FESTIVAL: Slam Dunk South
VENUE: University of Hertfordshire
DATE: Sunday 27 May 2012
Oh Hatfield – you bring degrees, you bring punk rock, you bring sunshine (well, that’s not entirely true as those who got soaked at the first Slum Dunk will testify), you bring reasonably priced beer and you gave us Iain “bouncebackability” Dowie. Even the Queen had digs! Why does the rest of Hertfordshire look down on you?
Outside was hotter than Satan’s bum crack, so this reviewer headed inside to the Vans Stage to see Hildamay’s  straight-up, no-frills dose of hard rock open the show. Out in the Red Bull Bedroom Jam tent cheeky Essex 4-piece Reachback  powered through some fairly harmless but moderately fun pop-rock tunes, while over on the main stage Zebrahead’s  unique brand of widdly, shit-off-a-shovel rap / pop-punk provided the sound track for some early afternoon moshercise.
Back into the shade and things began to get heavy again with Reading’s pounding hard rockers Golden Tanks , who definitely have a cool band name and put a lot of energy into their performance but did quickly become monotonous. Acoda  are apparently the rising stars of the UK underground, but it’s nothing we’ve not all heard before, instead it was back into the Vans stage to see New England’s rugged hardcore mob Make Do And Mend  give it everything.
Upstairs on the Honour Over Glory stage, The Word Alive  properly nailed it and had the crowd bouncing along to a massive slab of metalcore, but back out on the Red Bull stage It Boys  were a band completely out of place. It wasn’t actually clear whether they were even playing their guitars and they certainly had no right to be playing at a punk / hardcore festival – it smacked of pay-to-play. To their credit, they all have nice hair and will probably still be massive anyway. Shit Boys. Yeah, I went there…
Funeral For a Friend  are band who’ve come a long way since this reviewer first heard them when the ‘Between Order and Model’ EP was doing the rounds in the UK underground scene (if you are nodding, you are old too – sorry!). The performance was tight, melodic, powerful and, above all, captured the raw emotion that this band have become loved for. ‘Roses for the Dead’ was one of those memorable hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck-stand-up moments and the crowd loved every second of it.
Cancer Bats  were a different kind of awesome and dished out a meaty slice groovy metallic hardcore and ensured that the metal fans who’d made the trip were well and truly pumped for veterans Every Time I Die , who did not disappoint the footstomping, windmilling, circle pitting masses. Between these two metal stalwarts, old-skool, semi-retired ska punks Capdown  made this reviewer (and one or two others when vocalist / sax player Jake asked how many of the crowd were 30 or at least close!) feel old (again!), but that didn’t stop the dancetastic good times!
Of the headliners, this reviewer decided on Architects  and was not made to regret that decision. Architects were devastatingly heavy and put on the performance on a lifetime. Massive, noisy, dynamic soundscapes provided the perfect backdrop for Sam Carter’s fierce vocal assault. The band repeatedly stated that there were humbled to be headlining above massive bands, but one doubts that there was a single person there who didn’t think they deserve their success.
Whilst other festivals struggle, Slam Dunk continues to thrive by putting on the cream of UK bands and established US bands at a great venue and at a reasonable price. Thumbs up.
– David Houssein
IMAGES by Rachael-Emily.com