Despite all the curveballs that life has thrown at me in the past few months, the stars have finally aligned and the punk gods have smiled upon me, and I am going to Manchester Punk Festival this year! My experience of the festival last year was just phenomenal. Brett and I were both really impressed by the smooth organization of the event, the awesome musical acts, and the lovely people of the UK DIY punk scene. There were so many standout performances last year that I don’t think I could pick a favourite, but another big part of what made MPF 2018 so great was getting to hang out with Colin and Emma, so it’ll also be awesome to see them again. This year, MPF boasts another stellar line-up and these are just some of the acts that I’m really excited to see.
Suggested Friends (Friday at The Bread Shed 14:30–15:00)
One of the first bands opening up the weekend on Friday is Suggested Friends, a self-described “small choir of mostly lesbians” who play bright indie-pop-punk jams with catchy melodies and sincere lyrics. There was always a good chance I was going to like this band considering their Harry Potter and cat inspired song titles (both ‘I Don’t Want to Be a Horcrux For Your Soul’ and ‘Menagerie of Cats’ are excellent tracks off of their self-titled album), but their warm and playful music is also highly enjoyable and this set promises to be an excellent start to the MPF weekend.
Big Joanie (Friday at The Bread Shed 16:10–16:40)
One of the scheduling dilemmas I’m really bummed about is the clash between Big Joanie and Call Me Malcolm. People of colour are still a rarity in punk bands, and when I found a band headed up by three black women who speak proudly about the space that punk opens up to clap back at white patriarchy and explore black feminism I knew I had to check them out. I was really impressed with their debut album Sistahs, which I’ve been listening to for a while. The songs are self-assured and uncompromising, with a raw and slightly disjointed sound. I’m going to try and catch the beginning or the end of this set, and you’ll definitely find me at the merch table to pick up a shirt and hopefully a copy of the album.
Call Me Malcolm (Friday at Gorilla 16:10–16:40)
I think it’s safe to say that Call Me Malcolm’s I Was Broken When You Got Here was one of the best albums released last year, and I am so ready to skank and twirl along to these songs live. I know that Colin and Emma are also stoked for this set, and I’m anticipating a sharp pang of happiness when we all get to sing along to Call Me Malcolm’s runaway single ‘All My Nameless Friends’. Even if this song has managed to fall out of their set, I’ll be so happy to see these guys play.
Above Them (Friday at Rebellion 23:00–23:30)
After parties are a big part of MPF, and this year Rebellion will function solely as an after party venue. First up at Rebellion on Friday is West Yorkshire band Above Them, who play just my kind of gritty melodic punk and are reforming to play the festival. The band’s recorded sound is pretty raw and full-bodied, so I’m expecting a similar live experience. Specialist Subject Records also recently re-released their album Water Lane on vinyl, so I’m sure there’ll be a few spare copies lying around.
Tom May and Roger Harvey (Saturday at Brickhouse Social 18:30–19:30)
Tom May is usually known for playing guitar and sharing vocal duties with Greg Barnett in The Menzingers, but he’s coming to MPF on his own and teaming up with fellow Pennsylvanian Roger Harvey (of White Wives) to play a unique set ‘of songs and stories’ at Brickhouse Social. Many years ago, before On The Impossible Past had even been released, Brett and I narrowly missed out on seeing Greg and Tom play an acoustic show at Fest 10 (because, exhaustion). So, it’s great to get another chance to see Tom play in a more intimate setting and I’m really keen to see the performance that he and Roger have put together.
Smoke or Fire (Saturday at The Union 20:10–21:00)
The announcement that Boston punks Smoke or Fire would be playing MPF this year was a lovely surprise. I’ve only seen them once before, at Fest 10, where they put on a fantastic show at the Florida Theatre. The band really established itself with the album Above The City and the single ‘California’s Burning’, but they’ve gone on to have many other hits and their 2007 release This Sinking Ship is easily one of my all-time favourite albums, so I’m super excited to see them again.
Cheerbleederz (Sunday at Gorilla 14:30–15:00)
Cheerbleederz is a bit of a supergroup, comprised of Phoebe Cross from Happy Accidents, Kathryn Woods of Fresh, and Final Flag’s Sophie Mackenzie. This new project has been on my radar since Cheerbleederz released their first single ‘Cabin Fever’, and their debut EP Faceplant has been on repeat in my car for weeks now. It’s clear that these three pals really enjoy playing music together, and I love the contrast between the angsty song lyrics and the band’s cheery pop-punk sound. So, this set is a definite must-see.
Cherym (Sunday at Gorilla 15:20–15:50)
Cherym are another female pop-punk trio, this time from the North of Ireland, and they are probably my favourite MPF find. I stumbled across their single ‘Take It Back’ on an MPF playlist, and since then I’ve been jamming to every Cherym song I can get my hands on. Their Mouthbreathers EP is excellent (I especially like the track ‘Telepathic Kelly’) as is their new single ‘Super Queens’, with all of their songs delivering gorgeous bass lines, sharp riffs, and punchy vocals. Cherym play right after Cheerbleederz at Gorilla on Sunday, so I also have the added bonus of not having to change venues.
The Human Project (Sunday at Gorilla 18:50–19:30)
Going into this year’s MPF, I was easily the most hyped about seeing The Human Project, followed closely by Fresh. So, I’m devastated that these two bands end up clashing and I am silently cursing my relatively diverse taste in music (I doubt the choice between Fresh and THP will be that difficult for many other people, so I do understand why the organisers would put these two bands on at the same time, even if it does make me sad). I will have to make some serious choices about how much of each band I can realistically catch, but for the sake of this top ten I’m going to write about both.
The Human Project play some truly lovely melodic hardcore punk. I liked their first album Origins, but I really fell for this band when they released Clarion Call last year. Their music is fast and high-energy, with great hooks and vocal harmonies (as well as a few shouty bits), and their live show promises to be so damn good that I’m not sure that I’ll be able to bear missing out on any of it.
Fresh (Sunday at The Union 19:10–19:50)
Fresh are starting to feel a little like my unicorn: the band I really want to see, but somehow it just doesn’t work out. Last year, Fresh clashed with Roughneck Riot and I decided not to see them because they’re a London-based band and I figured I’d have a better chance of seeing them in the future. Then they were announced for this year’s MPF, and I was determined to see them this time around. Alas, scheduling luck was not on my side and they’re on at the same time as The Human Project. But, I’m still hopeful that I might catch at least 10 minutes of Fresh’s set if I can move quickly between venues. Their self-titled album is full of songs that are jaunty but urgent, pop-punk but stripped-back and without any sugar coating. I’m sure the band will also be looking to play a new song or two from their upcoming album Withdraw, which is out on 7 June via Specialist Subject Records.
Sneaky 11th entry: The Poetry Stage at The Thirsty Scholar
In addition to all of the awesome bands playing MPF, I’m also really excited about the poetry stage that will run alongside the comedy stage at the The Thirsty Scholar every day from 1–6pm. There is a long tradition of punk performance poets and storytellers, because of the ways in which performance or spoken-word poetry provides a platform for marginalized voices to give expression to their experiences. At these performances, you can expect cutting rhymes, fast rhythms, clever witticisms, and intense emotions. I’m particularly interested in seeing Suky Goodfellow, who describes herself as a Hufflepunk whose genres include Rap Tomfoolery and Queer Unicornism, and Henry Raby, an energetic Nerd Punk from York who focuses on politics. Both are on in the early afternoon on Sunday, but you can check out the full list of poets who will be performing on the MPF website.
This top ten was written by Robyn Pierce.