May 27, 2018
Hatfield House Park
Slam Dunk Festival is different from the average festival. There’s no messing about with tents as all the music and fun is crammed into one day. In 2018, there were three versions of the festival spread over the country and the weekend: North (Leeds), Midlands (Birmingham) and South (Hatfield).
66 bands performed; we caught 17 including world class acts like Good Charlotte, Goldfinger and Reel Big Fish, scene stalwarts such as Taking Back Sunday and Save Ferris, and up-and-comers like The Faim and Dream State.
“Let’s spread the good word. Not about God. FUCK TRUMP!”
Despite being a sweltering day, Knuckle Puck turned the temperature up with their energetic emo-screamo act. They were clearly thrilled with the response they received, taking time to savour the oval (!) pit they incited.
“I’ll be around if anyone wants to hang out”
From the name alone, Cavetown sounded more like a location or a computer game than an acoustic singer-songwriter. With plaintive songs like Lemon Boy and 10 Feet Tall, he was the outlier of the festival: more The OC soundtrack than Long Beach, Gainseville or New Jersey punk. Since it was so hot and already well into an energetic day, he found a receptive crowd grateful for the chance to sit in the shade, chill out and listen.
Four Year Strong were up next, offering an anthemic pop punk screamo combo.
“If you’re holding on to any shit inside don’t take it out on anyone else. Let it out here. This is a safe space.”
Dream State were one of the most memorable bands of the festival for singer CJ Gilpin’s energy, passion, and openness. She spent the majority of the set running up and down the photo pit and singing on the barrier, at least when she wasn’t crowdsurfing (while still singing)! She spoke honestly and endearingly about mental health issues, addiction and relapse. The crowd responded with energy, support, and an epic circle pit.
Say Anything never let up on the passionate delivery, especially with fan favourites like Six Six Six.
“We well remember this day forever”
Rising stars The Faim kept the energy up with singalongs for Summer Is A Curse and A Million Stars. Fans were lucky to see them in such a small tent; they’ll surely be festival main stage main stays soon.
Save Ferris’ Monique Powell put crowd members half her age to shame with her relentless energy. Then again, many in the crowd knew the band from back in the day, by the sounds of the response to their classic cover of Come On Eileen, 21 years after its release.
“Getting sunburned, you British mother fuckers? They put the stage over the Scottish people for health and safety!”
Twin Atlantic were probably the least punk/most rock band on the line-up but they made it work with their energy and banter with the crowd.
“You’re being shown up by a 39 year old!”
Damn, he was right! Old school classics like Ska Wars and Cousin Cleotis were interspersed with political themes and statements. Perhaps not surprising, considering that their name is short for Capitalist Downfall!
State Champs looked out into the crowd before getting down there into it, loving every damn second. For their part, the fans screamed every word right back at them.
Moose Blood better have savoured their time in the spotlight. They went on hiatus in September 2018 after a series of allegations saw them dropped from a prestigious Good Charlotte support slot.
“I’m a pessimistic kinda guy and I though there’d be about 10 people so this means a lot to a pathetic emo man.”
Xtra Mile artist Rob Lynch is not necessarily known as a punk artist, but he is known for loving pop punk and ska punk so he was very much in his element. “This is great fucking music” he exclaimed as he listed the bands he was going to see once his set was over (all good choices)! The stage in the woodland clearing was perfect for this engaging performer, and his fans were out in force to singalong with Old Friends and Broken Bones. A highlight was new song, Red Lion Square, which he matter-of-factly explained was about depression and his dead father.
“You will be treated with respect and kindness”
Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes were LOUD and relentless, whipping up the crowd into a metalcore frenzy.
It’s testament to the scale of the festival and number of bands that we hardly had a chance to catch scene veterans Taking Back Sunday, though Timberwolves at New Jersey was a pretty lucky time to catch them!
“Fuck Ted Nugent!”
Someone forgot to tell Goldfinger it wasn’t a headline show. The punk royalty never let up, as funny as they were epic and with a non-stop round of cameos from Atreyu, State Champs, The Faim, Reel Big Fish and, of course, Mike Herrera from MxPx and Phillip Sneed from Story of The Year who are now in the band.
“Jimmy Eat World is playing right now. I’m just gonna see Jimmy Eat World then I’ll be right back”
Half punk rock show, half pantomime, Aaron Barrett of Reel Big Fish spent time teasing the crowd about the bands they were missing; disappearing several times as if to go see Jimmy Eat World and Good Charlotte. A band has to be good to keep a full tent away from those veteran acts (although, to be fair, there was a heady level of booing when Good Charlotte was mentioned!). This crowd was very definitely here for the ska punk stalwarts, going off for singalongs and skankalongs like Sell Out, Take On Me, and Where Have You Been? Marcia Richards of The Skints joined as a guest vocalist on She Has A Girlfriend Now.
Good Charlotte added the star power and arena rock show vibe, starting out with an explosion of confetti and dramatic steam bursts. Somewhat dividing the festival goers due to their pop sensibilities and chart success, the band nevertheless attracted a crowd of thousands to grin and sing along to songs like Lifestyles Of the Rich and Famous, Girls & Boys, and Little Things. The feel good factor held up all night…well, at least until the fans saw the queues at the train station!! Worth it.
Slam Dunk 2019 has been pared down to two sites, with the Leeds leg on May 25 and the Hatfield version on May 26, leaving Bank Holiday Monday for everyone to recover. The enviable line-up includes Anti-Flag, Bad Religion, Less Than Jake, Lagwagon, Millencollin, Simple Plan and New Found Glory. Tickets for Slam Dunk South are still available.
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