Leeds Slam Dunk it for the win

On Saturday, May 28th, Leeds University was overrun by some of the biggest and best names in ska, punk and emo. Slam Dunk festival transformed the entire campus into one giant party, with over 40 acts across seven stages throughout the day.

Slam Dunk was also celebrating its 10th anniversary, since starting as a club night at Leeds Cockpit, so everyone was ready for an unforgettable celebration.

Opening the Jägermeister stage are the London reggae quartet, The Skints. Their reggae and dub sound warm up the dancing feet of the hundreds of people filing into what looked like a sports hall.


Reel Big Fish headlined this year's Slam Dunk festival. Photo Burns! via Flickr.

The dancing, however, is of a much more brutal nature on the Honour Over Glory stage. Kent hardcore enthusiasts, Feed The Rhino, are pummelling the 100+ crowd members with their aggressive punk in the vein of Gallows/Blackhole/Cancer Bats. With vocalist Lee Tobin spending most of his time in the crowd (surrounded by hardcore dancers and mosh pits) the fans are given a close encounter with one of the hottest properties in the UK punk scene.

Back at the Jägermeister stage are one of the ska-punk favourites – Goldfinger. Walking on stage to the “Star Wars” theme, frontman John Feldmann declares “Leeds, I am your father!” and rushes into “Spokesman”.

Feldmann has the 1000+ strong audience in the palm of his hand, whether he’s inciting chants of “Griffindor!” and “Slytherin!” or diving from the balcony into the crowd below, there’s nothing this man won’t do for a cheer. Ending the short set on a punked up version of Nena’s “99 Red Balloons” (culminating in setting the cymbals on fire), the Slam Dunkers are left sweaty but happy.

As the day continues, the majority of fans only care about two bands – Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish. Playing to well over 2000 people, Less Than Jake are still at the top of their game. Playing their biggest hits such as “All My Best Friends Are Metal Heads” and “Plastic Cup Politics”, the band also treat Leeds to the themes of “Animaniacs”, “Spongebob Squarepants” and “Scooby Doo”.

Despite frontman Chris Demakes being slightly inebriated, the band still manage to turn it up a gear and send the crowd into a frenzy. As well having a lot of fun with Slam Dunk, like encouraging two people who’d never met before to kiss on stage for the entirety of “Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts”, Less Than Jake create the largest circle pits of the festival on set closer “The Ghosts Of You And Me”.

Ending the day-long party are one of the veterans – Reel Big Fish. Frontman Aaron Barrett is adored by Leeds, even the smallest gestures receive a cheer from the 2000+ fans. Playing a greatest hits set including “Sell Out” and “Somebody Hates Me”, they also play “S.R.” five times including a country version and metal version.

The Skints’ Marcia Richards lends her vocals to “She’s Got A Girlfriend Now” for an impromptu collaboration and Goldfinger’s Charlie Paulson guitars for “Beer”. This, however, leads to technical difficulties so there’s the obligatory drum solo.

Aaron Barrett gives an attempt at drumming, but despite his poor effort the crowd are still delighted. Ending on A-ha’s “Take On Me”, the entirety of the hall is dancing and rounds the past eight hours off brilliantly.

With yet another sell-out festival, what’s next for Slam Dunk? Perhaps an expansion into more cities (as well as Leeds and Hatfield) or adding an extra day? There’s still enough people across the UK with a passion for ska and punk, which doesn’t show any signs of ending soon. Bring on 2012.

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