Kicking off the second day of the weekend, the sun hit Hatfield in conservative spells and bathed the vast expanse of grass and tent in glorious heat. The site looked even more festival-like than last year; the sophomore Slam Dunk Festival at Hatfield Park looked to be off to a great start.
As one of the two acts on first, William Ryan Key played to one of the biggest crowds of the day on the Marshall stage. The ex-Yellowcard frontman took to the stage in a windbreaker - a decision he quickly regretted in the temperamental British weather but, in "true Slam Dunk style", he announced he would be playing a set of exclusively Yellowcard songs for nostalgia's sake. Many may have believed this to be clinging onto the past, but his rationale was laid out before the spectators: it would be unfair on a festival audience to play his relatively unknown tracks to the masses, but it would be a good way to ask them as an old friend to listen to his new work. This warmed the crowd to him quickly, and playing through six of his old band's tracks was a brilliant way to kick off the day. Ocean Avenue still (rightfully) gets one of the loudest singalongs around, and the voices were already in fine form. A fantastic set from a unique talent, and a welcome return for some fan favourite tunes.
First up on the Key Club Left stage were Kublai Khan, a band somewhat new to playing sets of this length to UK audiences as they follow larger acts across the Atlantic. "Unfazed by their early set time" would be an understatement as they quickly broke out into Antpile to attack all senses of onlookers. Many fans bouncing around in the pit were unsure whether to expect any new music from the quintet as a UK run 2 years after the release of Nomad may deem things a little suggestive, but instead the set acted more as a synopsis of why they have such respect within hardcore. Their visceral, blockish sound was enough to turn some surprised audience members away as they waited for later acts on the eclectic stage, but the pits incited clearly demonstrated their booking was by no means wasted. A huge sound from the band, and one that in any just story would cause a good progression for their careers in the UK.
Opening the Monster Energy (main) stage came Wstr, who are already well-renowned for being one of the most energetic and strong live acts within UK pop punk. It is no wonder, therefore, that their crowd was one of the biggest of the day. Playing through a significant chunk of most recent album Identity Crisis seemed to be the choice for the setlist, and it's no surprise as to why - even the slightly deeper cuts The Latest and Tell Me More got fantastic crowd interaction. The only criticism any fan could have would be the apparent loss of recognition for their earliest EP material in their live set nowadays, but considering the lineup changes and songwriting progression there is clear reasoning behind that decision. It's taken them a few years to get to this point, but they filled the stage as well as many of the other artists sharing their stomping ground. They may well hit the size of childhood friends Neck Deep in no time with their current trajectory and deserve such if only for their live shows alone.
Stay tuned for parts 2, 3 and 4