Live Coverage || Slam Dunk festival south (5/9/2021)

My first time at Slam Dunk admittedly wasn't under the best circumstances. I was able to attend the South date on September 5th, not knowing exactly what to expect. With a pandemic still raging, a good portion of the (American) bands I wanted to see canceling -quite reasonably if you ask me, since it wouldn't make sense for them logistically to go to England for a week of quarantine, to perform on a weekend and then go back, and others coming in super last minute, deep down I feared that something could go wrong and the festival would be cancelled altogether. 

Thankfully things went for the most part according to plan and early in the morning Georgia Bravo and myself made our way to Hatfield. The doors opened with a 15-minute delay, causing the set times to be pushed back a little. Now, I'm not gonna lie, we did spend the majority of the day at the Jagermeister tent watching the -core noisemakers. In the first order of the day, we had Blood Youth, the last show with vocalist Kaya Tarsus. In a very emotionally charged performance, the band managed to pump the crowd and efficiently warm them up. Up next was Hacktivist. I checked them out although I'm not their biggest fan so I didn't stick around for long. The Jagermeister tents consisted of two stages facing each other, ensuring that at least in there, we wouldn't have any clashes. While catching a spot on the barrier, waiting for Brutality Will Prevail, I got the chance to also check Loathe out. I'm not a fan of them either but I can appreciate what they do, and the kids piling up in front of the stage were a testament to how good the band is live.

I hadn't seen Brutality Will Prevail in a really long time and I must admit I had missed their intensity (and flexibility show-off). The quintet was right in its element with vocalist Louis Gauthier climbing on the barrier on a few occasions and even jumping in the crowd. I was eager to see Deez Nuts again and I was able to secure a spot in the front, waiting for the boys to do their thing. The band was missing drummer Alex Salinger and admittedly it was weird to watch the "SK 4EVA" flag over one of the amps, after the untimely passing of bassist Sean Kennedy earlier this year... Regardless, DN was able to invoke nostalgia with all their hits.

Credit: Dearohwell photography

Comeback Kid went on with vocalist Andrew Neufeld introducing the first song with the habitual "all my heroes are dead!" warcry. The Canadians were visibly happy to be back on stage, doing what they do best, with many people singing along to their anthemic songs. I was keen to see Your Demise too, since I never had the chance to while they were still active. I was unfortunately only able to catch a glimpse of the set from afar but still very happy I got to listen to "The Kids We Used To Be" even under such circumstances. Killing some time, I was able to also see a part of Trash Boat's set. Even though the recent album was received with mixed reactions in our HQ, the band's stage presence was very intense, with vocalist Tobi Duncan making his "j'accuse" statement on censorship of the female body following the disruption of the livestream from the Heavy Music Awards. If you ask me, that's the kind of ally we need in these times. 

Missed the Funeral For A Friend set to squeeze myself and secure a spot in the first row for Anti-Flag, a band that I absolutely adore and whose shows never, ever, are dull. Although I wished the set was longer, I was happy to hear and sing my little heart out to some of my favorite anthems, with Justin Sane showing off his exquisite dance moves and Chris #2 jumping around and off of things as if the floor was lava. After that, I caught the end of Normandie's set which was very interesting and made me want to catch them on a proper headlining set.

Credit: Dearohwell photography

Quick break, watching the sunset, with
State Champs playing in the back; I'm not the biggest fan of pop punk as a genre but it was refreshing after all the breakdowns -plus the fan interactions are always very interesting to witness. Back to the Jagermeister stage for Bury Tomorrow's incendiary set. This was their first (well, second) show without former guitarist/clean vocalist Jason Cameron and admittedly we were very curious as to how the replacement would feel like. Luckily, the audience responded very well, singing at the top of their lungs and -as always and per Dani Winter-Bates' request- keeping security busy with constant waves of crowdsurfers. I missed the final 15' of the set to go catch Holding Absence, a band that I've wanted to see live for a while now. Once Lucas Woodland's voice, clear as a bell, resounded with "I'm alive!", I swear you could see the fatigue lifting from the crowd's faces, as they were immersed in the experience. Unfortunately I was only able to see two songs until I had to head back for While She Sleeps' headlining set but I made a mental note to make it to a Holding Absence show.

Credit: Georgia Bravo

While She Sleeps never disappoints, that's for sure. With a Bring-Me-The-Horizon-esque stage set up, the Sheffield outfit took the stage by storm, with the frenzied crowd feeding off the energy of the band. The constant singalongs were followed by waves of moshing, which eventually turned into a horde running a turn around the sound desk, almost stomping bystanders to death. Not gonna lie, I did fee like Simba in The Lion King when the lot of antelopes started running down the hill. 0/10 would recommend. Getting stomped, that is. WSS is an experience you should never miss out on.

The end of the festival found me sitting under a tree between the main stage where Don Broco was playing and the Punk In Drublic stage where NOFX frontman Fat Mike was making otherwise inappropriate jokes... Nothing new here. As I wasn't really interested in either band, I just waited for the shows to end and for my friends to emerge from the crowd.

Credit: Dearohwell photography
SDF came as a needed fix until live music picks up again and getting to see and sing along to some of my favorites was great after all this time (although I'm still bitter over certain cancellations).
Until next time!
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