Live at Slam Dunk 2015 on Saturday, 23rd May 2015
Hot off the back of winning Kerrang Magazines 'Best Festival Award' last year, Slam Dunk 2015 was already onto a winner.
The festival has grown from humble beginnings and paced itself well, playing on the popular Slam Dunk club night's choice of Ska and Pop Punk and pretty much anything under the 'alternative' category and now occupies a number of stages spread around the city centre.
Unlike Leeds' other fine heritage 'Live at Leeds' however, there is less of an inclination to explore the cities many venues, instead having several stages set up in one area, most notably the city's Millennium Square.
With a mid-day start, the Leeds Beckett (formerly Met) University stages were already filling up, but with the sun shining we headed into the smallest of the outdoor arenas, at the Rose Bowl car park where Knuckle Puck were taking to the stage, getting the crowd started with some upbeat pop punk.
It was at this point that I realised Slam Dunk really had stepped it up a gear. The stages were well organised and the merch, signing tents and refreshments dotted around each site had been really well planned. Unfortunately staging areas had capacity limits (for safety of course) but queuing systems for each area were extremely well organised, and you were never far from another area.
Moving over to the second of the outdoor stages, Patent Pending were already inciting circle pits among their bouncy guitar riffs, and despite having an upset with their gear, the sound was great and the atmosphere exactly what you'd expect from what I would refer to as the party stage. The lineup on here seeing the sort of acts that would have defined Slam Dunk 10 years ago, and later to be headlined by Reel Big Fish.
Again, although catering to a different style of music, queues for the O2 could still enjoy music and a festival atmosphere thanks to the Desparado's stage outdoor positioning.
Moving on, the Monster Stage inside the O2 was one of the places to go if heavy was what you were hungry for. Beartooth were on stage and the crowd knew about it, but the atmosphere was dark, very dark, with only backlighting on the stage (a trend that would continue through the day inside the O2 venue), and overpowering bass.
Later in the day, Finch would take to the same stage and sounded fantastic, playing old and new tracks and certainly making their mark as a comeback artist to watch, but it was Japanese synth metallers Crossfaith that stole the show for me. The sound was perfect, the set was full of energy and each member of the band was clearly giving it everything they had for the crowd.
Over on the main stage, and to celebrate its 10th year as a festival Slam Dunk have taken over Millennium Square.
There is atmosphere all through the day with fantastic sets from some of the UK's best contemporary rock artists, but it's the evening headline set from You Me At Six, complete with screens and lighting fit for the stage at something the size of Leeds/Reading, that prove Slam Dunk is now a major player on the circuit when it comes to the show they put on.
All in all, the crowd has grown over the years, but the organisers have also matured with the festival. The organisation has been fantastic; with plenty of space to move around, but not so much to lose the atmosphere. Well placed security and organised queuing for signings, along with well placed merch areas meant that despite the unusual city landscape, the area holding Slam Dunk felt very much like an out of town event.
Once again, everyone should be proud of their achievement, bring on the next 10 years.
Reel Big Fish is a ska punk band from Huntington Beach, California,