LIVE: Slam Dunk Festival 2022 @ Hatfield Park, Hatfield

By Yasmin Brown

The sun is finally promising to shine through ominous clouds, music lovers have dusted off their Doc Martens, flannel shirts and checkered Vans and festival season is back, baby – for real this time. A week later than usual thanks to the Queen’s jubilee, alternative kids congregate once again at Hatfield Park, travelling from far and wide for another stacked lineup at the one and only Slam Dunk Festival.

 It may have only been nine months since we were last here, but today couldn’t come soon enough. Here’s what we got up to…

Words: Yasmin Brown [YB] and Catie Allwright [CA]; Images: Penny Bennett & Slam Dunk


After a forced name change back at the start of 2021, Caskets have returned with a vengeance, with fans quickly forgetting they ever existed under a different alias. Today, they fill the tent that protects us from the intermittent sun and equally threatening clouds at The Key Club Stage, playing to an overly excitable crowd despite this early set time. Even from the back of the tent, the clean and dirty vocals complement one another stunningly, the heaviness never once overbearing the melody and, despite minor setbacks, this is a band who have mastered their sound and will soon be climbing up the ranks at festivals such as Slam Dunk. Today is made for them, and they are made for this crowd – we can’t think of a better way to have kicked off our day. [YB]


Hot on the heels of her My Chemical Romance support shows, Cassyette opens the Jagermeister tent with remarkably fierce energy. It’s only midday so we’re still waking up and sipping on our first pints, overlooked by ominously grey clouds, but that’s soon forgotten by everyone listening to Cassyette’s phenomenal, husky voice and getting enthusiastically stuck into a pit. It’s a short but punchy set with popular tracks including ‘Dear Goth’, ‘Mayhem’ and ‘Prison Purse’, as well as her new single ‘Sad Girl Summer’ (add this to your Spotify playlists and thank us later). A regular Slam Dunk punter, this is the 29-year-old’s first time on stage at the festival – but with Cassyette’s voice and energy, it definitely won’t the be the last. And we’re willing to bet that next time, it won’t be a warm-up act. [CA]


Bringing the California sunshine to Hatfield for their final show of the tour, The Bronx are next on the Dickies stage and are looking positively pumped to be there – despite losing absolutely everything on their flight over from New Zealand. Thanks to the generosity of stage-mates The Suicide Machines, The Dropkick Murphys and Hot Water Music, the quintet make it work with borrowed instruments, proving that the “community of motherfucking punk rock” is very much alive and well. 

Slam Dunk’s ‘rock and roll policy’ wouldn’t allow a charity crowd surf, with $5 donated by The Bronx to mental health crisis centres for every sweaty body lifted over the barrier, so they opt instead for $10 for anyone who climbs onto another’s shoulders. This gets a disappointingly lukewarm reaction, and allegedly the southern crowd can’t bring the noise as loudly as the north the day before, but there’s still a huge circle pit (monitored closely by security staff in high vis). It’s vocalist Matt Caughthran’s goal for everyone to move their bodies and have a good time and we do just that… whilst playing by the rules, of course. [CA]


Fresh of a last-minute support slot for You Me At Six at this same venue just two days prior, Yours Truly are more than warmed up for today’s set. Mixing up the setlist slightly, those in attendance earlier in the week are treated to something new, and those who are catching the band for the first time are certainly seeing Yours Truly at their best today. Front woman Mikaila Delgado, who wastes no time wishing everyone “Happy Pride!”, continues to bring the energy throughout, bouncing around the stage with ease, her charisma overshadowing the fact that her usually ferocious vocals and the vital backing track are disappointingly drowned out by her bandmates. Regardless, the crowd are clearly delighted to be here with this Australian four-piece today, screaming as each next song is announced, for the most part making it easy to ignore any sound issues. Here’s hoping they return soon so we can witness these up and comers reach their full potential. [YB]


No strangers to festival lineups, it’s been almost a year since Hot Milk opened up the main stage at the Download Festival Pilot in 2021. Since then, they’ve only become more comfortable on such stages, improving as time has passed and building more of a fanbase with every set. Today, they sound stronger than ever, bouncing off the walls for the duration of their thirty minute set. It’s clear today what the fan favourites are – ‘I JUST WANNA KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I’M DEAD’ and ‘Candy Coated Lies’ to name just a couple – but each song is met with excitement from the busy Rock Scene stage. The chemistry between the band members is tangible, in particular vocalists Han Mee and Jim Shaw, each interacting with each other throughout without missing a beat. As the clouds start to dissipate, fans leave the tent looking delighted with the experience and we can’t think of a more apt way to kick start the bright and sunny afternoon. [YB]


Back at the Jagermeister stage, which may as well have been dubbed the Canada stage for 2022, Silverstein are here to party with some early emo anthems like ‘Smile In Your Sleep’ and ‘My Heroine’. Slam Dunk always strikes the perfect balance between bittersweet nostalgia and showcasing emerging talent (or just new material), so Silverstein’s hit singles including ‘Afterglow’ and brand new tracks like ‘Ultraviolet’, from the freshly dropped album ‘Misery Made Me’, land almost as well. After making a name for themselves back in the early noughties, Silverstein are now “on their 22nd lap around the scene” and still feel like they’re only getting started. Seeing their lively performance and one of the biggest crowds of the afternoon, it’s more than believable that they really do have so much more to offer. For fans who enjoyed (or missed) the show, be sure to grab tickets for their Camden and Birmingham dates at the end of the year. [CA]


Cancer Bats have waited a long time to be back on stage in the UK and it feels “real good” – just take one look at the elated expression on drummer Mike Peters’ face. The hardcore fans of hardcore are familiar to lead vocalist Liam Cormier, who is all too used to seeing their contorted faces screaming back at him, but the wider crowd are formally introduced to the motherfucking Cancer Bats. He calls out the “sick lineup” with so much representation from Canada – Silverstein, Cancer Bats, Counterparts and the world-class headliner Alexisonfire (with vocalist George Pettitt joining for his guest verse in ‘Pneumonia Hawk’). 

Cancer Bats have played at Slam Dunk “7, 8 or maybe twelve times” so it’s an old stomping ground for most of the band, except guitarist Katie Lamond who’s playing in the UK for the very first time. She’s more than up-to-speed with the band’s discography, tearing her way through tracks including ‘Sabotage’, ‘Hail Destroyer’ and ‘Lonely Bong’ from their latest release, ‘Psychic Jailbreak’. For such angry music, it’s an upbeat set with everyone both on- and off-stage absolutely pumped to be there. [CA]


How to accurately convey the joy that With Confidence bring to Slam Dunk? There’s barely a bucket hat in sight at Slam Dunk today and yet front man Jayden Seeley breaks the mould, wearing his with pride, alongside a grin that never once subsides over the 35-minute set – a grin reflected on the faces looking up at the stage. This is Australian pop-punk at its finest and if you close your eyes you could almost be on Warped Tour with the searing heat now beating down and catchy riffs filling your ears. There’s an appropriate level of confidence exuding from the band who seem to know that fans will sing along word for word from the moment they start playing, a well-oiled machine made up of four slick musicians making it very easy to love them. It’s been three years since the band were last here but they’re met like old friends, talking to the crowd as though they are, too – from call and responses to that endearing Australian banter, the time between songs is filled well, making every moment enjoyable and leaving you wishing it might never end. [YB]


Hot Mullligan haven’t played a single note yet and they’re already demanding that a pit opens up in the Key Club stage’s crowd. Today’s rammed and already sweaty crowd obliges without question before ‘Something About a Dead Dog’ kicks in and they happily follow yet another request: “If you know the words, sing it”. Beers they’ve queued an hour to purchase for an extortionate price are flung into the air, soaking those below it, and it’s very quickly clear what a chaotic half hour this is turning out to be. You’d never guess from the band’s wild popularity that this is their first time in the UK; as each song passes, increasingly more crowdsurfers sprint out from in front of the barrier, adrenaline coursing through their veins, ready to do it all over again. It’s hard to pinpoint a fan favourite here today, as each song is met with the same level of enthusiasm as the last, and with the four-piece being so perfectly in sync, playing each to perfection, it’s not hard to see why. This may be their first time on our shore but if today proves anything, it won’t be their last. [YB]


Under the canopy of the Rock Sound tent, anticipation is palpable as we wait for The Wonder Years to begin their double set. It’s off to a go with a chant for guitarist Nick Steinborn, who was in COVID quarantine until this very morning. And what a day to have the freedom to play again; the album ‘Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing’ came out in 2011 and its 10-year anniversary celebration is now long overdue.

With so many changes and hiccups in the band’s formative years, vocalist Soupy (Dan Campbell) admits he wasn’t even sure they’d be on stage a year later. But here they are, coming out swinging to the opening track ‘Came Out Swinging’, with hundreds of people singing along. And not just singing, the kind of screaming that rips from the pit of your stomach through your hoarse throat, with well-rehearsed words that clearly mean so much to every person there.

The Wonder Years are far too humble, claiming to be a band who plays basements rather than festival tents, and are always surprised to see people waiting for them as they walk out on stage. But they didn’t simply play this year’s Slam Dunk, they retained an engaged crowd through two albums played in their entirety – with ‘The Upsides’ (2010) following ‘Suburbia’. So they might be the underdogs, but at Slam Dunk it’s where they belong. As Campbell said himself, it’s here they’re home. [CA]


Somewhat new kids on the block, Magnolia Park have recently made a name for themselves, deservedly picking up a host of new fans, finding themselves on the cover of Kerrang! back in May and collaborating with Mayday Parade’s Derek Sanders. It makes sense then that the band’s set today should go down like a house on fire, with those fans standing front and centre screaming along to each and every word as they make their way through the setlist. A surprise cover of Fall Out Boy’s ‘Sugar We’re Going Down’, while not necessary, picks up those hanging around the edges, bringing them further in and getting them just that little bit more on board. This band pushes boundaries, sounding unlike anything we’ve heard today, and their performance is sure to see them picking up new loyal followers aplenty. Shortly from the end of the set, the band encourage the whole Key Club tent to get down on the floor before jumping up at ‘that moment’ in the song. This energy carries us through to the end of the set and beyond, leaving us more than satisfied and endlessly intrigued to see what’s coming next. [YB]


In your chest, you can feel the power pulsating from the speakers before Beartooth have played a single note. They’re here to do one thing and one thing only, says frontman Caleb Shomo, and that’s “to rip our fucking faces off with rock and roll”. It’s loud and intense and, of course, there’s a healthy amount of naked flame. 

The weight of the music and guttural vocals are beautifully juxtaposed against the grinning face of every single crowdsurfer who’s running past the barrier and diving straight back in to experience it all over again (and again).‘Disease’, which Shomo hates singing alone, and ‘In Between’ get the biggest and most powerful reaction – the crowd is vast and alive. Ending with ‘The Last Riff’ is an unusual choice, with little opportunity for spectators to get involved as the five-piece jam on stage, but maybe this is a moment just for the band.

You can’t underestimate the catharsis of seeing live music, which Shomo talks about, having had conversations with fellow bands about how we’ve all been sorely missing these opportunities to let loose, let go of our bullshit and rid ourselves of everything we’ve been holding in. With it being the first proper festival season since pandemic restrictions were lifted, it has even more gravity this time around. The truth, Shomo says, is that music isn’t just ‘something’. It’s everything: the blood coursing through his veins, his first language and it truly means the world when people come and watch Beartooth play. [CA]


Stepping into The Wonder Years’ very big shoes are Californian four-piece, The Story So Far. Rivalling their predecessors for the largest crowd at The Rock Scene stage today, it’s no surprise that this band has been on the scene for 15 years as they receive a roaring welcome when taking to the stage. Today’s set is made up of hit after hit, each seeing the crowd all but drown out front man Parker Cannon (sometimes taking over entirely as in ‘Roam’) as they easily recall the lyrics from their old favourite songs. It stands, then, that the energy never once wanes, arms stretching in the air desperately, reaching for an unknown prize, and crowd surfers’ limbs flailing – an energy that’s matched by those on stage. After 15 years or so of practice, their performance is polished and goes off without a hitch and it’s clear to see how this band have persevered in a cut throat industry for such a long time. Here’s to the next 15. [YB]


Today’s strongest performance without a doubt comes from the mighty Alexisonfire. After a hiatus that lasted far too long for anyone’s liking, AOF returned back in 2015 and yet despite a handful of singles, have yet to bless our ears with a new studio album since 2009. This come and go nature generally makes their shows more exciting but today, with their brand new album just weeks away, their Jagermeister stage headline set ignites something brand new in us – a fire that blazes more wildly than ever. 

The three vocalists, George Pettit, Wade MacNeil and Dallas Green complement each other as perfectly as ever, their differing tones each adding more texture to the performance and working together with the excellent musicianship to create something truly magical. Whether you’re singing along to your favourites (hello, ‘Boiled Frogs’) or moving in time to the instrumental opening of ‘.44 Calibre Love Letter’, there’s not a moment during this set where you won’t find yourself truly entranced by the scenes on stage and the sounds hitting our ears. 

As Pride Month is upon us, it’s only right that we feel safe here today, and Alexisonfire’s shows are pinned as such simply by the inclusion of ‘Accept Crime’ on the setlist – an inclusion that has never been limited to the month of June – and with today’s interchangeable weather, it wouldn’t have been too surprising if in this very moment a rainbow had appeared over the stage. The inclusion doesn’t stop there, either, as a call and response ensues during 2006’s ‘We Are the Sound’ before ‘Pulmonary Archery’ takes a beautifully chaotic turn and ‘Young Cardinals’ presents itself as the most impressive performance of the set. 

This band is on top form, better than they’ve ever been even after 21 years – our only complaint is that this couldn’t go on forever and ever. [YB]


Nova Twins have seemingly burst onto the alt music scene since their first release in 2016, and have already secured a well-deserved headline slot today at Slam Dunk. It’s an intimate crowd, in unfortunate competition with the nostalgia trip Sum 41 offer and powerhouses Deaf Havana, but the pair are more than up for partying with the loyal fans who made it to the Key Club stage. As we’ve come to expect from Nova Twins, their set is politically driven and celebrates bodily autonomy, overthrowing oppressive systems and being fearlessly feminine. The crowd, though small, are mighty in their own way, even singing and dancing along emphatically to music that’s never officially been released. It’s clear that the integrity of this Kerrang! cover band has allowed them to grow monumentally since their inception, however their catchy sound and ferocious energy undoubtedly got them on the map in the first place, allowing them to spread their message far and wide. With a new album out now, this band is sure to continue to grow and next time there will be far more there to witness the beautiful carnage.  [CA/YB]


Like many bands, lockdown wasn’t easy on Deaf Havana, who almost called it quits last year, but today sees them back with a brand new lineup joining brothers James and Matt Veck-Gilodi as they introduce us to a shiny new era. While the sound isn’t quite up to scratch (although James V-G’s vocals are stronger than ever) and, as with Nova Twins, they’re battling the Sum 41 headline set over at the Dickies stage, they’re met with a delighted reception from those fans that are in attendance tonight. That’s not to say the crowd is small, necessarily, but certainly smaller than what you’d expect from a band of this calibre and general popularity, and you can’t help but feel they deserve so much more. With a setlist that spans their discography, there’s something for fans old and new, with 2018’s ‘Rituals’ songs ‘Worship’ and ‘Sinner’ in particular receiving some of the fiercest responses across the set. The newer material shines brightly through the falling sun, with many fans already knowing all the words to the fresh songs that have made it onto the setlist, some of which have barely been a month or so at the point of playing. With a headline tour coming our way in November, this is a perfect warm up and introduction to this new era of Deaf Havana – we’re very excited to be aboard this ship with them. What a way to end a truly glorious day. [YB]