SLAMDUNK FESTIVAL 2012
University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield
27th May 2012
Words: Emma Bowdidge and David Babb Photos: Individual photos are credited.
Well we couldn’t have asked for a better day for Slam Dunk South – The sun is shining and it’s incredibly hot out. We tried to watch as many bands as we could while trying to fit in band interviews throughout the days events. We’ll break the stages down with the bands we saw live in Hatfield. Unfortunately we completely missed out on the Macbeth stage because we couldn’t find where it was – Story of the day really trying to find where all the stages were hidden around the university campus. We did see a few bands briefly on the Honour Over Glory stage but didn’t stick around long enough to review who we briefly saw. All in all it was one hell of a festival, bar the sound problems on the main stage, with a wide range of bands playing over many different stages.
First band we caught on the main stage were Zebrahead who put on an energetic set as usual. They had a nice touch of props on the stage including a bar and a bartender. They really suit today’s events with their anthemic pop/punk tunes. There’s a lot of crowd interaction including some experiment front man Ali Tabatabaee tried as he ordered everyone (including girls) to take their tops off and swing them around their head (specifically girls!). To their dismay no girls seemed to participate but many guys did and that was that! Highlights from their set were ‘Hello Tomorrow’ which will never bore as it’s to catchy.
Next band we caught on this stage were rock 4-piece Lower Than Atlantis who make a huge noise with clean vocals and heavy guitar riffs. They start things off with a bouncy number ‘(Motor) Way Of Life’. Majority of their set came from their last full length album ‘World Record’ including songs ‘Beech Like The Tree’, ‘Marilyn’s Mansion’ and finishing up their set with ‘Deadliest Catch’. They went down extremely well with the huge crowd who stood around watching them.
Heading in to the evening now and with only three bands left to play on the main stage Funeral For A Friend are on next. All bits of the grass are covered with body’s now and the guys take to the stage and open up with ‘The Art Of American Football’. They played extremely well and with a wide range of songs. Seems we’ve missed a recent album of theirs though as they played a few unfamiliar songs including ‘High Castles’ and ‘Broken Foundation’ which someone behind us even shouted out “Play something we know” – So it confirmed other people were in the same boat. They made up for the not well known songs towards the end of their set finishing off with ‘Streetcar’ (Taken from second album Hours) – and extremely old favourite ‘Juneau’ (Taken from their debut album Casually Dressed & Deep In Conversation).
What can I say one of my personal highlights of the day The Blackout are second to last from the headliners tonight and come out with ‘I’m A Riot? You’re A Fucking Riot!’. The sound coming from the stage sounded poor on this opening song mind you, but I’m certain it picked up (Or it’s because I moved about a bit) after the first few songs ‘Ambition Is Critical’ and ‘Children Of The Night’ which sounded amazing. The Blackout are known for a high energy performance and they don’t let the crowd down once as the many body’s down the front all bump in to each other jumping around in excitement for the band. They step things up with a bit of crowd participation which included making two halves of the crowd – One side was team ‘GB’ with vocalist Gavin Butler leading this side to sing ‘I Don’t Care What You’re Thinking’ and the other side was team ‘SS’ with second vocalist Sean Smith leading this side to sing ‘I Don’t Care What You’re Saying’ before heading in to the song ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’. They carried on their high energy performance throughout ‘ShutTheFuckUppercut’ and finished their fantastic set off with ‘Higher & Higher’.
The band we’ve all been so anxiously waiting for Taking Back Sunday hit the stage after a 15min delay getting on. They come on to huge cheers and get straight in to ‘What’s It Feel Like To Be A Ghost?’. One thing that hits me straight away is the sound does not sound up to scratch. I’m standing right on top of the PA and still my ears are not bleeding and all I can hear is the crowd over lead singer Adam Lazzara. It confirms Lazzara is having a problem on stage as 2 songs in he’s complaining “Is this mic even on?”. All the build up to this years headliners and unfortunately they did not live up to the hype – Perhaps it wasn’t their fault and it was the festivals with the awful sound on the vocals.
That wraps up the Atticus/Jagermeister stage and it was a huge shame about the sound throughout the last few bands on the bill with even Funeral For A Friends front man Matt Davies asking for the PA to be turned up a few times during their set.
Vans Off The Wall Stage
First band we managed to catch on the Vans stage were Yorkshires’s Random Hand who were on fire from the get go. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing these guys twice in the past and they’ve never let me down with their high energy performance. Unfortunately while I’m enjoying Random Hand I’m missing out on Canterbury in the RBBJ tent but I couldn’t tear myself away. The room was half full with people spread out at the back of the room and those of us upstairs watching them from the balcony. The crowd was really in to it with circle pits and people skanking to the ska parts of their songs such as ‘Anger Management’. Lead vocalist Robin Leitch jumped off the stage a few times for some crowd interaction which led to a bombardment of people rushing over to him!
After hearing a lot of hype about this upcoming band it was gutting we missed the majority of Don Broco’s set, but when we did turn up to see a bit of them the room hosting the Vans stage was packed to the bar with a huge pit going on closer to the stage so they’re doing something right.
Headlining the Vans stage was one and only Gallows who had a rather large crowd this evening and rightly so. It was a shock to find out there was no Frank Carter in the band (No idea how we missed that news last year!). We later found out the new front man was ex-Alexisonfire guitarist Wade McNeil who made a huge impression tonight with the crowd. McNeil made a lasting impression by getting in the crowd for ‘London Is The Reason’ and participating in a bit of moshing. They teared it up as they do and put on an astounding if not crazed set.
Redbull Bedroom Jam Stage
Over on the Redbull Bedroom Jam stage they kicked off with 4 of the bands that have just won the RBBJ Festival chart by uploading videos of their band and getting fans to vote for them. We manage to catch two of the bands and start proceedings off with The Jellycats. Fulled with a ska, punk sound they’re extremely easy listening with real catchy ska hooks. The most stand out song from their set was their most recent song which they’ve made a brilliant video to entitled ‘T.W.A.T’.
Essex 4-piece Reachback are on next and get straight in to their set. They’re on top form with stage presence bringing their brand of pop/punk to the stage. Standing out from their set was female vocalist Ruby Williams and her lovely bright pink coloured hair!
Having won the Redbull Bedroom Jam last year rising underground 4-piece Acoda hit the stage to a small audience which soon grows in numbers as more people come to investigate when they get half way in to their set. Their rock fuelled energetic performance is soon being viewed by a large crowd as the band look more comfortable further in to their set. They were definitely worth checking out to see what all the hype is around this band – Sadly they’re nothing special than your average alternative/metal band out there.
Seeing as a lot of the bigger more known acts including The Audition, Cartel, Forever The Sickest Kids and of course the headliners Mayday Parade clashed with a lot of other good acts at the festival we didn’t spend time watching them, but still as we flitted past the stage we saw all of them very briefly and it has to be said all of the bands we’ve name dropped had a full tent watching them.