In the months leading up to Slam Dunk Festival North, many were curious how the new, bigger site of Temple Newsam would turn out. After a couple of years of missing bands due to ridiculous queues into certain venues, the move to a new location seemed ideal. Sure, it’s not in the city centre anymore (no more “off-site” trips to McDonalds) but Temple Newsam makes up for it. Walking around the new site made it easier to watch bands without any hassle, and as pointless this may sound – Slam Dunk North felt like a “real festival”. So with all that being said, what did the sights and sounds of the improved SDF have to offer?

With punters been given time to find their bearings to this new site, Angel Du$t (2.5/5) open up the Impericon stage with a mix of hardcore punk and their jangly take on 90s alt-rock. ‘Headstone’ and ‘Let It Rot’ blast through early on before highlights from ‘Pretty Buff‘, ‘Bang My Drum’, ‘Want It All’ and ‘Big Ass Love’ rein things in yet don’t have the same urgency you’d like from an opening band. 

With Anti-Flag being a big pull across the field, the turn out for Wallflower (3/5) isn’t that impressive. Nevertheless, the quintet don’t seem hindered by it as they showcase their brand of stirring alt-rock. Admittedly when they temporarily rein things in, they go into a lull yet but they make up for with it with impact. It’s just unfortunate that they suffered some technical bugs. 

Balaclava-wearing Boston Manor (3.5/5) are eager to get this crowd to wake up, as they open with tracks from ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’, and while it takes until ‘Laika’ for them to respond, by the time the chorus of ‘Stick Up’ hits, Henry Cox has the crowd in a frenzy. 

Aussie favourites Trophy Eyes (4/5) waste no time, jumping straight into ‘Friday Forever’.  With highlights from both ‘Chemical Miracle’ and ‘The American Dream’ dominating their 40-minute set, the quintet provide a fun and energetic outing. 

A return to the Key Club tent sees Press To MECO thriving with a mix of soaring melodies and dense riffs. Closing with the bold ‘Here’s To The Fatigue’, the reasonably small yet dedicated crowd are appreciative of Press To MECO’s SDF debut. 

That might be a bit of cast over but The Interrupters (3/5) but that’s not going to dampen their spirits as they draw in a big crowd over on the Punk in Drublic stage. Their spirited, welcoming attitude resonates as they showcase their two-tone and West Coast influenced ska-punk

Canadian group Seaway (3.5/5) are in a buoyant mood as they deliver feelgood pop-punk in abundance. Highlights such as ‘London’, ‘Lula on the Beach’ and the closing pairing of ‘Best Mistake’ and ‘Something Wonderful’ wake up the crowd from their late afternoon lull. 

Earlier than scheduled, The Get Up Kids (4/5) (swapped slots with Saves The Day) take to the Dickies stage and know what is expected of them; 40 minutes of classic emo rock. With favourable cuts from the recently released ‘Problems’ (‘Satellite’, ‘Lou Barlow’) being scattered through a set that includes a handful of fan favourites (‘I’m A Loner Dottie, A Rebel’, ‘Shorty’, ‘Action & Action’), TGUK produce a satisfying set that leaves us just wanting that bit more. 

Real Friends (4/5) make up for lost time having cancelled last year’s appearance for personal reasons. Nevertheless, they serve up a pleasing set threaded with sincerity from vocalist Dan Lambert. Admittedly, the grey skies and light rain meant the weather affected the band’s sound but they soldiered on, closing with two recent favourites – ‘Me First’ and ‘From the Outside’.

Whether it’s the rain or the matter of fact that they’re one of heavy music’s most exciting bands right now, Employed To Serve (3/5) prove to be a big pull in the Key Club tent. Questionably one of the heaviest offerings on the bill, ETS don’t hold back with an intense albeit brief set. It sees guitarist Sammy Urwin surf over the crowd while his bandmates deliver a thrilling glimpse of their ferocity.

Back over on the Punk In Drubic stage, and in the pouring rain, Less Than Jake (3.5/5) waste no time to putting smiles on peoples faces. From the opening rich horns of ‘Gainesville Rock City’, the ska-punk group live up to expectations with a set packed full of irresistibly fun songs. 

The great thing about wondering around festivals is that you may stumble into something you didn’t expect. It’s exactly what grandson (3.5/5) did inside the Key Club tent. Mistakenly thought of as a hip-hop act, it’s clear Jordan Benjamin and his band have a passion for rock, as they bring an explosive and energetic display. It’s easy to see why grandson are so highly thought of in some circles.

In recent years, Touché Amoré (4/5) have become a reliable live force and today is no different. Vocalist Jeremy Bolm is as impassioned as ever and his yelps on ‘Flowers on You’ and ‘New Halloween’ are sung back to him by a busy and enthusiastic crowd. Whereas Elliot Babin’s drumming is kinetic and precise as ever. Sure longtime fans may didn’t get anything from ‘…To The Beat Of A Dead Horse’, yet it’s clear TA have a wealth emotionally raw post-hardcore to choose from.

As Slam Dunk veterans, New Found Glory know what a packed out (yet very wet) crowd want. With a set crammed with classics with a few movie-related covers splattered throughout, don’t disappoint. Longtime classics ‘Failure’s Not Flattering’, ‘Hit And Miss’ and ‘Head On Collision’ are complemented by NFG’s take of Frozen’s ‘Let It Go’ and ‘The Power of Love’ (from Back To The Future), and although they’re questionable inclusions they definitely keep the momentum going. 

Closing the Dickies stage was Slam Dunk debutants The Menzingers (4.5/5). Having spent some time away working on new material, this 14 song set serves as a celebration of the band’s recent hat-trick of albums. With a large dedicated in attendance, they join the Philadelphia four-piece by stirring up a punk-fuelled party with singalongs aplenty. From the opening of ‘Tellin’ Lies’, there is a feel good, energy all-around with the quartet having as much as fun as the crowd. 

Sure there’s plenty of other bands to close the day with, but you’re not going to find a band delivering heartfelt punk anthems like The Menzingers do. There’s something so pleasing singing about pointless degrees (‘Midwestern States’), admitting that you’re going to “fuck this up” (‘The Obituaries’) and reminiscing about ‘Casey’ while being surrounded by new found friends. After all, isn’t that what music is supposed to do? Bring people together?

If that’s the aim of Slam Dunk, then they have thoroughly succeeded. The improvements to the North portion of the weekend seemed to go off without a hitch. Of course, the occasional outdoor sound issue are expected, as are the food and drink prices, yet these are minuscule complaints compared to wealth of bands on offer. Ultimately, Slam Dunk has solidified its place as one of the leading alternative music festivals.

4.5/5

Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)

View more of Already Heard‘s coverage of Slam Dunk Festival 2019 here.


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