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