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Slam Dunk 2021 In Review



Last weekend saw the eagerly awaited return of Slam Dunk, the independent festival for alternative music that has become such a huge part of the scene in the UK. So, of course we decided to end our summer with a trip to Hatfield for Slam Dunk South, to see some incredible performances by some amazing bands. I’d been to Slam Dunk in 2019 and had really enjoyed the day, so I was really looking forward to this one too.


We arrived and got in without any hassle in plenty of time to gates opening, and could already tell that it was going to be a good day. The sun was shinning and everyone was already enjoying themselves. Something I will say about Slam Dunk is that of all the festivals I’ve been to, and I’ve been quite a few, the crowd here is one of the nicest I’ve ever encountered. You can tell everyone there is for the music and community that surrounds alternative music.


Once gates had opened, we found our way to the Key Club stage for their opener For You the Moon. I had listened to a few of the bands songs before hand and had really enjoyed listening to ‘Talk’ and ‘Lost Without It’. The performance was a great way of starting off the day, I was surprised that this was the bands first festival performance as they came across like they had been doing this for some time. They were really tight with each others playing and had great audience interaction. I will definitely be listening to more of their music as it gets released and think that you should all give them a listen too.

For You The Moon performing at Slam Dunk 2021
For You The Moon performing at Slam Dunk 2021

We then moved over to the Jaegermeister tent to watch Loathe, a band who I had seen everyone talking about over the last few weeks. They had a reputation unfolding for how good their performances were, and again from the songs I had listened to before hand, I was excited to see how they would translate live. Well, they definitely lived up to the expectations. Loathe already know how to put on a show, engaging the crowd almost instantly and just from the amount of people in that tent you could see how much everyone was living for this performance. Another band I would recommend seeing live if you get the chance.


Back over at the Key Club stages, the next band on our schedule was The Hara. Another band I had heard good things about after their Reading festival performance the week before. This definitely has to be one of the stand out performances of the day. They commanded the crowd with their anthemic songs and huge stage presence. Frontman Josh Taylor’s performance reminded me of an amalgamation of Remington Leith of Palaye Royale, Yungblud and Billie Joe Armstrong during the American Idiot era of Green Day. However it still felt fresh, and you could see that the band were having a great time on stage, which definitely resonated with the audience. It was a really fun performance, and the band had some great music that I will definitely be revisiting, such as ‘Fool & The Thief’, the band’s most recent single. The Hara are going on a UK tour in the next few months, so I would really recommend going to a show if they are playing a city near you.

The Hara performing at Slam Dunk 2021
The Hara performing at Slam Dunk 2021

Doll Skin were the next band on our schedule. Again, I had enjoyed listening to some of their songs leading up to the festival, such as ‘Love Is Dead And We Killed Her’, so I was looking forward to this performance. The band came on in full force, full of energy and completely commanding the crowd yet again. I was completely drawn in by the charisma of lead singer Sydney Dolezal and how each member of the band interacted onstage. It was another performance that I was completely blown away by, so much so, that afterwards we went over to the merchandise tent and bought a copy of the band’s most recent album. The set seemed to full of song after song that was punchy, engaging and very entertaining. Doll Skin are currently on tour with Hot Milk, so if you’re going to one of those shows make sure you get down early to watch their set too.


After Doll Skin had finished we had enough time to go over the the main stage, and watch the second half of As It Is. I had seen As It Is before at the last Slam Dunk, so I knew what to expect here, but I also knew it would be a good show. They are a band who know how to interact with the audience and put on a show. Stands out for me were ‘Dial Tones’ and ‘The Stigma’ as the audience went wild and the sing along was powerful.


Back over at the Key Club stages, we went to watch Lizzy Farrall, someone who I had been listening to for a few months now and was excited to see. Her music and performance really suited the sun that was shinning on us in that moment as it felt like the peak of summer. I think she really captured the audience with her songs and everyone seemed to be having a really good time. You could tell it meant a lot to her to be back onstage again after the pandemic, and being a part of an audience like that at Slam Dunk was just magical.

Lizzy Farrall performing at Slam Dunk 2021
Lizzy Farrall performing at Slam Dunk 2021

Back over at the main stage, yes again, we went to watch Creeper, one of my favourite bands of recent times. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may have seen the review I wrote a few weeks back about going to Creeper’s show at The Joiners in Southampton and how much I loved it. I’ll link that article at the end if you haven’t already read it as I went into a lot more detail there about Creeper’s performance and the songs played. But I will say this, Creeper can bring their magic to any venue, stage or festival. Watching them again this week was just incredible to see, the showmanship was definitely still there, if anything it had been amplified for the festival crowd and their set was still full of classic Creeper songs. I really enjoyed their set here and it was amazing to see so many people supporting this band.

Making our way back over to the Jaegermeister tent we bumped into Lucas Woodland of Holding Absence, who was just as lovely as always. Holding Absence would be playing at the Key Club stages later on in the evening, though we had other plans, only because we are going to see them play in Cardiff on their headlining tour later on this year. If you can get to those shows in October/November I would really recommend it as this new album will sound incredible live, and the band have really been working on their live show. Holding Absence will also be supported by Yours Truly and As Everything Unfolds, so if you fancy a great night of live music, definitely go and get your tickets for that. And if you need more convincing, I will leave the link to my review of ‘the Greatest Mistake Of My Life’ at the end of this post.


Trash Boat were next up, a band who were definitely one of my main anticipations of the day. I had been waiting for this moment ever since I heard the first notes of ‘He’s So Good’, the lead single taken from their new album ‘Don’t You Feel Amazing?’. That song for me has been one of the best of the year and I had been looking for ways to see Trash Boat live ever since. They are also going on tour later this year, but unfortunately I can’t get to any of the shows. If you can though I would truly suggest going as they were definitely one of my favourite bands of the day. There was so much energy thrown into the performance by all members of the band, and the setlist felt like it was hit after hit. Tobi Duncan’s voice sounded incredible and he was putting everything into ever word sung or spoken on that stage. It was powerful, and I was so happy to be in that tent in that moment, with that band.

Trash Boat performing at Slam Dunk 2021
Trash Boat performing at Slam Dunk 2021

Turning around to face the other side of the tent, where another stage was set and ready to go, the anticipation of what was about to happen was rising. In just a few moments Welsh legends Funeral For A Friend would take to the stage to perform one of their only shows of 2021, and one of the few shows they have played since their return in 2019. It was promising to be a very emotional one indeed. Bounding on to ‘Rookie Of The Year’ and heartfelt screams from the crowd, the band were back and so were we. Their show was just phenomenal, from hit to hit on the setlist, it was nonstop and everything a fan could want. Everything I had seen on this day was incredible, but being in the crowd for that performance was just magical and emotional. This was the band I would listen to through my childhood with my parents, a band who are from the same area as I am, and they were back.


Dragging ourselves from that emotional show over to the Punk In Drublic stage then to watch the end of the set from American punk band Anti-Flag. It was loud, it was in your face and it was classic Anti-Flag. What more could you want? They commanded the stage with their sing along chants and driving guitars. Their years of performing paying off as they looked comfortable and in tune with each other, this show seeming like second nature to them. It was fun and it was classic American punk rock, a great festival show.

State Champs were another of the bands I was highly anticipating at Slam Dunk this year. I had never seen them play live before but had heard some really great things about them. They are a classic pop-punk band who have all of the hooks and a really great stage presence. I was completely mesmerised by their performance and enjoying all of the sing along chants (who wouldn’t?). Ending on ‘Dead and Gone’ and then ‘Secrets’ was almost the best way to end a festival set. They are also embarking on a UK tour next year, tickets are on sale now if they are coming to a city near you.


Frank Turner knows how to put on a show. He is a charismatic performer, with the right attitude and some excellent songs. I had seen Frank Turner doing a solo acoustic set at Latitude in 2019 as one of the surprise acts of the weekend, and thoroughly enjoyed that, so I was definitely excited to see his full band show here. They definitely did not disappoint. After announcing that this was show 2547, we were off. Even if you think you do’t know any songs by Frank Turner, you probably do, this setlist had something for everyone and it was full of audience sing alongs and jokes about folk songs. It really felt like a community had gathered at this stage for this show, everyone was having such a good time. This set could have quite easily been the headlining set of the day, yet there was still more to come.

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls performing at Slam Dunk 2021
Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls performing at Slam Dunk 2021

Boston Manor had been announced as the secret headliners for the Key Club stages the week before the festival, and again, if you are a regular reader here you probably know that I had seen Boston Manor only the week before at a small show in Swansea’s Sin City. You can read my review of that show when you’ve finished reading this too, I go into a lot more detail there about the show and the songs played, I will link it t the end. Knowing that this show was going to be incredible after only just about getting over the last one, I was just as excited for it. The band came on in full force to ‘Everything Is Ordinary’ and the crowd went wild. Seeing them play on a small stage for this amount of people was just crazy, and the atmosphere there was incredible. Fan favourite ‘Flowers In Your Dustbin’ was always going to go down well and the hits kept on coming. Again, I reiterate what I said at the end of my review, if you have the chance to go and see Boston Manor live, definitely take it, it’s well worth the show.


Headliners on the main stage were Don Broco, so we went over there to watch their show. There were lights, there was energy, and it truly felt like a headline show. I had seen Don Broco at Community Festival in 2019, and was impressed by their performance there but this felt different as it was a headline slot at a festival with a crowd who were more geared towards their sound. I think Don Broco really took the bar higher from that show, and showed to me that they deserved to be at the top of the bill. The setlist was full of classic songs from the band as well as some newer songs, it had something for every fan. The showmanship from Rob Damiani was incredible and guitarist Simon Delaney was as energetic as ever. I went into this set only knowing a few songs and enjoying it thoroughly.


Don Broco performing at Slam Dunk 2021
Don Broco performing at Slam Dunk 2021

This has been a long post, so thank you for reading if you are still here, it’s really appreciated. I really wanted to talk about every band or artist we saw last week as I enjoyed every one of them and it was such a great day for music. I would really recommend giving all of these artists a listen as they are definitely worth your time, and if you like the sound of what you’ve read, I would also recommend going to Slam Dunk festival. I have really enjoyed both times I have been to the festival and loved all the music I’ve discovered and bands I’ve watched, so you know it’s worth the money.


Thanks for reading, until next time…


Read my review of Creeper’s show at The Joiners here.

Read my review of Holding Absence’s ‘The Greatest Mistake Of My Life’ here.

Read my review of Boston Manor’s show at Sin City here.


All After Midnight links here.


Music submissions and enquiries to aftermidnightblog1@gmail.com

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