Slam Dunk Festival South 2024 – Live Review, 25th May 2024

It’s Slam Dunk time again – heralding the start of the festival season with the promise of sunny skies (hopefully) and sets from some of the biggest rock, pop punk and emo bands in the scene (definitely). We headed to Hatfield to see what’s in store this year.

At the Slam Dunk stage, Head Automatica are battling with poor sound. The swaggering Solid Gold Telephone falls flat, and fan favourite Brooklyn Is Burning sounds surprisingly lacklustre. The technical issues do improve as the set goes on, but by this point, everyone is here for one song only – and sadly, even the iconic 2004 anthem that is Beating Heart Baby can’t save the set. Disappointing. 4/10

RØRY has amassed quite a following online, and it seems a fair few of them have turned up to the Kerrang! stage to see her set today. It’s not difficult to see why as her pop rock melodies are very infectious – stand outs are the Avril-esque Uncomplicated and the poignant Family Tree – and her vocals are impressively stable. She has no shortage of charisma either, telling candid stories of exes as well as a heartening speech on sobriety. It’s definitely Marmite stuff, but there’s no shortage of talent here. 7/10

A sizeable crowd has gathered at the Slam Dunk stage for the return of Mallory Knox, here to play their first show for almost five years. Coming in strong with an unstoppable duo of Beggars and Wake Up, the crowd is instantly transported back to 2013 – and frontman Mikey Chapman still has some impressive pipes. To have their reunion show at Slam Dunk feels very fitting as the band have been stalwarts at the festival across the years – during a break in the set, Chapman credits the success of the band partly “thanks to the support and love of this festival”. Great to have you back, lads. 7/10

The tent of the Kerrang! stage is definitely the best place for Pale Waves, who sound like The Cure mixed with The 1975 being fronted by Avril Lavigne. The huge alt-rock melodies on the likes of Television Romance and Eighteen reverberate around the tent and highlight the lush vocals of Heather Baron-Gracie perfectly. The band certainly aren’t short on catchy choruses, either: Change sees a huge singalong, although it’s queer anthem She’s My Religion with its irresistible hook that sees the strongest reaction. 8/10

A small but enthusiastic crowd have gathered at the Key Club Stage for supergroup L.S. Dunes, which is fronted by Circa Survive vocalist Anthony Green, and has Frank Iero of My Chemical Romance and Travis Stever of Coheed and Cambria amongst its ranks. The frenetic Benadryl Subreddit combines well with Green’s trademark raspy vocals, while new single How Dare You is possibly the strongest yet with its mathy guitars. Admittedly, this would probably sound better in the tent, but the tiny stage adds a more raw and intimate feel to the set – in fact, it feels a privilege to see such veterans in this capacity. 7/10

Few bands have a fanbase as dedicated as Waterparks, and whilst the tent may not be quite as crammed as you’d expect for a stage headliner, those that are here are nothing short of ecstatic when the trio take the stage. They clearly aren’t here to waste time, either, leaping straight into some of their biggest bangers right off the bat: the sardonic Watch What Happens Next and the breezy, bouncy ‘Blonde’ being screamed back by the enraptured crowd. The set is heavy on newer tracks, which may disappoint older fans, but it’s hard to complain when the new material is as infectious and fun as SELF-SABOTAGE and FUCK ABOUT IT. Awsten Knight chats with the fans as though they’re old friends, before donning an acoustic guitar for 21 Questions which is a refreshing change of pace, although perhaps not for the fans, who seem to only get louder if that was possible. Say what you like about them – they’re going nowhere and, at this point, have more than earned their stripes. 8/10

There are few bands better suited to a sunny Saturday festival evening than Goldfinger, and over at the Monster Energy stage, the ska punk heroes are ready for action. Singalongs are the order of the day, and John Feldmann (who has no business still sounding this good) leads the emphatic crowd in one after another, from opener Spokesman all the way through to the joyous Superman. It wouldn’t be a Goldfinger set without a few covers either; though fans of their Enter Sandman rendition are left disappointed as they only play the opening bars before jokingly launching into the Friends theme. Are they the coolest band here? No. Are they the most fun? Almost certainly. 8/10

It’s hard to believe we’re about to see You Me At Six play their final festival show – but given their history with Slam Dunk, there’s no better place for it. Opening with breakout track Save It For The Bedroom before going straight into the sizzling hook of Reckless, it quickly becomes evident that they’ll be pulling out all the hits for this very special night.

The set is a celebration of their formidable discography – No Future? Yeah Right, one of the strongest tracks from their latest record Truth Decay, sits right alongside mosh anthem Bite My Tongue and 2010 fan favourite The Consequence, which sees Sean Smith of The Blackout join forces with Josh Franceschi on stage. But there’s a heavy focus on music from their MySpace days, with classics like Stay With Me sandwiched between deep cuts like Jealous Minds Think Alike and Always Attract from their debut album. ****

It was always going to be an emotional one, and more than a few tears are seen on the faces of fans during ballad Take On The World, and a palpable knowledge that this could be the last time you see this live is heavy in the air – though this is quickly swept away in favour of one last pogo to the band’s magnum opus, ‘Underdog’. Those who aren’t ready to let YMAS go yet have another chance to dance during their farewell shows in April next year. But for Slam Dunk and the wider festival circuit, it’s goodbye to one of our own. 8/10

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