Slam Dunk North 2023

Firstly, it would be remiss to not address some of the concerns raised by festival-goers so here goes! For festival sites that are on the outskirts of the cities with winding country roads and in excess of 20,000 people expected, let’s face it, it was never going to be a smooth ride when it comes to transport (pardon the pun!). Off the back of the widely reported chaos at the South site, a notice was issued early on Sunday advising that only pre-booked parking would be accepted on site at Temple Newsam. For those who arrived early, it seemed to be relatively straight forward with minimal queues, but for some who had additional travelling time or chose to arrive a little later, the situation was far from ideal. But in fairness to event and traffic management staff, my own experience was pretty straight forward and certainly didn’t detract from the day.

Over the past 48 hours there has been some negativity on social media, mainly regarding queues whether it was for parking, toilets or food. Admittedly it’s safe to say there were quite a lot of queues and some logistical issues, but again with so many people on site there is some queuing that should be expected, especially for a sold-out event. At the time of writing, Slam Dunk have already released an official statement advising they will seek to remedy some of the issues for next year, assuring fans that they are listening to and taking on board all feedback. For context though, let’s remember that social media does tend to focus on the negative and not the positive and is not always representative of the wider masses!

So now the negatives are out of the way, lets crack on with the most important part of the festival – the music!

The weather is certainly holding up for everyone in attendance at this year’s annual Slam Dunk Festival and with a huge sell-out crowd on both the North and South sites, it’s set to be a rock filled Bank Holiday weekend. With over 50 bands on the line-up, it’s safe to say everyone is more than spoiled for choice.

Opening the Rock Scene stage is Zand who is adorned with signature green wings and accompanied by backing dancers complete with gimp masks. Under the banner of ‘ugly-pop’, Zand brings their own inimitable style to alternative pop, with vivid imagery through styling coupled with snarky catchy lyrics, fierce attitude and hypnotic bass. ‘I Spit On Your Grave’ and ‘Slut Money’ are stand out tracks and it’s safe to say, the opening slot is only the beginning for this act – without doubt next year will see them much higher up the bill!

Scottish duo Vukovi are riding high at the minute off the back of the release of the hugely successful album NULA and a recent win at this year’s Heavy Music Awards for Best Production sees the band continue their success. Lead singer Janine is a bundle of energy and early in the set is up front and centre with the crowd on the barrier demanding the pit open ‘right f**king now!’. Whilst Janine captivates the crowd with her pitch perfect vocals, guitarist Hamish brings the raucous riffs and hit track La-Di-Da closes the set with a bang as Janine launches herself into the crowd.

Holding Absence have only just returned from a US tour and with new album ‘The Noble Art of Self Destruction’ due in the summer, the band continue their success. Gaining recognition for their introspective and cathartic approach to rock music, they incorporate elements of post-hardcore, alt rock and emo into their sound. Lucas as always delivers polished powerful vocals with ‘Gravity’ and ‘Afterlife’ understandably the anthemic sounds of this set.

Self-confessed bimbocore act Scene Queen adds a touch of pink and sparkle to the Key Club Stage and even brings a guest in the form of Sam Matlock from Wargasm who features in the track ‘Barbie and Ken’ capably replacing Cody Carson from Set It Off. From crowdsurfing to twerkle pits, this set has it all (even a cover of Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl is thrown in) and it is definitely up there with one of the most well received acts of the day. Scene Queen is not a flash in the pan act from TikTok and is absolutely here to slay.

Another act who is celebrating a win at the Heavy Music Awards is Charlotte Sands, for breakthrough album ‘Love and Other Lies’. The angsty pop punkster with signature blue hair opens with fan favourite ‘Tantrum’ and her vocals are stunning, complete with hair flicks as the crowd jump and dance along. Her energy never falters and closing the set with her biggest hit to date, the viral track ‘Dress’, ensures the crowd remain fully engaged – 2023 is going to be the year that Charlotte Sands stamps her position in this industry!

Since founding in 2004, Escape the Fate have had several line-up changes with drummer Robert Ortiz being the only original founding member. Blending post-hardcore, alt-rock and metalcore they are quite clearly one of the bands at the Knotfest stage that people desperately want to see, judging by the amount of bodies rammed into the tent. Over the years their sound has developed and changed but at the core of all music from their huge back catalogue is the heavy riffs coupled with catchy melodies and this set is no different. There’s a selection of songs from their earlier days through to more recent releases but this makes no difference to the crowds appreciation and it’s clear to see how they have honed their craft over the last two decades deservedly earning one of the largest crowds at the Knotfest stage.

Merely two nights ago, Less Than Jake were at Temple Newsam as main support to NOFX on their farewell tour, but today the band are celebrating 25 years of their critically acclaimed 1998 album Hello Rockview, by playing the ska punk classic in its entirety, closing their set with the ever nostalgic Gainesville Rock City from the subsequent album Borders & Boundaries. Less Than Jake have built a strong and dedicated fan base over the years and judging by the amount of singing in the crowd, a good portion of those are in attendance today.

The crowd in front of the Dickies Stage has grown to epic proportions to welcome Bowling For Soup to the stage. Revered not just for their pop punk sound but for their banter in live performances, today is no exception as frontman Jaret cracks jokes galore and even tries to organise a square pit which ultimately fails, but the crowd could not care less and are just here loving the fun camaraderie that this band manage to create. Closing with the legendary track ‘Girl All The Bad Guys Want’ it’s impossible not to leave this set with a gargantuan grin on your face!

Headlining the Kerrang! Stage is the recently reunited Yellowcard who, in a similar vein to Less Than Jake, are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Ocean Avenue by playing the album in full. The band have been apart for seven years and the crowd welcome them back with open arms as they spill outside of the tent, such is the demand to see this performance. There’s a moment of technical disruption right at the start, but once this is resolved it’s a flawless performance, albeit a somewhat emotional one, from beginning to end.

Finally it’s time for the headline act on the Rock Scene stage, Enter Shikari. A band who are riding high on the success of recent album ‘A Kiss For The Whole New World’ and it’s number one ranking (who can believe it is only their first number one album!), they bring with them a phenomenal light display and stage drop that sets the scene for the finale. It’s hard to believe that it’s taken so long for Enter Shikari to begin reaping the rewards and earning the recognition they truly deserve, but as the sounds of ‘(Pls) Set Me On Fire’ echo around the stage, the crowd roars into life as Enter Shikari are cemented as worthy headliners. With a couple of guest spots from Wargasm who duet on The Void Stares Back alongside Cody Frost for Bull and The Last Garrison, the show is encircled with a stunning visual alongside pyros that serves to create the required party atmosphere. The night ends on ‘Live Outside’ and ‘{The Dreamer’s Hotel}’ and Enter Shikari are truly deserving of their headline spot, it’s absolutely certain that this is only the first of many to come.

As the streamers soar over the crowd and the fireworks illuminate the sky, that’s the end of another Slam Dunk and only one thought comes to mind………….

Slam Dunk 2024, LET’S GO!!!!!!!

Words and Photos by Izzy Clayton



Izzy Clayton

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