metal + hardcore
pop punk + alt-rock
indie spins


Slam Dunk Festival 2023: A Shining Celebration Of Scene Brilliance

Photo by Eddy Maynard

Every Summer Forever.

That’s the new slogan stitched into the wristbands that Slam Dunk Festival attach to you when you enter the front gate of their 2023 edition. A declaration of positivity that perfectly suits everything that the festival represents. It started as Fall Out Boy in Millenium Square in Leeds City Centre. Now it is six stages placed around Temple Newsam Park and Hatfield Park. It’s been 18 years of incredible moments and extraordinary growth, to say the least. And as you look around you, the finest in pop punk, metalcore and everything in between stares back at you. It’s hard not to feel like this is precisely how you want every one of your summers to look forever. So, shall we get stuck in?

Photo by Bethan Miller
Photo by Nathan Robinson
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The variety of music offered at Slam Dunk has always been and continues to be the jewel glistening in its crown. In every corner, there is something special to discover. Movements brought their shimmering brand of emotionally rousing rock to the Kerrang! Tent whilst SeeYouSpaceCowboy delivered spin kicks and sass by the bucketload on the Knotfest Stage. Trash Boat can be found further cementing their place as one of the finest young rock bands the UK has on offer. And Fireworks reminded everybody why they are some of the best songwriters that US pop-punk has ever had. Such an array of talents, delivering music that transcends boundaries and pushes limits, is only sometimes a guarantee. But when it comes to Slam Dunk, it is top of the list.

Then there are your future headliners. Holding Absence cemented their place as one of the UK’s hardest-working bands with a world-beating performance on the main stage. From their new instant classic “False Dawn” to the always heart-wrenching “Wilt”, they get closer and close to the top. Charlotte Sands and Scene Queen shared a stage, and showed off their own unique talents in different ways. The former delivered pristine and powerful pop-rock by the ounce and even joined The Maine later on for a rousing rendition of “Loved You A Little”. The latter caused utter mayhem, from the chaos of the twerkle pit to the ear-splitting sing-along to the already-iconic callout anthem “18+”. Both come out the other end with new fans and their names etched into festival folklore.

Trophy Eyes delivered ethereal and existential perfection by the bucketload to a tent fit to burst, whilst the returning Kids In Glass Houses reminded everyone why they had such a firm grip on the British rock scene at the turn of the 2010s. Four Year Strong feel like they could conquer the world, Malevolence are the most fun thing to happen to metal in many years and Billy Talent continues to be one of the finest rock bands of this Millenium or any Millenium to come.

Photo by Eddy Maynard
Photo by Nathan Robinson
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And up at the top of the lineup, you have some of the biggest and the best, delivering performances that will last a lifetime. Enter Shikari showcase their past, present and future with a setlist ranging from the beautiful (“satellites **”) to the brutal (“Anethetist”). With lasers, special guests – Cody Frost popping out for “BULL” – and all of the drum and bass breaks you could ask for; they further cement their place as one of the UK’s premiere acts. Then there’s the returning Yellowcard. Playing Ocean Avenue from front to back, they look like they are having the best time doing it. Sharing memories through song and reminding us why we love this sound so much. It’s a pleasure to have them back doing what they do best.

To take a moment to look around you at Slam Dunk is to see something rather incredible. You spin around, and you see things you would only find in this corner of culture. Just over 20,000 people have been brought together because of something as magical as alternative music. Ska kids are rubbing shoulders with deathcore heads. Those who remember Enema Of The State coming out singing their lungs out alongside those who weren’t even born. Everyone has a place within this festival, somewhere to call home. Somewhere they feel seen and accepted for the life they choose to live outside these walls. Knowing that for every Summer forever, that place is going to be there is as much solace as it is something to look forward to.

Slam Dunk is as much a state of mind as it is a day in the year. A reminder to not let anybody tell you what you should and shouldn’t be. A heart pinned to a sleeve that shows that you aren’t afraid to let all your inhibitions go. It is a family, and family will always come first.

So, shall we do the same again next year?

Photo by Al Wilkinson
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