Emerging from the club night held at music venue The Cockpit in Leeds, Slam Dunk Festival began in 2006 as a one-day music festival boasting acts such as Fall Out Boy, The Academy Is… and Hellogoodbye. Since then, the festival has expanded to cover the May bank holiday weekend in three different regions, adding Hatfield and Wolverhampton to the mix.
This year’s line-up was not short on big name artists, and was once again held at Leeds University. Unlike other UK festivals, the event itself was reasonably priced. Although attendees’ bags were searched upon entry for foodstuffs and liquids, it wasn’t necessary to secrete these forbidden fruits on your person, due to prices of food and refreshment inside the venue not requiring a re-mortgage of your home. In fact, Leeds University has its very own student supermarket on campus, making lunch and dinner more affordable than expected at a music festival. The same, of course, cannot be said for Hatfield and Wolverhampton, as I have no experience of these venues.
However, the food was not the only reason I attended the festival, I purchased my ticket as soon as I heard that two of my favourite bands would be playing this year – Motion City Soundtrack and The All-American Rejects. I was also joyfully surprised to find that MC Lars would also be playing a DJ Set on the day, tugging my memories back to my teenage years when everyone I classed as friends knew his rap single Signing Emo word-for-word.
I arrived just in time to catch MC Lars preforming Signing Emo to an energetic crowd, who also knew every word of the rap. After a fun-fuelled performance featuring songs like iGeneration and Download This Song, MC Lars closed with a freestyle rap session, asking the crowd to hold up whatever they had in their pockets for him to use as subjects. I left the room feeling invigorated and ready for the next gig.
I had some time to kill before Motion City Soundtrack began, so I decided to float from stage to stage, listening for new inspirations. I stumbled upon a band called The Skints and immediately fell in love with their mellow yet upbeat ska meets reggae sounds. Singer Marcia Richards’ voice captivated me and it was difficult not to dance along (albeit in a crazy fashion) with the band having so much fun on stage.
It was finally time for my all-time favourite band ever – Motion City Soundtrack. I immersed myself in the centre of the crowd, in perfect view of the stage, and waited patiently. I had only seen MCS twice previously, but each time they had been mind-blowingly good beyond my expectations, and this performance was no exception. They played a short set, but included all of my favourite songs (it was as if they had read my wish list) such as The Future Freaks Me Out, L.G. Faud and Her Words Destroyed My Planet. Lead singer Justin Pierre was adorably nervous as always when talking to a large audience, a quirk that always makes me love them more. It ended all too soon, and I was left wanting more, as always, but like all good things, it had to come to an end.
The festival ended with big-name headliner The All-American Rejects taking to the stage. Nowadays, I’m not as big a fan of AAR as I once was. My 13-year-old past self adored them and hung onto leading man Tyson Ritter’s every lyric, learning all he had to tell of love, life and ex-girlfriends. But despite not knowing their most recent material (released in 2012), I was still looking forward to seeing them live again. They are yet another band that know how to entertain an audience, and they did not disappoint at Slam Dunk Festival. They played a handful of classics, making me momentarily nostalgic for my youth, and a personal favourite of mine Gives You Hell.
I left Leeds University campus feeling the most invigorated that I have felt in a long time. Slam Dunk Festival is definitely worth every penny, and more.