Gig review: SLAM DUNK FESTIVAL SOUTH – The Forum, Hatfield, 31 May 2016

Mallory Knox - The Slam Dunk Festival South, 31 May 2016
Photo by Ian Collins

Bank Holiday Monday and the train from Kings Cross is packed full of alternative kids with more face metal and stretched-out earlobes than you can shake a stick at. Among them is the odd old person or family with small children, slightly uncomfortable amongst a crowd of angsty teens. Yes, this is the train to Hatfield, to the annual Slam Dunk festival. So grab your beanies and your eyeliner as we explore the slightly-rowdy-but-rad rock festival that is Slam Dunk South.

Queues were horrendous, but I suppose that’s expected of any music event, really. Despite the dull weather, spirits remained high and the atmosphere was buzzing. The venue itself was quite interesting, already holding that festival smell of booze, cigarettes, greasy food and slightly sweaty people despite it only being around 1 in the afternoon. I decided to make my way down to the Impericon stage first, which was slightly hidden away indoors. I caught the last few songs by The One Hundred; a shouty screamo band, who were quite decent from what I heard. I decided to stay for WSTR, who were also rather good. I thought that due to the light-filled venue, you wouldn’t really get the dark, late night grungy atmosphere like most concerts, but both bands really managed to get the crowd going and have a good time.

We Came As Romans

We Came As Romans were next on my list – a band of which I hadn’t listened to for a few years now, but I do regret it after seeing their live performance. Their stage presence was amazing, being met with nods of approval by passers-by and people that had gone to see the set on a whim.

They were a much welcomed breath of fresh air to the Atlas stage, compiling a setlist from their older, heavier songs with newer ones that had more clean vocals and an electronica feel, which seemed to appeal to many different audiences. Once their short but sweet set was over I found myself being dragged by the masses back to the main stage where Yellowcard were about to start. They announced that they were going to be playing their 2003 album ‘Ocean Avenue’ from start to finish, which was met by screams of approval. I recognised quite a few of the songs, particularly ‘Only One’ which I have heard on the radio time and time again but could never find out its artist.

After the crowd had somewhat dispersed, I attempted to nudge myself forward for a decent view of Mallory Knox, who were playing next. I had never seen them live, so I wasn’t sure about what to expect. I’ve been a big fan of theirs since their EP ‘Pilot’ (worth a listen if you haven’t already), in the days when their fanbase was on the smaller scale.

At Slam Dunk, however, there was a huge crowd gathered, which made me quite happy in a soppy sort of way, as Mallory Knox seem to offer something a little bit different to the musical table, through a very mature and unique sound that obviously got the recognition it deserved.

The quintet from Cambridge did not disappoint, and managed to rile up a series of the most random and intense mosh pits I’ve ever seen in my life (thank you to the lovely people that pulled me out of those..!!). The set ended on ‘Lighthouse’ from their first album ‘Signals’, leaving on a slightly nostalgic note which was nice.

After that I decided to check out Zebrahead at the other end of Slam Dunk. They reminded me a lot of old school Green Day mixed with the rapping style of Papa Roach, which was quite interesting. They even had a man in a rabbit onesie crowdsurfing in a rubber dingy. Pop punk, everyone. Needless to say they were very entertaining, and seemed to have a very broad audience from 14 year olds to 40 year olds, as their music seemed very accessible and enjoyable by any music taste.

And then it was the headline act; Panic! At The Disco…and what a set that was. Thousands were packed tightly around the main stage and despite the fact that I couldn’t see for the most part, the music was amazing. Brendon Urie had a great stage presence, not to mention an equally great pair of lungs which managed to reach high notes that not even a prepubescent boy could muster. Panic! played a good mix of old and new, starting with ‘Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time’ from their latest album ‘Death of a Bachelor’ and then going on to play older tunes like ‘Time to Dance’ and ‘Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind)’.

The set mixed more electronic sounds and 50’s samples of songs etc. between songs, an interesting mix of which Panic! has been exploring a lot more recently in their music. It may sound odd, but it works. ‘Golden Days’ particularly stood out, also off their latest album, which was astounding live. Sadly, I couldn’t stay for the whole set, but as I was leaving, Panic! were covering Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, which sounded incredible, especially in Urie’s unique voice. Seeing Panic! At The Disco live proved that even if you are the last remaining member of a band, it’s still possible to kick musical butt.

Of Mice And Men

Overall, Slam Dunk South was a great experience, but it was frustrating at times when two bands you wanted to see overlapped. For example, I wanted to see both Panic! and  Of Mice & Men who were at the Atlas stage, but only managed Panic! as it would’ve been difficult to switch between the two.

And I suppose that if I had any other criticisms, it would probably be the slight lack of things to do between sets. After seeing three or four bands in a row and you wanted a break, it was either sit down if there was any space, buy food or look at merchandise.

Which was alright for the most part, but I can’t help but think that if they had had some alternative clothing stalls/jewelry stalls, or your general festivals stalls of bits to see and buy, it would have made long waits pass by much quicker. I don’t want to go off on a rant though, as the whole experience was quite fun and definitely something I will remember for years to come. Thank you Slam Dunk. I hope to visit you again next year.

Review by Jasmine Ritchie
Photos by Kennerdeigh Scott

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