Saturday, 29 April 2017

Gig Review: Manchester Punk Festival 2017 Day One 20/4/17

It's crazy to think that the Manchester Punk Festival is already in its third year. It's also crazy to think that the Manchester Punk Festival is only in its third year. The festival has very quickly become a staple in the calendar of fans of punk music not just in the UK but now all over the world. I was fortunate enough to attend the first year in 2015 and had Emma with me at the 2016 edition of the festival. This year we were back in Manchester for the festival which has grown inexplicably quickly since its beginnings. This year the festival organisers, who are local promoters from TNSrecords, Moving North and Anarchistic Undertones, have really outdone themselves. Now featuring seven different venues as well as adding a punk cinema, food stall and distro area, the festival really is bigger than ever. With an incredible line up of bands from all other the world this weekend was certain to be a special one!

The first night of MPF took place between two central Manchester venues, Retro Bar and Zombie Shack. As with last year, wristband collection (for the Thursday, at least) was upstairs in Retro Bar while the festival kicked off downstairs, then continued at Zombie Shack later in the evening. We got down early to ensure that we’d catch all of the first band’s set and that first band were Bolshy, a seven-piece ska band from Liverpool. Bolshy are a band whose name I’d heard before but hadn’t actually gotten around to checking out – and that’s exactly what a festival like MPF is good for, checking out new bands. From the first song of their set I was sold and seemingly so were those around me, as Bolshy got the crowd moving. I was reminded of Streetlight Manifesto, by the Bolshy horns parts in particular, but Colin said he thought they sounded more dubby, either way we really enjoyed their performance – a fine start to Manchester Punk Festival 2017.

Lancashire's Iron Drugs offered something completely different to Bolshy. The four piece played one of the heaviest sets of the entire weekend, definitely the heaviest I saw. The band came with clearly no intentions of messing around, just getting in, playing loud and hard and getting out again. After the excitable upbeat nature of Bolshy, Iron Drugs were a bit of a shock to the system at the start of their set but soon grew on me with some in-your-face hardcore punk, with more than a little melody snuck in for good measure.

Queen Zee & The Sasstones were the next band to take to the Retro Bar stage, a band that, like Bolshy, were also from Liverpool. We were only on the first day and the third band of the festival but already the bands were proving to be greatly varied – another great thing about MPF. The variety within the genre of punk rock is something that I don’t think people from outside of the punk scene quite understand. I know a lot of people just think of the Sex Pistols or Green Day when you say ‘punk’ but it’s so much more than that. If you think of punk as being the music that represents having the freedom and the guts to do whatever you want, how you want, then Queen Zee & The Sasstones are the epitome of punk. Queen Zee in particular was full of enthusiasm and aggression in equal parts while the band wholeheartedly reinforced that.

After leaving Retro Bar we made our way to the awesome Zombie Shack venue that's above the Thirsty Scholar. Last year Zombie Shack became one of my favourite venues I've ever visited - the zombie themed tiki bar is just a wonderful place to be in. First up were The Crash Mats from Oldham. The MPF program described the three piece as "stupid idiotic ska punk rock." This sounded completely up my street. Opening up with a song about legendary professional wrestler Ric Flair it was clear from the beginning that The Crash Mats are a band that don't take themselves too seriously and I absolutely loved them for that. This was loud, boisterous and fun punk rock that is impossible not to enjoy. With song topics such as legendary wrestlers, smoking weed and the travesty of Channel 5 potentially cancelling Neighbours, The Crash Mats opened up Zombie Shack in fantastic fashion. MPF was going to be a weekend long party and The Crash Mats did a brilliant job in helping to get things started.

Following on from The Crash Mats was going to be a difficult job but I was pretty confident that Crocodile God were more than up for the task. First forming in 1992, The Liverpudlian band are hugely influenced by 90s American pop punk - one of my favourite eras of punk rock, so Crocodile God were going to be a very enjoyable half an hour of my life. I was instantly reminded of The Ergs! as soon as Crocodile God began their set and felt myself wanting to sing along with the fast paced lyrics but unfortunately I didn't know any words. Crocodile God were a great new find for me despite being around on and off for twenty five years now.

The penultimate act of our evening was The Human Project from Leeds. Zombie Shack was now getting very busy for one of the most popular bands in the UK punk scene. The Human Project's brand of melodic skate punk immediately got the MPF crowd going nuts. So much so that Emma and I had to retreat slightly so not to get caught up in the mayhem. I've seen the band a few times over the years and they've always been tight but this has to be the best time that I've seen them. Playing a selection of songs from their debut album, Origins, as well as a few new ones, The Human Project were absolutely class on stage - clearly revelling in the chaos that was unfolding in front of them. Earlier in the day The Human Project announced that this would be their last show for ages so they clearly made the most of it with a stellar performance.

The task of closing the Thursday of Manchester Punk Festival fell to one of the UK’s most loved pop punk bands, The Murderburgers. I’d only seen the Scottish three-piece once before, back when they supported Masked Intruder on their UK tour in 2015 – a band that Fraser Murderburger has since stepped in as a touring member of (when Green was ‘in prison’!) and recorded with. I enjoyed them the first time time around and I enjoyed them for the second time, despite being pretty exhausted by this point (having had a gig in London the night before, getting up early to go swimming, before driving 170 miles to Manchester) and standing near the back. They really are a band that is best seen live to fully appreciate what they have to offer – packed with enthusiasm and energy. Zombie Shack was packed with enthusiastic punk fans by this point, including those that had arrived after seeing Menzingers/Flatliners at the Manchester Academy, and they adored The Murderburgers. It wouldn’t be a DIY punk festival without a few technical hiccups and there were a few of those when Fraser’s amp blew up (technical term) but it didn’t taint the band’s set too much. All-in-all it was an excellent first night of Manchester Punk Festival 2017.

We headed off to our hotel for some much needed rest ahead of the next two jam-packed days of punk rock. Already MPF 2017 was proving to be just as good, if not better, than 2016.

This review was written by Colin and Emma.