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ATP! Live Review: Slam Dunk Festival 2014 (Leeds, UK)

Over the years, Slam Dunk Festival has grown in the UK to be something of the Holy Grail of music events in the country. From its relatively humble beginnings in Leeds back in 2006 as a pop-punk/ska event, which included big names like Fall Out Boy but on a smaller scale, Slam Dunk has grown to cater to everyone from pop/rock kids to metalheads. As a result, it's featured everyone from Paramore (before they were huge), to All Time Low, You Me At Six and literally hundreds more.

Despite the nation's relatively small size when compared to the US, the phenomenon has expanded in recent years to include several cities, all in relatively close proximity to one another. This is definitely in fitting with demand; and even this year's poor weather didn't stop fans attending in their droves. For 2014, the holiday weekend saw the famous Slam Dunk diversify its genres somewhat and cover its respective North date in Leeds, South date in Hatfield near London and Midlands date in Wolverhampton in style, as always. Acts from both sides of the pond were out to impress and it was evident in each of their performances. This is what went down at the (original, and best) Leeds University Union date this year…

We The Kings

In all honesty, this review wasn't going to be pretty. With the late arrival of the Florida five-piece to the stage, the by-then huge crowd was already getting a little angsty. This, then coupled with the fact that the sound was positively dreadful, didn't help one little bit. Thankfully, everything from second song ‘Skyway Avenue’ was increasingly better, and by mid-set, they had the crowd positively back on side. Although still not perfect (going to blame the fact half their stuff was apparently lost by the airline for that one), their hits, such as Say You Like Me, went down a treat. Hearing a beautiful rendition of ‘Secret Valentine’ with help from the crowd was a definite highlight of the set and of course, the band went out with a bang to ‘Check Yes Juliet.’

We Are The In Crowd

This. Band. NAILED IT. With energy in abundance and enviable stage presence, the guys – and girl – showed up a fair few of their counterparts on the day. Making it incredibly easy for fans new and old alike to be sucked into the hype on sheer talent alone, the crowds were clearly loving what they were seeing and hearing as they orchestrated dangerous cheerleading stunts in appreciation mid-crowd. Although there were a few idiots doing some pretty brutal circle pits despite the poppiness of the rock (really, guys?), the band themselves were on complete form for the duration of the 11-song set, which featured their usual brilliant juxtaposition of male and female vocals. Fan favorites included ‘Kiss Me Again,’ ‘Both Sides Of The Story’ and the cheeky ‘The Best Thing (That Never Happened),’ but in all fairness, there was no going wrong throughout. And, if you needed any further proof that the down-to-earth frontwoman Taylor Jardine would make the perfect pal, her brave immersion into the depths of the crowd would put that to rest.

The Ataris

The Ataris have been knocking around for a while now, but with good reason. Their take on punk is somewhat unique and has more in common with emo than today’s typical pop-punk outfits, and is still just as loved as it ever was. The everlastingly excellent ‘So Long Astoria’ did exactly what it should have done in conjuring images of nostalgia and allowing the huge turnout to reminisce, and anyone looking to hear their famous ‘Boys Of Summer’ cover for sure wouldn’t have been disappointed either. In spite of a relatively short eight song set-list and some turbulence over the past few years, The Ataris definitely proved that they’ve still got it!

Kids In Glass Houses

Welsh band Kids In Glass Houses may never have achieved huge levels of success outside of their native British Isles, but that definitely doesn’t detract from their overwhelming popularity over here. Following their recent break up announcement, they decided to play their Smart Casual album in full and oh my god, what a good decision. Without any offence at all meant to the guys in the slightest, although it was their breakout record, it was definitely the one that achieved the most success, and even after the less dedicated sect of their fanbase moved on, it remained the one thing they produced that they’d always return to – and maybe even hail as something of a masterpiece. It could be argued that their time as a band is up, but if this show was anything to go by, the remainder of their farewell tour will ensure this stage of their careers go out on a high. There were goosebumps all round and you could tell people were really connecting musically, and with the entire room singing back at them acapella, surely such an honor for the band to know that they impacted the scene so much.

The All-American Rejects

It came as somewhat of a surprise that the All American Rejects were announced as main stage headliners for the event, but it’s a title that their fans, at least, seemed to appreciate. Whilst frontman Tyson Ritter’s demeanor may have been a little much for some, it didn’t stop him belting out their now timeless classics like ‘Dirty Little Secret,’ ‘Swing, Swing’ and literally a whole catalogue more with an impressive togetherness with the rest of the band. Their lack of line up changes over the years certainly points to a togetherness lacking in many groups in this modern age and it was clear throughout, right up until their three song encore which finally ended with ‘The Last Song’ – a cute sentiment in itself.

- Words by Claire Louise Sheridan

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