When it comes to all-day festivals in the UK, there are an absolute multitude of them, and most of them do it very, very well. Some personal favorites of mine include Takedown and Hit The Deck, but I must admit that Slam Dunk Festival has been the highlight of my British musical calendar for many years. It’s now a staple feature for any rock fan, and thousands of us flock to either North (Leeds), South (Hatfield) or Midlands (Wolverhampton) for our fix. Or two of them. Or all three!
Why has it maintained such longevity where others have suffered? How has it been able to expand to three different cities across the UK? And what gives it the power to keep getting bigger and bigger every year? I have a couple of ideas…
Slam Dunk is on the pulse. It knows exactly who is cool, who was cool and therefore still relevant to the oldies, who pretends they’re not cool (but secretly thinks they are) and also, importantly, who’s going to be cool, in the eyes of the next generation.
Plus, there’s really something for everyone. Not in that ridiculous way that everyone says because a cliché is the only thing they can think of to write, but in a genuine way that means you can happily listen to some pop-punk whilst your friend listens to someone sounding like they may or may not be dying, on another stage. You’ve got the oldies and the classics, the metal, the ska, and the pop-rock. Providing you like at least one form of alternative/heavy/guitar based music, there’s bound to be someone you want to see.
I’ve been going since 2007, back when Paramore were midway up the bill in a much smaller affair at the University. It’s grown and grown, and become the iconic festival headed up by Ben Ray and his team that it is today. This year saw its Northern return to outdoor venues, much like the first year in 2006.
The after-parties, the food, and the collaborations aren’t just an afterthought with Slam Dunk, as they are at so many other festivals. This year, for example, saw Slam Dunk North take over the entirety of the First Direct Arena, a first for any rock club night, with over 4000 attendees. It’s a record breaking attempt, apparently! I was actually in the VIP bar for most of the night, but I took a little venture out to the floor just to stand in awe at all the craziness.
Plus, whilst we’re on the subject of a VIP area, there’s actually a decent one. Cheaper drinks, ‘Slam Dollars’, free drinks in many cases, games, and good food all contribute to making sure guests are well looked after.
You’ve got signing tents. Merch. Clothing lines. Grass to chill out on. Slam Dunk might be an all-dayer, but it feels like a much bigger event – like a good, old-fashioned, ‘real’ festival.
You want food? You’ve got it. It’s really well thought out, too. My friend Sam and I reaaaaallly wanted pizza. The logical solution? Find the pop-punk stage. Pizza is like those kids’ Mecca.
Slam Dunk work with their supporters to create an even better experience for everyone. Sponsors Uprawr really brought the party with amazing DJ sets all day, and little things like purpose designed cocktails just really show they’ve thought of everything.
My Slam Dunk, 2015
This year, Slam Dunk North was absolutely incredible. With a venue change that had me a little apprehensive, it really could have ruined the spark for me. However, they blew it out of the water, and literally took over the city, including loads of bars and pubs, which kept the costs down, as well as Millennium Square, which I’m sure was probably to the amusement of the locals (or not?!).
Slam Dunk South (for me) still needs a bit of work, as it seemed overcrowded and too busy in certain aspects.
I saw a fair few bands across the two days I attended, including PVRIS (wow), Taking Back Sunday (classic love!), Finch, Don Broco, Cartel, As It Is, and more. I even caught You Me At Six, a band I usually find overrated. This time, I was pretty impressed, so Kudos, guys!
I missed a lot of bands I wanted to see (such as Transit and Moose Blood) due to clashes, but there’s going to be loads more opportunities I’m sure (Joe from Transit; I know I promised I’d come see your set instead of watching TBS again. It appears I lied. I’m sorry.).
Some of the things that went down were pretty surreal. I watched Taking Back Sunday from a VIP balcony whilst eating steak, and then the frontman, Adam Lazzara bought me shots at the bar after I helped him select his dinner. We also watched You Me At Six from the side stage, and there was one incident where a band member declined my polite offer of water when he was wasted. He said he was fine. Spoiler alert? He wasn’t. He then fell through a table.
Slam Dunk, as always, was the perfect opportunity to see friends and catch up with people in the industry you don’t get to see a lot. I hate the phrase, but the classic ‘networking’ excuse is always pulled out, when really, most of the time we just want to get drunk!
Finally, I wish I’d done an outfit post, because I loved what I wore on the Sunday in Hatfield. I had an Ox Gray All Saints Riviera Dress, some statement studded silver jewellery, steel capped boots, and new, swishy hair.
My feet hurt by the end, but it was so, so worth it! I want to thank my good friends at Uprawr for always being babes and sorting me out with passes for this, and to all the team who made 2015 one of the best years yet. Until next year, Slammy D!