Slam Dunk South 2012 Roundup

By on Monday, 11th June 2012 at 1:00 pm

What started as a ska/punk club night in Leeds in 2007 has grown exponentially over the years into a staple part of the festival calendar. Held each year over the May Bank Holiday, Slam Dunk takes over Leeds and Hertfordshire universities on consecutive days to thousands of fans of hardcore, pop-rock, punk and metal. Eight stages of acts from across the world grace Hatfield on this sun-soaked Sunday to an army of baying fans who are queuing for hours in the dizzying heat to get to the front from the start.

In an exclusive performance to Slam Dunk South, the Orange County pop-punkers Zebrahead get the warmed up crowd bouncing with 45 minutes of positivity and smiles taken from their whopping nine-album back catalogue. Despite never reaching mainstream success, the California quintet have always had a strong following at festivals like Slam Dunk, and their set doesn’t disappoint the diehards. ‘Falling Apart’ and ‘Hello Tomorrow’ see the chanting and dancing escalate, accompanied by the traditional British lager chugging. The party has started.

Inside the maze that is Hertfordshire University, the marvellously mathy Marmozets are tearing apart the Vans Off the Wall stage to an audience of captivated onlookers. Having received praise from the likes of Kerrang! and Rock Sound in the past year or so, the Yorkshire yobs have lured in a few hundred revellers from the sunshine to bear witness to the deafening delights that frontwoman Becca Macintyre bellows and wretches for a stunning half hour of power. The confines of the stage are no match for these noisemongers, though, as the band throw themselves into the crowd for a round of spinning and thrashing to an audience that appear too petrified to move.

But back outside the mood is not one of aggression but joy as the LA party-bringers Say Anything launch head-first into a set of crowd-pleasers. The afternoon sun is basking the 1000+ fans at the Jägermeister stage who have been waiting for the energetic six-piece to return to the UK for years, and they’re not left disappointed. ‘Hate Everyone’ and ‘Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too’ see pints and bottles thrust into the air as the sunburnt Brits show their appreciation but it’s closer ‘Alive with the Glory of Love’ that sees the crowd erupt with cheers, chants and poorly coordinated dance moves. But the smile on the faces of the band and floor says it all, there’s no doubt a British tour is in the works as Say Anything definitely have the fanbase.

Away from the sunlight, the metalheads are amassing in the darkened room of the Honour Over Glory stage for the fastest rising stars in heavy music today: While She Sleeps. Hailing from the land of industrial steelworks, this band are all-out pure metal. The second largest stage of the festival is full of pitters and partiers who are ready to throw down with the best heavy band to come out of Sheffield since Rolo Tomassi. Opener ‘Dead Behind the Eyes’ kickstarts the air grabbing and elbow throwing as the floor opens into the Sarlacc with bodies for teeth. New track ‘This is the Six’ – the title track of their upcoming album – lifts the spirits and adrenaline levels to new highs but ‘The North Stands for Nothing’ is the real highlight. The room swells with the sound of over a thousand pairs of lungs screaming the words until throats are raw and bloody.

The sweat on the walls hasn’t had a chance to dry before everyone’s favourite Canadians, Cancer Bats, catapult themselves into a set of crowd pleasers to a fit-to-burst pit of punk. As frontman Liam Cormier rushes on stage they break into Beastie Boys‘ ‘Sabotage’ to a baying audience who kick, punch and push their way through to the front and shout appreciation for the fallen comrade MCA. The Bats have arranged a mixed bag of old and new treats that are created for days like today. ‘Trust No-one’ and ‘Bricks and Mortar’ are bellowed with such gusto from the stage and floor alike your pint begins to shake. ‘Drunken Physics’ is a welcome addition for fans of new album ‘Dead Set On Living’, who shout and snarl their way through the brilliant lyrics relating to chaos theory and multiple dimensions. New set staple ‘Roadsick’ rears its furious head for a high octane flurry of limbs on the floor, but closer ‘R.A.T.S.’ moves the droves to a near riot as blind carnage ensues and the metal masses plough toward the stage or into each other for one last round of hardcore’s finest.

The pace changes outside at the Red Bull Bedroom Jam stage as Forever The Sickest Kids‘ brand of happy-go-lucky pop-punk packs the tent all the way to the back. It’s another long time coming for the Texan four-piece who rarely visit the British shores, despite their legions of fans who are out in force this evening. A crowd full of bright colours and neon provides the ideal surrounding for a band so full of bubblegum joy the air tastes of sugar. Dancing and whoa-ohing their way through a selection of favourites including ‘Hey Brittany’, ‘Crossroads’ and ‘Hip Hop Chick’. ‘She Likes’ sends the teenie boppers into a stupor of high-pitched wails and hand waving while ‘She’s a Lady’ ends the show with a round of wide-mouthed grins and before filing out for the headline sets of the night.

Shutting the doors on the Honour Over Glory stage today are the south coast screamers, Architects (pictured at top). With new album ‘Daybreaker’ going on sale the following day, these Brighton boys treat Hatfield to a handful of oldies and new ‘uns. Opening on the London riot-themed ‘Devil’s Island’, the rampant orgy of sweaty bodies in front of the stage resemble the chaotic nature to which the song concerns, but do so with such glee that there’s no animosity held in the recklessness. As front man Sam Carter peers into the darkness the battered bodies give more and more energy to the tune of ‘Learn To Live’ and new single ‘Alpha Omega’ that leaves the floor resembling the pandemonium usually reserved for a battle royale.

The band seem genuinely humbled to be headlining the stage today as Carter often repeats to the dazed crowd – it’s hard to believe the sudden rise in popularity in the last six months. ‘Hollow Crown’ and ‘These Colours Don’t Run’ are enough to finish off the most seasoned mosh master for the evening and it’s with the last note ringing out that Slam Dunk South comes to an end. Bruised, dizzy, and broken bodies fall out into the street and onto the shuttle bus to a baffled driver. It’s over for this year, but no doubt 2013 will bring another 12 hours of noise and nuisance to Hertfordshire ready to slam dunk it for the win.

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