Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Review: Slam Dunk South 2019

I went to Slam Dunk Festival for the first time this weekend, and wanted to write some thoughts about it, so that is what this blog is. I went to Slam Dunk South in Hatfield, and location wise, it is great. I went via a mixture of a friend driving a bit of the way and then getting the train – the walk from the station to the festival is about 10-15 minutes I’d guess, which is not much at all. The layout of the site is spot on – impressive that you can have 9 stages of music and, for the most part, the sound from the various stages not overlap with each other. I only really have two negatives to say about the day really. The first is one I’ve seen a few people comment on, which is the queues at the bar. I went to the same bar twice when I went, and both times the queue was bad. Of these, the first time was the worst (ended up missing Turnstile)- I queued for about 40 minutes I think, which really isn’t ideal. I saw some comments online about the cash/card issue, but this didn’t impact me as I had both on me, but I could imagine it being annoying if you had just a card and found out most places were cash only (as I was told was the case). The second negative, and it only impacted two sets I watched, was the sound on the open-air stages on occasion. The first time this happened was for Milk Teeth, when it sounded as though they could have done with the instruments being louder. The second was for Bad Religion, who on a whole just sounded as though the volume was turned down a bit. This could have been due to where I was stood, admittedly, but it was something I felt worth noting.

Those two things were my only negatives to say about the day. Overall, I had a cracking day at Slam Dunk – the general atmosphere seemed generally really friendly which was nice. The weather as well was mostly good – bit of rain towards the end of the day but nothing horrific. Earlier I mentioned the location and about using public transport – one confession I will make about my day is that I wasn’t massively fussed about seeing any of the 3 main headliners – All Time Low, NoFX and Bullet For My Valentine. This meant I was able to cut out a little early and catch an earlier quick train. I obviously can’t speak for what it would have been like trying to get a train from Hatfield when significantly more people were trying to get one – so I won’t! That is the general thoughts I have about the festival concluded – the next thoughts will be about the bands I saw throughout the day (with some scores out of 10 based on enjoyment).

My day kicked off watching Cruel Hand (8) on the Key Club Stage. Listened to a little bit of their music before going in but wouldn’t say I was familiar with anything they played, but it was all very good – a great way to kick off the day. After Cruel Hand was one of my favourite bands from the last few years, especially live – Milk Teeth (7). As mentioned previously, I think my enjoyment of their set was hampered by the sound/my standing location/a mixture of both but they were still really good. It was my first time seeing them as a three piece, and it was as good as it was previously when they had 4 members. I also liked hearing them play songs I hadn’t heard them play before, including Stain which is ace. Looking forward to some more new material when the time comes. This was my only visit to the Dickies/Marshall stage throughout the day so can’t comment if the sound got any better or if indeed, it was just where I was stood. Anyway, headed off to the Punk In Drublic Festival stage for the first time after this to see Anti-Flag (9), who were bloody ace. The main take away I had from the set was kicking myself for not going to their co-headline tour they did with Cancer Bats last year – I bet that would have been a fun night out. I’m not massively familiar with a lot of Anti-Flag, but they played some stuff I recognised and all in all, I thought they were great.

A lot of my day was going to be in the tent which held the Impericon and Jagermeister stages. I arrived after Anti-Flag to catch the last song of Knocked Loose (6 – probably would be higher if I saw more). They sounded pretty good. I decided finally to head to this tent at this time rather than try and get a spot in the Key Club Stage to watch Busted. I am very impressed they got a band that sell out arenas to play an unannounced set though. Would they be too pop to headline the whole thing outright? I’m not sure. Anyway, I went to see Wage War (6) who I thought were good. They are another one much like Cruel Hand, in that I checked them out a little bit before I got to the festival but didn’t recognise anything they played whilst there. I liked it though. I left a little early, with the intent of getting a beer and then heading back in for Turnstile, before heading back out again. No rating next to Turnstile because as mentioned earlier, I missed them due to being in the bar queue. Everything I’ve seen about them from this weekend suggests they smashed it, so more fool me and my want to have a beer I guess. I listened/watched a bit of Mad Caddies (5) whilst queuing/occasionally chatting with a person in the queue. They sounded fine but truthfully I wasn’t paying a great deal of attention to them (generally was just exasperated at the queuing). The original plan was to watch most of Turnstile, and then head back to the Punk in Drublic stage to watch The Interrupters (10). However, because I wasn’t in the tent, I was able to get a bit closer to the stage for The Interrupters than originally planned and I was pleased that I did because this was one of the sets of the day for me. I loved everything about their set, and only wish it could have gone on longer. I arrived liking what I had heard and left a fan. They are playing Download Festival next month, and I am hoping to be able to see them again.

After the Interrupters, I then spent most of my day inside the tent that housed the Impericon and Jagermeister stages – occasionally heading outside for some sunlight. First up was Cancer Bats (8) who I enjoyed, but probably would have enjoyed more if there wasn’t a group of people in front of me having a chat for the first half of the set. Admittedly, I could have made more of an effort to move, but at the time I recall being fairly tightly packed in, so there wasn’t a great deal of moving space to be done, and by the time there was, they had stopped. Ho hum! Popped out after their set for something to eat and a bottle of water (considered a beer, took one look at the queue, decided against). Headed back in the tent for Silverstein (7) who I loitered towards the back of the crowd for. They were very good though. I recognised some of their songs, but couldn’t tell you where from. I stayed in my spot at the back of the crowd, which meant I was near-ish to the front for The Bronx (10). This was my 4th time seeing The Bronx and I don’t think it is possible for them to put on a bad show. They had a 9 (I think) song set and played 5 of my favourite songs of theirs, which probably helped my enjoyment somewhat. I left the tent after their set to brave the bar queue again, which was bad but not as bad as it could have been (probably helped by meeting a mate who was already queuing) before heading back into the tent for Story of the Year (7). I used their set as an opportunity to sit down and have a rest. They were good, although my favourite bit of the set was when they closed on a medley of covers, including Taking Back Sunday ‘Cute Without The E’, The Used ‘The Taste Of Ink’ and My Chemical Romance ‘I’m Not Okay (I Promise)’ (I recognised the first song but for the life of me, can’t think what it was called/who it was by – was hoping to rely on Setlist FM but alas!)

Gallows (8) were up next and if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t have guessed they’d been gone for 5 years – they were excellent. I think my enjoyment of the set was increased by them leaning on the first two albums which I am more familiar with than the post-Frank material. Either way they were great, and it’ll be interesting to see what is next for Gallows. What was next on this day was a patchwork version of Atreyu (6). If I have this right, the lead singer couldn’t travel, so they had a stand in drummer, and the usual drummer was handling vocals. Dan Marsala from Story of the Year came out for the first couple as well. They were fine, but I didn’t hang around for too long as I wanted to get a decent spot at the Punk In Drublic stage for what was essentially the headliner for me, Bad Religion (7). The band themselves were really good, as I think you would come to expect from Bad Religion at this point. I was stood off to the right-hand side of the stage, and it just seemed a bit quiet, which was a shame. I still enjoyed the set, but I did find myself thinking about the sound more than once. After a bit of rain, and then a massive rainbow appearing in the sky, it was time for the last bit of live music of the day before calling it. Watched the first two songs of All Time Low (6) who I thought were alright. Was stood quite far away from the stage because of the plan to call it a day, so that was that.

Those were my thoughts on Slam Dunk 2019. Really good festival, really good day out overall. Couple of small gripes but nothing that would stop me recommending going. Indeed, I will be looking at the line up again next year to see if it is to my tastes again. Put some photos up here. No rest for the wicked as I'll be at All Points East on Friday for the Bring Me The Horizon day.