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Slam Dunk Festival 2023 review – An impressive lineup with mesmerising sets

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Featured image: Al Wilkinson

After months of looking forward to festival season, the May bank holiday weekend finally came around, and so did the festival kicking it all off: Slam Dunk.

With two huge headliners and quite possibly the best line-up of the year, it is no surprise that both North and South dates sold out for the first time ever. Despite the well-documented queues throughout the day, we were lucky enough to still enjoy the warm weather while getting the chance to see some of my favourite artists.

Movements. Photography: Nathan Robinson

To start off the day, Movements played the Kerrang stage and managed to draw quite a crowd considering it had only been an hour since the gates opened. After coming all the way from California, the band had a successful debut at the festival, with numerous crowd surfers and an almost constant pit in the centre of the audience. They received an enormous amount of love during their final song, ‘Daylily’, which is their most popular song, and arguably the most emotional. 

Following seeing one of my bucket list bands, next on my Slam Dunk itinerary was the up-and-coming Holding Absence on the Rock Sound stage. This band has been gaining popularity over the last couple of years, and some may argue they are at their very best, with a huge UK and Europe tour announced just a few days before the festival began and an album release coming later on in the year.

The four-piece began their set with ‘Like A Shadow’ and played seven songs with as much power and effort as they possibly could. Vocalist Lucas Woodland even requested a wall of death towards the end of their performance, which was eagerly accepted by most of the crowd. The boys were also involved in the signing tent shortly after what I would consider the most enjoyable set of the day, which I was lucky enough to join. 

Holding Absence. Photography: Bethan Miller

The energetic nu-metal Wargasm were next up on the Rock Scene stage, and unsurprisingly, the band took over, causing chaos throughout Temple Newsam, Leeds. Singer and fashion icon Milkie Way brought her vibrant charm to Leeds while wearing a pink bunny hat, and continued wearing it throughout the day. Considering I have seen this band multiple times, I wondered whether their set would be similar to previous gigs, but they went above and beyond to give a lively performance, and fans were loving every minute. 

As it approached evening, Creeper took to the Kerrang stage to an overflowing crowd of all ages, with most fans claiming to be a part of the ‘Creeper Cult’. They played a ten-song set that  lasted an exciting 45 minutes and put their all into their performance. One thing I have always loved is the effort that goes into the production of a Creeper show, – making it feel almost more like a theatrical piece than a band playing at a festival. Frontman Will Gould stopped the show during ‘Suzanne’ due to a crowd incident, but this didn’t take away from the mood of the rest of their set. If you are a fan of severed-head props, – creeper are not one to miss in the future!

Throughout the day, it was clear from the amount of merchandise being fashioned, that Malevolence were a band to catch while I had the chance. They closed the Knotfest stage, which was filled to capacity by festival goers who clearly loved the heavier scene. I wasn’t sure what to expect as they are a band I have only recently started listening to, but with a pit opening up within the first 20 seconds of the first song, ‘Malicious Intent’, I knew I was in for a treat. The Sheffield band put on a breath-taking show, with crowds like no other.

Deciding which headliner to enjoy was tough. When given the choice of seeing the legendary The Offspring, with hits like ‘The Kids Aren’t Alright’, as well as Enter Shikari, with a recent Number One album – the decision was never going to be easy. Enter Shikari were my winners, but both stages received the same amount of attention during that headline slot. The visuals during Shikari’s set were like something I had never seen before, and the laser lights being lit above the crowd had most people mesmerised. They played an outstanding setlist, including 19 songs, and even brought out Cody Frost and Wargasm to join them on stage. They ended the night and closed the stage with ‘{ The Dreamers Hotel }’, reminding me of the need to book tickets to their 2024 arena tour. 

Enter Shikari. Photography: Nathan Robinson

After a long, fun-filled day, fireworks sent above the Dickies stage made the aching legs and sunburn worthwhile. The line-up this year was truly incredible, if only slightly marred by the organisation issues. Despite the festival selling a record number of tickets and announcing plans to expand the festival in Europe, some upset festival-goers took to social media to complain about traffic management, queues for food, and a lack of water points.

One Twitter user said: “Slam Dunk Festival was a shambles this year, missed three bands I wanted to see because we had to sit in a three-hour-long que to get in the carpark.” 

Other fans asked for refunds claiming issues with bus services long waits for food.

Slam Dunk Festival released a statement apologising for the issues, thanking everyone for their feedback, taking full accountability, and making a commitment to improve their service going forward.

They attributed the different waiting time issues to: “an unprecedented number of cars arriving to the festival site who hadn’t pre-booked car parking”.

The statement continued: “We also recognise the issues surrounding food vendors and queues. We were assured that we had an adequate number of food vendors for the expected number of attendees, however, we recognise that this wasn’t the case.

“We will be updating you on our plans to improve Slam Dunk Festival 2024 later this summer once we have collected all of your feedback.”

Fans also came out in defence of Slam Dunk Festival, with many comments praising the efforts of the team: “It’s only a small team of people putting on an event like Slam Dunk; it is impressive, so what if it was more packed than previous years?”

As this year’s quote on the wristbands says: “Every Summer Forever,” we can only hope for improvements by festival management as we look forward to Slam Dunk 2024.

About the author / 

Rianna Ram

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