Slam Dunk South Festival Review Featuring All Time Low, KIGH, Deaf Havana

The holiday weekend is over, and so is Slam Dunk; normal life resumes. However, the memories of the festival will stay in the minds of many forever – and it’s easy to understand why.

Opening up the main stage were the exuberantly happy The Summer Set, fronted by Buzzmaker Brian Logan Dales, whose cheery namesake and gift for a contagious hook perfectly married the glorious weather. Although their sound is undeniably closer to pop than punk, they were a fitting opener for the alternative festival which embraces acts on all degrees of the rock spectrum.

After breaking away for a Buzznet meet-up (check across the site for more Slam Dunk coverage), I headed indoors to see Transit. Despite the sunshine, hundreds had packed into The Forum to witness the Massachusetts outfit and the likes of The Story So Far and Man Overboard who would play the same venue later. Despite a relatively chilled crowd response, there was a core circle of diehards who sung every word and savoured every moment, as well as a noticeable increase in cheers when they played ‘All Your Heart’, which was recorded with Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump.

After Transit’s set finished, I returned to the main stage to see Mallory Knox. With their fierce all-out choruses, it’s no surprise that they are fast becoming one of the UK’s hottest rock bands. Their best known songs ‘Beggars’ and ‘Lighthouse’ elicited large cheers and sing-a-longs even from casual listeners, thanks to recent radio support. They were even successful in encouraging a circle pit around a tree, much to the concern of the health and safety officials, although it paled into insignificance when compared to the ‘tree-pit’ initiated by headliners All Time Low.

Returning inside for shade, I stumbled upon Australian rock band Hands Like Houses performing at the Monster Energy stage. Although their audience was small, presumably due to their clash with Pierce The Veil, their songs were large with plenty of heart. Despite the spacey piazza, their performance still saw their delighted fans dance next to manic moshers. Although many spent their day seeing their favourite bands back-to-back, Hands Like Houses were an exciting act considering they are still relatively unknown amongst UK audiences.

Afterwards, I returned to the main stage where post-hardcore outfit Sleeping With Sirens were playing. Although many in SWS merchandise screamed in support of their heroes, their mediocre performance was unlikely to convert sceptics. At one point, there was an odd call-to-arms when frontman Kellin Quinn asked the audience to cheer if their mother and father had never cared for them. Judging from the loud response, there’s a parenting crisis in the UK – and emo isn’t dead.

Thankfully, the mood was once again lightened by Welsh rock band Kids In Glass Houses who proved that British acts can compete with some of America’s biggest names. Opening up with ‘Fisticuffs’, KIGH teased that they were about to play their debut album ‘Smart Casual’ in full to celebrate its fifth birthday. However, despite mentioning the anniversary and peppering their set with more ‘Smart Casual’ than usual, they also performed songs from 2010’s ‘Dirt’ and threw beach balls to the crowd while singing their incredibly infectious new single ‘Drive’. However, material from their third album ‘In Gold Blood’ was oddly omitted, although nobody could ask for any more from a forty-five minute set.

Deaf Havana followed soon after, continuing to represent musical Team GB. Sadly, however, their set was marred by James Veck Gilodi’s lost voice. Although his difficulties were barely noticeable when they opened with an unexpected cover of Robbie William’s ‘Let Me Entertain You’, they soon become apparent when Gilodi struggled to address the audience and the strain of his voice was painfully audible during slower songs such as ‘Hunstanton Pier’. However, despite the vocal problems, it’s obvious why they’re billed with Bruce Springsteen at this year’s Hard Rock Calling festival. With the recent addition of two new permanent members and a female backing singer, and a change in sound, it’s clear that they aspire to be a young The E Street Band.

As the sun fell down, All Time Low finally took to the stage. Despite so many impressive performances from earlier in the day, it was obvious why ATL were the headliners – and not just because of the big crowd they drew. Although their crude humour can seem misplaced at times (such as Jack Barakat randomly exclaiming “My tampon’s just fallen out”), they pulled off cross-dressing and dick jokes hilariously. One highlight was Alex Gaskarth spotting an injured female fan in the crowd, leading to an impromptu yet enjoyable serenade of “Dave’s got a broken arm for jerking off too many dudes”. However, despite the hilarities and childishness, their music never suffered. They may be pop-punk’s comedians, but they’re certainly not a joke.

As ATL waved their final goodbye, after returning for a four-song encore, Slam Dunk South drew to a close as fans begun walking away from what was a truly memorable day. Many over-18s stayed for the after-party, but the live music was over – until next time.

Same again for 2014, anyone?

Were you at Slam Dunk Festival – what did you think?