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Slam Dunk Festival North 2024 review and gallery – A torrent of pop-punk

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Featured Image: Gracie Hall

Slam Dunk North sets off to a wetter start than its southern sister down in Hatfield, the day beginning with a deluge of rain and an already trodden festival ground from Live At Leeds the day before. So much so, in fact, that the organisers felt they had no choice but to close the car parks just before they were due to open.

Canadian pop-punk band Arm’s Length open proceedings at the Key Club Stage with a punch despite the gloomy weather. Regardless that this is their first-ever festival slot, they already have a crowd of devoted fans moshing at the front and chanting along to the likes of ‘Up in Smoke’ and ‘Tough Love’. 

As the drizzly weather continues, hot newcomers Honey Revenge take on the Kerrang! Stage. Despite being on early doors they have packed out the tent. They are another festival virgin, although that’s not obvious. Devin Papadol and Donovan Lloyd are a dynamic duo who storm through a set of pure pop-punk showcased in ‘Rerun’ and crowd favourite ‘Airhead’. With Devin’s signature hot-pink hair and Donovan’s glittery makeup, they stand out among the usually dark aesthetics of rock spaces, providing a youthful and fresh splash into the day. 

Set It Off appears on the GoPro Stage just as the sun does. This is the Tampa group’s final day on the road after a gruelling 83-day run of shows. However, they show no sign of fatigue as they blast through a set of old and new tunes from their extensive catalogue. They scorch through 2012’s ‘I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead’ and this year’s ‘Fake Ass Friends’, showing the band’s progression and how they’ve matured into a heavier sound.

Frontman, Cody Carson, announces a January 2025 headline tour as they begin ‘Killer In The Mirror’, before asking the crowd to separate from front to back to create a wall of death, as Carson himself leaps into the throng to join to sweaty chaos. Finishing their set with ‘Punching Bag’, a song about being a people pleaser, the stage sound cuts out for the final chorus but the crowd carries the end of the song. All that can be heard is drummer Maxx Danziger’s furious beats that keep the song going till its original conclusion.

The Blackout is next on the GoPro Stage, with outlandish lead singer Sean Smith cementing his reputation for swinging microphones and gyrating hips. Having celebrated 15 years since the release of their second studio album The Best In Town the day before, The Blackout takes us on a trip down memory lane, harking back to performing at Slamdunk in 2007 when it was still a small festival at the University of Leeds. They admit how “old”  it makes them feel and advise “age-appropriate” walking pits to preserve the wellbeing of their similarly decrepit fans. With crowd surfers already cascading over the barrier – despite those arthritic joints – the love for The Blackout is as strong as ever. You Me At Six’s Josh Franceschi joins the band for ‘This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’ before closing with a rampant ‘We’re Going to Hell… So Bring the Sunblock’.

Manchester’s pride and joy, Pale Waves, hit the Kerrang! Stage to a backdrop of torrential rain. Whether packing the tent out due to the elements or their music, Pale Waves knows how to put on a show and win over a chunk of new converts. Heather Baron-Gracie serenades the crowd with her clean pop vocals that contrast with her outré gothic look. ‘Eighteen’ and LGBTQ+ anthem ‘She is My Religion’ provide easy songs to dance and sing along to, with fans taking to their friends’ shoulders to croon back to Baron-Gracie. The unreleased track, ‘Perfume’, carries on their wonderful legacy of indie-pop bangers and slots perfectly into the setlist alongside staples such as ‘Jealousy’ and ‘Lies’. 

Pop-punk/hip-hop fusion band Waterparks headline the Kerrang! Stage, having opened it in 2017. Lead Singer Awsten Knight enters the fray in a sparkly, gemstone-encrusted scarlet mask before opening with ‘Watch What Happens Next’, a tongue-in-cheek angry anthem about the restrictions placed on artists by labels and fans. It’s a powerful starting point and perfectly sums up everything Waterparks are about. They lean on their older pop-rock goldies such as ‘Stupid For You’ and ‘Blonde’, before debuting the hyper-pop ‘Soulsucker’. 

True to its name, ‘Turbulent’ is a chaotic mix of odd-sounding layers, chronicling feelings about an ex, and it’s one of the best songs you can ever see performed live. As Knight and the crowd chant as one “And that’s where you left me to die” the faithful go ballistic, continuing onto closer ‘Real Super Dark’. The Kerrang! Stage can finally take a breather.

Slam Dunk was the first festival You Me At Six performed at, so it’s fitting that they chose to sign off here too. Headlining the Main Stage for the final time, their set was packed full of songs spanning their entire career, performed to tens of thousands of emotional and adoring fans.

The Blackout’s Sean Smith returns the favour Josh Franceschi paid them earlier, joining them for a gallop through ‘The Consequence.’ You Me At Six’s 20-year run comes to an end after their tour in January 2025, and what a shame that’ll be, but what a career and impact they have had.

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Gracie Hall

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