried to get down without falling down. 

10/10: Having no experience with Head Automatica before this, I’d 100% recommend them to anyone who even remotely likes rock music you can dance to. 

RØRY

Turning back up the hill to the Kerrang stage for RØRY, a glowing success story in a lot of ways. Røry advocates for self-care, mental health and sobriety in a way that feels genuine and relatable to her younger audience which has made her all the more popular on TikTok. Her authenticity is incredibly rare in the scene as she makes music that is both vulnerable, accessible, memorable and validating. 

RØRY

Many people in the audience are dealing with their own demons and speaking from personal experience, it feels gratifying having your struggles validated and told you’re not alone. It’s a bit disappointing that RØRY’s vocals were hard to understand from where I was standing but it still felt like a warm and welcoming environment as she played tracks like ‘Anti Represent’ and ‘Family Tree’

RØRY

RØRY’s set felt like a safe space and the fact that the music also happened to be great was just a bonus. Those of you going to Download 2024 will have another chance to catch her set. 

8/10: Despite struggling to make out much of what RØRY was saying, it was a warm atmosphere in a literal and figurative sense. Those who aren’t won over by her songs on the record will surely be converted by the live show.

We the Kings

Back outside at the Slam Dunk stage was Kerrang mainstay, We the Kings. Despite being years since their biggest hits, We the Kings are further proof that despite being an older band, average pop-punk fans still hold all the classics close to their hearts. 

We the Kings

The set opened with the youthful ‘Skyway Avenue,’ a track that everyone in the audience seemed to know very well. Vocalist Travis Clark still sounds as young at heart and animated as he did all the way back in 2007 when this and Kerrang staple, ‘Check Yes Juliet,’ first came out. 

We the Kings

As someone who only knew We the Kings from ‘Check Yes Juliet,’ it was interesting to see what the rest of their catalogue sounded like and it was all high quality pop punk. ‘She Takes Me High’ and their new single, ‘Alien,’ both had this bright hopeful tone as the band bounced around the stage just like they would have 15 years ago. 

7/10: Closer to pop than punk but it was still pleasant learning a band I hadn’t thought about in a while still made amazing music and still looked like they loved doing what they do. 

The Blackout

The sun was shining and it was getting warmer as we headed over to the GoPro stage for The Blackout’s set which saw them playing ‘The Best in Town’ in full. This set was of particular interest to the elder emos in attendance who caught their 2014 farewell tour and hoped to relive that experience. The Blackout saw an increase in temperature as the clouds started to part and the band got to work on delivering hard-hitting ragers like ‘ShutTheF*ckUpperCut’ and ‘Save Ourselves’

The Blackout

The energy was absolutely electric as frontman and harsh vocalist Sean Smith bounded around the stage like some kind of possessed madman with a penchant for bounding around places. You’d be forgiven for thinking The Blackout were a much younger band considering just how much wild energy they put into this set. 

The Blackout

‘The Best in Town’ has gone down as something of a modern classic in the canon of British emo music and if you were here for these Slam Dunk shows then you witnessed something truly special.

10/10: There’s no real way of knowing if The Blackout are truly done because bands make claims like that all the time. If they are then this was a glorious send off for a band that deserved all the respect it got in its lifetime and beyond. 

Mallory Knox

Trudging through the sludge towards the Slam Dunk stage was the recently reunited Mallory Knox, who were running behind schedule due to some technical issues. Technical problems and stage delays happen, it’s unavoidable and you (the festival goer) have to accept that no matter how well you plan, that plan will definitely end up changing… this is called foreshadowing or set-up. 

Mallory Knox

Mallory Knox came on to ‘Back in Black’ and took their positions in front of the giant lighting rig designed to look like their logo and things were peachy keen through the raucous glittery noise of ‘Beggars’ but shortly after instruments started cutting out. There would be extended periods without guitars or vocals coming through. Amazingly, the audience took over the vocals and screamed the words which made the set feel unique. It was like everyone was coming together to save the set in a way that only the alternative community could. 

Mallory Knox

Frontman Mike Chapman acknowledged the problems and made it clear that they’d power through the set come hell or high water, which was also making the set problematic. “I have missed that sound” said Chapman before his mic immediately cut out in what could be the best comedic timing in the entire festival. 

Mallory Knox

Chapman said “We are gonna make this work” and it’s questionable whether they did as they struggled through a set mired by technical problems. It’s not really anyone’s fault but it is disappointing. Mallory Knox have announced a UK tour celebrating 10 years of Asymmetry if you liked what you heard and want to take another crack at it. 

6/10: Considering this was one of their first shows since reuniting, I can’t help but feel bad for Mallory Knox but the supportive crowd made this a glorious spectacle. 

The Ghost Inside

The Ghost Inside have had a rough time over the years and the support they’ve received from their fanbase has been incredible and their Slam Dunk set was no exception. Easily one of the heaviest bands on the bill and armed to the teeth with vicious breakdowns and drumming that kicks like a mule, The Ghost Inside gave a performance that turned The GoPro stage in a swamp full of pure carnage. 

The Ghost Inside

The stomping drop-tuned madness of metalcore anthems like ‘Engine 45’ and the devastating ‘Pressure Point’ were forces of nature but The Ghost Inside still took all the proper precautions to help someone in need of medical attention. The rain started back up just as ‘Earn It’ kicked in and that didn’t stop the violent mosh pits at the centre of the marsh. 

The Ghost Inside

Seeing a band that has been affected by tragedy come back for round two just to hit twice as hard is inspiring and made their set just as emotionally moving as it was physically moving. You can catch them on their UK tour in October if you want more of this. 

9/10: A powerful punch in the face in the best way possible. Highly recommended for people filled to the brim with aggression and in need of an outlet. 

Asking Alexandria

Asking Alexandria are Metalcore royalty and their first appearance at Slam Dunk was met with all the proper pomp and circumstance you’d expect for a band of this stature. Frontman Danny Worsnop roamed around the stage calmly and with this regal presence, with his arm held behind his back. Despite looking so relaxed, he still managed to belt some disgusting screams on nu-metalcore anthems like ‘Closure’

Asking Alexandria

The set started 15 minutes late due to technical problems and the rain began to get bad again at this point so perhaps Asking Alexandria didn’t get the proper turnout they had hoped for. Despite all the issues, they still put on a show full of dissonance, breakdowns and classic metalcore/dance breaks. 

Asking Alexandria

There was a decent mix of elder emo classics and modern hard rock tracks which seemed to satisfy most people. ‘Into the Fire’ had that same anthemic synth we’ve all come to love but had that powerful arena rock delivery that Danny has adopted over the years. 

Asking Alexandria

‘The Final Episode (Let’s Change the Channel)’ was the moment everyone was waiting for and while it did get played, I had to miss it in order to get to Pennywise. It was a devastating clash but given that Slam Dunk 2024 had fewer stages this year, it was understandable but still disappointing. Some sacrifices have to be made to ensure Slam Dunk was a smoother experience.

Asking Alexandria

6/10: Technical problems mired this set as did a particularly unfortunate clash but it was still a pleasure to witness Asking Alexandria perform at a more mature and reserved era in their lives as performers. 

Pennywise

Now seems like a good time to discuss traversing Slam Dunk 2024. Those who remember the festival from last year will recall the struggle to get from stage to stage due to some sets finishing at the same time but luckily, this was largely remedied. There were massive open spaces to manoeuvre and the food village didn’t see the same magnitude of queues that were present at last year’s event. Everything seemed more central as well, from the main stage you’d either turn around for the Kerrang stage or go right for the Key Club and GoPro stages which were close enough to be easily accessible but rarely caused overlap or noise pollution. 

Pennywise

This was a great setup and hopefully, Slam Dunk will go ahead with this layout in the future. With that said, it was time to venture up a precarious hill for Pennywise. “We are the voice, we are the power, strength in numbers” was said during this set and you could feel a sense of community as a group of drunken loudmouths got together to bond over the belligerent intensity of Pennywise. 

Pennywise

Pennywise have been together for close to four decades and are the gold standard for hardcore punk. Their set was full of that “f*ck you” attitude and inability to go out quietly. A swarm of angry people with middle fingers raised to the sky got together to scream the immortal words “f*ck authority” as they threw each other over barricades and into mud with all the vigour and intensity you’d expect from pissed-off kids who hate the government. 

The highlight of the show was hearing the band throw shade at NOFX claiming that they’d be back in a few years once Fat Mike had run out of cocaine money as they played a hardcore punk rendition of ‘Kill All the White Man’. You can contribute to that fund when NOFX play their final UK shows in London. 

Pennywise

Pennywise had a great deal of intensity but still stripped it back for a warm and fuzzy singalong of ‘Stand By Me’ by Ben E King before closing the set with ‘Bro Hymn’ with Mad Caddies who played earlier that day. 

10/10: This was a crazy set that was full of cathartic rage and fun without being too self-serious or preachy. Pennywise finished their set knowing the future of punk was in good hands as you could see a wave of parents teaching their kids to question authority, stand up for what’s right and even how to two-step to killer music. 

All American Rejects

The general consensus is that if You Me at Six weren’t retiring, All American Rejects would be headlining and that wouldn’t be such a bad thing to be completely honest. “How is it feeling out there in the true f*ckin’ North” said frontman Tyson Ritter knowing damn full well it was awesome to be back in Yorkshire again for the first time in 10 years. 

All American Rejects

I personally had no idea what Tyson Ritter looked like anymore, I hadn’t seen any of their music videos since ‘Gives You Hell’ and it was wild to see he’d changed from Cillian Murphy to Russel Brand. His strange presence was so strange, he came out in his suit and tie and paraded around the stage and in between songs he’d go on these bizarre camp rants about nothing. It was all in good fun and helped him seem like just a wacky fun filled guy. 

All American Rejects

The band ripped through eternal bangers like ‘Gives You Hell,’ ‘It Ends Tonight’ and ‘Move Along’ but the biggest moment was Ritter’s uncomfortable yet hilarious declaration that it’s okay to be dirty in this gross over the top valley girl accent before jumping straight into ‘Dirty Little Secret,’ a staple of Kerrang back when it was a TV channel that played music videos. 

All American Rejects

There were moments that didn’t land like the thoroughly baffling ukulele cover of ‘Yellow’ by Coldplay. It ground the pacing down a little bit and most normal people have a low tolerance for Coldplay anyway but it was over quickly and All American Rejects got straight back into bangers. With any luck, All American Rejects will be back for a headline tour in the UK soon or maybe they’ll just headline Slam Dunk someday, who knows? 

All American Rejects

8/10: Bizarre stage presence and Coldplay ukulele cover aside, All American Rejects put on an engaging and quirky show full of emo classics and weirdness. Tyson Ritter may be a weird guy but he’s a lot of fun to watch. 

Goldfinger

I’d skipped the latter parts of All American Rejects set to get ready for I Prevail and have some much needed rest but en route to the GoPro stage, I heard a familiar sound in the distance. Goldfinger frontman John Feldmann began introducing ‘Superman’ and I immediately hopped on my board and kickflipped over to the Monster stage. 

Goldfinger

Admittedly, ‘Superman’ was the only song I knew of Goldfinger’s but the set still looked super energised and full of ska-filled shenanigans. While I wish I’d have seen more of their set, I still got to scratch the itch and tell a random stranger “This song was on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” to which they earnestly replied “Yeah”. Glorious. 

Goldfinger

10/10: This is a ranking of the one song I heard but it’s already a 10/10 banger so it was a perfect set by default. We’ll hopefully be attending a headline show when they come back. 

I Prevail 

Slippin’ n slidin back to the GoPro stage for one of the heaviest bands I’ve ever seen and easily the heaviest band on the bill, I Prevail. I Prevail are a band to be taken seriously and the security detail matched that, they took centre stage just before the band did and prepared themselves for war. Opening with what I consider to be the perfect show opener, ‘There’s Fear in Letting Go,’ the slow buildup and drumming felt genuinely impactful in that the bass straight-up punched you in the face. 

I Prevail

I Prevail had this seething energy that just kept building and building until the crowd exploded. I Prevail without their usual clean vocalist, Brian Berkheiser, had their harsh vocalist Eric Vanlerbeghe and guitarist Dylan Bowman take over on vocal duties. The two of them did an excellent job filling and perhaps they’ll have more opportunities to do this again in the future, once Brian is back. 

I Prevail

The set was full of riotous anthems designed to get people moving and unloading unchecked aggression in the safest environment possible. Anthems like ‘Body Bag,’ ‘Bad Thing’ and the growling hostility of ‘Self Destruction’ were master classes of unbridled fury manufactured to do maximum damage. 

I Prevail

I Prevail are a phenomenal live band and a perfect addition to Slam Dunk and seeing them headline the GoPro stage in a muddy field is probably the best way to experience them but hopefully they’ll be back for a headline tour in the UK sometime soon. 

10/10: This set made me want to pit and that’s not something I do anymore. I Prevail are a band that can bring out the demon in even the most mild-mannered music fans. Extreme caution is advised. 

You Me at Six

“It’s only right we end it where we started it” said You Me at Six frontman John Franceschi referring to their big break at Slam Dunk back in 2007. It’s really the only appropriate place for them to have their final UK festival appearance before they call it a day. 

You Me at Six

It’s a bittersweet moment for the swarm of Sixers in the audience who get to scream ‘Save it for the Bedroom’ one last time before their final UK tour in March. ‘Nothing to Lose’ was dedicated to long-time Sixers in the audience and they sang along beautifully as well as practically every other word in the entire set. 

You Me at Six

The sun began to set on Slam Dunk and the lighting setup became more intense as darkness descended on this magical setting full of wonderful music and fans that have aged gracefully together. 

You Me at Six aren’t what you’d consider a mosh pit band but they managed to get the crowd scrapping during wild ragers like ‘Bite My Tongue’ and the anthem of political unrest, ‘No Future? Yeah Right’

You Me at Six

The set was a good mix of old school classics and the more modern tracks which should be the case for a farewell tour (if you know, you know). Classics like ‘Bite Your Tongue’ and ‘The Consequence,’ (which featured Sean Smith of The Blackout because the man can’t sit down) flowed perfectly with more recent bangers like ‘Straight to My Head’ and ‘Beautiful Way’

You Me at Six

The crowd knew every single word to every single song, new and old, and you really don’t see that kind of dedication in other genres in the same way. This music meant a great deal to the people in the crowd and it will likely be passed down to their children. 

You Me at Six

You Me at Six ended their set with ‘Beautiful Way’ and just like that, the sun set on You Me at Six and a new era of pop-punk had begun. Slam Dunk is a place where legends are made and every pop punk band worth their salt is working diligently to take up the throne that bands like You Me at Six have left for them. 

You Me at Six

When the sun sets on legends of old, a new group of heroes will stand together and fight for the future of music. Probably best to reread that with dramatic music playing or it’ll sound cheesy as hell. Regardless, farewell You Me at Six, we’ll be there for one last goodbye in March. 

∞/10: it’s impossible to quantify how much good You Me at Six have done for the alternative scene and pop punk in general so giving a rating would feel entirely pointless. I guess we’ll just say thanks for the memories… 

You Me at Six

Overall success at Slam Dunk 2024 

Slam Dunk has had its ups and downs but 2024 was a massive step in the right direction compared to last year. The weather was really the only major flaw in an otherwise satisfying event. With the exception of a few unfortunate clashes, inclement weather and a minor incident where Chris and I got lost, there was very little to complain about. 

Everyone made the best of the situation as they patrolled the fields of Temple Newsam dressed in whatever whacky attire they deemed appropriate for the day. Specific props to the squad dressed as Aladdin, Abu and The Genie as well the couple wandering around in full Disney princess dresses. Even Harley Quinn and The Joker were into it. 

Slam Dunk 2025 will take place on May 24th and 25th and we can only speculate on who will take centre stage; Weezer? Sleeping with Sirens? Papa Roach? The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza? Garth Brooks? No one knows and only time will reveal the answers to these questions as RAMzine patiently waits for Slam Dunk 2025.

Lamestream Lydia
Lamestream Lydia
Self-proclaimed journalist, Progressive rock enthusiast and the most American sounding person you're ever likely to meet in the North of England

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