Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Gig Review: Manchester Punk Festival - Day 2 18/4/15

It was time for day two of the festival and frankly after a long journey up from Colchester the day before and a late night all I wanted to do was stay in the horribly uncomfortable bed at the hostel I was staying at. Eventually though I did drag myself out of bed and made my way back to Sound Control.

After arriving too late to check out Sammy H Stevens next door at The Thirsty Scholar I headed downstairs to see Bear Trade open up the day of punk rock at Sound Control. A decent sized crowd had already gathered to see the band which to me was incredible considering how early it was. Happily the time of the day didn't put a dampener on the band or the crowds enthusiasm as there were plenty of big smiles and sing alongs throughout their set. After Bear Trade I set off upstairs to check out Dead Neck for the first time. I was really impressed with Dead Neck, playing fast melodic hardcore their energy levels were through the roof. Blasting through their set it seemed to be over just as quickly as it had begun. I will definitely be checking out more from Dead Neck.

After running back down the stairs (going up and downs stairs became a theme for the day) it was time for one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing all weekend – Leagues Apart. Their album Brief Interviews With Hideous Men (reviewed here) was one of my favourites of 2014 and this was the first chance I had had to see some of it performed live. From the opening of Kat Dennings; You Are My Everest to the end of To Know The Night Is To Live In It Forever the set was absolutely brilliant. Adam and James voices were strong, gravelly and perfect for a punk rock show. It was fantastic to see the whole band having such fun on stage together as well. I wish they would tour more. Next I hurried back upstairs to see Scottish pop punks The Murderburgers start their set. I lost count of how many songs the trio got through during their thirty minute set but every one of them had me tapping my feet and bopping my head. The speed which Fraser sings and manages to play his guitar amazes me. Lots of hooks and lots of good times were had with The Murderburgers. Catch them on tour with Masked Intruder in May.

After a quick food break I made my way back upstairs to see Just Panic. Another band I knew very little about other than they had reformed to play the festival. A sizeable crowd gathered, I guess that they were loved and were much missed. Straight away I could see why, their folk punk was very well received by the Manchester crowd. Plenty of sing-a-long moments and fists in the air in celebration of a great great band. After Just Panic finished an awesome set I popped over the road to The Thirsty Scholar to see my first acoustic set of the day, Scotland's finest – Billy Liar. Billy's set showcased everything I love about punk rock, it was played with a lot of passion and it never felt like he was holding anything back and there were a lot of mistakes. That didn't matter at all though to anybody in the room, it added a whole lot of charm to the set, Billy Liar is one of us playing music that he loves and having a great time doing it. The song Change in particular got a brilliant reaction from the fine folk in the room.

Then it was time for another highly anticipated band for the weekend, from London it was those silly chaps Wonk Unit. The early start cobwebs were now a distant memory as Wonk Unit worked the crowd into a bit of a frenzy, creating the first mosh pit of the weekend so far with their unique brand of punk rock music, they really are like no other band in the scene. Wonk Unit are clearly a very popular band in Manchester, uniting punk rockers young and old with everyone having a cracking time during their set. Six piece ska punk band Stand OutRiot were another band reuniting to play the festival and I was excited to see them. Despite not having played a gig together for over a year they put on a set like they had never been away. As you would expect from a ska band the energy was incredible as they delivered a hugely enjoyable set. Another band that needs to play a lot more shows.

Smoke Or Fires Joe McMahon was playing an acoustic set at The Thirsty Scholar so after the conclusion of Stand Out Riots set I wandered back over to check him out. Acoustic music always comes across more honestly than full band music and that combined with McMahon's heartfelt voice delivered one of the more thoughtful and moving sets of the weekend. Roughneck Riots set was already in full swing by the time that I got back upstairs (each climb was getting slower and slower by this point). The room was absolutely packed by this point and the crowd were having the best time dancing to Warrington's Celtic punk rockers. It had been a few years since I'd had the pleasure of seeing them live and they were just as good as I remembered. Roughneck Riot are a group of fantastically talented musicians spreading an important message. After this I made my way back to The Thirsty Scholar to catch the end of Great Cynics front man Giles Bidders acoustic set. The room was absolutely packed for his upbeat set of old and new Great Cynics songs, all of which went down a treat, it was brilliant to see such a talented young man getting such a good reception.

After catching five minutes each of Fair Do's and That Fucking Tank it was time for Vanilla Pod. Kings Lynn's finest are celebrating their twentieth year as a band and have been playing gigs everywhere. They have also put out a brand new EP on TNS Records named Seeing Out The Sunrise. Their set was comprised of songs from that EP as well as plenty of old favourites such as Surrounded By Idiots. Vanilla Pod put on a fantastic show which pleased everyone in the room; they may have been one of the older bands playing the festival but were certainly among the most energetic. One of my biggest hopes for the festival was for Muncie Girls to play some of their recently recorded new material. I was pleased as punch when they opened their set with four brand new songs, all of which sounded excellent and have gotten me very excited for their debut full length. I also thought that is was very brave of the trio to open to a crowd that wasn't necessarily their own with material very few people in the room would have heard. Absolutely love Muncie Girls for doing that. As much as I enjoyed their new stuff it was also great to hear some of my favourites such as Railroad and Kasper & Randow. This was by far the biggest room I'd seen the band play and they just looked born to do it, excellent stuff.

After another quick food break and a sit down (I was really struggling by this point) I pulled myself back up the stairs to see the end of Darko's set. I really love watching hardcore punk bands like Darko live. The intensity of the performance was crazy; and even though the intensity was high each member of the band was playing with a massive smile on their bearded faces. The crowd at Sound Control really responded to them by singing and dancing along with the band. Next I made my way back downstairs for Plymouth punks Crazy Arm. A band influenced by punk rock, folk and americana music, Crazy Arm are always a treat to experience live. This was the wildest I'd seen the crowd get all day with plenty of moshing and a great human pyramid. Crazy Arm are fantastic recorded but to really experience just how good they are you have to see the live. After Crazy Arm I ran (sort of) back upstairs to see The Restarts as I had seen a lot of people wearing their t-shirts all day. I only got to see a couple of songs but I really enjoyed the Hackney based three pieces fast and furious hardcore punk.

I made my way down the stairs for the final time for Apologies, I Have None – the first of two headliners. I made sure that I was at the stage early to get the best possible view of one of my favourite bands. Starting out with fan favourite Sat In Vicky Park the crowd sang louder than they had all day. The band ripped through songs from full length album London and newish EP Black Everything, which grows on me more and more every time I hear the songs played live. Massive props have to go to Leagues Apart guitarist James Hull who was playing bass for only the third time with the band. Finishing up with the songs Long Gone and The 26 Apologies, I Have None proved why they are the number one punk band in the UK's amazing underground scene. The main portion of The Manchester Punk Festival was finished by Essex punk legends The Filaments. The irony of me travelling all the way to Manchester from Colchester to see a band from Essex didn't escape me. As I arrived upstairs the show was already going as The Filaments played Tears Of Essex; a fantastic song about how UKIP tried to get elected in Essex a few years ago and failed. Another highlight of their set for me was Tales From The Barside, a song that name checks The Soundhouse, a bar in Colchester. The Filaments were at the absolute top of their game, old school tracks such as UK Now and Bastard Coppers really got the crowd going, whether they were skanking, moshing or just singing at the top of their voices everyone was having a the best time. What an excellent way to finish the Manchester Punk Festival.

Except that wasn't quite the end of the day. Five minutes away at Retro Bar an after party was being thrown featuring Bear Trade as The Replacements, Just Panic as Against Me and Leagues Apart as Rancid. A lo of fun was had at Retro Bar, songs were sung so loudly it was almost like punk rock karaoke, everyone was dancing and a lot of new friends were made. There was a strong feeling in that bar of never wanting what had been a very special day to end.

The Manchester Punk Festival really was the most epic of days. All the acts were fantastic at being ready on stage when they needed to be and all playing very good sets, EVERYONE was super friendly and for me the most impressive thing was just how smoothly the day ran. If there were any problems during the day they definitely weren't noticeable. I can't give the people at TNS Records, Moving North and Anarchistic Undertones enough credit for successfully putting on the UK's very best festival. If they happen to be reading this, thank you so so so much. Roll on the Manchester Punk Festival 2016.

Now listening to Something I Can Hold In My Hands by The Smith Street Band

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