00:00am was the start of our gruelling nine hour journey to the beautiful city of London so we could make our way to Hatfield and needless to say it was one of the most stressful experiences, for my first ever big festival it was a little intimidating, looking round the massive site, there were bands everywhere not to mention an army of photographers, ready to get those all-important award winning shots. Despite the sheer vastness of Slamdunk, I felt like I was at home, surrounded by people who had a massive love for alternative music. It was a pleasure to break my festival virginity with a beauty like this.
1:15pm: The press room was the first stop at the festival after getting ourselves there. We got the chance to catch up with a few of the amazing boys from Mayday Parade before their set. You can see that here. We also got to play with a very adorable little shibe by the name of MJ who was roaming in and around the Slamdunk site all day, what a little cutie.
1:35pm: It was time to begin the festivities of seeing some of the best bands Slamdunk had to offer and up first it was off to The Key Club stage to catch a few of the acts there, opening the stage was the pop-punk boys in Trash Boat who set a high bar for the stage. Front man Tobi Duncan coming on with the most amazing energy and crazy good vocals. The crowd was one I would particularly like to point out for these guys because they evoked such a great reaction from the crowd, the fans making a damn big pit in the middle of the floor. You could tell there were some loyal Trash Boat fans in the crowd. Showing they knew every word to every song old and new. After the release of their new track Strangers, I was really looking forward to hearing it live and I wasn’t disappointed, if anything Trash Boat are a band who are even better live than in the studio.
Photographer’s Comments: This section here was not written by Sian. Hello, I am Blair and I was the photographer for ME at Slam Dunk. Usually, I’m not one for writing, you’ll see from my terrible punctuation and very informal writing style…however, at the festival Sian and I had different schedules of who we wanted to see. So after the Mayday Parade interview Sian went to see Trash Boat and I took the opportunity to adventure the grounds/get my bearings. My first port of call was the balcony at the back of the Impericon stage, where I watched The One Hundred. Now, this is not exactly a review but they were very fun to catch a few shots of, they knew how to control the crowd and get them involved. These guys had a sound that I’d love to hear more of, and a band who I would love to shoot for the next time they’re in town!
Next, I jumped up to the Kerrang Fresh Blood Stage where Blood Youth were part way through their set. In my honest opinion, I cannot remember their set much – not very memorable in the same way The One Hundred had an effect on my but I did grab some shots before I left. I then visited the Key Club Stage to catch some of Trash Boats set, knowing Sian was in there somewhere – I’ll leave it to her for that proper review… I made my way outside where I was greeted with the sounds of Coldrain on the Atlas Stage. These guys were over from Japan and after some investigation afterwards I found they’re a pretty big thing over there. I could see why, the style and sound was great! Another band I would love to hear more of. Lastly I made my way over to the Main Stage to catch a bit of Mooseblood. Honestly, I cannot say much about these guys, although they are becoming a very big deal, their sound is not for me. Again, I didn’t miss that chance to grab a shot of them. I went back to the press room, threw my images into folders and ran off to the Key Club Stage again, just in time for Roam! Back to Sian –
2:15pm: Roam. Now this was something special and one band I had really been looking forward to seeing, after seeing them nearly two years ago I couldn’t wait to feel the hype of a roam show again. Narrowly missing all their other shows in Glasgow, I was glad to finally see the boys at Slamdunk and it was just exactly as I remembered, full of energy and positivity. Alex Costello is just this little ball of energy on stage. From roley poleys to backflips and just plain bouncing around he was a constant source of hype for the crowd. The set was just sound, everything was perfect, the song choice, the timing, all of it and things really got interesting when they played one of their new singles of the brand new release Backbone. For Deadweight we saw Matt Wilson from Set Your Goals join them on stage for it and it just added to the absolutely outstanding performance from Roam. We caught up with Alex and Miles a little later in the day, you can check that out here.
3:05pm: Now this next band were one that I wasn’t actually planning on seeing, I had made my way to the stage early for the next band and caught the band Hit The Lights. Now I have heard a lot about them and while they might not be for me you couldn’t deny that they put a lot into their performance. The almost reminded me of a midlife crisis pop-punk band. You know, they had been doing it for years but still dressed like they were teenagers and it was pretty endearing to see how much love they put into their music. The one song I did know was Bodybag and it was really fun and it was such a big one for the crowd as well.
Photographer’s comments: Blair again. After I threw my Roam images into a folder I ran to the Impericon Stage to catch Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! When I walked into the photo pit (wearing a My Chemical Romance t-shirt I must mention) I was greeted with “Hey! My Chem! Too soon, man!” by two guys in the front row. Laughing, I straight away knew this crowd was going to be a fun one. Not to mention the fact that these guys got selfies with all four photographers in the pit (including myself) and even two security guards. Chunk did not disappoint! They came out jumping and got the whole crowd involved screaming along to Haters Gonna Hate – my personal favourite – singing along as I snapped photos. The first three songs were over in a flash but as I made my way out of the scale of the show really hit me. People were backed up ALL the way to the entrance, barely any room to move! I feel sorry for the people who had to deal with the line of photographers attempting to squeeze through. Back to Sian-
4:00pm: It was time to see my boys in As It Is again, my 14th show and I was raring to loose myself. In the usual silly, banterful nature of the band, they came onto Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani and they set the whole crowd up for their amazing setlist. With their usual high energy and incredible performance they managed to completely pack out the Key Club Stage, with the crowds actually having to filter up the stairs and to the balcony. Front man Patty Walters giving it his everything with those sings and swings and the crowd giving as good as it gets with crowd surfing! Preforming their new track Winters Weather was such a humbling sight to watch as nearly every person in the room knew the words and the same could be said for their first single off Never Happy Ever After, Dialtones. But the best moment of their whole set was during Cheapshots and Setbacks where they were joined by Alex Costello and Alex Adam from Roam to help them with the breakdown. I loved seeing two bands who are so close, musically and as friends, come together on stage and made all the fans go crazy. I think the As It Is performance was one of my Slamdunk highlights.
6:30pm: Boston Manor getting set to play the Kerrang Fresh Blood stage was a big hype, sharing the same stage as Creeper and New Years Day this was a big feat for the Bosto boys and I was very buzzing to see them again and as usual they didn’t let me down, hot, sweaty and intimate, to the point there were people actually queuing out the door just to catch a glimpse of the pop-punk boys. And very rightly so, out of all the crowds I am positive theirs was my favourite, it was a collective jump, even if you weren’t jumping you were being lifted from the ground by the sheer force of everyone else in the room. Also a big up to frontman Henry Cox for his amazing energy and excitement during the whole set.
7:10pm: We didn’t really have any more plans to see any bands for the next couple of hours so it was time to do a bit of exploring of the festival.
Photographers Comments: As Sian and our friend qued for the toilets I realised Memphis May Fire were about to start. With this, I decided I’d jump into the photo pit and grab some shots – the more bands the better. These guys were amazing! Matty Mullins owning the stage and the whole crowd got involved screaming back the words. Memphis, were probably the heaviest band I have shot for but getting screaming shots to me are where you can really see the passion in the photo. Maybe that idea is just me loving my photos way to much but you tell me. Back to Sian for a real review-
We watched a little bit of Memphis May Fire smashing it on the Atlas stage and even caught a couple of Norma Jean songs on the Impericon stage. Memphis really did bring their A game to Slammy D and I wish I had caught more of their set but it was incredible to explore a bit of the festival, from the massive run of merch stalls everywhere (Special shout out to the As It Is merch guy Charlie for being a sweetheart) to the buzz of people heading to stages. We stopped off to get some food and take a much needed sit down. Sitting down and just watching the crowds of happy people makes every festival worth it, you realise in that moment people are so united through their love for music that they can take that one day or that weekend and just forget about everything and just rock out and have great time.
Photographer’s Comments: When Sian says we stopped off for food, this is sort of true. I planned to go shoot for New Found Glory but my stomach had other plans…then in the que for food I decided I’d regret it if I didn’t. Glad I made that choice! Surprisingly since these guys have been around since 1997, so many of the main stage crowd knew the words and got involved, especially when Jordan jumped down and on to the barrier…spawning a frenzy of security to look after him and photographers looking to get that awesome crowd shot. My personal favourite would have to be bassist Ian pulling faces straight down the lens of every photographer. After the first three I returned to the group and we got our much deserved food. Sitting down to eat we were just watching the crowds. It was full of happy people and that makes every festival worth it, you realise in that moment people are so united through their love for music that they can take that one day or that weekend and just forget about everything and just rock out and have great time.
8:30pm: A little after this time we headed to main stage to check out the end of New Found Glory, when they played, it made me transport back instantly to my nights out in Glasgow’s rock club and no song more My friends Over You, it was like I was right back there in 2002 in that little room with the band filming the video for it, NFG made a crowd of thousands feel like family. They proved their reputation as one of the nicest bands on the scene when they brought a fan on stage who had been to all three Slamdunk’s and even travelled to Florida to see the band before. They asked him to pick a song that’s never usually on their setlist for them to play live and even got the kid to sing on stage with them, I have never really given the band much of my time but after SD I think they are one for my list.
9:25pm: It was time for the main event. The icing on the cake. The Grand Finale. Panic! At The Disco. Now anyone who knows me will know that I am a massive Panic! Fan so getting to see them live for the first time was a big deal and it lived up to every single expectation I had. As soon as those lights dimmed I turned into a 14 year old fangirl and screamed my lungs out. Opening with the new single Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time was the best way to get the crowd instantly engaged, myself included. The man himself Mr Brendon Urie, on that stage, dawning his signature gold jacket and that phenomenal voice just gave me chills. The talent and charisma pouring off him. I knew Panic! were a big band but seeing people of all ages know all the words to their songs new and old gave you a real sense of the presence they have on the music scene. They played some of the bands biggest hits including The Ballad of Mona Lisa and Girls/Girls/Boys but the excitement was real for Golden Days, off the new album The Death of a Bachelor. I was actually at a loss for words when the song had finished, Brendon’s vocals actually gave me Goosebumps, it was amazing. The only thing I can complain about is their set not being long enough.
Victorious is when we saw the launch of the flames from the stage and watched Brendon party away to his little self in that little array of dance moves he has. Now you can imagine my surprise when that golden jacket was whipped off and he got behind the drums, now I am always a lady for a drummer but this was something else entirely, the man is a god.
Photographer’s Comments: Apologies to be interrupting in the middle of Sian’s show review however, I didn’t want Panic! to start or finish with my terrible writing but I did need to have my say. Unfortunately, due to safety concerts Panic’s photo pit was restricted and I was not lucky enough to have a pass for them. However, especially for Slam Dunk I bought a brand new 70 – 200mm lens (a big lens that zooms in for those unsure of photography jargon) which I had been using most of the day however, it really came into use for Panic. Imagine it, four friends in the heart of the crowd ready for the band to dawn the stage…but one of them is holding his camera with this massive lens on it. I have never been more scared in my life, cradling it like a baby! But it was all worth it when I seen some of the shots I was able to get.
The pride and joy though. The best thing ever to happen to me in my so far short lived photography career. Waiting for the famous Brendon Urie backflip! Unsure which song he flipped during, every step he took to the drum riser my camera was flung into the air! However, during Miss Jackson Brendon stepped up on that riser and the whole stage froze. Completely washed with Red light every member froze in their action pose for a good few seconds before Brendon flipped! and when he flipped so did the whole crowd! The cheer was insane as he kicked back into the song. Checking my continuous shot images I think I almost collapsed when I found I had a clear progression of the flip. Although the stage was washed with red lighting – lighting most hated by photographers – I was so proud of the shot! The cherry on top was finding out the only other one other photographer had the shot from Slam Dunk South which made me even more proud to know that it doesn’t matter if I was in the photo pit. If you risk your gear in the middle of a festival crowd you earn the good shots. Back to Sian for the final words about Panic!-
Brendon just proved himself to be a god with their final three songs. Number 1.) I write Sins Not Tragedies. Now EVERYONE knows this song, mainly for “what a shame the poor grooms bride is a whore” line and it showed, collectively watching thousands of people screaming the words to that song was an experience and a half… 2.) This Is Gospel. Now this song was just a masterpiece and it was so well received by the crowd but I think for those who are big fans of panic, they knew what it meant next… so that leads us into 3.) Emperors New Clothes. Speechless. That is all I can say. That song live should be a wonder of the world. I love this band so much but I know for a fact watching them live is The Brendon Urie Experience. He steals every show with his cocky attitude and his vocal acrobatics.
11:00pm: It was all done. Finished and packed up, ready to head home. It was sad leaving the festival site that would soon hold some of my fondest memories from seeing my favourite band, to my first time seeing others, meeting new friends and spending time with old ones. Slamdunk excelled itself and I am more than sold on the idea of heading along next year regardless of the line up because just the atmosphere and the buzz it had was absolutely phenomenal. 10/10.
Slam Dunk South best of gallery here