Despite the cold, windy, dull weather, summer is actually on the horizon and with that begins the great British festival season. For many rock fans that means the now annual pilgrimage to Slam Dunk Festival. Celebrating its tenth anniversary, the three day, three location event has become a highlight on the festival calendar for those into their rock, pop punk, ska and metal.
This year sees the Leeds and Hatfield events completely sold out once again and the Midlands event move to the much larger home of the NEC in Birmingham. Traditionally the Sunday event, this year the Hatfield event moves to the Bank Holiday Monday and the always strong line-up has clearly overcome any thoughts of work or school tomorrow morning as upon arriving onsite I'm greeted by a horrendous queue to enter.
Numerous sources had described dreadful queues as an issue over the past two days, but thankfully I was able to bypass this and head straight to the 'Atlas' stage where Japan's Coldrain kick the festival off in style with 'The Revelation'. Sadly I have to peel myself away after a couple of songs as I'm keen to check out what the fuss is about Moose Blood who are opening the main stage. A decent if uninspiring set follows which leaves me underwhelmed but prepared to grant a second chance.
It's worth noting that even at this early point in the day the queues for simple amenities such as the toilets are bars are already quite bad. Looking around I wouldn't say the site isn't any busier than last year which also sold out, but the queues do appear much worse than last year.
Back on the 'Atlas' stage and Americans The Word Alive arrive belatedly on stage meaning I can only catch an average sounding opening before heading back to the main stage where I hope that Young Guns can kick-start my day. My previous experience of Young Guns has been that they are good on record but poor live. Although this is the best I've seen them live and singles 'Bones' and 'I Want Out' sound huge, I'm left with a bitter taste in my mouth as they come on late and finish early whilst failing to play the epic 'Daylight'.
Feeling a little cheated I head inside to the 'Impericon' stage to catch French rockers Chunk! No Captain Chunk! in a packed out room. There's nothing like a good sing-a-long to lighten the mood and their cover of Smash Mouth's 'All Star' has every voice in the room singing in unison. It's a highlight of a decent set as my day starts to pick up.
I usually like to spend some time checking out the smaller stages here at Hatfield but I'm put off by the queuing talk and decide to stick to the outside stages from here on out. Back on the 'Atlas' stage once more and We Came As Romans put in a solid showing to a decent sized crowd. 'The World I Used To Know' sounds great and the band can go home knowing they've delivered a smashing set which keeps things moving in the right direction.
Slam Dunk Festival never fails to deliver a quality line-up and this year I could probably have done all three events and not seen the same band twice. This though means that there are tough choices to make when only attending the one event. The biggest couple for me is missing both Boston Manor and Creeper on the 'Fresh Blood' stage. Both bands look to have big futures ahead of them but I didn't quite fancy trying to force my way into the tiny 'Attic' here at Hatfield University.
I instead head to the main stage to reconnect with my youth as the brilliant Yellowcard tear through their hit album 'Ocean Avenue' in full. The likes of 'Way Away', 'Ocean Avenue' and 'Only One' entice mass sing-a-longs from one of the biggest crowds of the day. Despite the ominous clouds and strong winds the rain once forecast for today never materialises which is great for me as I stick to the outdoors main stage.
One of my favourite bands to emerge in the last few years, Cambridge's Mallory Knox, are on stage next. I'm surprised to see them drop a place after sub-headlining in 2014 but they make the most of their opportunity with a strong set mixed with favourites from their two albums 'Signals' and 'Asymmetry'. From the opening riff of 'Shout At The Moon' to the final sing-a-long of 'Lighthouse' Mallory Knox have the audience eating out of the palm of their collective hand. As singer Mikey Chapman teases a new album, I for one can't wait to hear what album number three has to offer.
It's fitting that as the festival celebrates its tenth anniversary they invite back a former headliner from its more formative years. New Found Glory headlined back in 2010 which was the first year that the festival expanded to two sites adding Hatfield to the original Leeds date, but they are back today to help bring the 11th event to a close. The band put in a reliable as ever shift that pleases the crowd with the likes of 'Hit Or Miss', 'Understatement', 'Head On Collision' and 'My Friends Over You'. A lot of the younger bands on the bill could learn loads from these guys.
The addition of legendary 2 Tone ska band The Beat to this year's line-up seemed something of an experiment to see how this sort of band would go down with the younger Slam Dunk audience. Sadly the experiment was probably a failure as a criminally small crowd gather on the 'Desperados' stage to witness Ranking Roger and co do their thing. It probably doesn't help that this area of the site is bitterly cold, but those who make the effort dance themselves warm.
Panic! At The Disco's career has been on an upwards trajectory as of late and they are a wise choice to bring the festival to a close. Brendon Urie and co bring in a huge crowd which features a large number of screaming teenage girls. Despite their core fanbase this is a band that can deliver the goods and deliver they do as Urie leads his men through huge singles 'The Ballad Of Mona Lisa', 'Hallelujah', 'Victorious' and 'Nine In The Afternoon'.
Panic! At The Disco are now nothing more than a Urie project and at times his ego tends to get in the way. Not even Dave Grohl feels the need to do a drum solo whilst fronting Foo Fighters, so why Urie feels the need to relieve sticksman Dan Pawlovich at one point is beyond me. Also the admittedly good cover of Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' seems to serve little point other than to enflame his growing ego. It must be said though that the man is good at what he does as the classic 'I Write Sins Not Tragedies' proves.
All in all it's another successful year for the ever popular Slam Dunk Festival and one that they can be proud of. The line-ups go from strength to strength; the atmosphere is great and even the weather stayed onside. The only issues that I could see were the longer than normal queues and the ever increasing prices of food and drink. Neither of which will put me off returning for another dose next year. Perhaps though Slam Dunk has become a victim of its own success and it's time to look for a bigger site.
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