LIVE REVIEW: Slam Dunk Festival @ Hatfield (27/05/2018)

Date: May 27th 2018
Venue: Hatfield Park, Hatfield

The annual Slam Dunk Festival is back, and this time round, there’s a brand spanking new venue for the South date in the form of Hatfield Park. That’s right, ladies and gents, we’re taking Slam Dunk completely outside this round. It’s a very brave move of them, considering the infamous British weather.

Luckily, it doesn’t look like rain’s on the cards today. In fact, it’s almost uncomfortably humid. The park itself is vast, and the stages are spread out well enough that there’ll be little sound interference. On the downside, there’s approximately zero phone signal, so if you haven’t arrived with your friends, well, good luck. Let’s get stuck in, shall we?


Unfortunately, we were unable to catch any acts that performed on this stage on this date.


Bringing a dose of old school emo to proceedings, LA’s Say Anything receive a warm welcome as they appear on stage. Beginning with ‘Belt’ and ‘Woe’, the two opening tracks from 2005’s cult classic ‘Is A Real Boy’, the band make no apologies for dousing everyone with nostalgia. Surprisingly, their set contains no material from most recent album, ‘I Don’t Think It Is’, as the band opt instead to air a selection of earlier cuts, which may be disappointing depending on your view of their newer stuff. Still, Max Bemis is every inch the emo frontman, and closing track ‘Alive With The Glory Of Love’ has a sea of arms in the air and hundreds of voices singing along.

The high octane arena rock of Glasgow’s Twin Atlantic was made for stages like this, and today, they’re pulling out all the hits with a varied setlist that spans the four albums of their career. The unstoppable duo of ‘Free’ and ‘Make A Beast Of Myself’ makes up the peak of the set before the soaring ‘Brothers and Sisters’ gives way to the slick grooves of ‘No Sleep’, with Barry McKenna shining on lead guitar. With a polished performance that’s jam packed with radio-friendly bangers, it’s easy to see how this band have achieved mainstream success.

There’s drizzle in the air, but that won’t keep away the hordes of fans eager to see the return of Long Island kings Taking Back Sunday, who have come armed to the teeth with a setlist full of crowd pleasers. As the opening chords of ‘You Know How We Do’ ring out around the stage, frontman Adam Lazzara and co. emerge to rapturous applause, and for the next 60 minutes, there’s no letting up. It feels partly like a show in homage to their breakthrough album, 2006’s ‘Louder Now’, which comes as no disappointment to the crowd as the band roar through a rollercoaster of classics like ‘Liar (It Takes One To Know One)’, ‘Error: Operator’, and ‘What’s It Like To Be A Ghost?’.

However, they switch it up a bit, adding in some older cuts such as ‘Timberwolves At New Jersey’ as well as the odd newer track (2016’s ‘Tidal Wave’ in particular goes down a storm). Yet, nothing can prepare for the closer that is a double whammy of angsty emo anthem ‘Cute Without The E’ and a ground shaking, arena worthy shout-a-long to ‘MakeDamnSure’. There’s no denying that Taking Back Sunday have still got it.

As the evening draws to a close, a sizeable crowd has rejected main stage headliners Good Charlotte in favour of Arizona veterans Jimmy Eat World over on the Monster Stage – but currently, the alt rock titans are in danger of being upstaged by a glorious lightning storm. The majesty of the sky is soon forgotten though, as the band take the stage and immediately tear through a riotous rendition of ‘Bleed American’ – the perfect opening to what will be a mammoth 19 song set. Despite being almost 40, frontman Jim Adkins shows the youngsters how it’s done as he powers seamlessly through a set full of hits. In fact, it’s easy to forget just how many hits they’ve had until you’re bombarded first hand by the likes of ‘I Will Steal You Back’, ‘Big Casino’, and ‘Pain’.

There’s some truly stunning moments in the set – slow burner ‘Hear You Me’ is even more beautiful with lightning streaking down the sky, and ‘The Authority Song’ is a euphoric mood-lifter that can’t fail to raise a smile. Not to be outdone by previous act Taking Back Sunday, Jimmy Eat World also decide to end the set on a high with what is arguably their two biggest songs – THAT hook rings out and it can only be ‘Sweetness’, before the soundtrack to every mid-2000s movie, ‘The Middle’, closes the show to uproarious cheers. The crowd disperse as Good Charlotte can be heard banging out ‘Lifestyles…’, and it doesn’t appear that anyone feels they made the wrong decision.


Slam Dunk Festival is Save Ferris’ first UK show in a whopping seventeen years, and the crowd seems only too happy to have them back, as they’re all jumping right from the very first song. Waves of nostalgia overwhelm the set as the band bring their 90s ska punk sound crashing into 2018. Pink haired frontwoman Monique Powell has a cracking wail, and encourages the audience to skank along to hits like ‘The World Is New’, ‘Goodbye’, and their tongue-in-cheek ska cover of ‘Come On Eileen’. A real party band, Save Ferris know how to have fun, and are here to show everyone else how to as well.


Unfortunately, we were unable to catch any acts that performed on this stage on this date.


ME VS. HERO – 6/10
Blackpool pop-punks Me Vs. Hero have reunited just for this festival, and it couldn’t be more fitting – in fact, they’re just about the epitome of a Slam Dunk band. Whilst the likes of ‘What Seems To Be The Officer, Problem?’ and ‘Spice Weasel Bam!’ sounds a little dated nowadays (not surprising as they’re taken from the band’s first EP back in 2009), the more recent tracks, such as the bouncy ‘Cashing Cheques’, are far more refreshing. It’s a fun final set from one of UK pop-punk’s former heavyweights, but it’s easy to see why they’ve decided to end things – there are too many other bands in the genre that are simply outshining them now.


There’s a huge amount of talent coming out of Wales right now, and Cardiff’s Holding Absence are leading the pack over on the Rock Sound Breakout stage. Charismatic frontman Lucas Woodland has a voice that’s just as powerful live as it is on record, and he’s got the crowd in the palm of his hand. Proving why they deserve to be ranked up there with the likes of melodic hardcore contemporaries Palm Reader on tracks like ‘Heaven Knows’ and ‘Saint Cecilia’, before finishing on the mellow yet epic ‘Penance’, it’s a powerful and exuberant set. It’s good to see that Holding Absence have a strong live show to do their killer material justice.

The tent is so packed it’s difficult to see Dream State’s tiny and convivial frontwoman CJ Gilpin, but you can definitely hear her. Her screams on opener ‘New Waves’ sound huge, whilst the blistering drums from Jamie Lee on ‘Help Myself’ are nothing short of insane. ‘Solace’ has the whole crowd singing along to its infectious hook, but it’s set closer ‘White Lies’ that everyone is waiting for, and Gilpin jumps into the crowd for a triumphant finale. Keep your eyes on these guys – they’re already stirring up considerable hype, and with performances like this, they could easily be on a much bigger stage next year.

CHAPEL – 5/10
A small but energised crowd have gathered at the front of the Rock Sound Breakout stage for Georgia indie duo, Chapel. There’s some Don Broco vibes to both their set and material as vocalist Carter Hardin struts around the stage to a synth laden backing track, whilst drummer Kortny Grinwis turns in a solid performance. Unfortunately, the songs themselves are a bit hit and miss. The dance-y ‘Cindy White’ gets everyone moving, and single ‘Caught Up’ is undeniably catchy, but ‘Miss Monogamy’ seems to be trying to channel a Panic! At The Disco vibe that feels a bit indie-pop-by-numbers. Not bad, but nothing to write home about either.

Straight out of Sydney, Stand Atlantic take the stage, and enigmatic frontwoman Bonnie Fraser has a voice that could reach across the whole park. These guys really put the pop in pop-punk on tracks like the punchy ‘Coffee At Midnight’ and the chirpy, pogo-inducing ‘Mess I’ve Made’, but there’s just enough bite to their riffs to stop them feeling out of place. It doesn’t break any new ground – these songs could just as easily have been performed by ROAM or Broadside over on the other stages – but it’s a solid set of poppy, energetic jams that’s perfectly suited to the glorious weather.


Unfortunately, we were unable to catch any acts that performed on this stage on this date.