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  • Ryan Ward

Slam Dunk is back with the biggest and best of pop-punk and emo this May!

Time to get your baseball caps and winged eyeliner, because it’s time to discuss the UK’s biggest celebration of everything pop-punk and emo, Slam Dunk.

You probably already know all about Slam Dunk Festival, but in case you don’t, here’s a quick crash course for you. Founded in 2006, the festival takes place across two days in May, with one day in Leeds and one day in Hertfordshire, known as ‘Slam Dunk North’ and ‘Slam Dunk South’ respectively. Some of the biggest names that have graced the stages have included Fall Out Boy, Paramore, Waterparks, VUKOVI, and Architects, so it’s safe to say that the organisers behind the festival have their fingers firmly on the pulse of not just what is big in the moment, but what the next big thing is going to be... And from the looks of things, the line-up for 2023 shows that they definitely have not lost their touch.

At this point in time, we are only aware of two stages, but typically the festival plays host to around six, each with a separate collection of acts and headliners. The two that we do know, however, are the Dickies Stage, and the Rock Scene Stage, the latter of which is hosted by Amazon Music this year. And across those stages, we are being absolutely spoilt in terms of the pure quality of music.

The Dickies Stage is playing host to some of the biggest names in pop-punk, headlined by the legendary The Offspring, who, in an interview with Times Colonist, stated they’re commencing work on their eleventh studio album throughout the start of 2023; it’s possible that there could be new material from the band released just in time for the festival, but even if not, it’s sure to be a treat for those who love some classic pop-punk.

And that sentiment goes for the rest of the line-up for the Dickies Stage too, with fellow legendary rockers Bowling For Soup coming in just underneath the headline act, following on from their 2022 release ‘Pop Drunk Snot Bread’ (which is, uh, certainly an album name). Even further down the listings, however, are gems such as Flogging Molly and even Zebrahead, the latter of whom have just dropped an EP entitled ‘II’, which is worth checking out for sure.

However, the real excitement this year, for sure, looks to be taking place on the Rock Scene Stage. Headlining this stage in 2023 are alternative juggernauts Enter Shikari, whom are in the midst of rolling out their latest album, ‘A Kiss For the Whole World’, which is due to land on the 21st of April. Shikari’s live presence is legendary at this point, with the band having nearly sold-out every date of their upcoming tour taking place across February, March, and April, so if you’re hoping for a headliner with some punch, then I can guarantee Enter Shikari will deliver everything you want and more.

Alongside Shikari, however, is some of the biggest and brightest talent from not just the UK, but also overseas. PVRIS look to be building up to their next LP release, following their single ‘Goddess’, and will be accompanying Fall Out Boy on their UK and Europe tour in the latter half of 2023, so if you fancy a sneak peak before then, be sure to catch them at Slam Dunk. Furthermore, we are going to be treated to performances from WARGASM, Holding Absence, Trash Boat, and VUKOVI, all of whom have had particularly explosive growth across the past year. Truly, it’s refreshing to see the new class of rock from the UK and Ireland being showcased on such a big stage.

Across the span of artists that have yet to be placed on a specific stage, however, things arguably only get more exciting. Gothic rockers Creeper will be a treat for whatever stage they end up headlining, with the group well in the midst of crafting the world of their upcoming third LP, following their 2022 single ‘Ghost Brigade’. Following the decapitation of Will Gould by a vampire at their special Roundhouse show last year, it’s hard to see how they can further spice up their live performances, but I’m sure they have something suitably dark up their sleeves. Joining them will be the likes of Boston Manor, Trophy Eyes, and Movements, whom are all staples of the scene at this point.

Yellowcard reunited at Riot Fest last year, and appear to be making clear that this isn’t just a one time thing, coming over to the UK for a particularly special Slam Dunk appearance, before returning to America for When We Were Young later this year. Alongside them, we’ll also be getting a performance from Michigan outfit Fireworks, hot off the heels of their first album in nine years, ‘Higher Lonely Power’, so be sure to check them out in case they disappear into the aether once more.

Furtherdown the listings, we find the likes of The Maine and The Hunna, providing a much needed shot of indie into the proceedings, whilst Scene Queen is sure to give Slam Dunk a much needed dosage of everything pink, glittery, and sapphic. Finally, we get a fantastic batch of heavy acts on their own stage, from legends such as We Came As Romans and Escape The Fate, to some of the most exctiting upcoming acts like LANDMVRKS and Static Dress, the latter of whom are currently touring Europe with the titans that are Bring Me The Horizon.

On top of all of that, whilst not technically part of the festivals, it’s worthwhile noting that the Slam Dunk team are behind the final UK shows of legendary punk outfit, NOFX, who are finally calling it quits after forty years. These shows will be taking place on the 26th of May in Leeds Temple Newsam and on the 28th of May at Hatfield Park, so if you want to catch Fat Mike and the group live in the UK, then these two shows will be the last chance you have!

So, in terms of quality, Slam Dunk have outdone themselves, and have managed to gather together not just acts that have established fanbases, but the most exciting and engaging acts that are coming up through the scene. Easily, I can recommend you see a good half of this billing, and can probably be convinced to check out the other half myself. On top of that, whilst there definitely still is room for improvement, the diversity representation on this billing is something worth commending.

From WARGASM to VUKOVI, ZAND to Millie Manders & The Shutups, Maggie Lindemann to Charlotte Sands, the female and non-binary representation at Slam Dunk is markedly better than many previous years, feeling like there is some real progress beginning to be made within the alternative scenes in terms of ensuring every act isn’t just four white guys. Certainly, having just one female fronted act on the heavy stage in Heriot is paltry, and the lack of artists of colour across the entire billing is definitely noticeable. But hopefully from here on out, the improvements only keep getting better.

The alternative scene of the UK and Ireland has never been better, and Slam Dunk 2023 is showcasing that perfectly, featuring almost all of the best and brightest in the latest wave of artists. On top of that, the visitors from the world over that have joined to perform at this festival are phenomenal choices that will ensure all the fans of Slam Dunk are well catered for. My personal recommendations are Enter Shikari, WARGASM, Holding Absence, VUKOVI, Creeper, Fireworks, Scene Queen, and Static Dress.

But of course, that’s all down the whims of the timetable. May the clashes be forever in your favour.

Slam Dunk South will be taking place Saturday 28th of May at Hatfield Park, whilst Slam Dunk North will be taking place Sunday 29th of May at Leeds Temple Newsam. Tickets are available to purchase from here, including coach tickets, whilst accessibility information can be found here.

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