Live Reviews

Slam Dunk Festival

Hatfield Park

Saturday 25th May 2024

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In the event programme You Me At Six frontman Josh Franceschi talks about the bands affinity with Slam Dunk Festival and the aptness that the festival acts as their final UK Festival appearance. Indeed it is fitting, but as well as looking back at the twenty year career of our headliners, it also puts into perspective the journey that the festival itself has been on.

Starting out as a single day event in Leeds back in 2006, You Me At Six first appeared in 2007 as the festival made Leeds University its home. The indoor university campus set-up expanded to include Hatfield in 2010 and would eventually take in a third day in the Midlands between 2013 and 2018 when the Hatfield event first moved outside to Hatfield Park.

Since then the event has become the two day fully outdoor event that has become something of a monster. The now traditional festival season opener has flown high, but last year a little like the story of Icarus, the event flew a little too close to the sun. As the events welcomed their biggest ever crowds, the infrastructure buckled under the strain and the festival was forced to acknowledge their failings with promises of lessons learnt this year.

Funnily enough the parallels to You Me At Six could be applied here as well, as again Franceschi admits within the programme notes that the band previously tried too hard to achieve success, made mistakes and needed to re-evaluate and return to their roots. For both the band and the festival, this approach has paid off, because from first arrival to departure this year at Hatfield goes off without an organisational hitch (although as we type this, Leeds has already run into problems!).

Slam Dunk has always been a festival where the music is at the forefront and we dive straight into festival season at the ‘GoPro’ stage with As Everything Unfolds smashing through a brilliant set as the sun shines down. ‘Ultraviolet’ rightly dominates the setlist and it’s clear that the band have something special. As we bid farewell to a regular headliner tonight, if organisers are pondering the headliners of the future then they may well wish to keep an eye on this band!

There are just the five stages this year as the festival scales back somewhat in order to refocus on the original spirit of the event. The site is more spread out this year which helps with people traffic flow and we take a stroll to the ‘Monster’ stage for a glimpse of old school punk favourites Snuff and to the ‘Kerrang’ stage for a beginnings of upstarts Honey Revenge. This is a great example of the dichotomy on offer under the genre-umbrella of the event.

The main stage will capture most of our attention today however and another band with a big future, As December Falls, pull a big and heavily engaged crowd to the stage early on. With their latest effort ‘Join the Club’ also glowing today, the future of this event does appear to be in safe hands!

Young and fresh artists have always featured prominently at Slam Dunk, but so have blasts from the past and the organisers have always had a knack of pulling out rare UK appearances from groups. Head Automatica are the first such act today, although they suffer a few technical hitches which takes the shine off of their set. That said, ‘Beating Heart Baby’ still elicits one of the biggest sing-a-longs of the day.

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The ‘Key Club’ stage is positioned a tad too close to the ‘Monster’ stage which does cause some sound bleed at times. Good luck to anyone out-noising Pennsylvanian hardcore breakthrough group One Step Closer. The group come out and smash through their set with controlled ferocity, leaving those present in little doubt that they are amongst the very best new bands on the circuit.

Meanwhile the technical gremlins continue to plague the main stage as We The Kings have their set cut down to just five songs, although that does include another huge sing-a-long for ‘Check Yes Juliet’.

As well as rarities, returns also feature prominently this year although oddly two of the biggest clash (but it wouldn’t be Slam Dunk without the clashes!). The Blackout perform seminal album, ‘The Best in Town’ in full over on the ‘GoPro’ stage and pull quite the crowd, although like us many depart twenty or so minutes in to head back to the main stage.

That’s because for the first time in some seven years Mallory Knox are back with vocalist Mikey Chapman! A handful of carefully chosen intro tracks highlight the momentous occasion before they deliver a career-spanning performance which delights their passionate fans. Despite some mic issues for Chapman, it’s fantastic to have his signature voice back at the helm of a band once heralded as the next big thing. With a tour lined up this autumn, perhaps that prophecy can still be fulfilled!

The Ghost Inside then lay waste to the ‘GoPro’ stage in another moment of celebration considering everything that they’ve been through. From there we head back to the ‘Kerrang’ tent for Pale Waves which again demonstrates the variety on offer even within the limited gene pool of Slam Dunk. Pale Waves say that they didn’t know what to expect, but what they get is a huge crowd singing every word back of what may be the best set of the whole day!

We are at the business end of the day now but there is still plenty of business to be taken care of! Another rare booking which elicits scenes of glee and sing-a-longs galore is that of Boys Like Girls who deliver the goods including hits ‘Love Drunk’ and ‘The Great Escape’.

Holding Absence frontman Lucas Woodford can then be found fronting a special performance from Funeral For A Friend on the ‘GoPro’ stage, with Woodford more than up to the task.

Then it’s back to the main stage for former headliners The All-American Rejects who are in the UK for the first time in ten years! Sadly the sound is pretty damn iffy throughout but the sing-a-long moments continue and more than compensate for their poor sound. Fans will be praying that it isn’t another ten years before they get to hear the likes of ‘Swing, Swing’, ‘Dirty Little Secret’, ‘Move Along’ and ‘Gives You Hell’ again!

We then catch the solid beginnings of The Wonder Years set as they close out the ‘Key Club’ stage. Elsewhere stages are headlined by I Prevail, Waterparks and The Interrupters but we naturally finish at the main stage with the festival farewell for You Me At Six.

The atmosphere is celebratory before the band even arrives on stage but when they do and immediately burst into ‘Save It For The Bedroom’ the place goes crazy for their heroes. Thankfully the sound is great for the headliners and the string of hits and fan favourites flies by, which is always a good sign.

The party lives up to the hype and You Me At Six are able to give a great account of what has made them such a special band whilst simultaneously showing what makes Slam Dunk what it is. Even at the end of a long, exhausting day the fans are more than willing to sing back every word of the likes of ‘Take on the World’, ‘Underdog’ and ‘Beautiful Way’.

After a year of negativity about the event, it’s great to see Slam Dunk (at Hatfield at least) firing on all cylinders, because there truly is no better way to kickstart festival season. Fans meanwhile will have one final chance to say goodbye to You Me At Six next year, and on tonight’s showing, you’d be foolish not to!

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The latest issue of the Full Pelt Magazine is here, and you can download your copy for free below!

Volume 22 is features our cover stars Saint Agnes as they take ‘Bloodsuckers’ on tour. We also have album reviews for The Last Dinner Party and Florence Black.

Our News Report has all the latest music news including live announcements from Download Festival, Reading & Leeds, 2000trees, Slam Dunk, Victorious Festival, Beautiful Days, Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival, Cambridge Folk Festival, Demob Happy, Bury Tomorrow, The Last Dinner Party, Troy Redfern, Trophy Eyes and iDKHOW!

Plus all the best new releases including Bowling For Soup, Indoor Pets, Royal Tusk, VENUES, The Cheap Thrills, From Ashes To New, ERRA, Banks Arcade, Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties, Normandie, The Farm and Job For A Cowboy!

Finally, we round up the latest additions to our ‘Discover’ New Music Playlist including Gallus, Loose Articles and IRKED!

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Live Reviews

Slam Dunk Festival

Temple Newsam, Leeds

Sunday 28th May 2023

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Rock fans know that festival season is upon us when we get to the late May Bank Holiday weekend and Slam Dunk Festival brings rock and punk fans to Hatfield and Leeds.

This year that journey takes a little longer for some due to traffic issues, probably borne out of the fact that both events are sold out. Leeds in particular feels like the Temple Newsam is bursting at the seams today.

Queues are unimaginably long for merch, toilets, food or anything else, but thankfully the music (and weather) is very much on point!

We start the day in the ‘Knotfest’ tent for rising metallers Heriot, who attract a decent sized early crowd. That crowd is treated to a blistering set of gloriously heavy goodness and a spirited performance from a band on the cusp of bigger things.

It’s then a short walk over to one of two outdoor main stages, the ‘Amazon Rock Scene’ stage, where we will spend most of our day today. Taking this stage next are VUKOVI who absolutely own the stage and showcase their superb new album, ‘NULA’. Singer Janine is able to hold the audience in the palm of her hand and orchestrate the first truly great set of the band.

Logistically the event may be remembered for the wrong reasons, but musically today is fantastic, with that set from VUKOVI one of many that will live long in the memory for all the right reasons.

Thinking, we’ll go for a quick wonder around, it’s clear that nothing will be quick today, but we do catch a glimpse of girlfriends who are very impressive for the time we can stay. Soon though we must head back down the hill to catch Trash Boat.

This is a band that has grown significantly in almost every sense of the word over the past few years. Their latest album, ‘Don’t You Feel Amazing?’, was one of the most surprising of 2021 as the band took their sound to new heights. Today they use the stage to bring many of these tracks to life and the crowd are clearly appreciative of another excellent performance.

Trash Boat are followed on stage by Holding Absence who have just announced that their third album, ‘The Noble Art of Self Destruction’, will be out later this year. Their set today is a good mix of old and new including brand new single, ‘False Dawn’ and fan favourite ‘Afterlife’, which gets a monumental response from the passionate crowd.

Soon enough it’s over to Wargasm who are becoming one of those marmite bands where it’s almost cool to hate them. The energy and ferocity that they put into their show however can’t be denied and whilst the energy levels for some of the crowd starts to sap, the band push through with tracks such as ‘Backyard Bastards’ and ‘Spit.’ getting everyone back moving.

We then head over to the other end of the festival site (very slowly) to the ‘Kerrang’ stage where the tent is overspilling already ahead of Boston Manor. The band are on top form right now and have every person singing along to their gargantuan anthems. As they conclude their time on stage with ‘Halo’ you can’t help but think that Boston Manor deserve to be absolutely huge.

It’s a blast from the past next as Slam Dunk keep up their track record of reformations with Kids In Glass Houses. Playing their first shows in almost a decade the band focus their set on ‘Smart Casual’, which will be getting a re-release later this year. Songs like ‘Saturday’ and ‘Give Me What I Want’ still have it and so do the band who fly through the set like they’ve never been away.

Sticking to the same stage we are soon graced by PVRIS who deliver another really good performance which features a well structured setlist. Lynn Gunn leads the trio through a selection of their popular tracks with ‘You and I’ and ‘My House’ both getting big audience responses. The band will return with their fourth album in July, and new track ‘Goddess’ goes down very well today complete with guest spot from Charlotte Sands.

We are at the business end of the day now and up next on stage are Billy Talent who are able to deliver a pure masterclass in how to make the most of a shortened festival set. Banger, after banger, after banger as the band deliver suckerpunch after suckerpunch. The crowd reciprocate the bands energy and by the time the set finishes with ‘Red Flag’, the band have done enough to claim the band of the day moniker!

In the clash of the headliners, we opt to head to the ‘Dickies’ stage for punk icons The Offspring. The band have an endless stream of hit songs, and tonight the band focus more on their back catalogue then they did at Hatfield yesterday.

Their covers section in the middle feels a little too much considering their short time on stage but nobody can deny the final run of tracks which provides a great end to a packed day both musically and in terms of the volume of people on site!

Slam Dunk is a trusted brand these days and musically they’ve delivered once again, but there are undoubtedly some logistical issues that need to be fixed. Perhaps they’ve once again outgrown their homes and need to find bigger accommodation, one thing is for sure though and next May will again see a packed line-up heralding the dawning of a new festival season.

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Read our review of The Offspring live in London