The weather told me to expect thunderstorms, so I wrapped up expecting to get wet. That was my first mistake of the day. I had to carry around my rain coat and walking around for the day in jeans and boots with glorious sunshine beaming down. It ended up being the perfect weather for a day at Slam Dunk South 2018.
The second mistake was expecting Great Northern to be able to run something that resembles a train service for the day. Numerous delays and cancellations later, I finally arrived in Hatfield for a short walk into Hatfield Park. It’s a nice wide-open setting for the festival, only a five-minute walk from the railway station.
It shocked me how well set up the festival is. Considering it’s only for a day at each setting (North, South and Midlands), the area is well set for a full weekend of music. Three large big top tents, two main stages, a smaller stage and a small acoustic stage. The work that has gone into putting it all together is incredible.
And here’s the first problem with Slam Dunk. It’s expanded and grown too big for just one day. With over 70 acts to choose from, you’re almost certain to be missing a lot of acts that you want to see. The clashes throughout the day are awful. Billed with two headliners, Jimmy Eat World, and Good Charlotte are both on at exactly the same time.
Even the names next down on the bill only have a short overlap, meaning people were either rushing around and only catching parts of sets, or just sitting in the middle of the site and getting drunk with a concoction of different noises coming from each and every direction.
I planned my day to check out a few up and coming acts I’ve caught over the past couple years to see how they’re coming along, with a handful of big name acts to fill out my day. Sadly, I missed Templeton Pek thanks to the previously mentioned train disaster. One of many acts from the US, Guttermouth ended up as the first band to catch my attention. Frontman Mark Adkins was clearly enjoying himself on the stage, the crowd were responding well to the Punk-Rock band, and the first of many crowd surfers went flying over.
Next up was Welsh Punk/Grime band Astroid Boys in the Impericon Stage tent. There’s not much lighting in here but there’s just about enough to see the crowd bouncing and beers flying. At £5 a pint, my heart cried a little each time I saw a beer cup soaring. Astroid Boys know how to put on a show and it shouldn’t be long before they’re getting some bigger festival slots.
Quick visits to catch a few moments of Homesafe, and Creeper before heading into the Rock Sound Breakout Stage for The Faim. I’ve been hearing great things about the youngsters and they didn’t disappoint. Their uplifting music has a real feel of Fall Out Boy about it, so it was no surprise to find out that Pete Wentz was involved in the writing of their latest single.
A couple beers and a cheeseburger later and I was preparing myself for one of the local acts; Trash Boat. With a new album about to be released it was good to catch the St Albans boys. Their music pulls in a decent sized crowd. The vocals are strong and the music has a good feeling about it. The circle pits begin and the security prepare themselves for the bodies to start flowing towards them on top of the crowd. This was a strong performance that is sure to have picked them up a few more fans.
It was time to head to the main stage for one of, if not the best live performer around. Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes. The guy is like a puppet master on stage controlling each and every person in the crowd. He gets what he demands from them, and he deserves to get it too! This is just another electric performance from the front man, as he throws himself into the crowd and gets them to hold him up in the air.
The audience lap up everything he throws at them, as he attempts to orchestrate a circle pit nearly 100 metres in diameter from the front of the stage around the sound desk tent. It was genuinely a surprise to hear he’s never played a Slam Dunk festival before.
Unfortunately, more train cancellations and a holiday to get to meant I had to bail shortly after Frank’s set, but I left on a massive high. Slam Dunk does some good things. The paying crowd love it and for little over £50 it’s an absolute bargain. I’ll probably avoid covering the festival next year, but it’ll mean I can have a few more beers and get involved in a little crowd surfing!
Live Review of Slam Dunk South 2018 at Hatfield House on May 27th 2018 by Paul Lyme