In what consistently proves to be one of the best weekends of the year for live music, the annual Slam Dunk Festival today descends once more on to sun-drenched Leeds. Basking in the fierce midday heat, the masses crowd outside to start their day with cider and burnt shoulders. Inside the venue, Straight Lines kick off proceedings on the Atticus/Jagermeister stage with their summery, smart indie pop. A perfect opening act on the biggest stage in the University, and undoubtedly not the last we shall see of the four-piece, who have consistently provided impressive sets on the festival circuit so far this year.
Drawing an absolutely massive audience and (though it seemed impossible) making the main room even sweatier than it was before are Say Anything. Long missed and much adored on these shows, the ever-flamboyant Max Bemis and co. saunter through new material and rapturously received fan favourites – it’s quite a spectacle to see thousands of people lose themselves and shout “I called her on the phone and she touched herself”. A truly magnificent performance from LA’s finest. Straight after them, and still flying the flag for 00s alt-rock, Motion City Soundtrack triumphantly take to the stage. Despite a string of technical difficulties, they manage to pull together a stellar set of their various hits and win over their sentimental audience.
Over in the Red Bull Bedroom Jam tent outside are Georgia pop-punkers Cartel. Their visits to these shores are few and far between, so naturally, the gazebo is crammed with fans. Alongside songs fresh of their latest EP ‘In Stereo’, we’re treated to a string of classics like ‘Say Anything (Else)’. If the overwhelming feeling Slam Dunk is going for is nostalgia, they’re hitting the nail on the head. Meanwhile, in the much smaller Punktastic stage, one-man band Into It. Over It. demonstrates that just because all you have is an acoustic guitar doesn’t mean you can’t play punk rock. His light-hearted storytelling and humour interspersed with fantastically poetic and raw songs make for what is, in my humble opinion, the best half an hour set of the day (and it would seem that the crowd creating an impromptu human pyramid would agree).
The decision as to who to watch for a headliner is tough – in the main room, Taking Back Sunday dominate the top of the bill, whereas in at another stage, the reincarnation of Gallows are the choice of many. In an effort to continue with the string of stunning acts the day had already provided, I opted for Hit The Lights at the Macbeth stage. Equal parts punk energy and pop sensibilities, the Ohio quintet cap off proceedings perfectly – ending on an acoustic singalong of hidden album bonus track ‘Her Eyes Say Yes’ is a stroke of brilliance as voices echo around the bar.
It’s debatable whether festival season starts when the wellies come on, or when the wristbands first start getting doled out, but either way, today proves that when it comes to getting bands under one roof for mind-blowing sets, Slam Dunk are the absolute leaders of the pack.