Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Gig Review: Manchester Punk Festival 2018 Day Two 20/4/18

(Note: Colin's parts are in regular text and Emma's parts are in italic.)

Day one (which you can read here) of Manchester Punk Festival 2018 was just wonderful. Every band we saw really brought their a-game and got the festival attendees pumped up for the next two days of punk rock madness. Here's what Emma and I thought of the Friday of MPF 2018.

Last year, the Friday of Manchester Punk Festival started around 6pm and although it featured more bands than the Thursday night, plus after parties, it still wasn’t quite a full day like the Saturday. This year, however, the fun started at the bright and early time of 2.45pm!

Both Rebellion and Bread Shed had bands on from this time, with other venues opening an hour or so later, and Colin, Robyn, Brett and I opted to head to Rebellion to see Eat Defeat. We weren’t the only ones who had chosen to do so as the room soon filled up. It was great that people were making the most of the whole of the festival and the variety of bands on offer and not just showing up for some of the bigger acts. If you aren’t familiar with Eat Defeat, they are from Leeds and play some rather catchy pop punk tunes. Their line-up for MPF featured stand-in guitarist Hope, from the band Havelocke, although you wouldn’t have known she wasn’t a permanent member of the band – she was seriously awesome. Summers, singer and bassist, said they’d just finished recording some new stuff the day before and so they treated the MPF crowd to a new song as well as some more familiar songs including Shortcuts and The North Remembers (which was dedicated to Mark of Umlaut Records fame). The highlight of their set however was the huge singalong for the last song. Neither Colin nor I can remember the name of the song but the chorus was ‘I think we’ll be okay!’ and hearing the whole of Rebellion singing it along with the band was pretty special. First band of Friday check, first mass singalong check.

One of the bands many people were most hyped about seeing over the weekend were local boys Aerial Salad. Their debut full length, Roach, was one of my top albums of 2017 and I was really looking forward to seeing them perform tracks from it live. Clearly I wasn't the only one as Rebellion was packed out with punk rockers keen to see what all the fuss was about. Aerial Salad did not disappoint. Combing a youthful spirit along with a mature confidence made for a great performance. Frontman Jamie Munro really grabs your attention as he throws himself into the set with some wonderful energy and passion. Between songs he is captivating as well and has a cheeky charm about him. At one point making a joke about one of the MPF collective's previous comment about Aerial Salad not being able to fill a bathtub and then filling out the venue. The big highlight for me was the song Habits and Problems, the opening song off of Roach, but the whole set was just superb from start to finish.

Following on from Aerial Salad were Welsh rockers Hot Mass. I think due to more of the venues opening up the crowd became more sparse for Hot Mass but it didn't stop the four piece putting on a great set. Playing largely a set full of songs from their superb album Nervous Tensions, as well as a handful new songs that sound great, they enthralled the crowd that were watching them. For me Hot Mass are one of the tightest bands in the UK scene currently, if you close your eyes whilst watching them you could easily imagine that you are listening to the record. This is even more impressive given that they didn't have their regular drummer with them. I really enjoyed Hot Mass. I think they were potentially one of the more overlooked bands at MPF but, for those of us who did take the opportunity to see them, we were treated to a great set.

After Aerial Salad I had decided to split from the gang and head to Underdog to check out a few of the acoustic artists. I had plenty of time to get between venues so I didn’t hurry but when I got there and found the previous act, Enda McCallan, was still on I kind of wished I’d been a bit quicker so I could have heard more! The two or three songs that I caught of this Manchester-based Irishman sounded great so at least I know that he’s worth checking out – and now you do too.

Up next at the Underdog was Steve Millar aka Arms & Hearts. I’ve reviewed some of his releases so was fairly familiar with the majority of songs in his set but this was my first time hearing them live. I think I can safely say that the songs sound even better live! And that was despite a few technical difficulties that Steve seemed to be having with his guitar cutting out. To top things off, he was playing so enthusiastically and passionately that one of the strings on his guitar broke mid-song and so he had to borrow Enda’s for the rest of his set – but not before finishing the song he’d started with one less string. Punk rock! A perfect acoustic set at Manchester Punk Festival wouldn’t be complete without the artist unplugging completely and joining the crowd for one last singalong. It happened last year with Stöj Snak and Arms & Hearts chose to do the same for his final song, Fortitude. Hearing and seeing all sorts of punks singing ‘Home is wherever you happen to be tonight.’ was one of the special moments that makes MPF so wonderful.

I chose to stick around at Underdog for the next act, The Lab Rats, who are a folk punk duo consisting of Molly (Bolshy) and Adam (Wadeye). I’ve recently reviewed their latest album, Utopia, although it is not due to be posted until later this month. In short, it’s great and so seeing them live at MPF was essential for me. Molly and Adam, who play acoustic guitar and mandolin, were also joined by a chap who played a cajon (a box that you sit on and play with your hands). Although still acoustic-based, this was quite the contrast to Arms & Hearts but that’s one of the great things about the festival – there’s lots of different types of punk on offer. The Lab Rats’ set consisted of a few songs from Utopia as well as some others that I was less familiar with plus a new nameless song. There was also a fun cover of Your Heart Is A Muscle The Size Of Your Fist by Ramshackle Glory that induced much dancing and even a small human pyramid. Excellent stuff.

Staying in Rebellion, next to take the stage were Dayton, Ohio's The Raging Nathans. The Raging Nathans were one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing all weekend and they did not disappoint. Playing fast paced melodic pop punk the band (who were borrowing Tommy from Wonk Unit to play drums on their current UK tour) put in a big performance. Obviously they are more well known in the states but if they put on performances like their one at MPF on the rest of their tour they are going to gain more and more fans. New album, Cheap Fame, is one of my favourites of 2018 and it was fantastic to hear those tracks in a live setting. The band were clearly having a lot of fun on the stage and seemed pretty stoked to be a part of MPF. They were one of few American bands to play a set that wasn't the headline set over the past four years. This is a great testament to the festival that they are now getting smaller American bands coming over to be a part of the fun. Unfortunately I had to leave Rebellion a little early to make sure that I got in to The Bread Shed for The Bennies but The Raging Nathans slayed and I'm really looking forward to seeing them again.

With an even greater contrast in punk style, the next band I had in store was Australian psychedelic-doom-metal-ska-punk rockers The Bennies. The Bennies were playing at Bread Shed and were bound to be popular so I dashed over there as soon as The Lab Rats had finished. I was right to hurry as the venue was very nearly at capacity and there was still five minutes or so before the band would be on. I met back up with Colin who was chatting to Nige from Don Blake – not a band who were playing this year (although they have previously) but attending the festival as a fan nonetheless. As the room was super packed we struggled to get a decent view but having seen The Bennies more than a few times (three times just on their last tour!) I was quite happy just to have a dance – and I certainly did dance as it is impossible to stand still whilst listening to The Bennies! The band has a bit of a reputation for being a party band, not least because of their song Party Machine, and they brought the party to Manchester – something about the date might have helped too. It was cool to hear a number of songs from the latest album, Natural Born Chillers, as well as classics such as the aforementioned Party Machine, My Bike and, the very appropriate, Legalise. This was also only the band’s second show with new bassist Nick (who is also in CPRW favourites Foxtrot), as Craig sadly left the band a few months ago – Nick was great. It was only about 6.30pm by this point but the Bennies had well and truly got the party that was Friday evening started.

Before Stand Out Riot were announced I had a small suspicion that they would be playing MPF due to TNSRecords re-releasing their fantastic The Gentleman Bandits for the first time on vinyl. When my suspicions were confirmed, I was over the moon. I'd only gotten to see Stand Out Riot one time before, at the first MPF, and had been itching to see them again. If I'm correct this was only their second show since that first MPF show, the other being on new year's eve of 2017 so you could forgive the band for being a little rusty. If they were, however, they didn't show it. Realising they didn't have the longest of sets but having a real determination to get through as many songs as possible meant that they steamed through their set playing banger after banger. Highlights for me were most definitely Developing Detachment and The British Nazi Parade. Stand Out Riot did a fantastic job of keeping the energy in the room going after The Bennies superb set. Having these two bands play one after the other was a stroke of genius by the MPF collective. Not a single member of the band seemed to stay still throughout Stand Out Riot's set and were clearly having the best time on stage performing together once again. What a great band Stand Out Riot are, no doubt one of my highlights of the entire weekend. I hope I don't have to wait until MPF 2021 to see them again!

Heading over to Gorilla for the first time since picking up our wristbands, we were about to see one of mine and Colin’s most-seen and much loved London-based bands, Apologies, I Have None. Robyn and Brett met back up with us at Gorilla and I know they were very much looking forward to seeing Apologies for the first time as they were one of the first DIY UK bands they listened to (they even wrote about the band in their Top Ten before the festival). It’s safe to say that they were not disappointed. As I mentioned already, I’ve seen Apologies, I Have None many times before so there weren’t really any big surprises in their setlist for me but what I will say is that their performance seemed slicker and more polished than ever – and I mean that in a good way. It was also great to see the band play to a huge crowd, who were all singing along to every word, outside of London. From opening with The 26 to closing with Sat In Vicky Park and plenty of other songs from London, Black Everything and, latest album, Pharmacie in between, the whole performance was simply top notch stuff. There was also what seemed like a spur of the moment stage dive moment from frontman Josh McKenzie at the end of their set which was a joy to watch. You had to be there.

The day's big headliners were American punk legends Death By Stereo who were celebrating twenty years as a band and Lightyear who are one of my favourite bands ever. For that reason it was pretty much a no brainer for me who to watch – Lightyear! This was not a decision I regretted as Lightyear played one of my favourite live sets ever. Not just from Lightyear but from every band I've ever seen on a stage. It was just the most ridiculous fun from start to finish. Lightyear are a band who just make me have the best time regardless of what mood I might be in. Having them back is the best thing ever. I bloody love Lightyear so much. Like DBS, Lightyear have also been a band for twenty years now and have gained a big and diehard following. Gorilla was absolutely packed with people skanking away and singing their hearts out to all the classic Lightyear tunes. And every single one of Lightyear's songs are classics. The usual Lightyear schtick was happening on stage with the morris dancing during Blindside and getting people on stage for a dance off. The band also played a game of human tombola. "What's human tombola?" you might ask. Basically they got their guitar technician to cover himself in raffle tickets and he jumped into the crowd and encouraged the crowd to pull the tickets off him to win some merch. It was quite silly but completely Lightyear. There was also a nice moment during A Pack Of Dogs where they paid tribute to Jim Bowen. Any Lightyear set is always a special occasion but seeing them playing a gig in front of so many people who have as much love for the band as I do was such a special moment. It also felt so fitting that one of the most beloved DIY bands in the UK of the past twenty years played the fastest growing and best DIY festival in the UK. This was absolutely fantastic.

After Lightyear it was time for the after parties. In the tiny Zombie Shack a bunch of bands were doing cover sets, including Aerial Salad playing a Green Day set, Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man, Danny from Fair Do's and Tree of the MPF collective doing an Oasis cover set, Tim Loud and pals covering Crass and a Beat The Red Light and Faintest Idea supergroup playing an Operation Ivy set. As you can imagine this was a highly anticipated portion of the weekend. We hurried out of Gorilla after Lightyear dashed round to Zombie Shack only to be greeted by a huge queue that actually continued to grow to perhaps three times the size by the time we decided to leave it. Emma and I decided to stick around in the queue while there was nothing on but decided to abandon it so we had enough time to walk around to Bread Shed so at least we got to see something. I have to say I didn't hear any moaning from people in the queue which was very refreshing, everyone was chilled out and being extremely patient. On leaving the queue we bumped into our buddy Paul from Be Sharp Promotions who was determined to stick it out and see Operation Ivy. The following morning I expected to walk past and see him asleep in the corner still waiting to get in but I'm happy to confirm he did manage to get in.

The first band we saw at The Bread Shed after party were Rotten Foxes from Brighton. Rotten Foxes were a band I knew nothing about and when they took to the stage wearing tiny denim shorts and the band's bassist sporting an impressive mullet I did begin to wonder what on earth was I about to witness. What I did witness was a great fun hardcore party punk band. I'm not a great listener of hardcore music but when I see bands like this live I can't help but enjoy it, as did plenty of the crowd around us. The MPF collective always do such a superb job of picking the right bands to play their after parties, always finding these high energy bands that keep energy levels up and prevent people from flagging after a long day.

After Rotten Foxes, Robyn and Brett, who had managed to get into the start of the covers set, met up with us to watch our final band of the day, Start At Zero. Start At Zero are a four piece skate punk band from Slovenia. Regrettably I don't really remember that much about their set because I was absolutely shattered but I do remember really enjoying them and I'm looking forward to checking them out some more. They played really fast and did get the crowd around me pumped up. Hopefully they'll be back in the UK again soon at a time that isn't past my bedtime.

After Start At Zero we decided to head back to our Air BnB and were speaking about our days. After only two days of the festival I had decided this was the best one yet and we went to bed super excited for the final day of the festival.

This review was written by Colin Clark and Emma Prew. Photos by Emma Prew.

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