It was now time for the third and final day of 2017's Manchester Punk Festival. This would be a very long day, starting off at 12:30 with the final band scheduled to start at 01:45 the following morning - if you were able to last that long. The day would mark the debut of two new venues for the festival as well with the additions of Gorilla and Underdog. What a day it was going to be!
Last year we started our Saturday of Manchester Punk Festival with Hello Mabel, an acoustic folky duo, and this year our day began fairly similarly. We headed on down to Underdog, just down the road from Sound Control, at 12:30 to catch the first act of the day. After hanging about outside for a little while wondering how we actually got inside Underdog (it wasn’t actually open) and also briefly speaking to Derrick of Make-That-A-Take and Tragical History Tour, we made it inside and found the venue down a flight of steps. It was a decent sized space although there was an awkward pillar in what was effectively the front of the stage. Underdog was to be the venue for the more acoustic-based artists which in previously years was designated to the Thirsty Scholar.
I actually had no idea who we were going to see when we headed to Underdog because, no matter how many times I looked at the program, I’d forgotten. However, when we got inside and found a quartet comprising of accordion, violin, acoustic guitar and banjo I knew this band would be right up my street. The band were called Dirty Twisters and they were just sound checking when we arrived. There were some technical difficulties and after trying and failing to resolve them the band decided to go completely unplugged. This was a brave decision but it definitely worked in their favour as it simply made the whole thing feel more intimate. Their songs were very much like traditional English folk songs rather than anything remotely punk really but it was wonderful. They even performed an acapella track which was excellent. Dirty Twisters were just what was needed to ease the festival goers into day three of MPF, the busiest day yet.
The first band of the day at Zombie Shack were long running Macclesfield street punks The Kirkz. The band joked that a big part of their negotiations to play MPF was to make sure that nobody else was playing whilst they were on. This loud, brash foursome did a fantastic job in shaking off any cobwebs that the nice sized crowd in attendance might have had from the previous couple of days. Despite not being at all familiar with The Kirkz, I loved their set. It was loud, in-your-face and full of enthusiasm. One of the things I was loving about MPF was the amount of smaller Northern bands, that don't often find their way down to London, I was able to see.
When artists began to be announced for MPF 2017 there was one name that I was particularly excited about, having never seen them live before, and that was Stöj Snak. Colin gave me his/their album, ScreamerSongwriter, to review last year and I soon discovered that I loved this Danish folk punk ‘screamer songwriter’. I’ve never really been sure whether I should refer to Stöj Snak (Google translate informs me that this translates to ‘Stop Talking’, although it’s been wrong before) as a band or as a person. Niels Sörensen is the main man and songwriter and I reviewed the album as a solo endeavour but in Manchester he was wonderfully accompanied by three additional musicians who I imagine weren’t new to their roles. Either way, Niels and his band completely blew me away with their performance. Starting out on his own with an acoustic guitar in hand, Niels made his way from the back of the Underdog crowd to the stage playing as he went. There were a couple of songs that he played by himself but when the band, consisting of percussion, double bass, washboard (!), harmonica and melodica, joined in it took the sound to a whole extra level. Their performance was raw and it was passionate. I absolutely loved it and I know the whole crowd did too. When Niels and the band got to the end of their set, they finished with the somewhat sad but beautiful Ronkedor. This is a song that ends with some ‘na na na na’s and of course we all joined in with this. When Niels led his bandmates into the crowd for a magical completely unplugged ending, I knew that there was no way that any other band would be beating this set for me. My highlight of Manchester Punk Festival 2017. Come back to the UK soon, Stöj Snak!
After Stöj Snak's amazing set we made our first trip of the day to Sound Control to check out another band that was completely new to us, One Hidden Frame, who came all the way from Finland. We arrived at the stage whilst the band were already a good way into their set but their take on the melodic hardcore punk was really enjoyable and are a band I will be checking out a lot more in the future. This is one of the things I really love about going to festivals, discovering bands that I wouldn't normally have and instantly becoming a fan.
Next it was time to head back to Underdog for a band I was extremely excited to see again, the marvellous ONSIND. The Durham duo are one of my favourite bands ever so getting to see them at MPF was just wonderful. Underdog began to fill up very quickly in anticipation for the band who are celebrating their tenth year together. Starting out with "hit" Heterosexuality Is A Construct was a genius move as it got the Underdog crowd singing instantly. The only time the singing stopped was when Daniel and Nathan played a couple of new songs from an upcoming release. These sounded great and I now wait with baited breath for details of the new album to be released. ONSIND are one of the most important bands in the UK punk scene with their social and politically conscience lyrics inspiring people to educate themselves on many issues that are plaguing the world today. ONSIND are a vital component in our scene. Here's to ten, twenty or even more years!
After ONSIND's fantastic set we hurried back up to Zombie Shack to catch friends of Colin's Punk Rock World, The Burnt Tapes (guitarist Pan is even a regular contributor to this blog). The Burnt Tapes were actually one of my highlights of the entire weekend and I'm saying that with my completely non-biased journalist hat on. The London via Greece four piece play some of the best gruff punk rock around and seemed destined to go far in our scene. It's been quite a while since I last saw them live and I was instantly impressed with how tight they sounded despite some technical difficulties involving a drum mic. I loved the three pronged attack of vocalists, Phil, Pan and Tone, offering a different style of vocal and this adds a huge sound to their songs. The band clearly have a massive passion and love for playing music and punk rock in general. They seemed genuinely stoked to not only be at the festival, but to be playing it as well. The Burnt Tapes are the real deal. Not only are they the loveliest of guys but are a bloody good band.
After darting between various of the MPF venues, we returned to the ‘acoustic’ stage at Underdog to watch A Great Notion. A Great Notion are a three-piece band from Peterborough and, although they started life as more of an acoustic folk-based band, they weren’t actually all that quiet as you might have expected given the stage they were on. The band were already in full swing when we arrived but it didn’t take long for us to settle in to what we were hearing and begin to nod our heads along. The band have just released a new album called Responsibilities and so several of the songs were from that – and they sounded great so I’ll definitely be giving the album a spin. One of the songs, although I apologise because I can’t remember if it was a new one or not, had a story to accompany it. The story being that Jordy used to put on gigs in their hometown and he once organised a show for French punks, Wank For Peace. Hardly anyone turned up but the band still played their hearts out as if they were performing to hundreds of people and that’s all that matters. Excellent.
After catching a bit of the A Great Notion set we made our first trip to Gorilla. We were immediately impressed with the size of the place. It felt massive compared to anything that we're used to. There's a nice big floor space with a stage that's a decent height of the ground so it's possible to get a decent view wherever you might be standing. Italian hardcore punks Edward In Venice were already a decent way through their set when we arrived. If you've not heard of Edward In Venice before they are a five piece featuring two vocalists who work very well together. The clean singing combined with screaming gave the music a fantastic ferocity that gave the fans in the pit a real buzz.
Up next was the main reason we ventured into Gorilla. A Colin's Punk Rock World favourite, Norwich's Ducking Punches. The band were in the midst of a UK tour by the time they arrived in Manchester, their first with the brand new line-up. In fact this was only six or seventh show they'd played together, not that you could tell on the strength of their MPF performance. The band were so slick it was like they've been playing together for years. The old songs have new life with a more electric sound and the band have been working on some new songs which have made me most excited for Ducking Punches next release, whenever that may be. Now Ducking Punches are a fully electric band the sound is a lot more raucous but the emotion and heart remains. When frontman Dan Allen sings Six Years I always find myself getting lost in the emotion of it all. It's a heartbreaker. Finishing, as always with Big Brown Pills From Lynn, Dan lead a massive sing-a-long to finish the set.
Of all of the bands playing at MPF this year, Muncie Girls are probably one of those that Colin and I have seen the most times in the past but that doesn’t mean to say we wouldn’t happily go and watch them again. Muncie Girls are a wonderful band whose popularity does seem to have exploded since the release of their long-time-coming debut album, From Caplan To Belsize, last March but rightly so, it’s an awesome album. I know they played the first year of the festival, although I didn’t personally attend (Colin did however), and so it was great to see them back for the third year. This year, the band were appearing on the downstairs Sound Control stage to a packed out room. Their set, understandably, featured mostly tracks from their album alongside a few older songs – I imagine most of an MPF crowd would know their old songs too. Lande expressed her love for the DIY punk scene and how amazing Manchester Punk Festival was. Unfortunately whilst praising MPF, she also mentioned their gig in Bedford (where we live) the night before and said that it was shit. Obviously we weren’t there as we were at MPF but it’s a shame the Bedford show didn’t go well for them – the punk scene in Bedford is nearly non-existent compared to Manchester anyway, so oh well.
Martha are one of those bands that I know some songs by and when I have listened to them I know that I like them but, despite having seen ONSIND several times before (the two members of ONSIND play in Martha), I’ve never ended up seeing them live. So being announced as one of the top billed bands for MPF 2017 seemed like the perfect opportunity to see Martha for the first time. Both Colin and I had no idea just how popular the Durham four-piece were until we saw Gorilla, the largest of the MPF venues, fill up with hundreds of eager and excited fans – then heard the majority of them enthusiastically singing along with the band. We figured that being ‘up North’ might have had a little something to do with just how popular they were but they’re also an excellent band, so that helps as well! I love that each member of the band takes a turn in singing whether it be lead vocals or backing vocals, there’s never really one discernible lead singer which makes all members of the band seem equal more so than in some other bands. The upbeat and poppy nature of Martha’s sound certainly got me bopping along with many of those around me and convinced me of the band’s right to be up on the big Gorilla stage.
Like Muncie Girls, in fact probably more so, Great Cynics are a band that we’ve seen live countless times. However, they’ve undergone a line-up change recently after Iona left the band and we’ve only seen them once in their new incarnation. And it just so happens that that one time was only a week or so before Manchester Punk Festival. With all this in mind, I wasn’t too fussed about getting a good view and whatnot for Great Cynics, so long as I could sing along to my favourite tracks I’d be happy – I was also rather exhausted by this point. The new Great Cynics line-up consists of Giles and Bob as before, plus Oli on bass and Gillie on keys and backing vocals. It’s a little different – and I love(d) Iona – but the songs are what counts and they are as brilliant as ever. When the set got underway it was one big party in Zombie Shack, with plenty of tropical cocktails flowing, as it was clear that Great Cynics are a much loved part of the UK’s DIY punk scene. Unfortunately for us they did play pretty much the same set as their album launch show, but I’m sure the majority of the crowd didn’t know that and besides it was jam packed with hits! We enjoyed a singalong to some of our favourite songs but left a bit early so that we would be in time for Clowns at the Zoo afterparty. Plus, I was hoping some fresh air would wake me up a bit.
Now it was time for us to attend the Manchester Punk Festival after party back at Zoo. The second band up, and first for us, were another of the bands I was most excited to see at the festival - all the way from Melbourne, Australia, it was Clowns. I have to say that this set blew every other set out of the water at MPF, that's just how good it was. Seriously, it was amazing. My words probably won't do it much justice but I'll give it a good bash anyway. Clowns' fast paced hardcore punk is made to get a party going at 100mph. If you had just walked into Zoo not knowing a punk festival was happening you might think that there was a full scale riot going on! At the beginning of their set, the Clowns singer and one of their guitarists immediately jumped into the pit and got the crowd going. For the following half hour there were bodies flying all around us, including one of the festival's organisers, Bev, who was moshing away with a huge smile on his face - I think he had had a very very good day. Not content with being on the stage and in the pit, the Clowns singer Stevie Williams at one point climbed on top of the PA system and leapt onto a crowd of people who were more than happy to catch him. At MPF 2016 it was Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man who had the festival defining set, Clowns set gave me all of the same feelings I got that night. Just a feeling of "wow, this is amazing". I FUCKING LOVE THIS and I FUCKING LOVE MPF!
This review was written by Colin and Emma.