It’s a Bank Holiday weekend and there’s pop punk as far as the ear can hear. That can mean only one thing: it’s Slam Dunk weekend. Now into its eleventh year - and second back in Leeds’ Millennium Square, where it first took place back in 2006 - it’s a firm favourite on the rock calendar and this year’s line-up packs more than a good punch.
Having opened up the Main Stage, Canterbury quartet Moose Blood are still winning over crowds with their rough-around-the-edges emo offerings, before pop rockers Mayday Parade use their set to dip in and out of their ten-year back catalogue, bringing nostalgic pangs of joy every few tracks. The only shame is that the stage’s sound system doesn’t seem able to cope all that well, a factor that blights most of the acts today.
After a brief appearance from Yellowcard - who, after technical issues, aren’t able to come good on their promise of performing their 2003 album ‘Ocean Avenue’ in its entirety - The Starting Line take on Leeds’ O2 Academy and then some. Blasting through a selection of old hits - ‘Up & Go’ and ‘Making Love To The Camera’ are just two choice cuts - they dive headfirst into a handful of new tracks, with frontman Kenny Vasoli leaping around the stage as though he’s never been away. It’s an invigorating performance from the quartet, who evidently still have such a presence within this scene.
Back at the Main Stage, everyone's favourites New Found Glory are attempting to whip up a storm, but thanks again to the faltering sound, the band never quite get into their stride. Still, it's a set jam-packed with hits and there's no lack of fun during their time on stage.
Over in the far reaches of the Leeds Beckett Union, newbies Creeper are causing chaos in its tiny bar; yet more evidence that they're one of the most exciting new bands in the genre right now. All the while, California's Set Your Goals make a triumphant return to our shores when they make their first live appearance in four years in the O2 Academy. Unsurprisingly, it's a whirlwind of mosh pits and crowd surfers - with the odd slice of pizza thrown in too - proving just how much the six-piece have been missed.
Drawing any festival to a close is a challenge, but headlining this year's Slam Dunk Festival is something Panic! At The Disco's Brendon Urie has obviously been looking forward to. Emerging onstage in leather trousers and nothing underneath his jacket, the frontman's clearly channelling the bombast of his hometown tonight, and his set follows accordingly. Blitzing through tracks from the past decade, the band's time on stage may be heavy on new material, but Urie seems entirely at home at the top of the bill. A little bit ridiculous, a little bit flamboyant but a whole lot of impressive, tonight proves less of a challenge to Panic! At The Disco and more a real celebration.
Photos: Ryan Johnston