For the fifth year running, Slam Dunk Festival graced the grounds of Hertfordshire University, playing host to over 50 acts spanning across 6 stages. The one day festival was met with an abundance of pop punk loving fans who kept the venue packed full throughout the day and into the night.
‘Blitz Kids’ and ‘Canterbury’ were the first couple of bands to grace the outdoor main stage, and were immediately met with lively crowds and uncharacteristically sunny weather. Both bands had recently released new material earlier this year, which seemed to have been received well by their fans present at the festival as almost every song performed was met with a sing-a-long from the crowd.
The Macbeth stage, situated indoors, played host to nine bands over the course of the day, one of the most notable being ‘Decade’, a somewhat lesser known band within the pop punk genre. Although they weren’t as well known as a lot of the other artists, their reception was extraordinary. By the second song into their set they had the whole crowd jumping, most of who were singing in unison to their catchy, upbeat You Me At Six-meets-Man Overboard songs.
As the day progressed, the energy across the venue was increasing minute by minute. The easy accessibility of different stages increased the chance of wandering into a crowd seeing a band that you maybe hadn’t previously heard of and being encapsulated by the contagious flowing energy.
Along with the six tightly packed stages, there was also plenty of room for merchandise stands, owned by both individual artists and record companies. MC Lars took the time to stand by his stall, meeting fans for a chat and an autograph, along with Tyson Ritter at the ‘All-American Rejects’ stall. The willingness to interact with fans as well as the press just goes to show how homely the feel of the festival was, and how much the artists within the genre care about their fans.
Whilst obviously the main interest for festival-goers were the live bands, the DJ area was consistently drew a considerably dense crowd throughout the day. It was a perfect halfway house for people who were either walking between different stages or walking away from one of the many bars with their thirst for alcohol well and truly quenched.
As the evening drew in, the bands most people had been waiting for began to emerge, one of which being the ever-growing ‘We Are The In Crowd’. As a band, their performance was almost completely flawless, demonstrating both professionalism and pure talent. The main problem the band has had in the past has been the direct comparison to Paramore.
However the band fronted by the ballsy Tay Jardine have developed their own unique sound, which was obvious given the mass amounts of fans in the crowd screaming almost every word to every song without fail. They definitely made a huge impression on the crowd, and I believe no one would be surprised if they were to headline a festival such as this in the very near future.
Although sadly we didn’t have time to see all of the much loved bands and artists perform, our team did manage to photograph and interview a fair few. Some of our favourites who definitely deserve a mention are Natives, Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!, MC Lars, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Hit The Lights, Decade, Rob Lynch, I Am The Avalanche, Mallory Knox, State Champs and The Devil Wears Prada.
As the sun went down over Hatfield, the crowds previously spread across the venue were now beginning to congregate towards the main stage, where veteran show stoppers ‘The All-American Rejects’ were about to make an appearance. Their lead singer Tyson Ritter entertained the crowd from the word go, stomping around the stage, lying across the floor and even occasionally putting on a fake British accent.
His behaviour certainly would make anyone question his previously stated T-Total status, but the singer didn’t lose the attention of the crowd for one second, interacting with rowdy fans in between almost every song. Much to the joy of the audience, the band’s 16-song set mostly comprised of music from their earlier albums, some of which are 11 years old.
Songs such as ‘Swing Swing’, ‘Dirty Little Secret’ and one of their most successful singles ‘Move Along’ were received with an almost mob-like sing-a-long, which saw fans of extremely varied ages screaming their hearts out. Their performance was an elegant mix of both early 00’s nostalgia, along with definite present-day relevance.
By the end of the set (marking the end of the festival), the crowd were visibly exhausted, yet clearly extremely satisfied by the visual and musical treats throughout the day. Slam Dunk has grown a lot over the past few years, and if things are to go on in the same fashion, then growth in size and popularity is certainly on the cards for the future.
Check out our photos from Slam Dunk in the slide show below, and watch this space for exclusive band video interviews:
Words by Matthew Nicholls
Photography by Liz Murray and Michelle Stannard