Slam Dunk Festival // The Forum – Hertfordshire University // Hatfield

Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, The Starting Line, Anti-Flag, Goldfinger, Hellogoodbye, The Skints

29 May 2011

By:  Chris Fishlock:

On Sunday May 29 Slam Dunk brought their festival to Hatfield for the second year in a row, after expanding the festival to two sites last year – which encountered many organisational problems. This year it did feel that Slam Dunk attempted to make amends for last year, with all festival goers generally having a good time – but the power going out on the Jagermeister stage on three different occasions did produce momentary disappointment with long waits between bands.

Opening the Jagermeister stage were Sound-Revolution favourites The Skints who proved as usual how tight their live performances are. The band went through their half hour set playing a mixture of favourites off their first album including ‘Bright Girl’, ‘Roanna’s Song’ and ‘Mindless’ as well as a few songs from their forthcoming second album. The band sounded on great form and had a decent amount of the crowd singing along, with many of the crowd also wearing Skints t-shirts (you truly feel this band is going somewhere). Despite having the dreaded opening festival spot the band pulled a fair few people – but you can’t help but feel if they were on later in the day they would have given us one of the most impressive sets of the day.

Second on the Jagermeister stage, as more people arrived at the festival were Hellogoodbye – who failed to get the crowd energetic bar a few hardcore fans. Hellogoodbye played a decent enough set although ruined by the first power cut of the day – leaving much of the audience confused, with some of the crowd leaving thinking that the set had finished. Once the power had been restored the band returned with jokes about fighting the power and a few more songs to finish their set. They ended with popular single and crowd pleaser ‘Here (In Your Arms)’.

After a rather long wait, the third band of the day to take the stage was Goldfinger, who without a doubt delivered one of the sets of the day. It isn’t too often that Goldfinger visit the UK, but whenever they do they always offer a fantastic show. Opening with the fast paced fan favourite ‘Spokesman’ the band powered through the songs with the crowd going fairly, only to be interrupted after a few songs by yet another power cut. Goldfinger played many favourites such as ‘San Simeon’ and ‘Open Your Eyes’, keeping the fans very pleased and entertained. They ended with what are arguably their two best tracks – early hit ‘Superman’ spurring a massive crowd sing-along and cover of German anti-war song, ’99 Red Balloons’, ending the set with a very pleased band, and very pleased fans.

Next came the highlight set of the day from  Anti-Flag, always a fantastic band live, the band managed to make the most of the day by giving us what turned out to be a very special set. After their opening song, yet again the power went out. Immediately bassist and vocalist Chris #2 grabbed a megaphone as he and Justin Sane climbed into the crowd for a sing along of single ‘This Is The End (For You My Friend)’, creating an intimate feel at the front, at what would be usually a not very intimate atmosphere. This spontaneous moment went down well with both the fans and the band. Once the power came back they ran through much loved songs such as ‘1 Trillion Dollars’ and ‘Die for the Government’, with the passionate fan base going mental in the pit. The song that got the best reaction throughout the set though was a cover of The Clash’s ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’, as the pit increased with the vast majority of the crowd shouting along every word. The band then ended the set with a rendition of ‘Drink Drank Punk’, which saw drummer Pat Thetic playing from inside the crowd.

Having not playing a show in the UK for over 5 years, the next band on the stage were The Starting Line, who managed to pull a fairly large sized crowd, playing a mixture of old songs and brand new ones. The band played a successful set and inevitably picked up many new fans who hadn’t heard the band over their hiatus period. The band had smiling faces throughout the set, you could tell they were enjoying it and were happy that they had a decent sized fan base going mad for them in the crowd. The band finished their set with fan favourite ‘Island’ getting a great reception to end their show.

The first of the night’s co-headline performances came from ska-punk legends Reel Big Fish who are always great fun live. The band got the best reception of the night as the crowd went completely nuts, dancing, moshing and singing all the words – it’s not too often the band play festivals in this country, but they prove to be an almost perfect festival band. The band treated the crowd to many much loved songs including ‘Trendy’, ‘Everything Sucks’ and a brilliant rendition of ‘She Has A Girlfriend Now’ with female vocals from Marcia Richards from The Skints. The band also gave us a fantastic performance of ‘S.R’, playing it in many different styles such as country and metal versions. The band then continued to tease the crowd by claiming they were playing their last song, only to keep playing more, the band then finished what had been a momentous performance with a trio of their most loved songs, ‘Beer’, ‘Sell Out’ and their A-ha cover of ‘Take On Me’, leaving the mental crowd exhausted and very much satisfied.

The final set of the day came from co-headliners Less Than Jake, although coming on stage to a tired crowd after the fantastic Reel Big Fish performance, the band soon got the crowd going by bringing out some fantastic tunes such as ‘All My Best Friends Are Metalheads’ and ‘The Science of Selling Yourself Short’ and influencing crowd members to climb up trees, yes you read that right. After asking the crowd to get naked Less Than Jake, disappointed by the lack of response, told the crowd to climb a tree instead – of which about 7 people crammed their selves up a tree. The band then brought more fun to the show by bringing a selection of cartoon theme songs: ‘Animaniacs’, ‘Spongebob Squarepants’ and ‘Scooby Doo’. The crowd soon lost their tiredness to break into giant circle pits, one being around the sound desk as the band brought us more great tracks such as ‘Last One Out of Liberty City’ and ‘Dopeman’, keeping the crowd dancing and moshing – ending the day in style.

Overall, despite a few technical problems, the day was very enjoyable for the crowd and the bands. Slam Dunk Festival proves to be a great value festival for £35 considering how great the line up is, even if sometimes the festival can be prone to organisational and technical problems. If Slam Dunk manage to have a problem free festival next year, and another very strong line up, it has a good chance of staying at Hatfield for a long time – let’s hope so!