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REVIEW: Slam Dunk Festival – South, Hatfield (29/05/17)

During the build up to this years Slam Dunk Festival the main things we were looking forward to here at Rebellious Noise was the incredibly stacked line up and in particular the Fireball Stage. This stacked stage alone felt like an early 2000s Pop Punk kids dream and had so much to offer, but that was only one stage and as mentioned in our Slam Dunk episode of the Queue & A each stage had it’s own line up poster, which really made each stage feel like an individual festival line up and when you realise they’re all actually one huge event it definitely gave off a “big time” feel to the festival.

As we arrived in Hatfield the atmosphere was already booming, the train journey down there was packed with people wearing band shirts with pure excitement in their faces. We decided to stop off at The Great Northern Pub before heading to the Hatfield Campus of the University of Hertfordshire and subsequently on the way back too, if you’re ever in Hatfield for Slam Dunk and are waiting for that train back or just fancy some pre drinks then be sure to hit up this lovely pub with a nice atmosphere and friendly staff.

As we arrived along college lane and saw the floods of people coming into the campus it really started to get exciting as the warm weather combined with stacked line up made for an exciting atmosphere. The first piece of business was to check out Fenix TX open the Fireball Stage, with a great sound and a kick full of energy the Texas Pop Punk boys got the crowd going.

We spent some time roaming the festival site to check out the food on offer, get our bearings with the other stages and take in the atmosphere whilst filming an episode of the Queue & A. The layout for the stages was actually really well done, with not much of a walk between each of them which was even more impressive when you realised that no sound was leaking in from nearby stages, therefore each area did feel like it’s own concert without an awkward background sound of another stage to hinder the band that you were watching.

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One big thing that you would have noticed within the first minute of walking around the festival site was the ever increasing site of Don Broco frontman Rob Damiani’s face as it was on the heads of many festival goers to re-create scenes form their latest music video ‘Pretty’ in which there is some gruesome face swapping going on. The entire festival was flooded with these masks, which was a clever tool to direct people to the bands music video and also make people feel part of something…something gruesome, but still…something. Don Broco and Enter Shikari were some of the most anticipated acts at this years Slam Dunk Festival, all day we were hearing about both bands and how much people could not wait to see them, especially local boys Enter Shikari who hail from St Albans which is just a 20 minute car ride away.

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The general vibe was a party one, no band embodied this more than Reel Big Fish who it has to be said were probably the highlight of the entire day. Never afraid to poke fun at themselves the band made their set feel special with their own brand of comedy that made them stand out. Reel Big Fish didn’t just speed into the next song each time, but instead spent time talking to the crowd and even playing some covers such as ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit‘, ‘My Own Worst Enemy‘ and ‘The Impression That I Get‘ and at first insisting that they were their own huge hit songs from the 90s and then when owning up and admitting that they were by other bands but still insisting that they were by Pearl Jam, Bowling for Soup and Less Than Jake. Shortly after the band went into their actual huge hit of the 90s ‘Sell Out‘, which went down very well. The crowd really had a boost of energy when the band were on stage and all around us were groups of friends dancing and having the time of their lives.

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Another highlight from the Fireball Stage was the performance from Goldfinger, who started their set with a great performance of “Spokesman“. The band had high energy which was so intense it couldn’t be contained to just the stage when John Feldmann decided to get in the crowd himself. The band has gone through significant line up changes in recent years and that can sometimes take away from an experience but this touring version of Goldfinger featured a “Supergroup” type line up with Mike Herrera of MxPx on Bass, Philip Sneed of Story of the Year on Guitar and Cyrus Bolooki of New Found Glory on Drums. Feldmann dedicated the song “Superman” to video game lovers in reference to the song featuring on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.

Zebrahead’s vocalist Ali Tabatabee rocked a Manchester United Away shirt with “Manchester” on the back throughout their performance which was a nice touch as a homage to those effected by the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester. With the attack still fresh in people’s heads it was reassuring to see the great presence of police and security on site to keep everyone at bay. The festival goers were in high spirits and didn’t seem bothered by armed police, it felt like a modern day “Blitz Spirit”.

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Back to the Zebrahead performance though, the band put on an amazing show throughout and were constantly engaging the crowd. The band even created a sea of a constant flow of crowd surfers and then during ‘Hello Tomorrow‘ sent an inflatable boat with a man inside to go across the crowd to the sound desk and back (both of which were incredible visuals and featured in our Queue & A video). Zebrahead also brought out Reel Big Fish’s brass section to help them out on their song ‘Anthem‘ which got a huge response including a pretty large circle pit. There was also a period where at least 25 footballs were flying through the air during their set, which also happened during the Goldfinger set, I have no idea where they appeared from though!

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A band that I was interested to see were Cute Is What We Aim For, a band that had experienced so much hype and coverage between 2006-2008 but seemingly disappeared shortly after. Despite that, they were a band that I never really paid much attention to even though plenty of friends had. I really did enjoy their performance on the Monster Energy Stage and it was a refreshing down to earth one that really made me connect with the band, lead singer Shaant Hacikyan explained his gratitude to the fans for not forgetting them having seemingly gone through a difficult period after the bands early success and the turmoil it created. You could tell that this tour really felt like a homecoming for them and their fans, with quite a few special moments in for good measure.

Over on the Jagermeister Stage we saw Japanese Metal heavyweights Crossfaith put on an amazing show as well. There’s a great clip in our feature of the crowd jumping and a girl passing by who starts jumping herself that really demonstrates the infectious energy Crossfaith were bringing to Slam Dunk. The band brought a welcomed harder edge and so many people were bouncing and moshing in the pit throughout their entire set. Plenty of people that we spoke to had said that Crossfaith were a highlight of their time at the festival and it’s really no surprise as the band just leave you with such a lasting impression from their performance.

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Some of the food at Slam Dunk really deserves a shout out too, the pricing was generally decent for festival food and the quality was up there too. I got a tasty pepperoni pizza from the Pizza Bus for just £6.50 and could not stop telling people about it (as the Queue & A special shows)
I also had an “Italian hot dog” which was covered in a rich tomato based sauce and cheese as well as “Italian fries” covered in herbs and cheese in the guest area. I’m not sure if they were available in the main area too but either way, they deserve a shout out!

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Another great thing was the easy access to a cloakroom as too often cloakrooms are far away, poorly staffed or don’t even exist at events. It may be a minor thing for some people but it was really refreshing to have somewhere so easily accessible to drop off our stuff especially as the weather was quite warm and pretty humid. The hot and sticky weather meant that even when it did begin to rain it was fine to wear a T-shirt but when it got too much it was not hard to grab your jacket. Plus, there was a bar right near the cloakroom so it made for a perfect pit stop before heading back to your preferred stage.

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There were plenty of good bands on show in Hatfield but these are just some of our highlights. We would highly recommend going next year if you are a fan of day festivals, it’s a great opportunity to see tons of awesome bands on every stage and with an environment and atmosphere like this one it really is worth putting a day into.

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