For the second year running a collective of promoters in Manchester (TNSrecords, Moving North & Anarchistic Undertones) have gathered some of the best punk rock bands from around the UK, as well as some from further afield, for the second Manchester Punk Festival. Extending the festival by a day and adding another gig gave early attendees somewhat of a pre-fest vibe before we got to the main events over the weekend.
The band charged with opening up the gig at Retro Bar (which was also hosting one of the after parties on the Friday Night) was The John Player Specials. The John Player Specials are a seven piece ska-punk act from the North West. This was an inspired choice from the festival organisers as The JPS got the crowd moving immediately with an extremely energetic set. Fast horns make it hard for anybody to keep their feet still and as the set went on more and more people were at the very least having a little bob along with the band. A good number of very excitable folk down at the front of the stage were having a really enthusiastic skank. Really fun opening set from The John Player Specials.
Something I wasn't expecting from the second band of the festival was a light show – that's what we got from Big Machine and a whole lot more. A band with just a guitarist and a drummer, they were a late addition to MPF so I didn't really know what to expect. Positioning the drum kit and the microphone so they were facing each other the duo launched into some fast and loud thrash. Positioned between the guitarist/singer and drummer was a bright light that the guitarist could turn on and off from his gigantic pedal board creating a pretty cool stage show.
Next up were another two piece band, Riggots from Wigan. Like Big Machine they were a loud and fast thrashy punk band. They didn't have the light show that Big Machine had but they certainly had a lot of energy. From the outset the band's guitarist and singer set his microphone up in the middle of the floor and played amongst the crowd at Retro Bar. His energy was quite infectious and soon had a lot of the crowd moshing hard at the front of the stage. It's rare to see two person punk rock bands but it's great to see two acts like these playing such great music.
We went back to the more conventional punk set up next with four piece Dead Class. Emma noted during their set that they reminded her of The Dead Kennedys. There was certainly a hardened political edge to their set which was enjoyable to see but there was also some melody which we had perhaps been missing from the two previous bands. The highlight of their set for us was the song Attack which we had listened to on our journey to Manchester.
The headliners on the first night of the Manchester Punk Festival were Cardiff's Grand Collapse. The four piece hardcore punk band are quite hotly tipped and I was quite looking forward to seeing them. In all honestly I'm not a big fan of the really loud shouty style that comes from hardcore music but I always find myself really enjoying this genre of band live. The energy that comes from the stage is massive and Grand Collapse put every single thing they have into their performance. Throughout the set I thought it must be exhausting to be in a hardcore band, the singer especially didn't stop moving! I'm not familiar with any of the songs but I can't help but bang my head along with the music. If you're a fan of hardcore punk then Grand Collapse are definitely a band you want to check out.
The first night of the Manchester Punk Festival 2016 really went off with a bang and had got us ready for the rest of the weekend.