Review: Slam Dunk Festival South 2018 in Hatfield Park
PUBLISHED: 13:48 03 June 2018 | UPDATED: 14:11 03 June 2018
Slam Dunk Festival South rocked Hatfield at its new venue last Sunday.
After being held at the University of Hertfordshire for eight years, the touring pop-punk, ska punk, emo, metal and alternative rock festival moved across town to a much larger site in Hatfield Park.
More than 15,000 music lovers attended the festival in the grounds of Hatfield House for the first time.
Held in the parkland near where Elizabeth I heard she had become Queen of England, Slam Dunk featured pop-punk royalty in Good Charlotte and emo favourites Jimmy Eat World headlining the two main stages.
Good Charlotte exploded onto the Jagermeister Main Stage for their first UK festival headline slot with The Anthem, accompanied by streamers being fired into the crowd.
There were also pyrotechnics in the sky behind the Maryland rockers as an awesome lightning storm raged in the distance, which only added to the occasion.
Brothers Joel and Benji Madden belted out fan favourites Girls & Boys, Keep Your Hands Off My Girl, The Young & the Hopeless and an emotional Hold On, as well as Predictable and I Just Wanna Live from third studio album, The Chronicles of Life and Death.
With new album Generation Rx due for release in September, the band also aired new single Actual Pain and, predictably, finished a hit-laden set with signature tune Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
The band later posted on Instagram: “Thank you @SlamDunkmusic South, the energy from you was AMAZING”
Meanwhile, Jimmy Eat World, also making their Slam Dunk debut, headlined the Monster Energy Main Stage at the other end of the parkland site.
While the two main stage headliners were from America, there was plenty of homegrown Hertfordshire talent on show at Slam Dunk South this year.
Having appeared first on the Fresh Blood stage in Hatfield as competition winners back in 2015, St Albans band Trash Boat continued their love affair with the festival.
They took to the Signature Brew Stage in Hatfield Park and gave a typically energetic performance.
Fresh from playing a Hertfordshire homecoming show at Watford Colosseum a few weeks earlier, Lower Than Atlantis rocked the Monster Energy Main Stage during the early evening.
Also hailing from Herts, Frank Carter made his debut Slam Dunk appearance with The Rattlesnakes on the Jagermeister Stage.
The heavily tattooed former Gallows and Pure Love frontman, wearing a leopard print coat and brightly coloured orange shorts, paid tribute to his home county’s flourishing rock scene at the beginning of his band’s set.
He also launched himself into the audience for a spot of crowd-surfing and then a handstand whilst being held up by festival-goers.
And that was just during his opening song!
He later orchestrated huge circle pits never seen before in the grounds of Elizabeth I’s childhood home.
Elsewhere, former festival headliners Taking Back Sunday returned to Hatfield to play the second main stage, and there were also sets from Slam Dunk’s favourite ‘house band’ Zebrahead, back for the fifth year in a row, in the Fireball Stage Big Top.
Appearances from State Champs and Creeper on the Jagermeister also went down a storm.
Massachusetts rock band PVRIS made their UK festival debut at Slam Dunk in 2015.
Three years on, Lynn Gunn, Alex Babinski and Brian MacDonald were second from top on the Jagermeister bill – and deservedly so following last year’s release of second album All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell.
With multi-talented lead vocalist Lynn also playing guitar, keyboards and drums at time, they will no doubt headline Slam Dunk in the not too distant future.
As with any new venue, there were a number of teething problems.
Festival-goers’ complaints on social media afterwards ranged from the random bag checks – some people were let in with large backpacks while others with smaller bags weren’t allowed to take theirs in – to there not being enough toilets, particularly female loos.
There were long queues for the lockers, revellers complained of poor phone reception in the park, and getting out of the car park at the end of the night was chaotic.
The on-site issues were exacerbated for organisers by continued disruption to trains on the Great Northern line through Hatfield, with an emergency timetable implemented late in the evening to get festival-goers back into London.
Nevertheless, the new venue was a hit for many of the fans who attended the festival, with the new site less cramped than The Forum Hertfordshire and the uni’s College Lane campus.
Despite the increased capacity, the layout meant there was plenty of space at each of the stages, and intimate Key Club Acoustic Stage, hidden in a glade, was a lovely chill-out haven in the middle of the surrounding Slam Dunk madness.
Rou Reynolds, who headlined Slam Dunk at the University of Hertfordshire last year with St Albans band Enter Shikari, was one of those giving the new location the thumps up after attending the 2018 festival.
He tweeted the day after Slam Dunk South: “The new site for Hatfield Slam Dunk yesterday was lush.”