LIVE: Slam Dunk Festival @ Hatfield Park, UK

By Punktastic

It’s that time of year again. Festival Season is upon us, and what better way to start the period than with a sunny day in Hatfield. This years Slam Dunk lineup is by no means shabby, featuring some of our faves to serenade us as we get sloppily sentimental with our pals. So pull up a pew as we regale our tales of Slammy D 2024.

Words: Kate Allvey, Rob Dand Photos: Penny Bennett, Abbi Draper-Scott

As Everything Unfolds

Kicking things off on the GoPro stage, the festival’s loose home for its delegation of heavier bands, As Everything Unfolds ushers in the first mosh pit of the day before the end of set opener ‘Slow Down’. The band proceeds to rattle through highlights from their two full-lengths, peaking at just the right time with the now-familiar closing duo of ‘Felt Like Home’ and ‘On the Inside’. The one slight dull edge on an otherwise razor sharp performance comes when niggling technical issues resulting in the sole guitar intermittently cutting out, illuminating just how much heavy lifting the backing track is doing. Nevertheless, the energy is there in abundance and vocalist Charlie Rolfe in particular turns in a strong showing. Slam Dunk 2024 is officially off and running. [RD]

The Dangerous Summer

The Slam Dunk stage openers dish out heartbreaking optimism with the heart of Ataris, offering a furtive start to our day with a bass heavy punch of Americana and emo. The spirit of Brian Fallon watches over their dashes of guitar and ‘The Permanent Rain’ smoulders like dying, thoughtful embers, at odds with the congenial atmosphere surrounding their set. If they were playing at 2am, or sharing a slot with The Wonder Years, The Dangerous Summer would be sublime; as a first act, they’re still really damn impressive. [KA]

Honey Revenge

The first IYKYK band, judging by the crowd running in as soon as they spot the hot pink co-ords onstage, Honey Revenge announce their presence with a gawky wave. ‘Seeing Negative’ makes for a subversive bubblegum eighties start with sonic bass, and vocalist Devin Papadol is overjoyed to be here. “Welcome to our first ever festival set, baby,” she squeals like a Barbie customised with koolaid and safety pins. Brand new song ‘Recipe For Disaster’ swerves past self-loathing and into hit status, and ‘Are You Impressed?’ swings wildly between adorable chiming, frustration and rocket launch bass. ‘Airhead’ ends their set on a high, eliciting eager and unironic horn signs as they stride offstage. [KA]

As December Falls

As December Falls are in a celebratory mood, marking their first main stage billing at Slam Dunk with an effervescent set spanning much of their discography to date, including several cuts from last year’s top 20 album ‘Join the Club’. Opening with old favourite ‘Ride’ and closing with the exuberant ‘Carousel’, the band attack every opportunity with their infectious enthusiasm, and today’s sun-soaked fiesta will likely win over some new converts. [RD]

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

Third on the lineup but first in our scarred emo hearts, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus open with ‘Brace Yourself’ and its gorgeous payoff after the intro. They endlessly twist between loud and soft to intensify the impact of each lyric, and ‘False Pretence’ draws a static but observant crowd to appreciate Ronnie Winters’ vocal gymnastics amid the song’s live hardcore ferocity. ‘Damn Regret’ seems to move in slow motion as we’re finally ready to jump, and dropping in a cover of Blink 182’s ‘All The Small Things’ is an easy win to create a positive energy across the field, drawing in those otherwise distracted to appreciate the joy radiating from their set. [KA]

Head Automatica

The surprise return of Daryl Palumbo’s Head Automatica to the UK festival circuit was one of the more eyebrow-raising points of note on the Slam Dunk roster. We’re ostensibly gathered to mark 20 years since the release of debut album ‘Decadance’, a flamboyant maelstrom of post-hardcore, soul and danceable indie rock. Unfortunately, some early technical issues derail disappointingly loose renditions of ‘At the Speed of a Yellow Bullet’ and ‘Brooklyn is Burning’, and while the band persist to find something resembling their stride as the set progresses, Palumbo’s delivery seems loose; almost pained at times. Despite this, Slam Dunk most definitely came to dance, and while the Hatfield crowd becomes the first to hear new song ‘Bear the Cross’ in a live setting, it’s the older material – and most notably set closer ‘Beating Hearts Baby’ – that predictably gets the most raucous reception. It’s not quite the vibrant canvas it was supposed to be, but the smiling faces and questionable dance moves suggest that plenty of people used their imagination to paint by numbers and fill in the blanks. [RD]

One Step Closer

One Step Closer draw a modest but committed crowd over on the Key Club stage. It’s possible that they fly just below the radar of a typical Slam Dunk attendee, which is a shame, because their brand of melodic hardcore is consistently enjoyable and very accessible. Their sound is evocative of early 2010’s Deathwish/Bridge Nine favourites, with newer songs like ‘Giant’s Despair’ adding a touch of the alt-rock flavour brought by bands like Basement and Balance And Composure. Their set focuses on material from recent record ‘All You Embrace’, and their impassioned performance is another fine showing for a band that are slowly winning over UK crowds. [RD]


Opening with a predatory electro pulse as we stampede towards the front, RORY has tapped into a shared waterfall of emotion with her music, and the world outside the tented Kerrang stage seems to shrink away during ‘Anti-Repressant’. More than a few in the crowd tear up for ‘Alternative’, and security drop their professionalism and start to film the vocalist as she lays her pain out for us to find strength in. That’s not to say that this is a po-faced set by any means; she serenades a guest dressed as baby in the character of her ex-boyfriend during ‘Baby Vendetta’, and new song ‘Blossom’ lets electro synths water the seeds of rage and triumph under the shade of Evanescence at their most pop. This is RORY’s first festival set, and it definitely will not be her last. [KA]

The Skints

The Skints have “done a lot of Slam Dunks,” as guitarist Josh Rudge explains, and only seem to be cementing their reputation as mainstays in the punk section of the lineup. ‘Mindless’ is a soft opener, but it’s ‘Rise Up’ that attracts curious onlookers with its rapid fire echoes and seismic bass drops. ‘Ratatat’ is the song that makes this sunny corner feel like how you’d expect a festival to feel. “If you know what a ‘capdown’ is, and what it means to your heart,” calls Rudge in reference to the defunct iconic British ska punk outfit before launching into a blistering cover of ‘Ska Wars’, leaving us with a sense that the Skints are the strongest torch bearers of the UK ska punk revolution. [KA]

The Blackout

The boys from South Wales draw a huge crowd, probably the largest outside of the headliners. ‘Save Our Selves’ (The Warning)’ is thrown into the deep waters of heavy rock and swims, not sinks, directed by Sean Smith and his magnificent mullet with help from guest Charlie Rolfe of As Everything Unfolds. ‘Top Of The World’ comes across far cuter live, like a little burst of Blink-ish optimism in the sunlight, and the racing clap-along for ‘Said And Done’ starts a huge pit. It’s the fifteenth anniversary of the Blackout’s ‘Best In Town’ album, and we’re gently chided for singing happy birthday to the band instead of the record. ‘We’re Going To Hell…So Bring The Sunblock’ (“Our attempt to be metal,” according to Smith) fills the field by the Go Pro stage with candy floss fronds of friendship and there’s a tangible, warm bond between us, the band and all the others on the lineup with whom they seem genuinely thankful to be friends. [KA]

Mallory Knox

It’s been five years away from Slam Dunk for Mallory Knox, and seven for returning vocalist Mikey Chapman, who left a little before the band originally called it time. There’s a slightly awkward dynamic onstage as Chapman references his extended break (“Whose fucking fault was that?” asks bassist Sam Douglas  – the man who stepped into Chapman’s shoes for their final self-titled effort – with most of his tongue in cheek, if not all). But from the moment ‘Beggars’ twinkles into life until the final defiant chorus of ‘Lighthouse’, their hard-edged pop-rock soars over the Hatfield crowd and marks a triumphant return. [RD]

Against the Current

Somehow, Against the Current have never performed at Slam Dunk, despite slotting perfectly into the lineup. Newly independent, and with a slew of recent singles just aching to be launched out into a festival crowd, they do not waste the opportunity that their debut appearance brings. We’re treated to an enthusiastic rendition of ‘Running with the Wild Things’, and older cut ‘Gravity’, but for the most part the band are focusing on their newest material, with vocalist Chrissy Costanza covering every inch of the stage in her efforts to connect with the large crowd that has gathered. Their first Slam Dunk, but undoubtedly not their last. [RD]

The Ghost Inside

Legend has it that it never rains on Slam Dunk South, but if any band could cause the clouds to open, it’s the heaviest band on the earliest part of the bill: The Ghost Inside. Live, ‘Mercy’ is dark, sludgy and somewhat polarising (with many retreating to the sunnier climes of The Selector’s set), but with a hidden complexity which tunnels through the compacted grass and up into our spines. ‘Pressure Point’ is fuelled by a violent purity and ‘Wash Away’ evokes less a domestic task and more a weather warning as unexpected keyboard lines contour up nu-metal memories. Disruptive drumbeats and ironic raving from the crowd make this a set of epic proportions. [KA]

La Dispute

La Dispute came crashing out of the blocks over a decade ago with a gloriously brash debut, before crafting a more reflective sound on their genre-defining follow-up. Today’s set largely sidesteps these two towering behemoths of the scene, however, and leans most heavily on material from third album ‘Rooms of the House’, now celebrating its 10th anniversary. In truth, some of the more introspective numbers are hampered by the positioning of the Key Club stage, and anyone further than 30 feet from the monitor is treated to a jarring mash-up of State Champs and the Bouncing Souls drifting in from either side. Regardless, set closer ‘King Park’ snakes in like muscle memory for virtually everyone in attendance, twisting through its breathless build toward its heartbreaking conclusion. The sound of a few hundred people screaming “Can I still get into heaven if I kill myself?” may not seem like an obvious mid-afternoon festival highlight, but ‘King Park’ is both some of their strongest material and a high-watermark for the entire genre, and worth sticking around for. [RD]

Asking Alexandria

Eschewing a buildup or lead-in, Asking Alexandria appear as a sudden lightning slam of brutal guitar that dissolves into 8-Bit keyboard. In the pit, a man dressed as a mime climbs onto his friends’ shoulders and films, the only spot of colour against the black backdrop and equally funereal band. Asking Alexandria keep their sound sharp and harsh, leaping between steely cold roaring guitars and vocal ripples. Vocalist Danny Worship folds one arm behind his back like he’s delivering a lecture before passing the metaphorical baton to guitarist Cameron Liddell for a solo that dispels any lingering loneliness. Most of the crowd are flagging in the heat as we draw on the same core of molten lava that the band do and push ourselves to even higher jumps. The clouds finally part during ‘Dark Void’, such is the power of Asking Alexandria. [KA]


A lot of bands have joked about being old over the course of the day but ironically, as one of the oldest bands on the bill, Pennywise show they’re still a force to be reckoned with. ‘My Own Country’ slams harder than it has any right to while still maintaining the strutting nineties rhythm popularised by the Hellcat stable. Pennywise’s sideways slide into full on street punk is working for them, with their coarser sound fitting in with who they’ve become. Of course, there’s a bit of silliness in the form of covering Men At Work’s ‘Land Down Under’, but we can forgive their missteps when ‘Fuck Authority’ is still as fury-filled and urgent as ever and ‘Bro Hymn’ inspires those with mohawk to full-throated song. [KA]

Funeral for a Friend

Atop the Hatfield site’s only hill, Funeral for a Friend take to the stage along with guest vocalist Lucas Woodland. One arm held aloft, a familiar sight for Holding Absence fans, he stands ready to conduct the gathered crowd. As if there was ever any doubt, Slam Dunk is about to witness one of those special performances that will be talked about for years to come. Uniquely positioned to do justice to Matt Davies-Kreye’s impressive legacy, with both the talent and humility in spades, Woodland confesses to his admiration for the band, having grown up in their shadow as part of the vibrant South Wales scene of the time. Energised by his obvious deep connection with the source material, the band deliver an absolute masterclass, seeming as fired-up as they have in many a year.

The crowd mirror this exuberance, singing back every word to a hit-filled set that reminds us just how important this band was in shaping the British response to the largely US-dominated post-hardcore scene at the turn of the millennium. Bathed in the glorious golden hour light of the early evening, this is Funeral for a Friend viewed through Instagram’s Valencia filter – warm and familiar. They’ve played Slam Dunk before, but this is something else entirely. It’s an absolute triumph and quite possibly the standout set of the festival. [RD]


John Feldman has returned to these shores, briefly removing his mantle of pop punk mogul to revert to his original incarnation as Goldfinger’s frontman as the sun begins to set over Slam Dunk. A lot of the older ska acts really can still pull it out the bag when it comes to an energetic show, and Goldfinger are no exception. Vocally, Feldy can’t seem hit the heights he was able to back in the nineties, but in the midst of the angst and emotional outpouring across the Slam Dunk site, Goldfinger provide an oasis where we’re having fun, counting the days and dancing like we’re still kids. With an incredibly strong fanbase willing to overlook the weaker parts of their set, ’99 Red Balloons’ can’t fail to hit the mark, especially when it’s backed by Reel Big Fish’s brass section. [KA]

The Wonder Years

If there’s one thing that’s abundantly clear, it’s that despite some logistical challenges in recent years that have led to a lot of soul-searching, Slam Dunk is still held in incredibly high regard by many of the artists. None more so than the Wonder Years, who recall a time in 2010 when their career trajectory changed – something they attribute to their performance here. Ever since, they’ve answered the call in return, even pulling a double shift in 2022 when a last-minute slot on the lineup became available.

They may only be playing the smallest stage at the festival tonight, but they wear their Key Club headline slot like a badge of honour, in solidarity with the bands lower down the bill who embody the old-school approach to carving out a career in the music industry. Opening with the quickfire double of ‘I Don’t Like Who I Was Then’ and ‘Low Tide’, the band take us on a journey through their discography, spanning from old favourite ‘Washington Square Park’ to newest track ‘Year of the Vulture’ – which is played for the first time live here tonight, and gets the appropriately feverish response it deserves from the pit.

The set ends in familiar fashion, with a buoyant performance of fan favourite ‘Came Out Swinging’. More familiar still is the way in which vocalist Dan Campbell has no qualms in stopping his bandmates mid-flow and cutting the song short by a few seconds in order to allow an audience member to receive medical treatment – just as he did here two years ago. The Wonder Years love Slam Dunk, and Slam Dunk loves The Wonder Years. [RD]

You Me At Six

The big ticket item for most of the Slam Dunk crowd has to be the final festival appearance of You Me At Six before the band split next year. Some are taking it poorly (the main banner featuring vocalist Josh Franceschi becomes steadily covered in graffiti as the day goes on), but for many, this is an emotional moment. ‘Save It For The Bedroom’ and ‘Reckless’ are a safe start to their set, but it’s ‘We Are Believers’ which begins the cascading tears and chest-clutching from the audience before the sweetness and forceful vocal downstrokes within ‘Kiss And Tell’ cause the sentiment we feel to be transformed into the urge to dance.

It takes a good twenty minutes for the band to hit their stride and bring out the harder songs, but when they do, we revel in their command of a “nice loud communal singalong”, as Franceschi puts it. The splintering riff and gutsy bridge on ‘No Future? Yeah Right’ and Sean Smith of The Blackout’s chanting appearance on ‘The Consequence’ remind us how very good You Me At Six are at what they do, and makes it all the more poignant that this will be their last festival show.  The band are fully aware of this mixed sentiment, and absolutely make the time to squeeze the last remaining juice from our sunburnt emotions. ‘Stay With Me’ bursts with life and starts a long, lazy line of swaying right to the back. “Thank you for making our dreams come true for the last twenty years,” gasps Franceschi, “this is our love letter to you,” before the lilac magic of ‘Always Attract’ fills the air and friends hug each other tightly before the lovely slide into ‘Take On The World’. Thousands upon thousands of tiny phone lights glow in the night on each tender line.

A gentle bounce to ‘Beautiful Way’ grows and intensifies as thousands take their last chance to enjoy You Me At Six; the desperate slam like their lives depend on it, the sensible begin to stream away into the darkness to rejoin the real world. It’s a masterful set that toys with the emotions and leaves you with a sense of both privilege and loss. [KA]