Slam Dunk is on the social calendar of every UK pop punk/emo teen fan. It’s a one day festival taking place at Leeds University and it promises the best in pop punk talent, both homegrown and from afar, and it rarely fails to deliver on this.

The main issue I have to take with this year’s Slam Dunk is that it appeared to have oversold tickets by about a thousand. Although the guest list queue was moving relatively quickly, I felt sorry for those who had paid money only to be standing in what looked like an unmovable line for an hour or so, having to listen to the beginnings of the festival via the tantalisingly close open fire doors.

Having been to Slam Dunk last year, I thought it would be relatively quick to find my way round again and work out which stage I needed to be at at which time in order to see the bands I wanted to. My mistake was in assuming that movement between the stages would be free and easy, and that the stages would be signposted so that I could find my way around. If it wasn’t for the band Sing It Loud, who had posted bits of card all over detailing which stage they were on and which way it was, I doubt I’d have found my way to Me vs Hero, my first band of the day. The five-piece North Western pop punk/hardcore outfit delivered a great start to the day; punchy and fast, involving the audience at all times. (At some times, involving them too much, such as when a crowd surfer halfway through ended up flipping through the air, destroying a hanging light in the process. Oh dear !) In all, they were great, with crowd pleaser 'UpBeat Down' involving everyone in the room in the chant “this one’s for our friends”. Me vs Hero are probably the happiest band I’ve ever seen perform, and they deserve to be.

After this, it took upwards of 30 minutes to get to the main stages again. 30 minutes, due to a single file stairs policy, and someone who cleverly stuck the smoking area at the bottom of these stairs, leading to constant crossways traffic. Even outside on the terrace, the place of supposed escape from the crowds, there was so little room it was like playing Tetris and trying to fit around limbs, handbags and pints to try and emerge relatively unscathed.

We The Kings gave a solid performance, but seem to be in the same position as when I saw them coming up a year ago – their most popular song then is the same as it is now, and there didn’t seem to be anything too spectacular about their set or stage presence. It was good, in some parts really good, but it didn’t make me feel like they’ve particularly grown over the last year.

Annoyingly, I only caught about 3 minutes of the Auditions' set, but I think they’re an awesome band who possibly deserve a slot higher up on the bill. Between the smaller stages, due to the incredible lack of information throughout the venue, I honestly couldn’t tell you who I was seeing. In one room the size of a toilet cubicle, I saw a boy launch himself into the 5 person-strong crowd with far too much angst and vigour, but such was the mood of his band. There was nothing wrong with anyone I saw, just nothing which made me rip through the security teams to demand to know who I was watching.

I’ve seen Kids in Glass Houses perform about six time before. Each time has been with a decreasing excitement for them, as it seemed they had fallen prey to the formulaic traps which plague so many up and coming bands. However this time, without much expectation, Kids in Glass Houses pulled out an amazing set on the main stage. Energetic, inventive, crowd-oriented and exciting, it seemed as though frontman Aled Phillips knew that the crowd needed waking up. Amongst their classics were a few new tracks, which didn’t get as big a response but will no doubt become favourites after their next album and tour. For me, Kids in Glass Houses saved Slam Dunk. They embodied the reason I’d wanted to go in the first place – fun music, happy crowds, something which left you wanting more.

If the organisers are reading, they could do a lot worse than to curb their ambitions for next year. Less bands, less tickets, make it a simple low key event and let the bands speak for themselves. Kids in Glass Houses have showed they are more than capable, so why not leave it to them ?















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Commenting On: Leeds University Refectory, Leeds, 25/5/2009 - Slam Dunk Festival








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