Slam Dunk Festival once again returned to Hatfield bringing along all the pop-punk, metalcore and ska fans have come to expect. The 2018 edition marks the first time the festival has moved to a new site at Hatfield House. Moving to a larger outdoor setting was already an improvement as it meant all the chokepoints and strict capacity of certain rooms at the old site would not longer be a problem. So with a new and improved site, the sun shining and a great line up Slam Dunk 2018 was almost guaranteed to be a great time,
Kicking off things on the Impericon Stage, Loathe (7) make a really strong impression despite some sound problems. Many have hyped the band as the next big thing in UK metalcore and based on sets like this it’s not hard to see why. Alongside all the bounce and big mosh parts, Loathe also pack some interesting experiments into their sound that really set them apart from a lot of their peers.
Brutality Will Prevail (7) have similar sound problems but their muscular hardcore still gets the pit going. The Path is still a guaranteed pit starter and as always, has every fan pilling up down the front to try and grab the mic. Brutality Will Prevail just do a great job of tapping into that primal side that really gets the mosh pit going.
The sound problems on the Impericon Stage are nothing compared to how bad it is over on the Jagermeister Stage. Which is a huge shame and really dampens Four Year Strong (6). With the guitars being barely audible any impact their pop-punk anthems would have is ruined. The strength of the songs still makes this set enjoyable but it’s hard to not feel a little disappointed based on what could have been. It Must Really Suck To Be Four Year Strong and Wasting Time still end the set on a high but the set just never reaches its full potential.
Fortunately any early sound problems have vanished when The Devil Wears Prada (9) take to the Impericon Stage. For some reason TDWP have neither quite took off in the UK but based on how packed out the tent is, it’s clear their cult like status has started to pay off. The band sound absolutely flawless and Mike Hranica is one of the most ferocious and engaging frontman. Anatomy kicks the pit up another level and the new material off Transit Blues adds nice variety to their set. It’s easily the best set of the day so far.
Over on the Monster Energy Stage Twin Atlantic (8) deliver huge rock anthems in the glorious sunshine. It’s just one of those sets where everything lines up perfectly for the band. The Scottish rockers have been relatively quiet over the last year or so meaning today feels like a bit of a comeback for them and based on the crowd they pull it’s clear they have been missed.
Counterparts (7) also managed to pack out the Impericon stage as it seems this bands stock in the UK continue to rise now. Their take on metalcore might be super by the numbers but it does hit the mark for their fans. And even if it is unoriginal, Counterparts are just really good at what they do. The songs of their latest album are among their best and fans have really taken to them.
Comeback Kid (9) deliver a set that is non stop chaos for 45 minutes. From the very first moment they band are firing on all cylinders and do not drop the pace once. From all the crowd surfers to the never ending chaos in the mosh pit it is an absolute riot in the tent. Whether it’s newer material or classics off Wake The Dead the crowd don’t care, they just want to lose their mind. Of course the highlight comes at the very end when they close with Wake The Dead but it’s a set that is just brilliant from start to finish and proof that Comeback Kid are still one of the best hardcore bands around.
Over on the Signature Brew stage, Me Vs Hero (7) play one of three special reunion shows for Slam Dunk. Me Vs Hero were a band who split just before the UK pop-punk scene started to take off so it’s nice to see them get one last hurrah. It’s a set that relies heavily on nostalgia but that is exactly what all their fans want. Opening with Can You Count Suckers and Days That Shape Our Lives takes everyone right back to 2010 and is just a fun time for everyone there. Even with these shows being a one off it’s clear that both the band and fans were happy to do this one last time.
On the Jagermeister stage, Taking Back Sunday (8) start up what is just a brilliant emo double header between them and Jimmy Eat World. Opening with You Know How I Do gets things off to a great start as the band spend the next hour delivering hit after hit. Adam Lazarra’s charisma on stage is just irresistible. The set unsurprisingly focuses on Tell All Your Friends and Louder Now but the newer material certainly doesn’t sound out of place. The title track off their latest album Tidal Wave ends up being a highlight. But of course it’s the closing combo of Cute Without The E and MakeDamnSure that really gets everyone singing along and reminiscing about their teenage emo years.
Finally it was time for Jimmy Eat World (8) to bring the day to a close and opening with Bleed American into A Praise Chorus gets their set off to a fantastic start. The band just deliver a no frills headline set packed with all their greatest hits. The stage show is kept to a bare minimum and they put all the focus on the songs. And when you’ve got a back catalog like Jimmy Eat World it’s hard not to see why. Every song off Clarity, Bleed American and Futures is timeless and they pick the best songs off their other albums.
Hear You Me provides a beautiful moment early in the set but it’s Pass The Baby that ends up being a surprise highlight. As a storm rages behind the stage it syncs up perfectly with the drama of the song and just creates an unforgettable moment. Their is a slight dip in the middle of the set as they play one too many slower song in a row. But then they close by playing Work, Sweetness and The Middle all in a row and there could not have been a more perfect ending to Slam Dunk this year.