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Manchester Punk Festival 2017

author MAK date 27/04/17

Festival Season has officially started and Manchester was the home for a mass punk invasion. The festival strives on its DIY values, a multi-promotional event set in the city centre across seven different venues over three days. While this was our first year attending Manchester Punk Festival, it was the third annual occasion of the event, boasting up 80 bands, this event is one that is significantly bigger than the previous years in terms of quantity and quality of the lineup. Each year the festival creates more hype so MAK took the opportunity to see what all the fuss was about.

All photos courtesy of Pay No More Than Photography apart from Maid Of Ace

DAY 1 - THURSDAY

This was the first day of the festival and just two venues open with a handful of bands at each to warm everyone up. One was The Retro Bar, where we collected our wristbands on the day, and The Zombie shack, a small tiki bar style venue. Before any of the bands had even started, The Retro Bar was packed out and the pints were flowing quickly. It was a mass social as most people that follow the UK DIY punk scene know each other one way or another. As a late starter, this was a nice way to ease into the craziness over the next few days.

Bolshy - The Retro Bar @ 19:00-19:30

The first band of the weekend was Liverpool ska-punk outfit, Bolshy, at the intimate venue, The Retro Bar. Fresh from releasing their debut album “Reap The Storm”, the sextet opened with “Heirarchicide” from the album and performed several more new tracks, including the standout anthem “Party On”. Amazingly The Retro Bar was jam packed from the minute Bolshy hit the stage, I don’t think I’ve even seen a venue so full for an opening act of a festival before. The Liverpool band unleashed waves of infectious brass melodies on top of a mixture of funky ska strokes and up-tempo riffage. It was a great combination of heaviness and fun. This was a joyous start to the festival. [7]

Iron Drugs - The Retro Bar @ 19:45-20:15

Iron Drugs followed up at The Retro Bar with some old school hardcore punk vibes. It was a far more aggressive approach with a strong brutish attitude. Lots of hard hitting riffs and throaty shouts fuelled head bangs and some minor rocking out, it was clear that people were still in their warm-up phase as most of the audience was happy to stand back with pints in their hands. The tone of the set was raw and straight to the point, and the downstairs venue was once again packed out. [6½]

Rash Decision - The Retro Bar @ 21:25 - 21:55

Things, however, picked up the pace for Cornish punks, Rash Decision. They produced much more of the same as Iron Drugs, but with a lot more fire and angst. More aggressive hardcore with a punchy attitude kicked off some of the first mosh pits of the weekend. The set was highly energetic and the crowd matched it with all sorts of stage dives, crowd surfing and all out wild behaviour. The real party had now begun. At this point The Zombie Shack stage had also opened, so the crowd had thinned out a little, but that just left more room open for the carnage. Rash Decision received a great response all round, with mass amounts of shout outs and sing-alongs to their thrashed out anthems. It was the first truly great set of the weekend to witness. [8]

Crocodile God - Zombie Shack @ 22:00 - 22:30

Over at Zombie Shack, I caught the back end to Crocodile God who produced a much happier atmosphere with skate punk vibes. The band produced plenty of crunchy riffs and joyfully catchy choruses to an incredibly full venue. The Zombie Shack was perhaps smaller than Retro Bar, and it was filled to the absolute brim. It was incredibly hot and sweaty. From what I saw, people loved it, cheering hard between each song, and dancing about with what little room they had. [7]

The Human Project - Zombie Shack @ 22:45 - 23:15

The Human Project, were similar in some respects. More skate punk anthems flowed towards a still immensely full Zombie Shack. This time it was a lot more technical with some intricate little plucking melodies placed on top on dominating chords. There was definitely some mathcore influences in the mix without being too obvious, some interesting time signatures. As soon as the harder riffs started, the venue erupted into the same kind of chaos that I saw for Rash Decision, wild pits and a fantastic response from the crowd. I don’t think the opening night could have gone any better for MPF. [8]

DAY 2 - FRIDAY

Day two of the weekend was another late starter. This time split into two parts, the gig and the after show. Sound Control was home to the main show, with two stages inside the venue, it created freedom of choice in who to watch, and stage times overlapped so you could also catch a bit of everyone in theory if you wanted. Then later on, The Zombie Shack re-opened for an after show full of covers sets. Down the road, a pub venue called Zoo with a surprisingly large venue out the back was also open for the after show.

Nervus - Sound Control Downstairs @ 18:15 - 18:45

Watford band Nervus opened up the downstairs stage at Sound Control with some easy going indie influenced pop-punk. There was a strong reminiscence to Motion City Soundtrack as the singer sounded quite similar to the Motion City vocalist, Justin Pierre, along with soft melodic keyboards to top it off. Even early on for this day, the crowd was fairly full and it continued to grow throughout the set. Much like the previous day, the response was kind of minimal for the opening band, just reacting between songs with cheers and applause. We were treated to lots of uplifting chords with the occasional heavier segment. The stand out moment came from the big instrumental piece towards the end of the set, which was a far cry from the cheerful pop-punk that dominated the set. Instead, it was progressive and punchy, lots of detailed melodies and beats with the keyboard player just randomly hitting chords, it was noisy and quite confusing. Yet most of the crowd seemed to love it. [6]

Wadeye - Sound Control Downstairs @ 19:05 - 19:35

Wadeye stripped things back to as raw as they possibly could with their crusty skacore tone. Ska stroke rhythms created a bouncy atmosphere while crushing hooks and extremely coarse sounding vocals balanced this out, making you either want to skank about or start a pit to the combined styles. There was undoubtedly a Leftover Crack similarity to this band. The response was a little bit stronger, with “woah” chants backing the rough voice of the frontman and it took a while, but the grooves triggered some dancing towards the front. The energy was high, though, occasionally the set chilled down as dub influences took over and fans swayed to the calmer rhythms. [6½]

Throwing Stuff - Sound Control Upstairs @ 19:45 - 20:10

I caught the opening ten minutes of Throwing Stuff, yet with how short their songs are, it was enough to see them thrash out five tracks with some time to talk in between songs. The vocalist stalked the stage as he shouted at the top of his voice with some high-pitched vocals. The band produced masses of hardcore-like grooves, with each song being fast, short and “in your face”. The upstairs stage was so full it was difficult to walk through the crowd to get to another stage. [7]

Maid of Ace - Sound Control Downstairs @ 19:55 - 20:25

The Hastings-based, all sister band delivered their usual gritty Brit punk. Singers Alison and Anna Elliott unleashed rough shouts as if they have been swallowing gravel, layered on top of a massive wave of distortion and relentless energy. Once again. the stage was absolutely rammed downstairs. After a while, the pits started to open to the up-tempo riffs and fierce attitude that erupted from the stage. It was angst-ridden, but still incredibly fun as the choruses were nice and catchy. The set was mostly full of new tracks, but a popular oldie such as “Dickhead” still snuck onto the setlist.

Faintest Idea - Sound Control Downstairs @ 20:45 - 21:20

Norwich ska punks Faintest Idea were a little behind schedule due to taking a while to set up, in that time even more people had managed to squeeze into the downstairs stage. As soon as the band kicked into intro track “Back To The Asylum” the venue was bouncing hard. Usually Faintest Idea get a great reaction when I see them, but this was instantly one of the most full on. The front of the stage area was havoc as fans moshed out to punchy ska-punk hits. The Norwich band stormed through classic sing-along anthems such as “Youth” and “Mutual Aid” which had everyone in the room singing at the top of their voices, while newer tracks such as “Ouroboros” and “Circling The Drain” just kept the dancing flowing. The reaction was relentless, the dancing didn’t stop and we had our first stage dives of the day. Of course the best of this came for the final track “Bull In A Chinashop”, where it was more of the same, yet somehow everything stepped up a gear. One of the most outstanding and memorable sets of the weekend, just a shame it was cut a little shorter than planned. [9]

Strike Anywhere - Sound Control @ 21:30 - 22:30

As one of the most anticipated bands on the whole lineup, there was no surprise that Strike Anywhere had filled the main stage so much that some people were having to queue up to be allowed in the venue. There was a "one out, one in" system in place. This was perhaps the only real negative side to MPF I saw as highly anticipated sets reached capacity. To resolve this, the organisers were quick on their feet and opened up one of the evening venues early. Nosebleed performed a secret set to spread the crowds out somewhat.

Over to Strike Anywhere, however, they slew through their overly political skate punk anthems with true vigour, creating pits towards the front. Though, it looked so confined, much like atoms bobbing around if anything. Strike Anywhere received mass sing-alongs, especially for popular tracks such as “To The World”. I did, however, expect more intensity and perhaps and even bigger response for a band that hasn’t played in the UK for seven years. It wasn’t that it was lacklustre, it was still wild towards the front, just it didn’t live up to the potential I was expecting. That was more of a crowd assessment, though; Strike Anywhere performed their hearts out. [7½]

Matildas Scoundrels - Zoo @ 23:15 - 23:45

Hastings folk punks Matilda’s Scoundrels more than made up for it as one of the after party acts. Over at Zoo, the mandolin and accordion fronted band launched through fast paced and anthemic tracks such as “Bill” and “Pisshead’s Anthem”. What truly grabby everyone’s attention was the addition of an inflatable dingy floating on top of the crowd, with plenty of audience members jumping at the opportunity to ride it. It was brilliant chaos and I’m pretty sure some light cables might have been pulled down in the process. It didn’t take long for the dingy to be confiscated by security, but it was barely noticeable as the Scoundrels were on fire. Everyone was singing along and dancing about to the ever so infectious songs. Having seen this band at some of their earliest shows, it’s now quite amazing to see them perform to a couple of hundred people and deliver one of the most captivating performances of the festival. [8½].

While I and a lot of other people caught, Sweet Empire unleash poppy skate punk hooks and Chief deliver something a lot more hard-hitting, it was purely a great chance for many people to catch up with mates and have a drink. Zoo was the place that many bands got to see their touring and other festival buddies. So it seemed more of a social than a show. Yet there were those that were just happy to rock out towards the front to both bands. It was an all-round enjoyable party atmosphere.

DAY 3 - SATURDAY

The last of the three days, and by far the busiest. It was a sunny day and all venues were open at some point. This includes the daytime cinema of punk documentaries at Font, the dark acoustic state at underdog, and the festival’s newest venue, Gorilla. Sound Control and The Zombie Shack were also open during the day, while The Retro Bar was left for after show, along with Zoo.

Stoj Snak - Underdog Acoustic Stage @ 13:40 - 14:10

It was unplanned, but as I decided to check out the acoustic stage. I was captivated by the folky acoustic punk of Stoj Snak. The venue was quite phenomenally packed out and incredibly enthusiastic to what was on show. The highlight came during “Ronkedor” where everyone sang the “nanana” melody. The band stopped playing to let the crowd be heard, then the members of Stoj Snak went on a conga line through the crowd, the guitar in the lead strumming away. It was a surprise great start to the day, highly entertaining. People were still humming the same melody after the set finished and they had left the venue. [7]

Kollapse - The Zombie Shack @ 14:35 - 15:05

Danish lads Kollapse produced something a lot darker and aggressive than perhaps anything else on the entire MPF lineup. It was progressive melodic hardcore with big throaty shouts from dual vocalists. Strong down tuned riffs with long instrumental sequences. It was the first time I hadn’t seen the Zombie Shack completely full, but with five venues and six possible stages open at the time, it was kind of expected for things to be a lot more spread out across the day. The crowd wasn’t very responsive either as it was considered precious drinking time for many punters. I did leave a few songs before the end to check out another stage. [6]

Black Star Dub Collective - Gorilla @ 14:50 - 15:20

The newest venue to the MPF fold was Gorilla, which felt bigger than most of the other stages and was packed out for Manchester's own dub/ska act, Black Star Dub Collective. This was a much more chilled out atmosphere with a vast collection of calming grooves. Just looking around it was enough to get a minority amount of people moving their feet and swaying to the rhythms. [7]

Pizzatramp - Gorilla @ 15:40 - 16:10

Welsh hardcore punks, Pizzatramp, picked up the intensity on a grand scale with their thrashy riffs and no-nonsense aggression. After all the guitarist kept shouting at his drummer to “For God sakes, just play it fast Dan” before songs, it just got more amusing the more it was said. Pizzatramp pulled out popular classics, such as “Clairvoyant” and “Hope You Die”. The latter was performed several times for various reasons and in different formats. The second was aimed at a stage diver, where the lyrics changed from “I hope you fucking die” to “I’m glad you didn’t die”. It still worked because of it being six syllables. A third attempt of the song was aimed at a security guard who stopped someone else from stage diving. It was an entertaining and silly set laced with many high tempo hooks and a bunch of five-second songs. It was definitely a laugh. [8½}

Negative Measures - The Zombie Shack @ 16:15 - 16:45

Brighton hardcore outfit Negative Measures sadly had one of the weakest crowds I saw all weekend, but considering they were incredibly last minute additions it wasn’t a surprise. Much like Kollapse, this was up there as one of the heavier sets of the festival. It was technical, brutal and highly energetic. Due to the lack of crowd, the band had space to move around the venue. Negative Measures produced savage shouts and dominating breakdowns, mixed with typical hardcore grooves and intricate riff work. It was an attack on all senses and almost like it was purposely obnoxious. After a few songs, the band had a slight member change as the bassist and vocalist swapped places and the female vocalist threw in some cleans, but she was just as savage. [6½]

Revenge of the Psychotronic Man - Sound Control Upstairs @ 17:10 - 17:40

As local lads and part organisers of this festival, Revenge of the Psychotronic man were expected to have one of the best sets of the day, and those expectations were met. Much like other TNS acts, Throwing Stuff and Pizzatramp, ROTPM performed a set of mostly short and fast thrashers such as “Small Minded NIMBY Prick” and “Booze Time”. This was perfect for starting pits early on, or as vocalist and bassist Andy Davies claimed, “The Funzone”. This started out more timid than I was expecting, but after a few songs, things got wilder. There were stage dives and then people invaded the stage and started a human pyramid. From then on, just anything went. Jason Stirling from Matildas Scoundrels jumped on stage to do some vocals, we had a random man dressed as a Viking just walking about between the guitarists and plenty more people thought it would be fun to jump off the stage into the crowd. The guys never fail to surprise me with how crazy things get. [9]

Thee Infidels - The Zombie Shack @ 17:55 - 18:25

While Mighty Midgets seemed the popular choice for many festival goers, I decided to check out German skacore outfit who were full of skank-worthy rhythms that had The Zombie Shack dancing and singing around enthusiastically. It was infectiously catchy and full of fun vibes. While they were dubbed as skacore, it wasn’t as heavy as I was expecting it to be but it still packed a punch with constant chunky riffs and some passionate shouts. The highlight of the set came during the last song which had mass “la la la” chants. Much the same as Stoj Snak, earlier in the day, these chants continued after the music stopped. [8]

Brutal Youth - The Zombie Shack @ 18:45 - 19:15

The Canadian skate punks, Brutal youth, was a band I was personally excited for all weekend following their 2016 album, “Sanguine”. The venue was far more packed out than I was certainly expecting too. Kicking off with “I, Denial” from the recent album, the music was intense from the get go. Everything performed fast, with erratic shouts to match. The crowd were immensely up for it, singing and chanting along to the “Woahs” and pitting hard. The vocalist, Patty O'Lantern, kept bashing his head with the microphone throughout the set. After about twenty minutes of him doing that, he eventually busted his head open pretty hard and started to piss blood from his forehead. It was quite surprising he didn’t knock himself out. The front man also attempted to swing off the bar above his head before realising it wouldn’t take his weight. The moshing barely stopped, and it got wilder as the set progressed. A story was told about how the singer’s brother came close to killing himself and how the lyrics “I’m fucking glad you’re still alive” in “Whiteway” came about, moments after that the whole venue shouted those very words. The album left a great impression on me, but the live experience is something else. Incredible set. [8½]

Nosebleed - The Zombie Shack @ 19:35 - 20:10

The Rock n Roll influenced punk band from Leeds were on their second set of the weekend, though “This is the real set” claimed guitarist, Elliot Verity, this time with the entire band dressed in suits. Though, due to how hot the room was thanks to it being so full, the blazers didn’t stay on long. It was fast and funky with nice intricate basslines and bouncy drum rhythms. Nosebleed plowed through tracks from their 2016 EP “Something In My Head”, such as “Keep Walking” and “Secret”, which has the ever so catchy “NANANA” part in the chorus. As if the large crowd wasn’t already crammed into a small space, both Verity and bassist Ben Hannah came into the crowd to perform in an even sweatier environment. The crowd however took this as an opportunity to dance on stage in front of the drummer. A fantastic set from a band that just keeps getting better. [8]

Inner Terrestrials - Sound Control Downstairs - 20:15 - 21:00

Inner Terrestrials seem to be one of the most popular underground punk bands going, their strong DIY attitude to life and how they work as a band brings a strong appeal in the punk scene, so it was no surprise that the downstairs stage at Sound Control was full to the brim. It was chaos from the get go, pits opened for the heavier riffs to “War”, but it was a skank fest for all the chilled out ska strokes. What followed was a set of fan favourites such as “Enter The Dragon”, “Just Say Neigh”, and “Tales of Terror”, but it was the likes of “Run Tings” and “Heavens Wrath” which had the mass sing-alongs. The latter showcased the band's non-religious stance where the massive crowd participation segment of “REJECT YOUR LAW AND SHIT YOUR GOD” rang around the venue in a sublime manner. The pits and skanks didn’t stop once, in fact, they became more brutal as the set progressed. Occasionally fans threw themselves off the stage and floated on top of the other punks. It was one of those sets that you just left sweaty and without a voice. [9]

The Filaments - Sound Control Downstairs @ 21:20 - 22:20

After Inner Terrestrials, I was amazed people still had energy in them to keep going, yet as soon as The Filaments kicked in with “The Farse” the room was once again dancing and singing along to the anthemic chorus. Just like the previous set, the fun time vibes and the carnage in the crowd didn’t stop to the pulsing brass melodies and party atmosphere. The set was dominated by classics like “Trevor” and “B.P.C” which kept the sing-alongs flowing. At some point in the set the trombone player, Pook, decided to join in on the pit action and crowd surfed while playing. Highlights of the set came from everyone's favourite anti-police song “Bastard Coppers”, where the whole crowd got to chant “FUCK THE PIGS”. Also from “Sick Joke” where the entire chorus is just gang chants. The booking choice to have Inner Terrestrials followed by The Filaments on the same stage was probably the best decision of the weekend. Same kind of sets, in terms of ska punk intensity and crowd reaction. The only difference was that The Filaments had a brass section. Both were outstanding performances. [9]

Riggots - Zoo @ 23:15 - 23:45

Riggots were one of the most hyped bands of the weekend, which when you compare their music to everything else on the bill, it was somewhat different. It was heavier, a lot more technical and erratic, and it blew your face off. Mindblowing drum techniques sat behind waves of forceful hardcore like riffs and shouting vocals. The after-party venue was once again thriving and loving what was on show. The pits continued and at one point there seemed to be a stage diving game in the mix. [8]

AFTERTHOUGHTS

This was a fantastic weekend, showcasing brilliant organisation from the UK punk scene and showcasing some of the brightest emerging talent in punk on a global scale. Considering I was just one person covering the entire weekend, seeing all 80 bands was an impossible goal. Yet 27 bands over the weekend isn’t bad going and it gave me a great first impression of what to expect from Manchester Punk Festival. I couldn’t have asked for a more entertaining weekend, which was full of great music and family vibes. From what I can tell the weekend was ran rather smoothly.

The Good

  • Being in the city centre meant it was close to all kinds of food and drink outlets along with accommodation.
  • All of the venues were within a 10-minute radius of each other, with most of them in a very close vicinity. This was very easy to navigate.
  • Great variety in the lineup. While it was all punk, the subgenres of hardcore, folk, ska, skate-punk, pop-punk and more provided a great mix and a lot of options.
  • I didn’t see a bad set all weekend.
  • Decent merch options.
  • No major clashes, at least not for me.
  • Good last minute decision to open up the Zombie Shack early for the Nosebleed “secret set”.
  • The clashfinder made it easy to figure out the schedule.

The Bad

  • Venue capacity issues: most stages were jam packed for each set. Almost a little too much at times. While it was great to see stages full for upcoming artists and DIY bands, it was a little uncomfortable. This also extends to people being turned away from full stages and the queueing system to get in.
  • Not being able to take drinks between stages was a big drawback. I can understand this when it comes to Retro Bar and Zoo as they were a fair distance from the other venues and it’s not legal to walk down the road with pints and open alcoholic drinks. But surely between the likes of Sound Control, The Zombie Shack, Font, Gorilla and Underdog this could be allowable due to how close they are.

Suggestions

  • Cordon of a special festival only area between venues near Sound Control, so that drinks can be taken between venues.
  • Bigger venue for major artists: As the festival grows, so will the demand in how many people wanting to attend. Capacity was stretched this year, so I think a larger venue is needed purely for any of the bigger artists on the bill. The Ritz would be ideal as that is also in close vicinity of the rest of the venues. Adding this would be great for growth, without losing the DIY aspects of the festival.
  • Shift the three day weekend so that it runs from Friday to Sunday and have a second full day of music.

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