Festivals

You Me At Six’s final festival set is a true full circle moment at 2024’s Slam Dunk North

26th May 2024

Despite wet weather and muddy conditions trying to get in the way, the Leeds pop-punk all-dayer is one of its best outings in recent years.

It’s an unfortunate start for the northern outing of Slam Dunk Festival, with organisers forced to close the car parks and to issue divisive safety advise following a deluge of rain in the lead up to the event. Today’s weather is no different, as the main site is held whilst production trucks make their best efforts to clean up the site from yesterday’s Live At Leeds event. It’s a necessity that sits at odds with the vast improvements the festival has made ahead of time, stripping back on the chaotic ambition of its event last year with a more appropriate number of stages, artists, and perhaps more importantly, facilities for the fans.

Only one stage remains under cover, and thankfully despite a particularly heavy downpour during La Dispute’s Key Club Stage performance that sees fans run for shelter, the gods remain in the festival’s favour – yes, it’s wet and it’s certainly muddy, but it really could’ve been a lot worse. 

Instead, those that do manage to gain access to the site are met with perhaps one of the best outings for the festival since its move from its university home. The infallible formula remains; each stage largely hosting a specific genre of music, from Go Pro Stage’s heavier variants to Monster Energy Stage’s traditional punk and ska. The main Slam Dunk Stage welcomes the biggest name on the bill, headlined by what is deemed as You Me At Six’s final headline performance. 

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Given today's headliners, there’s a distinct sense of Britishness across the festival. YMAS frontman Josh Franceschi joins The Blackout on stage during their fun-packed set, much to the delight of onlookers who switch to deafening screams. The Blackout’s own Sean Smith is having the time of his life, and ultimately returns the favour by stepping onto the main stage for guest vocals on ‘The Consequence’. The festival’s second stage also witnesses Holding Absence frontman and vocal powerhouse Lucas Woodland fronting British legends Funeral For A Friend, since the departure of longtime vocalist Matt Davies-Kreye. His ability is only matched by his pure joy at being on stage, and - at the risk of being blacklisted by British emo royalty - it’s the best the band have sounded in years.

Elsewhere, 39-year-old RØRY expresses similar disbelief that her second go at a career in music has encouraged a full Kerrang! tent. It’s testament to perseverance, she proclaims from the stage, following a particular rousing performance of fan-favourite ‘Sober’. Arguably one of the festival’s weirdest moments materialises when her partner and social media co-conspirator arrives on stage dressed as a giant baby – but at least they're having fun.

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Not forgetting the stateside contingent, Head Automatica almost single-handedly bring out the sun for a long-awaited rendition of ‘Beating Hearts Baby’, oddly placed as their penultimate song but certainly not impacting on the force of the band’s full set. Daryl Palumbo bounds around the stage with an infectious energy that more than makes up for the occasionally shaky delivery. It’s a showmanship masterclass matched by The Wonder Years’ Dan Campbell, who - while headlining the Key Club Stage - thanks professional wrestling for his command of the crowd. Rousing closer ‘Came Out Swinging’ goes down as one of the festival’s musical highlights.

For their final festival appearance, the aforementioned You Me At Six power through a career-spanning 18 tracks, showcasing the breadth of their catalogue to a huge festival crowd. The band’s relationship with Slam Dunk - both festival and the record label - is clearly foundational, as Josh recalls their first performance at the festival back in its very early days. It’s a fitting end to an illustrious festival career, back in the city and on a vastly-expanded version of the event where it all started. As the end of set-closer ‘Beautiful Way’ rings out, it’s a full circle moment for both the band and their hallowed ground, at once the end to their combined journey and a nod to the continued legacy that Slam Dunk Festival enjoys. 

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