Live Review: Slam Dunk Festival South – Herts Uni, Hatfield – 27/05/2012

Once again the organisers of the insanely good Slam Dunk Festival have spoiled us for choice with an array of rock, hardcore, pop-punk and metal bands. With so much to choose from there’s always the unfortunate possibilty of missing the odd band or two. 

Nevertheless as our team found out, Slam Dunk 2012 was again a triumphant success.

With the sun tan lotion applied and the first beer bought, Slam Dunk South is away and it starts on the Jagermeister stage, bathed in glorious sunshine with Zebrahead, a band made for this kind of weather. Indulging in cheesy sing-alongs, crowd chants and even a drinking contest, they create a fun atmosphere for the festival-goers still arriving. Tracks like ‘Anthem’ are perfect in the sunshine and Zebrahead provide a fun start for the arriving masses. (TW)

The supergroup of sorts that is Misser (live band comprising of members of Transit and The Story So Far) deliver a surprisingly awesome set for what is one of their first UK shows and with the experience of those in the band it seems silly to think of the awesome set as surprising. Playing songs from their debut as well as the two songs from the EP re-recorded for it, the band have some already dedicated fans in the crowd and undoubtedly turn a few heads of those who wandered in to hear the pop punk euphoria that is played ever so brilliantly. Come back soon please. (MB)

Whilst the turnout for Heartsounds is underwhelming, it doesn’t stop the punk rock quartet from making their mark and although their set is heavily taken from last year’s ‘Drifter’ record; the odd number from ‘Until We Surrender’ would of be welcomed but nevertheless both Laura Nichol and Ben Murray exchange lead vocals well and manage to pull in a few scattered attendees. (SR)

I can already feel myself start to burn and so head for the refuge of one of the indoor stages, catching the mighty Make Do And Mend in the process. Gruff vocalist James Carroll leads the sizeable crowd through an all-too-brief set, including songs from their new album. During the set Carroll applauded the ethos of the festival and commented how lucky the band are to be playing it with all their friends. (TW)

For many Say Anything’s return to the UK is long overdue but all is quickly forgiven as Max Bemis and company provide a set filled with fan-favorites. From ‘Belt’ to ‘Shiska (Girlfriend)’ to ‘Hate Everyone’ to material from their recent album, Say Anything bring a fun, energetic show that was well worth the wait. (SR)

It is this great communal spirit that makes Slam Dunk such a success, and this is particularly evident during No Trigger who produce a high energy set in the presence of members of Set Your Goals. Their set is littered with songs from recent release Tycoon, and their quick and powerful punk sound is well received by the modest audience at the Macbeth stage, who reward them with the best reaction of the day so far. They are definitely a band to keep an eye on as I suspect they will be playing much bigger shows in the near future. (TW)

Over at the Punktastic Acoustic stage, Rob Lynch brings a decent-sized crowd with his joyful brand of acoustic indie pop that is near-perfect for sunny weather outside. We plenty of sing-a-long moments and even a human pyramid, Lynch leaves those in attendance with a smile on their face. (SR)

Next it’s off to the Vans stage to see the eagerly anticipated Set Your Goals. From the outset they do not disappoint. The third song in the set is fan favourite ‘Summer Jam,’ the perfect song to serenade the British summer’s arrival and no doubt imminent departure. From there on they run through tracks from all three of their albums, including a fantastic version of ‘The Few That Remain’ and a euphoric closing rendition of ‘Mutiny.’ They are on top form, clearly enjoying themselves, and the crowd are too. It is performances like these that make Slam Dunk such a great festival. They personify the feel-good atmosphere pulsing through Hatfield today and everybody leaves with a smile on their faces. (TW)

The Story So Far are up next and appear to be trying to set a record for how many people can be crammed into the tiny Macbeth stage. It is packed inside and as members of other bands file in to watch from the side of the stage, it is clear we are going to be treated to something quite special indeed here. They open with the first three tracks from full-length ’Under Soil and Dirt’ and the crowd go absolutely berserk, especially for ‘Quicksand’ which sees the audience becoming a flailing mass of limbs. Bodies fly from all directions as the band power through ‘Mt Diablo,’ ‘High Regard,’ and well, every song. As the set comes to a close, it is clear that The Story So Far have delivered a real “wow” moment, and a gig that people will be talking about for a long time. (TW)

Nostalgia comes to many outside in the sun as the Welsh boys of Funeral For A Friend deliver a mixture of new songs from their latest album as well as the classics that everyone seems to be singing along to, and I mean everyone‘Streetcar’ and ‘Roses For The Dead’ are two of the fan favourites that have a new lease of life as new drummer Pat Lundy delivers every pound of his kit with such expression and enthusiasm as a teenager who’s just gotten lucky for the first time; a new breath of fresh air for Funeral For A Friend and an inevitable influence on future albums. (MB)

Fresh from a tour in mainland Europe, Buffalo NY’s Every Time I Die make performing a rip roaring set of old and new songs seem like absolute child play. The whole room is the embodiment of rock and fucking roll as the band nail song after song after song. “I want to be dead with my friends” is the inevitable opening line and from that moment the chaos lasts right through to the very last note. Trust Every Time I Die to absolutely slay every live performance they ever deliver. Underground heroes who deserve so much more and inspire so many. (MB)

After making sure all my organs are still in the right places, I head out to catch Taking Back Sunday headlining the open-air Jagermeister stage. The band are on good form tonight, sailing through a greatest hits set including ‘You Know How I Do’ and ‘Liar.’ They are, as many bands have been tonight, hampered by poor sound on the outside stage, but as a veteran band who are used to bigger stage they absorb the sound difficulties better. Therefore, although a little of the gloss is taken off their performance, they still deliver a rousing and crowd pleasing set. Besides, most of the audience are either too drunk or suffering from sun stroke by this point to do anything but enjoy this anthemic end to the day. The band close with their two biggest crowd-pleasers, ‘Cute Without the E’ and ‘MakeDamnSure,’ ending this wonderful day in emphatic fashion. (TW)

This year’s Slam Dunk Festival had it all; A lineup of bands to appeal to all tastes, a great atmosphere and good weather which made it a triumph. Despite the many pink bodies and heavy heads the next day, we already can’t wait for next year. Bring on Slam Dunk 2013!

Words by Tom White (TW), Mikey Brown (MB) and Sean Reid (SR)

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