Slam Dunk Festival

Gig Review: Slam Dunk South

The Slam Dunk Festival has expanded only recently, but it’s making all the right moves when it comes to getting artists on board. This year’s line-up at the South edition at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield was packed in terms of audiences and bands playing across seven stages.

I Divide were probably the first band every early attendee caught at the Red Bull stage. They seemed like the nicest guys, not exactly a reflection of their heavy post-hardcore tunes, but that’s not a bad thing at all.

Straight Lines infused the open-air Jägermeister Atticus stage with some fun punk pop in the vein of The Kooks, but somehow the aggressive side of it mirrored At The Drive-In.

Hildamay from Kent kicked off the Vans stage with anthemic, heavy tunes. Their song ‘By Your Side’ seemed to have drawn in a lot of the crowd, since it’s infused with some infectious beats.

Over at the Red Bull Bedroom Jam stage, Reachback covered Jessie J’s ‘Price Tag’, which got them more ears for their mostly-clichéd female-fronted pop-punk.

On the same subject, those who saw Marmozets would be convinced that these bunch of siblings are prodigious. Theirs was a sound reminiscent of Iwrestledabearonce, but more on the brutal than fun side. Comparing them to a pop-punk act isn’t fair, but it was surprising to hear shades of Paramore with the melodies that vocalist Becca Macintyre brought out.

Acoda were just on it, but somehow got slotted into an empty spot. More people should have been around to witness this band’s special brand of alternative metal, from the abrasive ‘I Creep’ to the well-built up ‘The Ludovico Technique. By the end of their set though, the numbers had been successfully drawn in.

Heading straight to the open-air stage was to catch Say Anything, who had the crowd going from start to finish. They were probably playing a long overdue set in the UK, and the sing-alongs and the audience was finishing their lyrics on songs such as ‘Burn a Miracle’, ‘Hate Everyone’ and ‘Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too’. They ended with what everyone wanted to hear, ‘Alive With the Glory of Love’.

Random Hand seemed like a good band to stumble upon while shuffling through stages. They had the crowd going for them, with a circle pit and plenty of slam dancing.

Honour Over Glory stage had the biggest line-up of all. Of Mice & Men caused sonic destruction to a packed indoor room. Later on in the evening, While She Sleeps got a circle pit going from their second song itself, after they opened with ‘Dead Behind the Eyes’, which was certainly smouldering stuff.

It was a hot stuffy bar room in which the intimate Punktastic stage was set up. Not the best environment to be heard, but Neil Starr and Rob Lynch were decent enough to provide quiet, introspective music. The soul within each song that Lynch played was sincere and evident. Though even he had to compete with the bar room conversations and glass clanking.

Welsh quintet Funeral For A Friend seemed the top draw that wasn’t headlining the festival, since there seemed to be an equal amount of crowd gathered front stage and back stage. They were probably the heaviest band to play on this stage, so the sound did seem a bit off. Vocalist Matthew Davies-Kreye asked the sound guy to “turn it up till the kids ears bleed”. Their set included a lot of favourites including ‘Roses For The Dead’, which was the highlight, with hands all raised and jumping. Their set also included ‘High Castles’, ‘Broken Foundation’ and ‘Streetcar’.

Save Your Breath were playing at an even higher location on the Macbeth stage. Despite not being very familiar with most of the bands on this stage, it’s fair to say this one belongs to the melodic post-hardcore bands. Decade stepped it up a notch when I checked back. They got way more moshing, considering their music was heavier than the room could handle.

Speaking of what rooms can handle, the Honour Over Glory stage was certainly tested in that regard. Every Time I Die had a few sound difficulties, but when they opened with ‘Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space’, no ear in the would have been spared from the sick riffs. As vocalist Keith Buckley encouraged the crowd to send as many beers in his way as possible, the band ploughed through songs such as ‘We’rewolf’, ‘The Marvelous Slut’, ‘Typical Miracle’ and ‘Wanderlust’.

It would be difficult to keep yourself standing after having witnessed their performance, but Architects were up next to devastate the stage. The heaviest sequence of songs included ‘Numbers Count for Nothing’, ‘Day In Day Out’ and their latest single ‘Alpha Omega’. They ended by announcing their new album ‘Daybreaker’ would be up for sale at midnight, playing ‘These Colours Don’t Run’.

Charlie Simpson was playing right next door at the Punktastic stage, and there seemed to be very little he had to worry about. In the presence of enough people that prevented anyone at the back to have even a glimpse of him, Simpson performed ‘Parachutes’ and a few other songs off his album ‘Young Pilgrim’. It seemed like there were more people taking photos of him, or trying to get a glimpse than trying to actually listen to the not-quite-bad tunes.

With the final big stage set up, Taking Back Sunday played to a smaller audience than they would have wished for. It seemed like the same amount of folks who had shown up for other acts performing at the stage that evening. They cycled through ‘A Decade Under the Influence’ and their heaviest song ‘El Paso’ but the sound didn’t seem to have been turned up loud enough. ‘Liar (It Takes One to Know One)’, ‘Cute Without The ‘E’ (Cut from the Team) and ‘MakeDamnSure’ were other set highlights that got the crowd going, but in a somewhat subdued manner.

You could obviously blame it on an entire day’s worth of bands demanding your attention before them, but that wasn’t the case over at the Vans Stage, where Gallows were playing on till the very end. The moshing didn’t stop, and Wade Macneil & co did a good job of churning out the old and the new stuff, with plenty of distortion feedback thrown in between songs. Still, nothing like good old noise that melts into quick, relentless punk rock.



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