LIVE: Slam Dunk 2015

By Tamsyn Wilce

It’s hard to believe that Slam Dunk Festival is ten years old now, but what an incredible ten years it’s been. To celebrate their longevity, Slam Dunk returned this year with one of their biggest line-ups yet. Punktastic headed to the southern date at Hatfield University to raise a glass or two to the Festival and catch some of the most highly anticipated acts of 2015 thus far.

PVRIS are the band that are on everybody’s lips right now, so it’s no surprise that the main stage was so packed out for their set. Working through material from their debut album ‘White Noise’, frontwoman Lynn Gunn has a fiery presence about her as she belts out powerful words that have a unique, gritty edge to them. Every single track receives an almighty crowd reaction, which proves just how good their album is, but no track quite beats the finale of ‘My House’. It was all going fantastically well until Josh Franceschi (You Me At Six) lept on stage for the final chorus, and after the initial woop of the crowd, it finished on an awkward note when everyone (but the band) realised Josh’s mic wasn’t turned on. Oops. Better luck next time. [TW]


Opening the Macbeth stage, with a crowd the same size as for the headliners the same evening, British pop-punkers As It Is brought the sunshine to Hertfordshire. Patty Walters had to stop the crowd just to say that he was having fun, and to wish guitarist Andy Westhead a happy birthday. In fact at one point all the boys found a microphone to get quite emotional about having been to Slam Dunk as punters and were very grateful for having the chance to play. Playing the majority of songs from their most recent debut album, as well as some of their older songs like ‘Can’t Save Myself’, and played no covers, truly showed that pop-punk is not dead. [JK]

A very sad Aaron West took to the Fresh Blood stage, somewhat remorseful and totally full of emotion. Playing the most beautiful acoustic set, this personal study from The Wonder Years frontman Dan “Soupy” Campbell was very heartfelt. It was bizarre listening to him talk about divorce and his mother, when it doesn’t reflect his life but he could do it so well. So well in fact, that by the end of his set, the noisy girls at the front were silent and the room was so busy people were pouring out of the doors, trying to fight to get in to see him. [JK]

Trash Talk

The very foundations of Hatfield University were threatened by the fact that Trash Talk were in the building – it’s just as well that they withstood the pounding that the Californian hardcore band dealt to the somewhat echoey, and very brightly lit auditorium. The three of them were wearing Leicester City football shirts and there might have been an explanation. Yet, front-man Lee Spielman managed to make a Leicester City football shirt slightly imposing – and cool as heck – for once, which is what mattered. Songs like ‘Destroy’ and ‘Lepers to Feed the Lepers’ whipped the crowd into a frenzy, with the animated front-man diving off Hatfield’s furniture. Watching Trash Talk was an amazing, chaotic blur and without the chance to put it into words, it would have remained that way. [SK]

Slam Dunk marked the beginning of the end in the UK for A Loss For Words as they embark on their final UK/Euro tour. The emotion is there from the offset as the band launch into ‘Honeymoon Eyes’ frontman Matty Arsenault leaps around the stage like a man possessed, a man who clearly loves his band and their songs. The set is short and sweet even if it does come with a distinct lack of ‘Mt. St Joseph’ but with that being said as the band depart to the tones of ‘Stamp of Approval’ they can walk away with their heads held high at the fact that they are going to be sorely missed. [CM]


“Pardon me if we’re not telling you how much we love you, but we’re trying to play as many songs as possible” frontman Will Pugh says to the ever-excited Hatfield crowd. Although the crowd is excited to hear the insane amount of songs Cartel are trying to fit into their short set, it is with a bittersweet occasion. The band have admitted that this could be their last time playing in the UK, and after a run of shows celebrating the 10th anniversary of Chroma, Slam Dunk certainly was the great way to end it. Playing all the songs from their original EP, most of which featured on Chroma, and a few of the newer ones, it was epic. So epic that when the sound was not at its best, the fans carried the song and just sung louder. You could most certainly say they have left on a high. [JK]

Stick To Your Guns

The indifference towards Stick To Your Guns that stuck with me throughout their set was probably fair, but it wasn’t shared by the crowd who were revelling in the numerous beatdowns doled out by the Californian, vegetarian (and don’t you forget it) hardcore band. The vegetarianism is fine and it’s great that bands stand up for something but there’s only so many salient points that you can make when you’re catching your breath, dripping with sweat and talking through a bunch of feedback on stage in the most echoey room in Hatfield University. Anyway, apart from the preachiness, Stick To Your Guns are fun if you like heavy hardcore which makes the whole room shake in an a really satisfying way, and you want to show off every spin kick and windmill you’ve painstakingly practiced. [SK]

A quick dash upstairs to the attic and it’s clear we’ve entered a party that’s in full flow. This is by far Rob Lynch’s biggest and rowdiest crowd at Slam Dunk to date and it’s thoroughly well deserved. Rob has brought along his band on this occasion and it makes everything sound so huge, it’s of course left to ‘My Friends & I’ to finish off the set in style and it does just that. This set marks Rob hitting the next step in his career and we wouldn’t be surprised to see him and his band a little bit further up the bill next year. [CM]


The trouble with outside stages is that… well, they’re outside and as a result some of the sound, especially in windy weather often goes missing. This is the case with Neck Deep unfortunately. Despite pulling a huge crowd, things never really get going in the way they should do for the band. They try their best to power through, but a muddy, disjointed effort of the brilliant new single ‘Can’t Kick Up The Roots’ gets lost amongst the sound issues, and the urgency of ‘Zoltar Speaks’ is lost amongst a sea of heavy bass. It’s ultimately a disappointing set for the band but the majority of that is down to the fact that on the day the sound just wasn’t right. [CM]

There was a mysterious exodus before Bane appeared on stage, which could either be blamed on Lower Than Atlantis, Zebrahead or Crossfaith. Don’t worry, you don’t need to admit who you saw instead of Bane. Just know that you ought to catch Bane before they close the shutters on their deservedly long career. Aaron Bedard was smiling throughout, in his Wayne’s World-esque oversize sweater and cargo shorts. The enthusiasm was contagious, spreading to the sparse crowd who were equally into it. ‘Can We Start Again?’ deserved a much louder singalong than it got, but perhaps it was better left to the people who got how formative and important Bane are to form the small crowd – we’d be lucky to catch Bane again in the UK. [SK]

Lower Than Atlantis

Having already dominated the Radio 1’s Big Weekend crowd earlier in the day, Lower Than Atlantis were buzzing by the time they hit the Slam Dunk Main Stage. Starting strong, powering through ‘Criminal’ and ‘Love Someone Else’ the band look in their element. If anyone saw LTA on their recent headline run, you’ll know that during ‘Another Sad Song’ Mike Duce heads into the crowd for an intimate performance, which was attempted again with the Slam Dunk crowd. However, due to technical difficulties the song was cut short and Duce gave up. Luckily the finale of ‘Here We Go’ picks things back up and rounds it all off nicely, even if Duce could do with having his mouth washed out with the amount of swearing/crude language that escapes his mouth. [TW]

Back down to the Macbeth stage and Such Gold are powering through a set in front of what can only be described as a sparse crowd. Whether they’ve fallen victim to scheduling and clashes or not is up for debate but what isn’t up discussion is the fact that this band deserve a lot more. Technically, Ben Kotin and co. are absolutely on point with the likes of ‘Faced’ sounding great in all its mathy goodness. Here’s hoping that next time round Such Gold have a lot more energy from the crowd to feed off. [CM]

Comeback Kid

‘Noise’ can be welcome sometimes, and fans of Comeback Kid know that. They probably know that noise isn’t an unwanted pollution, as that crowd for Comeback Kid made one of the loudest rackets of the day. It was simply reciprocation for the Canadian hardcore punks, as everything sounded explosive, with gutsy palm muting and a sharp, punctuating bass which shone on ‘Talk is Cheap’ among other songs. Andrew Neufeld had a great presence on stage, with his voice splitting the air, and stirring up anticipation as the crowd caught much needed breaths. ‘Wake The Dead’ was every bit as good as it could have been, and so was the rest of the set. Memorable doesn’t do Comeback Kid’s appearance at Slam Dunk Festival due justice. [SK]

It feels like an absolute age since Transit were last on UK shores and judging by the crowd they manage to whip up, we’re not the only ones who feel that way. The 10 song set flicks nicely through the bands entire back catalogue although the biggest reactions are reserved for the songs taken from the band’s ‘Listen & Forgive’ album. That being said every song gets sung as loudly as possible and as the sun begins to fade to the sight of Joe Boynton jumping into the crowd to ‘Skipping Stone’ the overwhelming feeling is that Transit have provided one of those Slam Dunk moments. [CM]

Don Broco

Having teased fans recently with a small handful of tracks from their forthcoming album ‘Automatic’, it was evident that Don Broco were going to bring the party to the Slam Dunk main stage. Arriving on stage, suited and booted in the tightest trousers physically possible, the boys smash into ‘Money Power Fame’ and instantly whip the crowd into a bouncing, chanting frenzy. Of course it wouldn’t be a Don Broco set without the anthemic ‘Priorities’ (walk ‘n’ all) and hilarious ‘Thug Workout’, which sees frontman Rob Damiani head into the crowd armed with a Go-Pro camera. Judging by the new material played, that new album is going to be a blinder. [TW]

Having announced their impending break from being a band, Detroit’s own Fireworks have attracted a bumper crowd to wave them off. The set is emotional, urgent and nostalgic. It’s every thing you want from a band who you’re about to say goodbye to. Tracks from last years ‘Oh, Common Life’ sound absolutely huge and songs such as ‘The Wild Bunch’ and ‘When We Stand on Each Other We Block Out The Sun’ offer out the cathartic singalongs that this band do so well at creating. With the set coming to a close the band remark on how lucky they feel to be closing out this chapter of the band with their friends and stage headliners The Wonder Years before launching into ‘Detroit’ leaving the crowd hoping that this isn’t the last we ever see of Fireworks. [CM]


The nostalgia that people hold for H2O cannot really be done much service in this small paragraph, but it is more than justified. The NYC punk band needed no introduction and they dived straight into things, with frontman Toby Morse being endearing and passionate in equal amounts. All the songs were requests, and it tells a lot about how well a band gets along and how well they know their back catalogue, that all the songs were nailed. Witnessing a crowd shout along to ‘Memory Lane’ was a highlight of Slam Dunk 2015, and H2O proved that the nostalgia held by so many audience members wasn’t just based on false memories. [SK]

Taking Back Sunday

Some could say it’s a little awkward that Taking Back Sunday have returned to Slam Dunk, but playing lower down the bill than last time, judging by their confidence on stage though, this doesn’t appear to have phased them. Picking the best parts from their back catalogue, the hour-long set had the perfect mix of nostalgia and fresh material. There’s no denying that the crowd reactions for ‘Cute Without the E’ and ‘What’s It Feel Like To Be A Ghost’ were 10 times that of more recent singles, but Taking Back Sunday perform with elegance and energy throughout and will sure have won over those that had lost a little faith in the band. [TW]


Wade fronted Watford band Gallows brought a new something to Slam Dunk this year. Something unique in their sound, and something quite, well, original. It could be argued that they were the only original sounding band of the weekend, sounding fresh and polished (in a punk way) and with an air of arrogance that they knew that they were amazing. Gallows were a real highlight. [JK]


Finch came back with a bang to Slam Dunk, playing what you would expect, but fortunately for the older fans they played multiple songs off the Letters to You album. The sound was distinctly average, the crowd, although full were distinctly flat, but they pushed through. The highlight? Although he had no microphone volume for most of it, Josh Fanceschi’s cameo during ‘What It Is To Burn’ as their finale was awesome! He seemed to have as much fun doing it as we had watching it and singing along. [JK]


If anyone had doubted why Architects have become known as one of the best live bands this country has to offer, all they had to do was watch their set at Slam Dunk and they’d see the proof. From start to finish the pummelled the ear drums of the wide spread audience, Sam Carters vocals sounding more gut wrenching than ever, an impressive light show and deep, vibrating bass lines create an atmosphere like no other. Joined on stage by Xcerts frontman Murray Macleod for ‘Youth Is Wasted on the Young’, and fan who had travelled all the way from Japan to celebrate her birthday with the band, this was not any old Architects show. The entire performance was mind blowing and it’s fair to say that Architects are the strongest they have ever been. [TW]

The Wonder Years

Headlining the ‘Macbeth’ stage were The Wonder Years, and they seemed so grateful to be taking such a deserved spot on Slam Dunk’s billing. The sun was well below the horizon, with the university’s street in front of the stage – complete with bus stops and benches – absolutely bursting with people. At the time it felt like the perfect setting, and in hindsight it was probably because we didn’t feel all that far from suburbia. ‘Dismantling Summer’ was wrought with emotion and it sounded as heavy as the subject matter, as Dan Campbell’s voice was in great health that Sunday. The setlist featured a couple of cameos from ‘The Upsides’, including ‘It’s Never Sunny in South Philadelphia’ – played a few days after Morrissey’s birthday and also dedicated to him. The band ended with ‘Came Out Swinging’, leaving a feeling of fulfilment at a setlist which covered a lot of ground, as well as being delivered with swathes of energy and honesty – The Wonder Years delivered once again, and then some. [SK]

You Me At Six

After putting rumours to rest that they’d be playing their debut album ‘Take Off Your Colours’ in full, You Me At Six’s headline slot was a chance to re-connect with the UK fans who had been there since the start of Slam Dunk Festival te years ago. As the echoes of ‘Save It For the Bedroom’ begun, it was obvious the performance was going to be a treat for all. However, only aa few songs in a crowd member near the front was seriously injured and the set had to be haulted to ensure safety. The band left the stage and for twenty minutes dealt with the issue behind the scenes, before returning and refusing to cut their set short. Smashing through hit after nostalgic hit, we were all treated to tracks such as ‘Kiss and Tell’, ‘The Consequence’ and hearbreak ballad ‘Always Attract’ before it all came to an end on the ever popular ‘Underdog’. Though You Me At Six have now grown to bigger and better things and spend much of their time in the US and elsewhere, their heart will always lie with their UK fans and it was nice to see the band back at the Festival that helped them become who they are today. [TW]