Slam Dunk North – Leeds City Centre, 28th May 2016

Slam Dunk 2016 poster
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The level of excitement I had about this gig was off the scale. Not only was I going to be interviewing one of my favourite bands but this was going to be the first festival I attended where I wasn’t going to be working as a security guard. Despite my hyperactive state I was able to make some very grown up preparation. I’ve never been to Leeds but like any major city I anticipated a parking nightmare. I need not have worried though as the Slam Dunk festival organisers were a big, big help. I tweeted them a couple of days before and they replied with a link that enabled me to reserve a parking space right next door to the festival site. All day parking for only a tenner and when you arrive the car park cameras recognise your number plate and print your already validated ticket upon entry, how very hi-tech!

So I’m parked up and with the help of Showsec staff I find the press area. An hilarious start to the festival ensues when I fire off some fan questions to Andy Williams and Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die. Dignities still intact all round I leave the press area and set about soaking up what Slam Dunk is of course all about – the music!

The layout of the festival site may not have been a labyrinth but it did take a while to get myself orientated. Once I’d located the Leeds Beckett Union it was time for the first band of the day. It had only been a couple of days since I last saw London based rap metallers, The One Hundred at King Tuts in Glasgow. They were the opening band for the We Came As Romans/Miss May I co-headliner and disappointingly the Scottish crowd were half asleep that night. This was not the case in Leeds. As soon as the beats from their first song sounded out The One Hundred had the crowd opening up and going crazy. Pit Troll was happy!

Unfortunately there was to be two casualties during The One Hundred’s set, the first being my Jason Voorhees hockey mask was which snapped in two, this gives you an idea how crazy the crowd was going. The second was my jeans, during their final song, vocalist Jacob had everybody sit on the floor and jump up on command, embarrassingly for me however as soon as I dropped to the floor my veteran denims split right down the middle. Warm up complete I had no time to take a break as the first of the next two bands on my viewing list were only minutes away from starting.

I had heard good things about The Word Alive, who are from Phoenix, Arizona and judging by the reaction of the crowd that had amassed at The Atlas Stage they have a strong UK fan base. For the large part, even though they play metal, The Word Alive were a little bit too melodic for me to dig them in a big way but I won’t shoot down their enthusiasm. Annoyingly for me, even though the music didn’t seem to call for it, a bunch of crowd killers had started their nonsense. The Issues/Hacktivist gig in Glasgow Garage the night before had been spoiled by a group exactly the same as these idiots, believe me I wasn’t going to let this happen in Leeds. Word Alive’s vocalist Tyler “Telle” Smith culminated the set by surfing the crowd back to front and promising that the band would be waiting at the merch stands after a short while to meet and greet with fans.

Next up were again, a band who I’d seen only a couple of days before in Glasgow, Dayton Ohio’s Miss May I. As previously mentioned, the Glasgow crowd were pretty lacklustre so after their King Tuts set I got the chance to speak with MMI vocalist Levi Benton and I reassured him that I would make their trip to Leeds worthwhile. Not wishing to be labelled as liar I mingled and socialised with the Slam Dunkers letting them know exactly what MMI were expecting of them. Much to my delight they weren’t at all apprehensive about getting crazy and with the moshing and surfing in full flow I got an approving thumbs up from Levi, job done. Very much on the flipside of this, literally the only downside to my day at Slam Dunk occurred during MMI’s set – it was dramatically cut short from ten songs to just five thanks to the rather lazy efforts of some of the stage crew (I have this from a very credible source).

Bands wise there was quite a significant gap between MMI finishing and the next one I wanted to see starting so I decided to take advantage of this and headed into Leeds city centre to explore, refuel and get myself a new pair of shorts to replace the ripped jeans which were by now putting me at extreme risk of being charged with indecent exposure. A few shops and some Krispy Kreme doughnuts later and I’m back at the Leeds Beckett Union in good time to catch Hacktivist.

Even though I’d seen them only eighteen hours previous back up North I’d been quite frankly let down by my home town crowd and wanted to see what the Yorkshire lads and lasses had to offer. What they had that day, Glasgow didn’t the night before. Sorry, Scotland, but the Leeds mob trumped you in terms of energy and enthusiasm and there were no crowd killers! Hacktivist’s Slam Dunk slot was a real treat for their fans with guest appearances on stage from Enter Shikari’s Roo Reynolds and Heart Of A Coward’s Jamie Graham, both singing their respective duets from Hacktivists debut album Outside The Box. Hacktivist’s pulse pounding cover of “N*ggas In Paris” set the place alight of course and they ended their set on a high with metal vocalist Ben surfing the crowd and passing his mic around giving their fans a chance to scream.

There was only one more band on my list and I had some time to kill before their headline slot at the Beckett Union Stage so I wandered the festival site some more and ended up having the most delightful conversations with Japan’s coldrain, While She Sleeps vocalist Loz Taylor and MMI’s drummer Jerod Boyd. I even managed to score some free T-Shirts thanks to my status as Pit Troll! Following a recommendation I headed into the depths of an underground car park to catch a DJ set by Bury Tomorrow vocalist Daniel Winter Bates and his bassist Brother, Davyd. Put it this way, if I was an eccentric millionaire and had money to burn, I would want those dudes to DJ my birthday party. Until you’ve tried it you’ve no idea how much fun it is to be circle pitting to Slayer’s “Raining Blood” one minute and Vanessa Carlton’s ‘A Thousand Miles’ the next (trust me, it works!). No time for big budget effects with the Bates brothers either as during Darude’s “Sandstorm” the crowd were repeatedly blasted with CO2  fire extinguishers. I left the car park looking like I’d experienced G force nine but that was nothing compared to what I was about to be hit with…

Headlining the Beckett Union stage was none other than Every Time I Die. That name to me has become synonymous with chaos and destruction, Leeds being no exception. Just after Hacktivist’s set I spoke to the barrier security supervisor and I’m so glad I did. I gave them the heads up to bring extra guys in for ETID’s set and thankfully this advice was heeded as I don’t think the flow of bodies going over the barrier stopped during the band’s fifty minute set, even in between songs. I of course did nothing to prevent this with one guy even Tweeting me after the show with something along the lines of “You were like a human catapult last night”. Not only was I a human catapult but a  human dump truck as well it appears, as at the end of the last song guitarist Jordan Buckley jumped into the crowd and had me and a few others carry him guitar in hand all the from the dance floor, up the stairs and to the bands merch stand next to the bar where he was all too happy to pose for pictures.

So that was it, Slam Dunk North 2016 was over. Battered, bruised and severely sleep deprived I headed back to my car to begin the trek back to the tropical paradise of Bonnybridge with only one thought in mind…

Same time next year Leeds?

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