Slam Dunk in Leeds – where glorious weather and pop punk bands reign supreme – is not unlike the iconic Warped Tour in the US. Following several successful years in their new location, Slam Dunk returns in 2022 to Temple Newsam for a day of alternative music that caters to those who love the heavier side of life.
The opening act that we were fortunate enough to catch was Manchester’s very own Hot Milk. As one of the UK’s rising stars in the rock/pop punk scene, the duo brought a ton of energy and lit up the Rock Scene stage early in the day. Their performance was met with a packed crowd of adoring fans who were eager to catch a glimpse of this talented up-and-coming band.
Punk Rock Factory
Thanks to their explosive popularity on TikTok, Punk Rock Factory has seen their profile soar in recent years. Their set on the Rock Sound stage drew a sizable crowd bouncing with excitement from the first note. Despite a few minor technical issues, the band delivered an unforgettable half-hour of covers that included a pop punk rendition of the chart-topping Frozen hit, “Let It Go,” and the theme from the Power Rangers.
The band’s playful sense of humor was on full display during their set, as evidenced by their silly joke about getting Pikachu on a train. This quip sent the crowd into a frenzy, which only escalated when the band threw out two inflatable lilos for fans to surf on. Overall, Punk Rock Factory was an excellent addition to the festival’s lineup and a testament to Slam Dunk’s booking prowess. Both the band and the audience clearly had a fantastic time.
One of the things that make Slam Dunk so special is its ability to cater to pop punk and rock fans while also providing a little bit of cheesy fun. This is precisely what 3OH!3 brought to the Rock Sound stage in the early evening. Despite their equipment catching fire just before their set, the two-piece managed to kick things off with a bang, opening with the hit track “Starstrukk” (no Katy Perry, unfortunately).
It’s worth noting the excellent work done by the stewards who were responsible for the Rock Sound stage. While ensuring that the crowd remained safe, they were also bopping along to the tunes and helping to create a fun and lively environment for fans of the genre. An impromptu performance of Haddaway’s “What Is Love” entertained the audience before the band launched into “Colorado Sunrise.” Although they didn’t attract the largest crowd of the day, they certainly managed to get the liveliest.
Classics such as “My First Kiss” and “Streets Of Gold” were a hit with the Leeds crowd, but it was the timeless anthem “Don’t Trust Me” that elicited the most enthusiastic response. It had been nearly 10 years since the band’s last performance at the festival, so their 40-minute set was a welcome return that left fans clamoring for more. Hopefully, they won’t wait another decade before making another appearance at Slam Dunk.
Returning to the Jagermeister stage, Silverstein blasts the crowd with the powerful Ultraviolet, its thumping beat echoing through the PA. I had previously predicted that this track from their latest album, Misery Made Me, would be a crowd-pleaser, but the sea of bodies in front of the stage proves that it’s even more than that.
Following up with Smashed into Pieces from their 2003 debut, When Broken is Easily Fixed, the band showcases their evolution over the past nineteen years while staying true to their signature sound. With catchy riffs and massive breakdowns, Silverstein delivers exactly what their fans crave.
The Vandals, a legendary punk band from Southern California, graced the festival with a rare UK appearance, and it was undoubtedly one of the highlights. The frontman, Dave Quackenbush, and guitarist, Warren Fitzgerald, engaged the crowd with their comedic double-act, which was as entertaining as their music.
The Vandals’ sound is rooted in the Bad Religion and Descendants tradition, with short, catchy, pop-infused and groove-driven tunes. Their lyrics cover a range of subjects, including seemingly mundane topics such as mullets, in songs like “My Girlfriend’s Dead” and “Live Fast, Diarrhoea,” which features country and western motifs like whoops and ye-haas. Despite the lighthearted themes, there is a serious message underlying their music, exemplified in “Anarchy-Burger (Hold the Government).”
The band closed with an insane cover of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now,” with Warren delving into the crowd as a roadie frantically fed him the microphone cable. The MC introduced the band, stating that those who had never seen The Vandals before were in for a treat, and he was not wrong.
Neck Deep has earned their spot as festival headliners through hard work and dedication to their craft. Their set at Rock Scene tent was a perfect example of the fun and happiness only they can provide. They kicked off with their new single, STFU, which received a classic crowd reaction. From there, they took us on a journey through their discography, starting with the Life’s Not Out To Get You era.
Reminiscing on their beginnings ten years ago, they played What Did You Expect? and Over and Over, paying homage to the anthems that brought them to where they are now. They even teased anniversary shows, hinting at more to come.
The band ended on a high note, closing with Cant Kick Up The Roots, a song dedicated to their hometown of Wrexham, which we can all relate to. Gold Steps and In Bloom closed out the set in incredible fashion, leaving the audience wanting more. Neck Deep has proven that they are a special band and deserving of their spot as festival headliners.
The iconic Sum41 closed the Dickies stage and frontman/guitarist Deryck Whibley proved that age is just a number with his high-energy performance. Kicking off with the classic Motivation, Whibley urges the crowd to stick with the heavy tunes as they launch into Over My Head from their celebrated album Does This Look Infected, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
After being booked to play the festival for three years, Sum41 did not disappoint as they continued to light up the stage despite the falling temperature. Underclass Hero and Walking Disaster garnered an impressive reaction, but it was In Too Deep that sent the crowd wild. Whibley also shared that the band is working on a new double album titled “Heaven and Hell,” featuring old-school Sum41 tunes and “heavy shit.”
The band covered the legendary Queen song We Will Rock You before ending their set with a double punch of Fat Lip and Still Waiting. Although not the biggest band in the world, Sum41 proved to be worthy festival headliners with their incredible stage presence and undeniable talent. They were the perfect choice to end an amazing day of music.
Once again, Slam Dunk Festival proved to be a resounding success, surpassing last year’s event. The impressive lineup of bands, fantastic atmosphere, excellent sound quality, and beautiful weather all contributed to a perfect day of live music. I can’t wait to see who they have in store for 2023.