It’s that time of year again and that can only mean it’s the best time. The UK festival season kicked off over the weekend and with a big batch of festivals spread across the country all happening, I went along to best day of the year in Leeds. Of course it’s Slam Dunk North.
With arguably their best lineup to date, the festival completely sold out in both Leeds and Hatfield for the first time. The hype around this festival was as big as I’ve seen and it is a nod to the hard one everyone does behind the scenes.
Following previous days fabulous weather it was typical we were greeted with the standard British cloud as we arrived at the festival grounds but the spirits were still high regardless and rightly so - there was a full day ahead of amazing coming and some of the scenes best acts. Despite the early start for doors, the crowd size was insanely big, seeing the endless sea of heads across the entrance it just enhances that buzz.
To kick off the day I was off to catch the metal powerhouse that is Heriot open the Knotfest Stage. As one of the heavier bands on a very pop punk bill, it was a huge reception they got as the tent was filled well and revived a killer set that left many impressed. As a fan of the band it was great to see them crush this especially with it being the very first slot of the day. The insane vocals from both Debbie & Jake rip right through the tent - not only were they a must see band today, but moving forward this band are heading to big things and the excitement surrounding them is justified.
A short jump over to the Rock Scene Stage to catch the band flying the saltire for Scotland - chaos causers, Vukovi. Anytime I see this band they blow me away time and time again and today was no different. The stage was packed and rightly so - there is always a huge buzz for any set the trio do. A perfect mix of old and new tunes from recent drop, Nula. Opening with Hades and crashing into C.L.A.U.D.I.A sets instant pits. Singer Janine knows how to get chaos going, screaming for the pits to open again before kicking into one of the new album standouts, Lasso. With it being such the short set, it’s important the songs are right and boy were they - no standing still for the duration and they had the crowd going anytime they wanted it was a joy to watch.
Closing off proceedings in style with SLO & I Exist back to back ending with possibly one of the biggest circle pits of the day (this was a day that had Malevolence on the bill) as they close with fan favourite, La Di Da.
Off to the Key Club stage now to catch one of the must see acts around right now. Canadian pop punk queen Lølø takes on her first ever Slam Dunk festival and absolutely kills it. To see such a big crowd there to see her was such an incredible feeling knowing just how much she deserved it. Since I first seen her my love has just grown and grown, this set was very high up on my to do list.
The crashing intro to Death Wish ripples the speakers, Lølø bounces on to the stage to the screams on a sea on fans looking on launching to one of her most played and loved songs in Debbie Downer. With such a strong start, a statement was instantly made as to why she’s one of the most exiting names in music right now. U Turn Me On (but you give me depression) is up next followed by an insane cover of Teenage Dirtbag getting the full area involved in the ultimate singalong. Recent single OMG makes its way on to the set giving everyone a nice taster of what’s to come from future projects just around the corner. And to end a spectacular debut Slammy set, we’re given classics in Junkie and Hurt Less. What more can I say about this girl? When you get the chance, go see her!
Now it’s time for the first headliner of the night as Creeper close off proceedings in the Kerrang tent. Only 2 years ago the band were one of the first bands to play an early slot of the first Slam Dunk post covid to now headlining the main tent shows the growth of how far they’ve come even in that time and I’m all for it. With the surprise drop of recent single Cry To Heaven the day before the festival started just added to the buzz amongst fans on top of a huge headline tour in November.
To open things, it’s only right they kick off with the song that sparked the bands next chapter in Ghost Brigade - a song that’s captured the next stage perfectly. Old school Creeper now kicks off the crowd with Born Cold into Suzanne and the vibes in this tent are immaculate, however it just stamps why this band belong as headliners on bills. Mid set saw the surprise of Hannah taking over vocals as Crickets makes a stunning set entrance, do this day I can’t recall any festival appearance I’ve seen them play this so it was such a special thing to see. Cry to Heaven made its live debut this weekend and it’s as good as the released version, it’s flawless. Hiding With the Boys sparks a huge circle pit before a big old bounce for Annabelle. Now normally I’d see a closer like Annabelle but this is new era Creeper, and closing with Misery completely threw me - this with the confetti ending made it such a special ending and growing my endless love for this band!
Second stage headliners now to close off the weekend - Enter Shikari take their well deserved podium at the top of a festival lineup. The work these boys have put into everything they do shows and the production for this set honestly blew me away - they had absolutely everything from fireworks and flames to the standard Shikari confetti show.
The opening of Pls (set me of fire) with the fire work explosion intro really set the tone of what was to come - the term start as you mean to go on was quite literal here because my god they exploded into this. Sssnakepit and Juggernauts conclude a very high energy start.
It’s hard to really discuss this whole set because the highlights could take up a full review in all honesty. Mindset saw some more of the new look Shikari with number one album title A Kiss For the Whole World getting the crowd going followed by the explosive The Void Stares Back causing absolute havoc. Arguing With Thermometers returns back to the set after a in and out absence.
Satellites for me is a very special tune, and to stand watching this during such a momentous set with one of my best friends singing our hearts out was one of my favourite moments of the day. More new stuff now and personally one of the best if not thee best on the album, It Hurts.
Sadly all good things need to come to an end and Shikari doing what they do by ending by absolute chaos - The Last Garrison, Sorry Your Not a Winner (a see of clap clap claps), Live Outside and the ending of The Dreamers Hotel. This set was everything you could possibly ask for in a headliner and proved why they belong at the top. I have no doubts that they’ll be topping bills and upping things even higher than what tonight was and I can’t wait to be there to see it all.
So that is that, Slam Dunk 2023 is now complete. There has been a lot of negative chat surrounding the whole festival within various different areas. For me, the day was perfect with very little issue but I can’t speak for the many who were there.
A huge thank you to Slam Dunk for the festival for the hospitality they gave me and for the best and most flawless line-up they have ever produced.
See you in 2024