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Slam Dunk Kicks Festival Season Off with a Tale of Two Halves [Photos]

Slam Dunk started festival season in the UK as the North/South weekend gave fans the best in alternative music. Photos and review here…



You Me At Six
Slam Dunk Festival, Photo by Graham Finney Photography

The days are growing longer, the days sunnier and nights warmer (at least, as Brits, if we are lucky)! This indicates it is now the time to dust off the trusty hip flask, dig out the wellies still encrusted with the festival mud of years past don the dopey hat you bought while under the influence of unsafe levels of alcohol and prepare for a summer of head banging and possible bad decisions (it really depends on your perspective).

Slam Dunk has been, and still is, the perfect festival to dip your toe in either to get a taste of festival culture or if you’re a seasoned veteran, reacquaint oneself with the persona adopted away from the trying eyes of family and work colleagues.

Slam Dunk Festival

Slam Dunk Festival

This year Slam Dunk was truly a tail of two halves with Slam Dunk South at Hatfield Park seeing glorious weather with the perfect balance of sun, cloud cover and temperatures. Not too hot, not too cold. Not too sunny, not too gloomy. Essentially it was a flawless equilibrium. This was in stark contrast to what Slam Dunk North in Leeds faced with torrential rain that closed off the car parks forcing punters to make alternative arrangements and festival organisers to seek additional shuttle busses to and from Leeds city centre to accommodate the increased need for transport.

Whatever the experience though, the small festival packed forty-six bands over five stages alongside a closing party in the Kerrang tent and various after-parties in London and Leeds respectively. Slam Dunk may be tiny in comparison to its bigger brothers, but it goes big where it counts!

Below is just a taste of what this mini but mighty festival had to offer!

As December Falls

Kicking off our Slam Dunk was the quite brilliant As December Falls. Despite the weather in Leeds unable to make its mind up, the Nottingham alt-rock outfit were in full party mood as they slammed through the likes of “Ride”. It might have been early in the day with plenty of the crowd still battling the elements to get in but watching vocalist Bethany Curtis bounce around the stage, there was no better way to kick off festival season.

Head Automatica

There can be no better sight for hardcore fans than seeing Glassjaw / Head Automatica fans than seeing Daryl Palumbo on a UK stage. For various reasons this has been a rarity over the years but the frontman and his electro-rock project more than made up for it with “Graduation Day” being greeted by this sizeable crowd like old friends who have been away for far too long.


Playing an early afternoon slot on the Kerrang stage, RØRY gave everything she had to deliver a heartfelt set for fans. The performance was energetic from start to finish with RØRY confessing that this was her first festival performance alongside a motivational speech referencing her age as an example that it’s never too late to chase your dreams and drawing attention to those with ADHD jokingly stating, “how did you get here on time?”. RØRY crammed her thirty-five-minute set with her adrenaline-fuelled mixture of dance and rock even bringing out her husband dressed in a dipper for “Baby Vendetta” adding more hilarity to her exceptional set.

As Everything Unfolds

While we still don’t know exactly what went on with Bob Vylan in Hatfield, his slot was taken over by the utterly infectious As Everything Unfolds. A mix of sugary pop, almost deathcore breakdowns, and hooks that you’ll be humming all weekend long, As Everything Unfolds is the kind of band who have everything in their armoury and they bring it all out at Slam Dunk North. Never has a band looked more at home in front of a packed crowd than As Everything Unfolds, here’s hoping they’re back next year tearing up the kind of huge main-stage crowd they deserve.

Against The Current

It almost goes horribly wrong for Against The Current as technical problems bring their set grinding to a halt before they’ve even broken into the first chorus. An awkward few minutes follow as vocalist Chrissy Costanza battles with intermittent sound while the gremlins are fixed. All problems aside though, as soon as those technical issues are resolved, the pop-rock brilliance of “Lullaby” and “Again & Again” shines through with Costanza a ball of energy even in the mid-afternoon drizzle.

The Ghost Inside

Metallic hardcore masters, The Ghost Inside made every moment of their appearance on the GoPro Stage count bringing a level of brutality to proceedings pumping out fan favourites like “Wash It Away”, “Split” and “Death Grip”. Given the life-changing experience of a severe bus crash several years earlier causing serious injury to all and a mighty cost of a leg for drummer Andrew Tkaczyk, it’s a testament to their can’t keep us down attitude and this mentality was on full display throughout their set. The crowd reciprocated the band’s energy returning it right back with intense moshing throughout their set.

Asking Alexandria

British metal maestros Asking Alexandria gave a show to remember on the GoPro Stage as the afternoon drew towards the early evening. It was forty-five minutes of thundering metal madness that had fans dancing and moshing as far as the sound would carry. There was zero rest bite afforded to the audience as the group masterfully delivered a show worthy of a headlining slot with vocalist Denis Stoff announcing as their set drew to a close “Crowd surfers, this is your chance!” before erupting into “Alone in a Room”

Pale Waves

The threat of torrential rain finally hits the Yorkshire site meaning a packed tent for Mancunian goth pop faves Pale Waves. A few years ago vocalist Heather Baron-Gracie cut a shy, uncomfortable figure on stage, today at Slam Dunk, the singer owned every inch of it. Powering through the likes of “Television Romance”, Pale Waves have a plethora of goth-tinged anthems in their set with Baron-Gracie leading from the front with a performance of a true star. Some might say the rain played a part in packing out this tent but, those of us who have followed the career of these Mancs with curious interest will know that this packed-out tent was only what they deserved.

Palaye Royale

The tent the Kerrang stage was housed in felt rather restrictive for the Las Vegas natives Palaye Royale and their brand of, almost tricky to place, alternative rock. Upon entering the stage and beginning to play, the crowd appeared to not want to be outdone on decibel levels roaring, cheering and clapping right back at them. Right from the outset Palaye Royale came meaning business ensuring they entertained to audience with every fibre of their being. If you needed a breather, this was not the place to be as vocalist Remington Leith sought a split in the crowd. “Run, run you little bastards” before powering through the song of the same name as the crowd collided from left to right. Given they have just announced a headlining slot at Wembley Arena later this year, this could be seen as a mild, yet intense, warm-up for the full show to come.


Entering the Monster stage and instantly blasting out “Spokesman” is how it’s done if you are Goldfinger! There was a seismic shift in the earth as attendees skanked away signing gleefully every note. Goldfinger’s set was a veritable feast for the ears as they dropped classics like “Here in My Bedroom”, “99 Red Ballons” and “Superman” supported by the Reel Big Fish horn section with John Fieldman announcing, “This goes out to all the video game addicts”. Possibly one of the most entertaining bands of Slam Dunk as Fieldman’s interactions with the crowd was sharp as a chef’s knife keeping the audience chuckling away between tunes. As entertainment was the name of the game for Goldfinger, delivering covers of Blur’s “Song 2” and the first verse of The Rembrandts classic into to hit show Friends, “I’ll be There for You”. The set was pure punk rock perfection!

I Prevail

I Preval had a mountain to conquer being down a man, and not just any man, clean vocalist Brian Burkheiser down. With Burkheiser still recovering from surgery (we all wish him a speedy recovery) it was left to Eric Vanlerberghe and Dylan Bowman to pick up the extra responsibility. This could be daunting for anyone, but for Vanlerberghe and Bowman, it appeared to be an effortless endeavour. Accompanied by intense visuals adorning the screen behind them, their headlining slot on the GoPro stage felt grander than it already was. These visuals, at times, were almost unsettling with periodic interludes accompanied by a disembodied voice weaving a confusing narrative throughout the set. From the moment I Preval erupted onto the stage blasting through “There’s Fear in Letting Go” the crowd were hooked not even noticing the handicap the band had.

In a call back to the first time they played Slam Dunk, Vanlerberghe jokingly stated: “that fucking song” to which every attendee instantly knew what he was alluding to. As the cheers grew louder, I Prevail delivered their cover of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” much to the delight of the crowd. Closing the set with “Hurricane”, “Bow Down” and “Gasoline” I Prevail demonstrated without a doubt they deserved this headlining place on Slam Dunk’s second biggest stage.

All-American Rejects

There is no cooler frontman anywhere in this festival today than All-American Rejects vocalist Tyson Ritter. Nobody could pull off the beige shirt and trousers look like Ritter and as he struts, shimmers and glides around the stage, every person looking on is wishing they could just almost be as cool as this. Ritter and his band back it up with an equally swagger-filled set as the likes of “Dirty Little Secret” and “Gives You Hell” start-up one hell of a party on the Main Stage.

You Me At Six

The end is almost nigh for You Me At Six with the band bringing the curtain down on their glorious career next year. Thankfully they’re making sure they go out with a bang headlining this year’s Slam Dunk. “It’s 2024 and You Me At Six will always be your band” defiantly states frontman Josh Franceschi to screams from a crowd who have been waiting all day for their heroes headline appearance. It might not quite be the end just yet and there is no doubt that their headline finale next will be both magical and emotional but fans who battled the rain at Slam Dunk North to rock out with the band and hits like “Underdog” one last time will remember this one for many years to come.

For more information on Slam Dunk Festival, head over to their Official Website here.