Manchester Punk Festival 2022

author PP date 24/04/22

Manchester Punk Festival is an event that is increasingly dubbed “Punk Christmas" across the UK's DIY punk scene. Fans from all over the world head to Manchester for one of the most popular punk gatherings in the country. Festival-goers have waited since 2019 for the festival to return, with 2020 being canceled due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and the organisers making the executive decision to not do one in 2021. The hype for MPF 2022 was rife from the moment the initial announcement was made in the summer of 2021.

MPF is a multi-venue event set in Manchester's city center, flaunting over 120 acts across seven different concert halls over three days, four if you count the warm-up party. While this is our second time covering Manchester Punk Festival, it is the sixth annual fest, and this time features a significantly bigger lineup in terms of both quantity and quality. As such, we decided to send two scribes to cover the festivities to provide as much coverage of the festival as possible. MAK & PP

LINEUP

The lineup for the 2022 edition of the festival was characterized by two things: a great lineup featuring some brilliant international names to supplement the UK local scene, plus (more regrettably), Covid-19 related cancellations and a sense that the lineup was in constant flux. Initially having featured the likes of Direct Hit!, Shai Hulud, and Red City Radio among others, many bands had to pull out, some of them last minute, and the replacements weren't necessarily of equal quality. But kudos nonetheless for pulling off a festival in Europe in a time of uncertainty, especially since most of the alterations were out of the festival organizers' hands.

Venues

The festival was spread out to seven venues in the city center of Manchester. While the initial day and a half was a constant Google Maps exercise (they should print some maps and place them in and around the venues), the distances were short and the routes between the venues were easy to navigate.

The Union

The largest stage at the festival is located within the confines of the Manchester Metropolitan University Student's Union. It's a large hall that, to be honest, feels more like a conference center than an actual venue, but it is at least large and can house pretty much the whole festival at once, give or take.

Gorilla

Gorilla

Built underneath a railway bridge, Gorilla is the most venue-like of the venues. It's a dark room with claustrophobic entrances and no mobile phone signal whatsoever - and features huge queues to the bar due to its tight layout. On the flip side, the sound is very good and the venue is perfect for intimate, but medium-sized concerts. It's the second-largest venue at the festival.

The Bread Shed

The Bread Shed is a pub with a stage. Its dark interiors remind me of the Underworld in London, but with a lower stage. With a capacity of 480 and a solid selection of beers on tap, it's probably the best venue experience at the festival overall.

Zombie Shack

Zombie Shack

Zombie shack is the most unique of the venues. You traverse up a spiral staircase next to some dumpsters into a bridge by the looks of it, and inside you'll find a Hawaiian-themed tiki bar. Very small, and a cool venue overall.

Yes

Yes is an interesting multi-floored venue, the ground floor is a bar/ vegan food eatery whereas the basement is a tiny, dark little venue with most likely a maximum of 100 capacity. It had an incredibly intimate feel to it. There was also a cocktail bar a couple of floors up.

Sandbar

Was more of a social bar/pub that had a decent-sized closed-off section that could be used for podcasts as well as a poetry comedy stage. They did very nice stone-cooked pizzas. It was very much just a place to chill out.

Rebellion

Mostly a nightclub with a decent-sized stage to it, maybe 200-300 capacity at a push. A safe DIY gig-type venue, the door is pretty close to the front of the stage so the crowd can fill up very quickly once things get going.

Manchester Area Vibes

Walking around central Manchester is a chic experience. The sheer amount of craft beer bars, numerous restaurants, and other watering holes is staggering. Not to mention the street food options at Hatch, where festival attendees could get 10% discount on beers from Öl.

Best Indian food I ever tried - chili chicken at Dishoom

The choice of modern, stylish eateries, as well as quirky, international ones, is so large that one could wish for some more recommendations from the festival organizers aside from the few tips left in the booklet. This would make the experience even better for the international crowds who are slowly starting to discover this festival.

Even though Rebellion was classed as the official afterparty venue (with an Oasis cover set being the highlight of the weekend), it would be great if a bar, similar to The Salutation Pub, could be named as the recommended daytime / early evening hangout in between sets. This would encourage social cohesion between the festival guests that you normally achieve at an outdoor festival site. Still, it was relatively easy to spot other MPF attendees from the band shirts and the wristbands, giving a very similar type of a vibe to a festival like FEST

Signature Brew

PRO TIPS

  • The area around Thomas Street is brilliant for outdoor terrace type beers early in the afternoon if it's good weather
  • Book flights and hotels early: it's Easter time and a bank holiday weekend, which means prices quickly skyrocket
  • Make a plan to see at least two or three bands a day you don't even know by name based on the official booklet recommendations - so many gems awaiting discovery here.
  • Be early if it's the first set of the day - or if it's Zombie Shack.
  • Drink the 4-4.3% beer - you'll last way longer than if you neck IPAs all day long

FRIDAY

Aerial Salad @ 15:00-15:30 at The Union

Manchester punk trio Aerial Salad kicked things off at The Union main stage to a packed-out crowd. Following the growing popularity of their 2020 album “Dirt Mall", it wasn't at all surprising, but it was still impressive to see. Delivered with their typical Manc swagger, Aerial Salad unleashed melodic, yet lo-fi styled fuzzy garage punk hit after hit with incredible vigour and an energetic stage presence. The likes of “Virtue" and the newer single "Spit On My Face" received exceptional crowd responses. “Dirt Mall" favourite and lead single “Romance?" had mass singalongs of “DO YOU WANT ROMANCE?" ringing around the room, the kind to make the hairs on your neck stand on end. It was great to see how far this band has come in a handful of years. Because it was one of their faster songs, the Salad boys ended their set with “State of Yer" in a wonderful punchy fashion, with up-tempo, melodic skate punk vibes at its finest. A proper "pissed-off at the world" anthem to lose your voice to in the shouted chorus. We couldn't have asked for a stronger festival opener. [8] MAK

Nexø @ 15:10-15:40 at The Zombie Shack

An upbeat pop song rings in the background of the tiki bar setting of The Zombie Shack, while Danish hardcore punkers Nexø are preparing to open Manchester Punk Fest to a packed audience. It's quite a contrast to their tight, fast-paced shredding that draws equally much from metallic hardcore as it does from bleak black metal. It only takes a couple of cuts to rile up the crowd into loud cheers, starting from the fuck the police lines of the older song “1312" and continuing with solid new tracks like “Truthicide", “White Lies" (great crowd response), and particularly the slower “Anger" that is the highlight of their set. Their vocalist aggressively gesticulates while he barks his way through their set - and the crowd eats it up. Solid energy and a decent open to the festival from our perspective. [7] PP

In Evil Hour @ 15:50-16:20 at The Union

In Evil Hour came at us with a more ferocious approach, launching a barrage of shreddy riffs topped off by a combination of raspy melodic singing and shouted vocals. To start, the crowd was a fair bit thinner than it was for Aerial Salad, however, it grew, along with the rowdiness to match the music. The frantic, angsty skate punk was met with waves of circle pits, mosh pits, and countless failed attempts at human pyramids. Security was kept on their toes as an increasing number of bodies surfed their way towards the front. The enthusiasm from the band and the crowd were relentless and wonderful to watch so early, and watching fans sing along to hits like “2050" and “Predators" was breathtaking. [7] MAK

Much The Same @ 16:40-17:10 at The Union

Doh - having misread the starting time for skate punk legends Much The Same, I show up about fifteen minutes late to their set, only to meet a very sparse crowd in the huge surroundings of The Union. The sound is echoing around the venue and leaves behind a disappointing soundscape, but that doesn't stop people from singing along to the "don't understand why we're happy to be (content to be!) in discontent" parts of the 2006 classic. The band makes the most of a bad situation: they bring in a female guest vocalist for “You Used To Have A Garden", and deliver a boatload of 90s-style melodic punk classics in a row. This is enough to salvage the awful sound mix that multiple bands struggled with throughout the weekend. [7] PP

Pizzatramp - Photo by Jimbob Taylor

Pizzatramp @ 17:30-18:10 at The Union

Prior to the festival, Welsh hardcore punks Pizzatramp announced that their drummer Dan had covid so he couldn't play. Dan was replaced by Tommy Victor Morris, who was already playing in Bruise Control later that day among other sets across the weekend. On top of that, Pizzatramp already had a stand-in bass player, Tia Kalmaru, who was also set to play in Crazy Arm later that weekend. With just Jimmy as the only standard member of the band there, quite a lot of people expected this to be a hilarious car crash. On the contrary, Pizzatramp blew the packed-out Union Stage away with their chaotic hardcore punk and usual highly entertaining between-song banter. The fast-paced aggressive music was met with equally vibrant pits and singing along as Pizzatramp launched through a set rammed to the brim with fan favourites, “CCTV", “Blowing Chunks" plus waves of endless renditions of “I Hope You Fucking Die" and “Long Songs Are Fucking Shit" to humorous effect. Even if it might have ended up a disaster, it would have still been an entertaining watch, however, it didn't, the stand-ins did a fantastic job and Pizzatramp managed to put on one of the most enjoyable sets of the weekend. [9] MAK

Popes of Chillitown @ 18:30-19:10 at The Union

Popes of Chillitown's more diverse sound of ska/dub/punk comes with a more niche following, one that I wasn't sure if it was going to have as good a crowd as the band deserved. I was proven wrong and The Union wasn't just full, it was buzzing from the moment Popes opened with “Opoom". The dancefloor was bouncing and voices were heard from the very start. The atmosphere was rocking throughout the whole set of explosive ska-punk rhythms. Some technical issues might have dampened the sound with some quite noticeable feedback, but the party vibes continued regardless as the band produced banger after banger. Of course, the frenzy went up a notch as the iconic brass hook for “Wisdom Teeth" dropped and the dance pits widened. Seeing the whole room singing “Naahnanananana" was one of the weekend highlights along with Tarzan Goldbloom's rapped lyrical stylings flourishing in the delivery of “Culpa". Closing the set with the accelerated “Vamos a la Luna" was a perfect way to get the knees up one more time. This was a bouncy, fun set full of infectious energy, I don't expect any less from a Popes of Chillitown performance. [9] MAK

Belvedere @ 19:30-20:20 at The Union

Much The Same isn't the only seminal skate punk band on the billing today: their fellow Canadians in Belvedere are here too, delivering a faster and more technical version of what we saw from them earlier. Unfortunately, they're faced with the same issues: barely anyone here compared to the venue size and a sound that's rubbish at best, which makes it all the more difficult to appreciate the rich detail and complexity found in their sound otherwise. The atmosphere turns downbeat as a result as they attempt to get the crowd to flip on their side but there just aren't enough people here for that. Luckily, songs from the 2004 album “Fast Forward Eats The Tape" energize both the band and the front rows of the crowd, resulting in a few jumps here and there, which is what they should spend their entire set doing. Instead, the default Belvedere stance is a static stand-still as they focus on the technical wizardry, so the few bounces and moments of flurry energy are easily forgotten in the overall picture. You have to be a Belvedere song specialist to get much out of their set tonight, so I decide to split halfway through to go check out Decent Criminal playing almost next door. Judging by what I heard from others later, the set continued pretty much exactly as-is for the remainder of the time. [6½] PP

Photo by Jimbob Taylor

The Bar Stool Preachers @ 19:50-20:40 at Gorilla

One of the most disappointing Covid casualties of the weekend was Faintest Idea, who was meant to take this slot. However, for obvious reasons they had to pull from the lineup. On the plus side, we were treated to a Bar Stool Preachers set. The Brighton Ska punks who were already due to close the Friday after-party, stepped up to play an earlier set for those that might not have wanted to stay up so late. Gorilla was nicely full and incredibly welcoming to the stand-ins who just wanted to give fans a good time and a reason to dance. Bar Stool wasn't without their lineup issues as bass player Bungle had an injured hand, in which he was relegated to backing vocals, while the keyboard player took over on bass. Launching straight into their most popular track “Choose My Friends", the crowd broke off into a dancing and singing frenzy. It was nothing but positive vibes and roof-raising sing-alongs to songs old and new as charismatic frontman T.J McFaull mimicked the crowd's energy. The crowd pop for “8.6 Days (All The Broken Hearts)" as everybody sang the title words was deafening. More impressively the new song "Flatlined" had a huge “WOOAAHH" chant we all had to learn and picked up very quickly. I was particularly lovely when Nosebleed's Ben Hannah joined the band on stage to sing the new hit with them because he recorded the upcoming album. The set finished with fan favourite track “Bar Stool Preacher", one of the easiest choruses to join in on gave such a joyful end to an uplifting performance. [8½] MAK

Decent Criminal @ 19:50-20:40 at The Bread Shed

Coming in halfway during their set, Decent Criminal give off a solid impression right away with their indie-flavored punk rock that carries itself with similar troubadour vibes as The Menzingers. It's slightly more coarse and raw, yet easily accessible, and feels like the songs have plenty of depth and potential for infectious sings alongs. Case in point: “Bleached" draws in a big sing-along from the crowd. I just wish they'd use their secondary gravelly vocalist more, his pipes are excellent. Minus points for using a song from an already short set to cover Nirvana's “Territorial Pissings", no matter how big of a party this type of cover starts, it's just always more interesting to hear a band's own work. That said - Decent Criminal certainly feels like a band on the way up that's just waiting to be discovered. [7½] PP

Apologies, I Have None @ 21:00-22:00 at The Bread Shed

Apologies, I Have None hasn't been active for a while, so it's great to see them grab the headline slot at The Bread Shed tonight. Their 2012 album "London" is a genre classic, so the venue is understandably packed and you can feel the electrifying anticipation in the air. “Love And Medication" draws the first sing-along almost immediately, which fuels a great dynamic between the band and the crowd that grows wilder and wilder as the set progresses. “Wraith" is also from their 2016 album “Pharmacie", but it is the deep and complex cut of “Raging Through The Thick And Heavy Darkness Of A Bloodlust" from 2014's “Black Everything EP" that morphs their set from good to great.

From here onwards, the band dabbles almost exclusively in older material, where “Concrete Feet" draws a passionate sing-along whilst the stage is drenched in green lighting. Its ooh-ooh-ooh bits are massive, and the scratchily sung cleans explode into an anthemic melody during the chorus that feels perfect in a small, intimate venue like this one. The crowd starts going wild - we're talking crowd surfers, small pits, and that vibe of "something awesome is happening right here, right now" shared by everyone here tonight. "Let's see how many know this one", they tease the audience, as we're treated to yet another pick from the “Black Everything EP", “Coffee, Alcohol, Codeine, Repeat" before “Everybody Wants To Talk About Mental Health" explodes the venue in pure passion and emotion immediately afterward.

The energy on stage is astounding, rubbing off into the crowd that's ecstatically responding to every call/response pattern from the band, where “Long Gone", “The 26" and “Sat In Vicky Park" add to the intensity, with the latter drawing a huge sing-along whilst the singer tosses his guitar and stage dives in a brilliant display of passion. Seems like distance grows the heart fonder holds true here: Apologies, I Have None have never sounded better than here at Manchester Punk Fest tonight. [8½] PP

Random Hand - Photo by Jimbob Taylor

Random Hand @ 21:00-22:00 at Gorilla

Skacore favourites Random Hand headlined the Gorilla stage, which was so full that the crowd was packed in like sardines. On top of that, people who weren't already in the venue were turned away because of capacity levels. For those who were lucky enough to catch Random Hand, they were treated to a set filled to the brim of anthems, a healthy balance of crunchy riffs and skankable upstrokes along with Robin's pulsating brass hooks. Kicking off with “I, Human" It was an anarchic sweaty mess that didn't stop, it was electric. The setlist was wonderfully well spread out through the four studio albums, featuring at least a few tracks from each release, all receiving incredible responses from the crowd who moshed and danced their way through constant ska-punk classics such as “Play Some Ska" and “Tales of Intervention". Much like throughout the day, there was a sea of bodies crowd surfing and more hilariously failed attempts at human pyramids along with some circle pits. How these fans found the room for that in this packed venue I'll never know. Random Hand finished off their set with Anger Management, in which the “OOOOOOWEEEEEEEOOOOO" sing-along segment with the crowd was superb. Vocalist/Trombone player Robin even decided to join in on the crowd surfing himself for the final song. This was a set that reminded us of why Random Hand is considered one of the best skacore/ska-punk bands going, a top-dollar performance that held nothing back and a reaction to match it. [10] MAK

Fair Do's @ 23:00-23:30 at Rebellion

By the time it came to the after-parties, it was evident that people were flagging somewhat, either tired, drunk, or just aching from rocking out to whatever bands they had previously seen. Fair Dos then came on at Rebellion to blow our minds with an array of technical punk genius. Heavy deep riffage and erratic drum patterns along with fiddly guitar melodies that just left you in awe. You couldn't help but just take in the talent and intricacies that were on display. You could look over and witness heads just bopping away and observing great musicianship. It took towards the back end of the set for any kind of mosh carnage and crowd surfing to ensue. My brain was turned to mush at this point so I quickly called it a night after their set.[7] MAK

SATURDAY

Darko @ 14:00-14:30 at The Union

Local technical punk rockers Darko are up first, drawing a surprisingly packed audience early on at The Union. They're sporting a new vocalist in Tom West, who has a much cleaner and less gravelly style compared to the old dude, which presents the Darko shows in a completely different light. It allows for more focus on the A Wilhelm Scream style technical wizardry that shines through songs like “Just A Short Line" - the guitar flair is awe-inspiring with most eyes fixated on the insane fretwork of their guitarists. Despite that, they ooze with energy, although it is their crazy bassist whose swirling bounces catch our attention right away. Thankfully, the initially shoddy, echoing sound improves as the set advances along, allowing Darko to properly highlight just how technical their songs are, a feat that Belvedere struggled with yesterday. That they do all this while simultaneously displaying a flurry of energy on stage is staggering. You couldn't have asked for a better start to the day. [8] PP

Drones @ 14:50-15:20 at The Union

This is the second to last show by UK punkers Drones, whose Rise Against style punk rock has always felt like it was decent while still lacking that something special. Today, that something is very audibly the flat vocals that just don't stand well against the solid guitar melodies. There's plenty of energy to go around: everyone is jumping around, and their vocalist even hangs upside down from the barrier at one point, but the vocal hooks rarely improve from merely decent into something better and more spectacular. “Learn" and its "this curse will be the death of meeee" chorus is one of the few excellent highlights from the set, thanks to the slightly more aggressive twist to the vocals here. It's a shame they are breaking up: by just exchanging the vocalist they have the potential to be very good, given how much swirling energy and dancing on stage is going on during the songs. Still, in their current form, it's understandable this is the end of the line. [6½] PP

Follow Your Dreams @ 14:50-15:20 at The Bread Shed

Follow Your Dreams kicked off the proceedings over at the Bread Shed stage, unleashing an onslaught of frantic heavy hooks, enticing guitar melodies, Kaz's forceful shouted vocals, and some of the most haywire drum patterns I saw across the weekend. It was the wake-up that some of us needed with an aural attack that just hit our senses early. To start with the crowd was fairly thin, yet it quickly grew, with those in attendance headbands along to the brutish sound on display. It still felt a bit too soon in the day for fans to lose their shit, but those that made an appearance responded well between each song, with huge cheers. PP and I may disagree on Follow Your Dreams, but they were an enjoyable watch for those that like manic-heavy music. [6] MAK

Proper. @ 15:50-16:30 at Gorilla

As Proper completes the last checks of their instruments on stage, we're left wondering what exactly to expect. On stage, we have an all-African American band from Brooklyn, who surprises all of us with a particularly somber and melodic style of Midwestern emo, one that draws one part from Spanish Love Songs, another from the likes of Dowsing, while throwing in a good deal of their own experimentation in the process. They're led by a witty and an incredibly charming vocalist in Erik Garlington, who splits between howling punk rock screams and softly sung story-based vocals that ooze with charisma. It's a set where you can easily stare at the stage in a trance-like state as you listen to the chapters of a Holden Caulfield-type character as explored by Garlington in his lyrical universe - all the while the band displays solid energy on stage. On first listen though, the songs don't yet open up as much as they do on record afterward, and alas, the experience feels more like a novelty than one of the best shows at the festival. Good set, nonetheless. [7] PP

Beng Beng Cocktail @ 16:30-17:00 at Yes

The only time I managed to get over to YES all weekend was to see French “crystalcore" band Beng Beng Cocktail, in layman's terms it was acoustic crack-rocksteady vibes fronted by hip-hop style lyrics. Being one of the smaller venues at the festival, it got full very quickly, and once again people had to either queue up to get in or be turned away. Beng Beng put on one of the more pleasant sets of the weekend, providing a set laden with fun, upbeat skankable songs for people to dance to. Newer tracks from their recently released self-titled album went down well, especially “Being a Super Saiyan" and “My Music" which had plenty of knees up towards the front. The only downside is that this set felt over too quickly, I could have happily watched more. [7] MAK

Harker @ 16:40-17:20 at The Union

Harker shouldn't be playing at The Union considering there are just a few handfuls of people here. But boy, do they deliver an incredibly convincing and passionate set nonetheless. It's a bass-heavy, gravelly punk rock sound that draws from Hot Water Music and Small Brown Bike, where the energy comes through in a wholly different way than on their records (see "Axiom", for example). It's an explosion of depth-laden melody and hearts-on-your-sleeve type of passion, played in an intimately tight and compelling manner that creates the perfect setting to highlight the brilliant vocals of Mark Boniface. Songs like “Adulthood" sound incredibly good live, and leave behind a sense that perhaps it's the production on the record that holds them back. Here at The Union, Harker delivers a masterclass in gravelly punk rock in what feels like one of the best sets of the festival. [8] PP

Bobby Funk - Photo by Jimbob Taylor

Bobby Funk @ 17:50-18:30 at Gorilla

Since the release of their album “Longing For The Bonging", Bobby Funk has grown to be a strong favourite within the DIY scene, so it was little surprise they had a full Gorilla stage highly anticipating their set. Kicking off with “Dunch", Bobby Funk launched into a high-octane performance of punchy, aggressive punk rock that leans towards hardcore with a joyful silly twist. Throwing an array of comical songs at us, like “Breakfast Means Breakfast", a parody on Brexit, or “Povvo Goblin", in which the band calls out the Harry Potter goblins for being Tories. The funniest part of the set was “Put Your Hands On The Car", a beatdown hardcore style track that usually uses samples of Fergus Beeley's infamous road rage video. Hilariously the band members decided to do the sample segments themselves, to much humorous effect. Towards the front, there was lots of carnage and I think the first successful human pyramid I'd seen all weekend, though seeing a massive conga line during the bridge of “Gammon Club" trumped that. It meant missing one of my favourite bands in JB Conspiracy, but Bobby Funk was worth it, great punk music with awesome entertainment value at the same time. [8] MAK

Knife Club - Photo by MAK

Knife Club @ 18:50-19:30 at Gorilla

TNS Records supergroup, Knife Club had the misfortune of clashing with ska punks Chewie, a set that was expected to be busy over at The Union. That still didn't stop Gorilla from packing out to catch members of Nosebleed, Haest, Casual Nausea, and former members of Revenge of the Psychotronic Man team up to deliver fast-paced punk rock with a fun approach. This was also the new keytar player, Kim's second set with the band. Each member hit the stage in extravagant fur coats with a mixture of leopard and tiger print designs. From the get-go, as dubbed by frontman Andy Davies, “The Fun Zone" was frantic, going crazy to the likes of “The Tibby Tan Tiger" and “Working Class Tories", even acoustic track “Bozo Is An Underused Insult" was performed faster and harder under a full band sound. Impressively midway through the set, there was a human pyramid a good four or five tiers high. The person at the top ended up at the same height as the band on stage. The most memorable part of the set and probably the whole weekend for me was watching vocalist Zoe crowd surf from the stage, right to the bar at the back of the room. She then had a shot of sambuca and crowd-surfed back to the stage. All of this was done during “You Can Only Try Your Best". Disappointingly I'm not sure the sound was too great for this set, I didn't particularly notice the keytar and everything just sounded very busy and not very distinguishable. I'm not sure if that's because I was sitting near the top or not. It was still great to watch the silliness unfold in front of me though, up there as one of the more compelling sets to see across the festival. [7] MAK

Nervus @ 18:50-19:30 at The Bread Shed

Nervus play a brand of light, indie-flavored pop punk with an emo twist. Given that they are clashing with Chewie and Knife Club, the venue is only half full, but to be perfectly honest, you're not missing out if you were at one of the other venues. It's fairly basic emotionally charged pop punk with few elements that would catch on for a first-time listener like yours truly. Their keyboardist does dance occasionally with his arms wide open in airplane-wing style movements, and “Flies" is a great song that finally gets the crowd moving, but it's late in the set. By the time they close with “It Follows" and its catchy wooh-ho-ho sing-alongs, the crowd joins in and we're left with a positive impression, even if the first half of the set didn't feature much to write home about. [7] PP

Follow Your Dreams @ 19:50-20:40 at Gorilla

Shai Hulud's last-minute cancellation meant that bands were shuffled around to the best of the festival's abilities. One of those changes meant moving Svalbard to the headline slot and having Follow Your Dreams play a second set, the one earlier having been reviewed by Makky. They play a brand of aggressive, power-violence type of stuff with ferocious female vocals. Unfortunately, the screeching vocals are frankly awful to the extent that nothing is salvageable here. The backing screams are alright, but when the overall expression is as unmelodic and irritatingly in-your-face without even featuring explosive energy on stage and is instead delivered with a static demeanour, it means the clock ticks very slowly. Ten minutes in, I thought they had been playing for thirty minutes straight, which says it all. The longer you watch, the worse it gets, which is why the venue is virtually empty. Shai Hulud's replacement they are most certainly not. [2] PP

Redeemon @ 19:50-20:40 at The Bread Shed

When it was announced that The Filaments had to pull out and be replaced by ska-metal crossover band Redeemon, I was excited. The Filaments are great, but a chance to see Redeemon following the release of their recent self-titled EP was a very exciting prospect. Plus we were still getting a dose of trombone player Pook being his bouncy self on stage. Kicking off with “Operation Burnout" Redeemon burst out with monstrous riffage and pulsing horn melodies to get the pits started. It was pretty violent in the best way from the start. Pook joked that if you people were still expecting the Filaments, the crowd could probably guess at this point they were not them as Redeemon continued to provide us was different elements of metal, from harsh death metal to 90s groove, all blended with elements of ska that created pits that frequently switched from moshing to skanking in a heartbeat. Long time single “Anaphylactic" upped the ante with more chaos, however it was closing EP closer “Escapade" that eased us in with teasing soft hooks and Pooks beautiful cleans which exploded into heavy metal/ brass rock epicness. This was undoubtedly the heaviest set I saw all weekend. [8] MAK

The Skints - Photo by Jimbob Taylor

The Skints @ 20:50-22:00 at The Union

By the time I got over to The Union, ska/reggae favourites The Skints were already well underway with their chilled, bouncy vibes. It was a pleasant atmosphere in the crowded venue with lots of swaying and dancing to classics including “Rat-a-Tat". My issue with the set is that for me The Skints a big "ending to the day" kind of band, they are that nice relaxing part of the day band, having a beer in the and a bit of a boogie. It's fun to watch, but after seeing a high-octane band like Redeemon just before them, this just took the edge off and was a bit dull as a follow-up. This may sound unfair to a band of this stature, and it was obvious that large portions of the crowd had a great time and were highly excitable, even as someone who loves this genre, I wasn't entirely hooked. I do put that down to seeing some more vibrant punk and hardcore sets before a relaxed reggae performance. I did leave their set a little early to make sure I could get into the intimate zombie shack for Christmas before that was too full. [6] MAK

Svalbard @ 21:00-22:00 at Gorilla

Svalbard is one of the most metal-looking bands at this year's Manchester Punk Fest. Circular headbangs and swirls of hair flow around throughout the set while a thick, throaty growl by vocalist Serena Cherry dominates the packed venue. Her vocals are far more raw and coarse than on record, but so is her persona: she impressively commands the audience while shredding her instrument simultaneously. Sadly, the sound mix does not give Svalbard's expression justice. The bass and drums largely drown the ethereal effect of their third album on “The Currency Of Beauty", but thankfully “Click Bait" and “Open Wound" somehow pull through in great quality. Here, the crowd joins in headbanging, and an insane pit opens up for the latter. If anything, we celebrate the amazing songwriting of their third album, where older songs get a milder reception (despite a small human pyramid forming for “Greyscale"). [8] PP

Christmas @ 22:15-22:55 at Zombie Shack

It was a good thing I got into Zombie Shack when I did, by the time German rockers Christmas took to the stage, the venue was filled to the absolute brim. Those that did get to see Christmas got to witness scenes going hard immediately. Tight but turbulent moshing, punters almost dangling from the ceiling as they crowd surfed, all as the germans threw fuzzy guitar hooks, shouted vocals and big chanty choruses our way, most notably “Push Fast" with its big “WOOAHH WOOAHH" segment. It was wonderful carnage and A pure shot of adrenaline following the chilled vibes of The Skints. An outright wake-up call of hard rock and angsty hardcore punk. I sure hope in future versions of this weekender, Christman can come back and perform at a larger stage so that more people can observe the craziness unfold.[8] MAK

SUNDAY

Brassick @ 14:50-15:20 at The Union

My start to Sunday was off to an amusing start as I almost mistook the opening for Brassick's set for their soundcheck, thinking they had another 10 minutes before they started. After realising this was their actual performance I headed into the semi-full room in which Brassick were full steam ahead into a set of high tempo hardcore punk set loaded with piss and vinegar. A vicious sounding Nicola fronted the band with her quite distinctive gravelly shouts as she was backed by an array of forceful guitar hooks and relentlessly hard-hitting drum beats. It was a hangover cobweb clearer kind of set as heavy music fans eased into the day, growing into the set and getting more active with the band the further things progressed. I'm not entirely familiar with the newer album, though I'm pretty sure we got to hear “They Say", which is more of a chirpier skate punk anthem than an all-out hardcore bruiser, though we did get treated to older pit started “Bigot" which was a lot harder hitting. It was a buoyant performance from the band, the audience not as much overall, perhaps later in the day the crowd might have been more responsive. [6½] MAK

Signals Midwest @ 15:00-15:30 at Gorilla

Midwestern punkers Signals Midwest have the honor of opening Gorilla on Sunday. After an enormous queue that means missing the first two tracks (why don't they open the venue 20-30 minutes earlier than exactly when they start?), we enter right in the middle of “Endless Summer" where vocalist Max Stern breaks away from the microphone for a small a capella sing-along with the audience. It's followed by “Tommy Took A Picture", a new track that together with “I Used To Draw" showcases just how good the new album “Dent" is, which was just released one week before their set. As such, it is older tracks like “You're Gonna Be Golden" that draw the strongest crowd dynamic given their melodic fervor. On stage, the band is looking as solid as ever, rocking out with passionate energy that just feels infectious. Something tells me they should've had a much higher slot on the bill. [8] PP

The Infested @ 15:40-16:20 at The Union

Best described as guilt-free Leftover Crack, The Infested followed up at The Union to play their second to last ever set before calling it a day next month. In all honesty, from what I saw that is probably for the best. This was somewhat of a car crash in slow motion to watch, even if somewhat enjoyable to watch still on nostalgia value alone. Things early on didn't go well for the band, in which one of the guitarists broke a string during the opener, then before getting to use a different guitar, he also blew his amp somehow. So, after two songs in, the band had to ditch using a second guitar and he just became the frontman for the performance. The Infested joked they released their album “Myths, Lies & Hypocrites" back in 2008 and just made a career of playing songs from that for the best part of a decade and a half, throwing mostly songs from that album into the set. We did get some crust-punk ska-styled punk anthems in the like of the album's title track and “Friends/Mistakes", causing plenty of rowdiness towards the front. I got the vibe by the body language that the band is quite happy to be calling it a day soon, that the technical issues were quickly brushed off with a “let's just plough on and get this over with" attitude. I liked hearing some crack rocksteady genre classics, It was just one of those unfortunate sets that didn't quite hit the heights of hopes or expectations. [6] MAK

Shit Present @ 15:50-16:30 at Gorilla

Shit Present features some of the finest members of the punk rock underground scene, led by Iona Cairns (Great Cynics) while also featuring members of Gnarwolves and The Smith Street Band to name but a few. Her attitude-laden, strained vocals are a perfect match for their high-energy, melodic punk platform, which is best described as one long flurry of hair swirling on stage. Cairns takes every moment possible to get away from the mic to bounce around, the rest of the band is likewise in constant motion. This energy creates an infectious vibe to supplement the small sing-alongs that follow the "'cause there's nothing I hate more than fucking small talk" parts of “Melbourne". It's an upbeat set that feels very active, and deserves a bigger audience - let's see what happens when their new album lands (which they finished recording yesterday, Cairns says). [7] PP

Nosebleed @ 16:50-17:30 at Gorilla

Rock and roll trio Nosebleed has become something of an MPF mainstay band, having performed at the three times I have been to the festival. The first time at Zombie Shack was too small, and perhaps opening the Union Stage at the time for the band was too big, even if they did smash their set. Like a goldilocks situation, Gorilla felt an absolutely perfect fit for Nosebleed. Flaunting their regular fuzzy garage rock/rock & roll vibes and dressed to the nines in their iconic suits, the Leeds trio were at their vibrant best in creating the party atmosphere. Most of the venue was either dancing or bopping along. After just a few songs, in regular Nosebleed fashion, guitarist Elliot Verity and bassist Ben Hannah made their way into the crowd, where they would stay for the rest of the set to play surrounded by plenty of sweaty fans. Pulling fan favourites out of the bag like “Time and Time Again", “Psycho" and “I Can't Tell You anything" triggered the crowd to dance harder and pull off yet another ridiculously tall human pyramid (a successful one too). To humorous effect, Elliot said he felt like Jon Bon Jovi and impressively got the crowd to sing the chorus to “Living On A Prayer" in a break between songs. I've seen Nosebleed a lot over the last six years, and each time I come away with my jaw on the floor at the sheer charisma this band has and their ability to command a crowd and have a whole room dancing. I'm torn on whether this was the set of the weekend for me. It was a strong contender. [10] MAK

Mikey Erg @ 18:00-18:30 at The Bread Shed

Mikey Erg is everywhere. Due to various bands dropping out last minute, his name appeared on the Clashfinder the same morning, so he must have already been attending the festival as a guest. Today, he's performing as a one-man show, armed just with his vocals and a distorted electric guitar. Such a setup requires quite a lot of energy to not feel like something's missing, and despite his best efforts, his set in front of a half-empty The Bread Set feels lackluster. He's hugging the mic, shily adjusting his glasses using the stand, and every now and then trashes around the stage in wild fashion. But even as an Ergs fan, it's limited to how much one guitar only can electrify a crowd. A man with his guitar has its limitations. [6] PP

Good Friend @ 18:30-19:00 at Zombie Shack

Good Friend is one of the great finds of the festival for me. An Irish band, they play a brand of gravelly punk rock with shouty vocals, slightly reminiscent of Make Do And Mend with a few references to Red City Radio's older material as well. It's rowdy, rough-around-the-edges, and has just the right amount of woo-hoo bits to draw a few sing-alongs from the crowd. The band's warm demeanour creates a passionate, small-band basement atmosphere at the venue, especially seeing how they are basically tearing themselves apart on stage, shaking and bouncing like there's no end. Sam Russo joins them in for “On The Radio", spending some time in the crowd with the mic, further contributing to an upbeat, energetic ambiance that has us bopping our heads, and some even singing along. A fresh, convincing take on classic punk rock melodies. [7½] PP

Incisions @ 18:50-19:30 at Gorilla

At the last MPF, Manchester's own hardcore punks Incisions had opened the Gorilla Stage, this time they had been pushed up the lineup on the same stage. This time with a new album in “BLISS" under their belt and a stronger following, it was inevitable that this was going to be a festival highlight. The packed out Gorilla stage bared witness to mosh pit pandemonium and a tidal wave of crowd surfers as Incisions played their gritty, angst-ridden anthems, including the hardcore fury that is “Fuck The World" and the more skate-punk influenced “Bigger City". Vocalist Jordan Lloyd made a joking pop at everyone at the Union who went to see “Jar Jar The Cat", saying “Never heard of him" in jest. The new single “Gasoline" acted like someone threw gas on the fire and ignited a reaction to match the brutish nature of the song. This was simply a hardcore band putting their all into giving us a set of aggressive music and a roomful of fans lapping it up and going apeshit. I did get to witness some hilariously failed stage dives that I'm pretty sure weren't caught. That being said I hope nobody got hurt in the process. This set was the best kind of musical mayhem to get the blood flowing. [8] MAK

PMX @ 19:50-20:40 at Gorilla

PMX is a pretty good selection for the slot right ahead of A Wilhelm Scream at Gorilla, given how similar their take on technical punk rock is. It's an aggressively lined, breakneck speed approach that's dominated by tight, complex songs and jaw-dropping technicality, with an added intellectual vibe thanks to its Propagandhi influence. The band hails from Scotland, so there are plenty of Scotland/England jabs back and forth in what is rather entertaining chatter. Unfortunately, their set is plagued by technical issues with bass dropping out, the kickdrum moving out of its place, which removes any momentum their ridiculously fast songs otherwise might have added. "That's how bad our drummer is, his bass drum wants to leave", they joke about the situation, before they get Sarah from MPF to sit on top of an amp to hold it in its place. But with the vocals super low in the mix feeling almost like an afterthought, it's difficult to get much out of their lighting tempo technical prog-punk, especially given how much else is going on to absorb in their soundscape. As such, the crowd is mostly in waiting mode for A Wilhelm Scream which does this exact style, but so much better, as we'll soon witness. [6½] PP

Riskee and the Ridicule @ 19:50-20:40 at The Bread Shed

A swift walk over to The Bread Shed to get in the venue for Riskee and The Ridicule before that filled up was a much wiser choice than I had anticipated. In a similar fashion to Popes of Chillitown, I underestimated the appreciation and popularity of the more diverse end of punk rock. Riskee and the Ridicule's hip-hop/ Punk rock vibes filled The Bread Shed venue and from the moment they opened with "Banger" and then “Kaboom", the atmosphere was explosive. A sweat-fest of moshing, circle pits, and endless crowd surfers, to the point it pissed off the security. Riskee pounded out their distinctive punchy rock hooks fronted by awe-inspiring, rapped vocals and easy to pick up chorus hooks. It was a massive singalong, especially to the Brexit piss-take in “Blue Jacket" which tears into the gammons of British culture and the “Naaahnanana" part for “Accelerate". Riskee closed their set in the most dominant manner possible by unleashing their heaviest song to date, “Body Bag", which contained incredibly crunchy riffs for fans to go batshit crazy one last time. It was a ridiculous set that even caught me by surprise having seen the band a handful of times. [9] MAK

A Wilhelm Scream @ 21:00-22:00 at Gorilla

And the prize for the wildest set in terms of crowd dynamic easily goes to A Wilhelm Scream at this festival. Immediately from “Boat Builders" onwards, the sing-longs and core energy in the audience are at unmatched levels where words like insane, frantic, crazy, and uncontrollable come to mind. People are vaulting off the stage, the mosh pit looks deadly, and at times it virtually feels like the foundations of Gorilla are shaking from the sheer activity in the crowd. On stage, the band matches it one to one where the vocalist Nuno Pereira abruptly rushes from side to side, delivering his scratchy howl in a crisp crystal clear fashion. “Jaws 3, People 0" from “Career Suicide" attracts even more crowd surfers, “The Soft Sell" from ruiner draws echoing sing-alongs, and even the brand new material like “Be One To Know One" and “Figure Eights In My Head" isn't enough to slow things down. With deep cuts like “Anchor End" (rarely ever played) combined with aggressive classics like “I Wipe My Ass With Shobiz" and “Me vs. Morrissey In The Pretentiousness Contest (The Ladder Match)", the atmosphere in the venue is already through the roof, but it can get better. “The Horse" blocks the stage from my view due to dozens of feet and hands flying in all directions thanks to a ridiculous amount of crowd surfers, and “The King Is Dead" is treated to a thunderous sing-along and a pit that signals everyone's just about done with MPF after this set. Brilliant, as usual. [9] PP

Roughneck Riot @ 21:00-22:00 at The Bread Shed

The Sunday night headline slot was possibly the evillest clash I've ever seen at a festival, with choices of Jeff Rosenstock, A Wilhelm Scream, or Roughneck Riot all at the same time. It was tough but the obvious choice for me to see the Warrington folk punks following the recent release of their album, “Burn It To The Ground". In 2019 the band took a planned hiatus that ended up going much further than expected following the effects of the pandemic. Since finally coming back, Roughneck has been tearing up stages with their intricate folk-infused punk rock stacked with complex plucked melodies, and strong catchy hooks to join in with. This show was no different. “Pissin' In The Wind" and “Parasites" in particular had great singalongs. Throughout the set, you couldn't help but be in awe at the sheer talent of the technical banjo and mandolin melodies, especially in “Resistance" and the newer track “A New Day is Dawning". Plenty of the packed-out Bread Shed crowd took their opportunity to crowd surf more and more. The relentless behaviour was more extreme than it was for Riskee, with some punters even hanging off things they really shouldn't be hanging off. Guitarist Greeny did make a joke comment that he hadn't seen people touch the ceiling yet. Some over-eager gig-goers took this as a challenge and tried their best to climb on people and up to not-so-sturdy poles to get as high as they could. Probably not the safest thing to do but it was hilarious to watch. As far as I'm aware nobody got hurt. One of the set highlights was the cover of Bad Religion's “You" with a folk-punk twist to it. For such a busy-sounding band with lots of different instruments, I was particularly impressed by how great it sounded, I could hear everything individually. Roughneck ended their set firmly with crowd favourite “This Is Our Day", which gave an excuse for more rowdy behaviour. Just as I was leaving the set early to get into Zombie Shack for Plot 32, I think there was an encore song about to start, I missed it but what I did see was a phenomenal set, with Roughneck proving themselves as one of the best Folk Punk bands going. [10] MAK

Plot 32 @ 22:15-22:50 at Zombie Shack

Having seen Plot 32 since day one of their performing career, I was particularly excited to see how far they had come in the handful of years they had been together. A fair way it seemed, by the time they hit the stage, The Zombie Shack was filled to the brim with little room to move. However, we found a way as soon as the joyful ska-punk hits erupted from the stage. An upbeat atmosphere filled the room as chirpy upstrokes, bouncy brass melodies and Stash's gleeful vocals hit our ears for the likes of “Remission" and “See You Next Tuesday". A good portion of the crowd was dancing and moshing along in possibly the wildest I'd seen it get for Plot 32. “Issues" carried some angst, while “Barry The Butcher" took a more anthemic approach with a big singalong in the process. We even got a switch during "Save The World" with Stash and Cat Robins trading places for Cat to perform vocal duties while Stash showed off his trumpet talent. This set was balls to the wall sweaty and fun, ending the festival with the biggest smile on my face and seeing Plot 32 get such a great reaction. I couldn't have asked for a nicer way to end my weekend. [8] MAK

Forever Unclean @ 23:50-00:20 at The Bread Shed

Start Danish, end Danish it is. Copenhagen indie-flavored punk rockers Forever Unclean are closing the festival for the undersigned with a relatively solid turnout at The Bread Shed considering it's at midnight during the final day of the festival. Having seen them live dozens of times at various Copenhagen venues, it's great to see that the sing-alongs we've been having at UnderWerket happen also in front of an international audience. For instance, the "come on, race me to the bottom" bits of “Dinosaur" draw a loud response from the crowd, and the volume of “Worthless" sing-alongs surprises even the band on stage by the looks of it. Despite a few technical issues at the start, the crowd energizes and there are even a couple of crowd surfers for songs like “Woof". Finally, “Waves" captures the whole atmosphere with a venue full of sweaty dudes and dudettes all cramming forward towards the stage, singing along with huge smiles on their faces. As usual, Forever Unclean deliver their melodic punk rock with fervour and energy on stage, leaving behind a solid impression. [8] PP

FINAL WORDS

Along with the incredible lineup, one of the biggest drawing factors was the community atmosphere of the weekend. Having spent three years away from the festival, plenty of the regulars saw this as more than a music event, this was a massive punk social for people to catch up with friends they haven't seen in a long time, as well as make new ones. Various tight-knit scenes came together to party and it was beautiful to see. As far as the music went, we had a great time, saw some amazing performances over the weekend, only slightly gutted about some of the bands we didn't get to see, but some of the changes were incredibly well made. The organisers did a great job in jumping over some ridiculous hurdles thrown their way. Hats off to them. MAK

As usual, we'll finish off our article with our classic The Good, The Bad, The Ugly section:

THE GOOD

  • Being in the city centre means all kinds of food and drink outlets are nearby along with accommodation.
  • All of the venues are within a 10-minute radius of each other, with most of them in 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.
  • The festival organisers worked hard to rectify any issues with the unfortunate situation of bands pulling out
  • Great vibes and lots of different types of alcoholic beverages to choose between
  • Ska isn't dead. You can go to this festival as the ultimate proof
  • Largely no queues to venues, except at the opening of each day.
  • Generally a good stage selection: most bands played at appropriate stages for their size

THE BAD

  • Venue capacity levels, admittedly this was warned by organisers that people should get to venues early if there are certain bands they consider a must-see. Though it's still disappointing for some punters if they can't get in. One of the minor setbacks of a great weekend.
  • Overzealous security at times, typically not quite understanding the punk scene and things that happen. For instance, PP's wallet was inspected from the inside multiple times at different venues
  • Venues out of beer. So many venues - even on the first day - had multiple taps just closed off. The trend continued the entire weekend - how can they not be prepared for this?
  • Gorilla: the wi-fi was broken the entire weekend. There was no signal inside, which meant you couldn't get in touch with your friends and relatives if needed, not to even mention the search for a mobile signal would drain your battery for the day

THE UGLY

  • The sound at The Union is dire for most bands, except if the venue is totally full. It's just not a good venue for this.
  • Covid still has its effect! Bands had to pull from tours and the festival due to having Covid. Including some of the bigger names that draw people in.

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