Milling around the Monster Stage at the start of Slam Dunk 2015, the crowd enjoys a sudden burst of glaring sunshine, after cloudy skies have threatened rain all morning. It’s clear that this is a festival with its own unique feel – there’s a real sense of family at Slam Dunk. The genres vary, and not everyone will agree on the acts performing here today, but there’s a level of respect among the bands.
First up is The Colour Morale. It could’ve been the Desperados samples quickly necked to make the set, but three songs in I’m so impressed I order a t-shirt from their merch site there and then. This band should be more than an opening act – energy, showmanship and talent on display from start to finish.
Next on the radar are Beartooth, hugely hyped. The crowd expect big things. Unfortunately Beartooth don’t deliver. Maybe it’s all the talk, but the American metalcore outfit live lack the raw emotion and energy found on their record. A disappointment – but the next act can’t possibly disappoint.
Marachi El Bronx are something a bit different to break up the day: a fun band, a great crowd, smiles all round and a brilliant atmosphere. Definitely a band to see live, they have an individual sound and their good time feels are infectious.
Late in the day and eager to experience the full force of this rock festival we head back to the Monster Stage for Crossfaith. There are a lot of bands out there boasting a “brutal” mosh pit but going front centre for a Crossfaith show really is a calculated risk. This band knows how to work a crowd without any frontman stunts – everything about them is real and raw. After a blinding set we are left sweaty, disoriented and wondering what the hell has just happened. Crossfaith chew us up and spit us out – and it was awesome.
Photos: Scott Wight
Next up, Finch, a childhood favourite for about 90 per cent of the festivalgoers, if not for me. Nate Barcalow rattles out some of the best screams of the day, followed by some of the most powerful cleans we’ve heard. It’s a rarity to find these two talents in one man, and I, for one, will be rooting for their big comeback.
Over to the main stage, outdoors in Leeds’ Millennium Square, to see the now veteran rockers Taking Back Sunday. Hit and miss in the past, they are absolutely on form for Slam Dunk’s tenth anniversary. Adam Lazarra displays great vocals and serious fitness, bouncing around the stage, delivering the passionate performance expected of the main support. Deserving of their spot on the day, TBS give a stomping performance.
We’re sunburnt, bruised and slightly squiffy, and it’s time for the headline act. But with brilliant bands conflicting there are some deep and meaningful discussions among the crowds about which to see. But with the rumours of a certain act going back to their roots in their setlist, for me at least it’s an obvious choice.
Opening with The Truth Is A Terrible Thing – their first performance of it in five years – You Me At Six immediately put the rumours to rest. They dive straight into Save It For The Bedroom and the crowd completely loses it. This is only the beginning. We are treated to vintage gems like Jealous Minds Think Alike, Take Off Your Colours, The Rumour and Always Attract – none of which have been played for two years or more.
These, along with crowd favourites Stay With Me, Reckless and Loverboy, demonstrate their impressive canon and their ability to stay current and interesting for fans of all ages, backgrounds and tastes. With a powerful performance from every band member YMAS are a force to be reckoned with. A deserved main stage headliner at any festival but never more at home than at Slam Dunk.
Slam Dunk 2015, Millennium Square, Leeds, 23 May