Sunday, 23 April 2023

Colin's Manchester Punk Festival 2023 Review

I was supposed to be finished with this writing malarkey. I fully went to Manchester Punk Festival 2023 with absolutely no intention of covering it for CPRW. CPRW is basically done (if you’re reading this, please don’t take this as an opportunity to send me requests for reviews), but Manchester Punk Festival was too much of a special time for me not to open up my laptop and do something other than play Football Manager. Unlike previous years, I’m not going to split each day into parts. I’m going to cover the whole weekend in one blog session. I recommend getting your beverage of choice and sitting somewhere comfortable before cracking on with this read. Hopefully this post brings back some happy memories, maybe it will inspire you to check out a band you might have missed out on. If you’ve never been or missed this year, hopefully it will encourage you to buy a ticket for next year’s Manchester Punk Festival.


I have to admit that I wasn’t feeling my best mentally in the days leading up to MPF this year. We had a Bangers reunion gig at New Cross Inn on the Wednesday and, to be completely honest, I wasn’t really feeling in the mood to go. I powered through though and saw them play the best set I think I’ve ever seen them play, except for the exclusion of Straight Gin Makes You Batshit Crazy. It had been a great night but it was also a late one and we had an early start to make our yearly pilgrimage up to Manchester for the traditional warm up show. Normally when I wake up on the morning of this pilgrimage I’m full of excitement. Like for many other people, this weekend is punk rock Christmas and it’s the thing I look forward to most in the year. Emma and I got to Milton Keynes train station and discovered that our train had been delayed – it was a solid start to the weekend. Thankfully we didn’t have to be in Manchester in any rush and the train driver encouraged everyone to make sure they got some money back. I’m quite convinced that he slowed down so we could fall into the next refund zone to get more money back. I was all for it, that paid for some dinner!

After arriving in Manchester we checked into our Air BnB, chilled out for a bit and then made our way out for some dinner and to meet up with some pals before going to the warm up gig. Being back in Manchester and meeting up with the pals instantly began to improve my mood. Talking to friends who were MPF veterans and friends who were attending for the first time began to raise my excitement levels. We were tucking into our massive 22 inch pizza and seeing two of my all-time favourite people, Robyn and Brett, come over was the best. I went running over and gave them massive hugs. Once folk had finished their drinks and food we made our way to Rebellion to begin the warm up show. On our way there we bumped into my buddy Carl and his friend Cat and got to have a quick catch up with them on our way to the venue. As we entered Rebellion the first person I saw was Anarchistic Undertones promoter and MPF organiser Tree who was doing the door. It’s always pretty nice when the promoter leaves their position at the door to come give you a welcoming hug. He’s actually alright that Tree. We were a little late arriving at Rebellion and the opening band Galivantes had already begun their set. There was a nice early crowd gathered already and it was lovely to see so many friends in the front row. I instantly got to see Makky from Rock Freaks, Matt from Ear Nutrition (who was loving the ska that Galivantes were playing) and his wonderful partner Charlotte, as well as Scott who runs Brassneck Records. That was a great group of people and now I was really feeling ready to enjoy the rest of the weekend. All head wobbles seemed to have vanished. I was in my happiest of places.

Like I said in the previous rambling paragraph, Manchester based ska band Galivantes were the band to open the festival. Because of our tardiness I only managed to catch the second half of their set but from what I got to see it was a lot of fun. The band had multiple singers and loads of energy. This was a great way to start the show and I hope to see them again sometime in the future. South Yorkshire fuzzy emo band Slash Fiction were on next. Having listened to them a few times in the weeks leading up to the festival I was looking forward to seeing what they were like live and I had also said to Emma that I think that she would really enjoy them. She did and so did I. They opened with the song Pick My Stitches and from then on they delivered a stunning set. This was my first time seeing the band and I wasn’t super familiar with most of the songs in their set. They also did mention that they were playing some new songs in the set which sound great and got me keen for a future release. The great thing about the warm up show is that it’s such a varied line up. We’ve had some ska, we’ve had some emo and next we were being treated to some super fast hardcore courtesy of Brighton’s Negative Measures. Unfortunately for the four piece they had some technical difficulties throughout the set but this didn’t stop them giving us a ferocious thirty minutes of music. Long time readers will be well aware that hardcore isn’t my go too genre but I feel like I can always appreciate when a band is good and, if hardcore is your thing, you should definitely give Negative Measures a listen.

Greek melodic punks The Overjoyed flew in to Manchester just to play the warm up show and they were on next. I had a chat with lead singer and guitarist Leo earlier in the evening and told him that they were mad to come over just to play this show, before heading off for a few shows in Portugal, but he seemed genuinely excited to be playing the show. The Overjoyed are a favourite amongst the gang from New Cross Inn and the few of us gathered down the front to enjoy the show. As expected from the band, they put on a hell of a show. Playing songs from their albums Boomdoggle and Aced Out, it was great to once again hear these songs live. As well as being incredibly tight, the four piece are a lot of fun to watch live and looked to be really having the time of their lives on the stage. I don’t know how many people were that aware of them before the set but I’m certain they picked up a few more fans afterwards. It would be nice to see them back at MPF next year on the main line up. The band tasked with closing the night was Incisions. Last time I saw Incisions was when they played Gorilla at the 2019 edition of MPF. They played an incredible set in a big room and now I was keen to see them at a slightly smaller setting. As I mentioned when talking about Negative Measures, hardcore isn’t my favourite genre under the punk rock umbrella but I can recognise a good band. Incisions are a very good band and they really got the crowd moving. From the opening notes the mosh pit began and it didn’t seem as if there was a moment when there wasn’t someone surfing on top of the crowd. It was a relentless forty five minutes which showcased just why Incisions are so highly thought off in the DIY scene. This wasn’t so much of a warm up but much more of a 100mph sprint into Manchester Punk Festival and it was quite the spectacle to witness.
Photo by Emma Prew

The annual MPF warm up had been great and really got me pumped for the rest of the weekend. All of my head wobbles had long been forgotten and I was now so excited to see so many more bands and so many friends from all the different corners of the punk rock world. We made our way back to the Air BnB to get an early-ish night, ready for the three busy days of punk rock and friendship that awaited us.


If you were unaware, part of our MPF tradition is to share an Air BnB with Robyn and Brett (or as Forever Unclean named them Brettman and Robyn). As we woke up in the morning we each spoke about the awful night’s sleep we had had. It turns out China Town can be quite noisy on a Thursday night. We made a plan to get ready and go find something for breakfast before heading to the hub of MPF, The Union. Emma discovered a great little place named Feel Good Club where I had a great vegan fry up to set me up for the day. From there we made our way to The Union to queue up for our weekend wristbands. We always like to get to The Union early for wristbands collection, as it’s nice to hang out with people in the sunshine. This year Robyn and I were given press passes for helping out with interviews for the MPF programme so we didn’t really have to queue but it was really nice to see all these people who I regard so dearly. Once the doors opened and wristbands were acquired for Emma and Brett, we met up with the wonderful Matt Ear Nutrition and his equally (if not more) wonderful partner Charlotte and headed to Bundobust to fill up on more food for the day. Suitably stuffed with some delicious food, and a doggy bag hidden away in Emma’s bag for future snackage, we headed off to Yes for the opening act of Manchester Punk Festival 2023, Jason Stirling.

For 2023, MPF had changed the room they use in Yes. Last year they used the basement bar. It was a cool spot but a little small which resulted in folk sometimes not being able to get in. This year the festival moved upstairs to the Pink Room which was a much nicer space and sound. It somehow retained the intimate feeling of a small room but still had plenty of room for people to get it. Former Matilda’s Scoundrels member Jason Stirling was given the task of not only opening the festival but also being the first artist to play in this room at MPF. There’s a fun fact for future MPF quizzes. When Jason started the set, the room for some reason turned from pink to blue. This was an interesting choice and was not great for photos. Jason played a wonderful set mixing upbeat acoustic punk songs with slower, sadder numbers. The songs brilliantly told stories and did a superb job of captivating the audience early. This was a very good way of easing into the weekend. Next was the final ever Great Cynics show. I’ve said many times how much of an influential band Great Cynics have been for me. Quite simply if I had never stumbled across their debut album, Don’t Need Much, I have no idea what kind of path my life would have gone down but I know so many of the wonderful experiences I’ve had due to punk rock would not have happened to me. Yes filled up quickly for Great Cynics, with everyone ready for one last sing-along with Giles and co. They played a mixture of songs from across their discography but the songs that meant the most to me were Nightcaps, Moorhen and Twenty Five from Don’t Need Much and those were the big highlights for me. Great Cynics haven’t been very active for a few years now but I’m glad that they decided to play this final show to have the triumphant send off that they deserved. Thank you Bob, thank you Iona, thank you Oli and, especially, thank you Giles for all the great music and memories.

Photo by Paul Smith

Next there was one of those awful MPF clashes that show just how many amazing bands the festival books. Over at The Union Bruise Control were opening up the main stage and at Zombie Shack Animal Byproducts were on next. Despite only having seen Animal Byproducts a couple of weeks earlier in Bristol at the brilliant Fishstock weekender, I chose to see them again. I didn’t feel quite ready for the massive Union and wanted to continue easing into the festival. Animal Byproducts were actually a late addition to the festival because of a last minute drop out. This really shows just how many amazing bands are in the North West scene that a band as good as this can be added last minute and the festival doesn’t lose any quality. The band’s raucous indie/pop punk with a trumpet went down a treat and I really enjoyed the band’s energy. Animal Byproducts are a band with a great sound, important messages and are clearly on a very upward trajectory. If they’re not on your radar then you should probably address that. Bruise Control are another you should probably be checking out, they’re about to release what I expect to be one of the most talked about punk rock albums of the year. We then made our way back to Yes and caught the end of Lazlo Baby. They were playing an upbeat style of Baltic, gypsy folk and had the crowd in Yes bouncing around merrily.

One of the things I was most excited for at MPF 2023 was the amount of Scottish bands that were on the bill. Scotland, and in particular Dundee, has one of the most exciting punk communities around. It’s packed with so many great bands and more importantly wonderful people. The first band of the Scottish invasion of MPF were Flinch. If you’re unaware, Flinch started out as a solo project during lockdown from Slowlight/10am’s Beth. Beth released a beautiful solo album named Enough Is Enough in 2021. Since then Flinch has become a full band affair. I was fortunate enough to see Beth perform solo at Bristol Booze Cruise in 2022 and this would be my first time seeing Flinch as a full band. We got back to the Pink Room just as they were about to start. It was fantastic to see that a nice sized crowd had gathered already – testament to the people who attend the festival, always willing to check out a band they might not be too familiar with. Despite Beth having a cold and some technical difficulties, which the band sorted themselves, Flinch played a mesmerising set. The soft, melancholic songs really captured the room. Hearing the songs full band really gave them a bit more oomph but still managed to be full of emotion. This set was an early highlight of the festival for me.
Photo by Emma Prew

When I originally worked out my schedule for MPF I hadn’t planned on seeing Clayface. Then the Oldham based four piece released the excellent Ailments album and I knew I had to go see them. They did clash with Faintest Idea but I had already seen them play a really fun set at Fishstock a couple of weeks earlier. This was my first time back at Gorilla this year after I decided to boycott the venue in 2022, after getting fed up with the security being dickheads. As I made my way to the entrance of the venue I braced myself for security. I’m very pleased to report that I had a much nicer experience this time. MPF had acted on feedback from 2022, had clearly told security about the type of crowd they have and that security didn’t need to be as full on as they were the previous year. This really helped to add to the friendly atmosphere that was spread across the festival. As I entered the venue properly I looked around and had a feeling that something inside had changed. There was something about it that I’ve still not really worked out that felt different. I met up with Robyn and we settled in for Clayface. As soon as they began their set I knew that I’d made the right choice to see them. Playing the intense, raspy vocal melodic punk that I really love, Clayface played a great set and sounded great on the big stage. I’m always a big fan of when bands have multiple singers, I believe it adds a great deal of energy to the band’s live set, and this was certainly the case here. If you’ve not checked out Ailments yet then I really suggest you do so soon. Maybe stick it on whilst you read the rest of this review.

Photo by Colin Clark

Next up for me was a rare England performance from Dundee Ecossemo band Kaddish. Kaddish were originally due to play MPF in 2020 and I was really excited to see them. Sadly when MPF came back in 2022 they weren’t on the line up so I was over the moon to see them in 2023. Kaddish play with this bleak emotion that I don’t think any other band can replicate. Zombie Shack was full of people ready and willing to go on the Kaddish experience. That’s what seeing Kaddish live is, an experience. It was great to see all of the Scottish pals had come out in force to support the band and they were all down the front ready to sing and dance with the band. The three piece played a mixture of old favourites and brand new songs from what I think they said was a soon to be recorded new album. I have to be honest that Kaddish aren’t a band that I will often put on to listen to at home, it’s a heavy listen, but whenever I get an opportunity to see them live you best believe that I’m going to take it. During the set it was the first time I had bumped into Nikki from Alldeepends and they gave me the best hug during the set, I fully recommend them. I stayed in Zombie Shack to catch the next band, Tearjerker. Tearjerker are a band from Sunderland who are signed to Little Rocket Records. They were not a band I was all too familiar with before the festival but I enjoyed the songs that were on the MPF playlist. The band I was most reminded of whilst watching Tearjerker was Hot Water Music. If you’re a fan of that band then I guarantee you’ll love Tearjerker. This was real fist in the air punk rock, packed with hooks and great choruses. I was really enjoying their set but I had to begrudgingly drag myself away to go and see some UK punk rock legends next.

The one and only 4ft Fingers were already midway through their set when I arrived at The Union. This was my first time in the main hall this weekend and I was really impressed with how well it had been decked out. I can remember the first year that the festival used the Union as a venue and, as cool as it was for MPF to have such a big room to use, it did feel slightly soulless. You can definitely see the work that’s been put in to changing this, there were banners everywhere and the ceiling had been decorated with yellow and black drapes – the MPF colours. This whole thing gave the room a bit more of a special feeling than in previous years. It was quite a surprise when I found out that 4ft Fingers would be playing the festival. They are a band that would have played a big part in the lives of a lot of people who were attending the festival. This was my first time seeing them in years and despite only managing to catch half of the set they managed to squeeze in many old favourites and a couple of new songs that they had been working on. Naturally, the huge crowd were more into songs such as Last Man Standing, Emergency Manoeuvre, Proud To Know You and Sense Of Direction. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to hear Brickwall or One For The Road but I guess that’s on me for getting there late. 4ft Fingers have recently signed to ACA Booking so I would assume they’re planning on playing shows with more regularity again soon.

Photo by Colin Clark

One of the hardest clashes for me over the festival was Kill Lincoln or The Beltones. Given that I had already seen Kill Lincoln earlier on their tour at the New Cross Inn I went for the band that I hadn’t ever seen before. This choice did get me a quite a lot of abuse from my friends. Paul Smith told me I was “a fucking idiot” and I definitely detected a small amount of hatred in his voice for the decision. From everything I’ve heard about the Kill Lincoln set (which reached capacity) it was one of the sets of the entire weekend. An absolute wild time. I must admit, I was a little disappointed I missed out but I am happy I took the opportunity to see The Beltones. When they were announced for MPF, The Beltones were described as “your favourite band’s favourite band” which really intrigued me. I gave them a listen and was instantly dismayed that I had never heard of them before. This was more of the raspy vocal pop punk sound that is my bread and spread. The Union didn’t have the biggest crowd for the band but everyone who was there seemed so excited to see the band make their first appearance in England in twenty years. The band, especially their lead singer Bill, also seemed quite excited to be playing. He had a smile plastered on his face throughout the entire set and that was really endearing. During the set I noticed that Ryan Young of Off With Their Heads fame was down the front of the crowd getting really excited to see the band, which was great to see. I can’t say much about what songs they played as I wasn’t that familiar with them but I really had a great time watching them and being amongst the crowd that was lapping up everything they did. The Beltones had also just become my 1000th band that I had ever seen so that was nice.

The evening’s headliner was Off With Their Heads. I hadn’t seen Off With Their Heads since seeing them play in the Florida sunshine at The Fest in 2016. This set felt really overdue as they were a band that I would always make the effort to see whenever they came to the UK. To make this set extra special, it was announced that they would be playing their album Home in full to celebrate its tenth anniversary. Because of this I was quite confused when they opened their set with a song that wasn’t Start Walking. I guess they decided to play a few different songs to warm the crowd up before Home began. I’d forgotten just how many bangers Ryan has written over the years, as song after song gained some great sing-alongs. Every now and then Ryan would change the melody of a song which did throw me somewhat but it’s always fun to be kept on your toes. This was also my first ever time seeing them as three piece, which may have explained the occasional tempo and melody changes to what’s on the record. They may have also just fancied playing it slightly differently. When I first fell in love with Off With Their Heads I was definitely going through a darker time in my life and going and seeing the band, shouting the songs back at them as loudly as I could definitely felt like an act of catharsis. I’m now in a much happier period of my life so I didn’t find the same cathartic feeling of previous OWTH gigs but I still had a great time singing along with the band and it was great to celebrate these songs that have, at one time or another, been so important to me and I would guess many other people who had filled up the Union. After they finished Home, they played some more songs from the rest of their discography, including finishing with Drive and then Clear The Air which are two of my favourite OWTH songs. For Clear The Air Ryan attempted to jump into the crowd with his guitar. From my vantage point it looked as if Ryan took a bit of a fall as he tried this but he managed to finish the song and looked unscathed. All’s well that ends well.

Photo by Emma Prew

The MPF after parties are the stuff of legend and the 2023 editions were no different. As we’re getting older and were fully aware of the busy two days that lay before us, we decided just to go and see our friends in Lead Shot Hazard open the Bread Shed after party. What a perfect way to end the night this was. I’ve been watching Lead Shot Hazard play shows for ten years now and I can honestly say this was the very best they’ve ever been. The whole set was magic from start to finish. Everyone in the Bread Shed seemed up for a party and danced, skanked, moshed and at one point even crowd surfed the night away. I couldn’t help but feel a huge amount of pride for this band, that I’ve been watching work hard all these years, play to such a busy and enthusiastic crowd. They seemed to feed off of it. Lead Shot played through many old favourites and even snuck in a brand new song, which may be up there with my favourite songs they’ve ever written. The band finished the set with Between Hell And High Water which has the most apt lyrics. The line “we light fires to find our friends” seemed perfect for the setting. MPF was the beacon and it felt as if everyone I’ve ever met through music was in Manchester. The perfect way to end the night. We then headed back to our China Town digs to try and get some sleep ready for the next day’s fun and games.

Photo by Craig Darran


In an attempt to try and save some money over the weekend I decided that rather than going out for breakfast each morning it might be a good idea to make use of the facilities that our accommodation had. So the first thing I did after about five hours of sleep on Saturday morning was to go on an adventure and find some food I could use for a breakfast. That adventure was basically a four minute walk to a local supermarket (I won’t use their actual name as I’m currently grumpy with the bastards) and bought some bread, some overpriced vegan spread, marmite and some hot cross buns (it was Easter after all). I also found a Gregg’s so went and got some vegan sausage rolls for the gang. Breakfast consumed, we then made our way to Sandbar for the second annual Sober Social. This is an event that our best pal Sarah Williams of Shout Louder and MPF fame has started putting on to help make the sober and the sober curious people of the festival feel more at ease and to meet some likeminded people. It’s such a lovely little event where I think the majority of people always come away with smiles of their face. Team CPRW met up with Jess and Dan of Vegan Punks, Dan#2 and our new friend Em who we recently met at Fishstock. Then we all wandered off to Hatch to enjoy some Herbivorous burgers. They’re a vegan food place that I really recommend you check out if you’re in Manchester. Especially following the closure of V-Revs.

Suitably full of delicious vegan burgers, some of us headed to Yes to catch Chloe Hawes. Chloe was playing with a full band and I was keen to see them live. It was when I arrived at Yes that I realised I had left my ear plugs back at the BnB so I had to quickly check my schedule to try and work out the best time to go and get them. I wasn’t going to miss Chloe but decided to rush back after their set and skip Phantom Bay. I made this choice as I had seen them earlier in the week opening up for Bangers at the New Cross Inn. If you’ve not seen Phantom Bay then I seriously suggest checking them out if you enjoy, powerful, intense and emotional punk rock music. If you’re reading this and you’re going to Fest then they’ve just been announced. They’re from Germany so I’m sure they’ll also have plenty of gigs on the mainland as well. Go check them out. But anyway, Chloe Hawes. Originally from Essex and now based in Manchester, Chloe blends folk, punk and Americana in their music and paints this brilliant pictures with their lyrics. Much like Flinch from the day before, this was my first time hearing these songs with a full live band and I think they sounded great. I think it worked really well from a performance aspect as well as it allowed Chloe to bounce of off their band mates, adding a whole new dimension to the songs. On a personal note, I also really enjoyed hearing Chloe’s accent between the songs as it reminded me of people from home and that was really nice. Chloe Hawes Full Band or Chloe Hawes is an act I think we will be hearing more and more from in future years.

After Chloe’s set I rushed back to the Air BnB for my ear plugs. As I picked them up I had a at look where I wanted to be next and then I said “oh shit” to myself. Pkew Pkew Pkew were due to start in twenty minutes at the Union. The Union was about twenty-five minutes away and I hate to be late for things. I hurried back out and power walked all the way to the Union and somehow managed to make it with five minutes to spare. The really cool thing about the Union is that there’s always folk you know hanging around outside for a chat if you have the time. I bumped into my friends Tommy from Baldhead and the Dreads and Lloyd from Call Me Malcolm and Easydread and told them of my rushing around and they mentioned how I was looking red. Not to worry though, I made it in time for Pkew and that was the main thing. We made our way into the venue and got a place down the front with more pals. As Pkew finished setting up, I noticed there had been some changes to the band since I saw them at Fest last October. The fact that they were now a three-piece was the immediate thing I noticed. I’m sure it would have been the first thing you noticed too unless it was your first time seeing Pkew. I also noticed that Mike and Emmett had swapped instruments. Mike was now playing bass and Emmett had moved onto guitar. This took some getting used to but it did not stop me from really enjoying their set. To my surprise they mostly played songs from their first two albums, they may have even played everything off of their debut, and I had an absolute ball singing along to these songs. Pkew write pop punk sing-alongs, plain and simple. It’s nothing groundbreaking but it’s the most amount of fun and I’m all for that. Singing songs about drinking, pizza, growing up and, of course, skateboarding with so many friends around me was a wonderful time and something I got to repeat a week later at the New Cross Inn. A big highlight of the set was when Jimmy from Eat Defeat joined the band on stage to sing Bloodclot with them. It was lovely to see Pkew back in the UK.
Photo by Colin Clark

I think that it’s important at festivals to take the opportunity to go and see bands that you wouldn’t normally get the chance to see. I took the opportunity to see Swansong who it turned out are from Cornwall. We got to Zombie Shack and were pleased to see that it was already reasonably full for the band. Swansong played a grungey riot grrrl punk rock that really delivered the venom that I hadn’t experienced at this year’s festival so far. Lead singer Nat Gyll-Murray’s vocals sounded just as good as they did on the record that they released at the end of last year. I later also discovered that Swansong were playing with a stand-in drummer, I had no idea as the band seemed incredibly tight. I know people who might think that going to see a band you don’t know much or anything about is risk in the amount of fun you might have. Why go see a band you don’t know when you could go see someone you do know and guarantee you’re going to have a great time? I will forever say that it’s worth the risk because more often than not you will find another cool thing that you really enjoy.

Photo by Emma Prew

After Swansong we rushed back to the Union to see our good pals Call Me Malcolm play on the massive stage. (Sometimes you do have to go see a band you’ve seen many times and lose your mind with your friends). As much as seeing Malcolm play on their home turf at New Cross is one of the best things in live music it’s always so much fun to see them get to play on a big stage in front of a big crowd. The UK ska punk scene had gathered to see them and we were all expecting big things from the set and of course Call Me Malcolm delivered. Call Me Malcolm are a band that garner so much love and emotion from their fans. From the opening song to the final whoa-oh of traditional set closer All My Nameless Friends there were constant sing-alongs and some high energy skanking. The set mainly focused on their newest album, Me, Myself And Something Else, but they didn’t forget some favourites from their breakthrough album, I Was Broken When You Got Here. It was so lovely to see the big smiles on the band’s face during the set. They had spent the week travelling around the country with Big D and the Kids Table, Catbite and Kill Lincoln and playing this massive show must have been the big finale of the best week for the band. Sax man Mark took a moment to mention that he came to MPF in 2022 and decided that he really wanted to play the Union stage and was so happy to have the opportunity to do so. I was worried for Mark’s safety at one point during the set. During Nameless Friends lead singer Lucias split the crowd in two for the wall of cuddles and Mark jumped into the crowd to get involved. Mark loves to get involved in things – offer him a ticket to something, he’ll probably buy it. I’ve seen the band do this countless times over the years but not very often for a show quite this big. I did not think he was going to make it out of the crowd in one piece or to get back on stage to sing his part. Somehow he did though. There was a nice moment during that wall of hugs where I found myself with my arms around the one and only C-Rage (#nocontextcraig – if you know, you know) singing the whoa-ohs as loudly as we could. This was a very nice moment with a good friend who hasn’t had the easiest of times lately. Call Me Malcolm take a bow for a stunning performance.

Photo by Emma Prew

The next two bands on my schedule were two very exciting reunion shows. I never quite know how I feel about reunion shows at festivals. On the one hand it’s always nice to see a band that you loved doing a show again, we all love some nostalgia. On the other hand, I always feel like a reunion set takes away a space for an up and coming band that’s currently working hard and trying to get their music heard. It’s a tricky one but I believe that MPF do a great job of giving us that nostalgic kick as well as giving opportunities to the newest bands coming up. Cornwall punks Bangers were the first of the two reunion sets I was going to watch. After watching Bangers play what I think was my favourite set of theirs that I’ve ever seen at New Cross on the Wednesday night, I did wonder if this set on the big Union stage would be as special. Obviously it was. We took a spot right at the front and were surrounded by huge Bangers fans from all over. Roo started the set with a short speech about how all he ever wanted to do when he was younger was to be in a punk band and go on tour and that he got to do that. It was a really lovely moment that preceded a massive set from the band. From then on it felt like there was one of the biggest sing-alongs for the entire set. Bangers were and still are such a beloved band from the UK scene and I’ve no doubt that they inspired a lot of the newer bands coming through, with their DIY ethos as well as their music. If this was to be the last ever Bangers show (ignoring the secret set that happened in Zombie Shack the next day) then what a way to end things (again), with a huge room singing along to every word as loudly as they can. This was special.

After Bangers finished, Emma and I hurried off to Gorilla for the band I was most excited to see from the whole weekend – Joey Terrifying! I first discovered Joey Terrifying thanks to their appearance on a split put out by Ska Mutiny Records which also featured Kickback UK and The Best Of The Worst. I absolutely loved their heavier, raw sounding take on the ska punk genre – at the time, I hadn’t really heard anything like them. Sadly they split up before I got the chance to see them. Then a few years down the line I started CPRW and discovered Make-That-A-Take Records. I then discovered that not only was Joey Terrifying a part of the label but that Joey T’s front person Derrick was also a founding member of the label. I eventually got to meet Derrick, see his bands Uniforms, Tragical History Tour and Shitgripper and also become his friend. Seeing Joey Terrifying never seemed like a thing that could possibly happen though. Until TNSRecord’s Bev managed to work some magic and convince Derrick to do a set at MPF 2023. With all the exciting names that were getting announced, it was Joey Terrifying that really made me lose my mind. I almost checked that there wasn’t a new band with the same name – I just couldn’t believe it was going to happen. It was though and the time came as we gathered in Gorilla. I for one was buzzing with excitement. I wasn’t sure how many people really knew much about the band as they were never the most well known and their music isn’t on Spotify, so people who only listened to the MPF playlist whilst researching the bands won’t have heard them. There was a decent sized crowd gathered though, it looked as though the entire Scottish contingent attending the festival had come out in support and were ready for the ruckus. As the band were getting ready I had a conversation with a chap I recognised from attending ska punk shows in London and Bristol and he was asking about the band. I told him that he was going to love it. As soon as Joey Terrifying began their set I found myself mesmerised by all that was going on around me. Not just on the stage but in the crowd as well. I think Derrick jumped into the crowd during the opening track and continued to jump between the stage and the crowd throughout the set. This energy spread through the crowd and it wasn’t long before a mosh pit started and very soon after that there was some crowd surfing too. Goodbye Blue Monday’s Graham was quickly lifted into the sky, as was our friend Cat. I tried not to get too involved in the shenanigans that were happening around me as I wanted to take it all in – I don’t think I’ll get another chance to witness Joey Terrifying again. The set was everything I could have wanted. There was chaos, there was dancing, the band was tight, the songs sound as good as ever, I finally got to see Express Yourself Clearly live (one of my all time favourite songs) and everyone had a really fun time. Joey Terrifying were amazing. Thanks to MPF and TNS for booking them. Thanks to Derrick and the rest of the band for agreeing to play the show. It really was a dream come true moment for me. To round off a great set, the chap from before the set came over to me and told me that he had really enjoyed them which made me even happier. And now it was time for the mighty Lightyear to round out the show.

Photo by Emma Prew

Earlier this year I had the extreme pleasure of seeing Lightyear play every song they’ve ever released back to back at the New Cross Inn and I said at the time that it might have been my favourite ever times seeing them. You would think that this would be enough for me and I should probably take the opportunity to see The Flatliners or Death By Stereo who were playing sets at The Union and Bread Shed respectively, but whenever there’s an opportunity to see Lightyear I’m going to take it. I know they say this every single time but it could be their last ever show and I’m not willing to take that risk! Gorilla packed out for the UK ska punk legends. For the first time in years, every member of the band was on stage for the show which made the set even more special. If you’ve ever seen Lightyear before you will know that from the opening note to the final toot it’s chaotic nonsense. Chas Palmer-Williams runs around the stage like a person possessed as he belts out the words to favourites like Twat Out Of Hell, Life Jacket Water Wings, 24-04 and loads more. The crowd erupts in love for the band. It’s a party in the pit with everyone singing along with so much glee. During the set Chas talks about the Kill Lincoln set that I didn’t go to the night before (yes Paul, I know I’m a fucking idiot) and mentions how their trombone player Ume went up to the balcony seats at the back of the room. Chas tried to conduct a poll to see which member of Lightyear would attempt it but it was eventually decided that he would do it himself. And he did. I can’t imagine it was with the grace and poise that Ume did it but it was done nevertheless. A highlight of any Lightyear set is always Blindside. During the song our pal Frosty from Filthy Militia was crowd surfing and got pulled up on stage by Chas and then found himself fronting the band. It was such a great moment. This was Frosty’s first MPF and I can’t think of a nicer moment for him to have than this one. It certainly beats the night before when he had all of his furniture stolen from the hostel he was staying at. Also during Blindside the legend that is Pook (the man needs no introduction) came onto the stage wearing just his underwear and some raffle tickets that had been taped onto his bare body. He was introduced as the human tombola and was then thrown into the crowd for them to be torn off. It must have hurt. Pook is a good friend to Lightyear. The set finished with Positive Outlook and Pack Of Dogs. I made my way through the crowd to find Paul to shout the chorus of Positive Outlook at him. I think he’s forgiven me for my life choices. During the set he had been hanging out at the side of the stage with Catbite who were experiencing Lightyear for the first time. I get the feeling they were a bit confused, as I’m sure most people are who see Lightyear for the first time. If that was the last ever show from Lightyear then what a way to finish things. Forever one of my all time favourite bands.

Photo by Emma Prew

After Lightyear we made our way down to Rebellion to join the queue for the after party which was kicking off with the annual Grafteoke show. Emma and I arrived at the queue with our friend Kev from Paper Rifles and Nelson Savage, among other bands. I hadn’t seen Kev since 2019 so it was nice to catch up with him whilst we waited in the queue. We caught up on the Scottish punk scene and spoke a lot about our love of ska punk. We had quite a lot of time to talk because unfortunately there was a delay in getting us into Rebellion. It turned out that there had been a metal band playing at the venue earlier in the night and they were taking a long time to load out. There was a bit of excitement/drama when their tour buses trailer was opened and people were stood in front of it. Some quick getting out of the way ensued. Eventually we did make it into Rebellion and it began to fill up quickly. I hurried to the bar and got some drinks and a pot of Pringles. I was starving so was very pleased to see that they were available behind the bar. Grafteoke opened a three band bill for the Rebellion after party. I’m sure most people reading this will know what Grafteoke is by now but, in case you don’t, the band Pure Graft are the backing band and they invite people up on stage to sing songs with them. It’s a lot of fun and always goes down a treat. Some of the songs bands covered were Guns N Roses, Sick Of It All, Propagandhi, Sum 41, Fountains Of Wayne and NOFX. The highlight for us though was when our pal Chloe got on stage to sing Boss Of Me by They Might Be Giants. It was a lovely moment.
Photo by Paul Smith

Next, In Evil Hour took to the stage to cover pre-2003 AFI. AFI are a band that I’ve never been super familiar with but I think I can quite confidently say that I enjoyed this cover set a lot more than I would any AFI show. It was small and intimate and the majority of the room were passionately singing along with the band. It was clear that In Evil Hour were having a lot of fun with the set which eventually ended with lead singer Alice on top of the crowd singing the final song. Last up, and if I’m being honest the only reason we were still up at 2am or whatever ridiculous time it now was, was Call Me Malcolm performing a Reel Big Fish cover set. The band took to the stage and immediately jumped into Take On Me. Call Me Malcolm opened a cover set with a cover of a cover. Like In Evil Hour before them, it was abundantly obvious that Malcolm were having a ball playing these songs and the crowd were lapping it up. I forget the song – I’m writing this two weeks after the event and it was way past my bed time at the time – but during the song which I forget, Luke was doing a bit where he explained that the guitar part was too complicated so they skipped it and just did the chorus. From my memory, other songs they did play included Trendy, Everything Sucks and of course Beer and Sell Out. During Beer I made a beeline for my friend and fellow sober ska punk fan Jake to sing “I think I’ll have myself a beer” because I love irony. This was a great way to end the Saturday of MPF. And now we would make the slow walk back to China Town to try and get a few hours kip and be up and ready to enjoy one last day of MPF 2023.

Photo by Emma Prew


After nowhere near enough sleep, team CPRW woke up Sunday morning and prepared for the day ahead. For Brett, Robyn and I this preparation meant catching up on Match Of The Day from the night before. I fully recommend that everyone should watch Match Of The Day with Robyn. Bearing in mind that this was a highlights show from games that had already happened and she already knew the scores, she watched the games with such enthusiasm and excitement. We should all be more like Robyn. Football finished and breakfast gobbled up, we headed out to The Union to check out the record fair and from there we planned to head to Sandbar to watch a special live recording of the Shout Louder Punk Rock Podcast. With time not on our side, we decided to split up with Emma and Robyn heading to Sandbar to order some pizzas for lunch/dinner whilst Brett and I continued on to the record fair at The Union. On our way there we bumped into C-Rage and his friend James and they came with us to The Union. As this is MPF you’re going to continue to bump into friends wherever you go and within seconds of meeting C-Rage and James we bumped into Graham and Sean from Goodbye Blue Monday. They told us how they had had to book an expensive hotel room last night because their plans fell through and that Graham had lost his house keys during Joey Terrifying last night. After catching up with those wonderful humans, we continued on with our mission to The Union. My main stall I wanted to check out at the fair was Pookout Records, the number one ska punk label/distro in the UK. Disaster struck though! Maybe that’s a bit dramatic. On our way to the Union we bumped into Pook. He and Catbite, who he had been driving around the UK on their tour, were on the way to find beans – and, I assume, some other food to go along with the beans. Sadly, because it was still early in the day, a lot of the stalls hadn’t been set up yet but we had a quick flick through before going to meet up with the others at Sandbar. Before that however we stopped at the Teatime Collective stall to get some slabs of cake to watch the Shout Louder Podcast with.

When we arrived at Sandbar we had another quick chat with Graham and Sean in the sunshine before heading in for the podcast. It had just started as we crept into the room, which was nice and full. Sarah Williams, the host of the Shout Louder Podcast, is one of my favourite people and an incredible podcast host (and guest) so it was a pleasure to watch her do her thing live. Her guests were MPF/TNS legends Andy and Kaz. I don’t want to talk too much about the podcast because I don’t want to spoil it for when it’s released but rest assured it was a very funny and interesting chat and there were some games and other shenanigans. Make sure to follow Shout Louder at all the places to be alerted when it’s released.

Photo by Emma Prew

As soon as the podcast finished Brett and I hurried towards Yes for opening band, ALLDEEPENDS. I’ve been singing the praises of ALLDEEPENDS since I first saw them back in 2019 and it’s been heart-warming to see more and more people get on board with this band. And it’s thoroughly deserved too, not only are they one of the most unique and interesting bands to emerge in recent years,(seriously how many bands do you know that somehow managed to merge folk, hardcore and hip-hop together and it actually be good?), but they are also top quality people. All three members made a point of saying hello to me at different points over the weekend and I thought that was just lovely. Nikki even apologised for not saying a proper hello to me at Fishstock a few weeks earlier as they didn’t recognise me without a beard! When Brett and I arrived at Yes it was already beginning to look pretty busy which is a testament to the amount of hype surrounding the band at the moment. It was 2pm in the afternoon on the third day of a festival and loads of people were out and about, excited to see the first band of the day. There was a feeling of excitement and anticipation in the air as the trio got ready. And when they got started there was this incredible energy that swept through the room. The pit began to move almost instantly with friends of the bands from all over the country dancing and mosheing with glee. Nikki, John and Hooligan form a band that is captivating to watch on the stage. Nikki’s banjo strumming whilst delivering lyrics at a rapid pace, John bouncing around the stage whilst dropping some deep bass lines and Hooligan, my current favourite drummer in the scene, the way in which he plays is like a frantic whirlwind – it’s incredible to watch. Most of the set featured songs from their debut album Throwing A Pit To Nothing and their newest release BANJOVIOLENCE but they did also play their first ever single Sopht (An Homage To Aesop’s Tuff) which pleased me as it was the song that made me fall in love with the band. For one of the songs from BANJOVIOLENCE they had a guest join them on stage to play the washboard. That wasn’t the last we saw of the washboard either as during what I think was the last song the lead singer of Animal Byproducts, Joe Molloy, was crowd surfed whilst playing it. Also during the last track, Hooligan left his drum kit to split the crowd in half, seemingly just to do a knee slide which did make me laugh. This was a huge set from ALLDEEPENDS. It very much felt like a headline set and this was the first band of the day. The rest of the day had a lot to live up to after this absolute masterclass.

Photo by Colin Clark

With the set complete I checked my phone to see the time. I noticed I had a football notification telling me that my beloved Crystal Palace were losing 1-0 to Leeds and that made me sad. Leaving Yes I bumped into the nicest guy in UK punk rock, Mark of INiiT Records and Our Lives In Cinema. I had seen him jumping around in the pit for ALLDEEPENDS and having a lovely time and I loved seeing this. I said a quick hello and asked very nicely if he would carry me to The Union where I was due next to watch DeeCracks. Can you believe he declined!? I thought Mark was nice. (I’m of course just kidding, Mark’s the best and he has the cutest little dog named Roscoe – the two are currently the screensaver on my phone. Offer of a lift declined, I trundled along to The Union on foot. Upon reaching the venue I bumped into Sarah Shout Louder who was having a chat with Robin from Random Hand. She introduced me to Robin, as I told them about Hooligan’s knee slide. It’s always the best to spend any time with Sarah and it was so cool to meet the singer of a band I’ve loved for the longest time but I quickly made my excuses as I had some Austrian Ramonescore to go and watch.

As I entered the main hall in The Union DeeCracks were already a good portion through their set. Because this was Ramonescore though I still got to see a good six or seven songs, as they play so fast and it’s rare for a song to go past two and a half minutes. I’ve got such a soft spot for this style of punk rock, particularly the European variant that I will always take the opportunity to go and watch it. It wasn’t long until I was bopping along to the band as they powered through their set. I wouldn’t say that this style of punk rock is hugely popular in the UK so I’m so pleased that the MPF organisers booked DeeCracks and that they played a great set. I was really happy they put them on the biggest stage as well, as it gave a chance for the three piece to play in front of a crowd who may have just been hanging out in the venue – potentially people who wouldn’t normally listen to this style of punk rock and might not have heard of the band before. I would assume they picked up a good amount of new fans during the set.

After the set I checked my phone once again and had been notified that Palace were now beating Leeds 2-1. This made me do a little hop and air punch in celebration. My friends Matt Nutrition and Charlotte noticed this out of context odd looking behaviour and questioned me about it. We then spoke about seeing Distral next. They headed off a bit sooner than me as I wanted to finally get to the record fair. As predicted, DeeCracks had a nice sized group of people around their merch area with all their new fans checking out what they’d got. I squeezed in to the area next to them, the Pookout Records distro. I’d already picked out what I wanted earlier in the day but spent a good while catching up with Pook about driving Catbite around on tour, his reunion shows with Beat The Red Light and what was next for his current band, Redeemon. Pook is one of my favourites and it’s always great to catch up with him.

I rushed off to Zombie Shack next for Finnish punks Distral. Distral were one of the bands Matt and I were both most excited for. We’d previously seen them last summer at Punk Rock Holiday in a thunder storm and it was one of the highlights of the entire festival (apart from being wet and cold for the rest of the day). Before the set, Charlotte and I joked about getting some water and pouring it from the ceiling to recreate the PRH moment. Another person who was at that infamous set at PRH was my mate Mark from Call Me Malcolm, who also fell in love with the band at that set. And, due to a recommendation, Tom Maples of King Punch also joined us to watch the set. I was highly amused that Mark and Tom, two of the smiliest people in ska punk, were watching this ferocious, melodic punk rock. I’ve been trying to think of the best way to describe Distral’s sound so you can really get a sense of what they sound like and the best I can come up with is it’s kind of like Rise Against if Tim McIlrath was really annoyed at something, perhaps someone ate his last biscuit? Distral’s set was a thirty minute musical onslaught that just took my breath away. I had planned on leaving a bit early to make sure I caught all of Catbite at The Union but I just couldn’t pull myself away from what I was witnessing. Distral are a band you have to see live – even if you don’t enjoy the heaver side of punk rock, you just have to witness this band do their thing in front of you. By this point, Palace had won 5-1 and I was absolutely on cloud nine and completely buzzing for the night ahead of me.
Photo by Colin Clark

Next Brett and I hammered down the street back to The Union for Catbite. I think it’s fair to say that Catbite were one of the most anticipated bands on the entire line up. The Philadelphian ska band have been making a massive name for themselves all over the world in recent years and thanks to ACA Booking they were coming to an end of their first ever UK tour. The tour started with a sold out show at the New Cross Inn. They had wowed the crowd on the small stage that night and, by all accounts, they had been doing the same all over the country. This was now the chance to see what they could do on the big Union stage. As Brett and I arrived, the band had already began their set and were playing to a huge crowd. We managed to squeeze our way down to the front of the crowd to find Emma and Robyn as well as the entirety of our NXI family. As good as Catbite are on record, it really is in a live setting when they are at their best. All five members play with such energy but also so much joy on the stage. It’s so abundantly clear that they’re so happy to be playing and that feeling sweeps over the crowd. There isn’t a frown in the room as Catbite rip through tracks from their two albums (Catbite and Nice One). The room was full of people dancing along with the band, you couldn’t not at the very least tap your toes, Catbite are infectious. At one point during the set the crowd formed a human pyramid for the band with our pal Charlotte of ’Till I’m Bones on the top. Catbite’s lead singer Brit squealed out in delight that it was her friend Charlotte on top of the pile. The band’s social media was full of this pyramid for the next few days, they were so pleased that the crowd had done it. In the days since the Catbite set I have thought more and more about their performance and something that struck me about it was not just how slick it was but how natural everything felt. It didn’t feel over rehearsed or that they were going through the motions, the whole set flowed beautifully. Catbite are a band that are clearly going to go to the moon. I’m predicting that it won’t be long until they are headlining Manchester Punk Festival as well as many other festivals. I’m glad I can say that I got to see not just their first UK show but also their first ever UK festival appearance. I can’t wait to be that “I remember when” guy. Please come back soon, Catbite.
Photo by Emma Prew

I can only assume that everyone who stayed in The Union was thinking “now for something completely different” as the absolute rockstars known as Goodbye Blue Monday were up next. This was another one of my most anticipated sets of the weekend. One of the great joys I’ve had in music over the past few years is watching Goodbye Blue Monday earn more and more fans every single time I’ve seen them. They have just released their debut album – which is my current album of the year, it’s just spectacular. It’s catchy and full of ear worms but it’s also absolutely heartbreaking at times. It’s exactly what you would expect from a Goodbye Blue Monday album, brutally honest but packed with their cheeky humour. This set would be my first time seeing them perform a lot of these songs live and I have to admit I didn’t know how I would feel about singing along to these songs live. As the band came on to their new walk on music of bagpipes there was a feeling of big time rock stars about the band but then, in the most Goodbye Blue Monday moment ever, the track continued to play what would be the next song on the album when it wasn’t supposed to. Classic GBM. Starting out with Oh No! This May Be Triggering, the band jumped into the set. From the outset there were massive sing-alongs. I found myself arm in arm shouting along with Dan#2 and Mark (I’d forgiven him for not carrying me between venues earlier), I guess any worry I had about singing along to these songs was not needed. The set was unsurprisingly packed with songs from Let’s Go Goodbye Blue Monday with Meet My Avatar, I’m A Fucking Coward & My Anxiety Is Breaking Me and I’m Old & Fat & I Still Hate Myself becoming welcome additions to the GBM set list. Old favourites such at Take Your Pills and Misery Punk Ruined My Life also got run outs but it was the new tracks that were the stars of the show. As the set progressed I found myself edging closer and closer to the pit. I definitely hadn’t planned for this to happen but there was something about the atmosphere that just lead me there. I was in a sea of friends screaming along to these songs, bouncing off each other with bodies flying across the top of us and fists firmly in the air in solidarity with the band. It was completely joyous and I felt completely at peace in the moment. The band stormed through their set, briefly pausing between songs and making jokes, such as Sean shouting “hello T In The Park” which got me giggling. They saved one huge surprise for the end of the set. On the album they have a sixteen minutes song named Hara-Kiri – they played it live. I can only imagine how difficult it is to attempt to play a sixteen minute punk song and it takes all sorts of guts to play it at the end of a festival set. But Goodbye Blue Monday did it and pulled it off in some style. This was a very special moment that I’m so pleased that I got to witness. As much fun as I was having dancing in the pit, I felt I better go and check in on Emma as it’s quite emotional song. She just about survived it without any tears. Before the set, Sean and Graham had questioned why they were on the main stage, but the set they played displayed exactly why they were on that stage. The set of the weekend for me and I suspect a lot of other people.
Photo by Jess Saunders

After that I had to take a moment to decompress and grab some food before heading back to Yes for the last time of the weekend. I popped into the Spar hoping to get some much needed fruit. Unfortunately the only fruit that they had was a sealed four pack of apples and I only wanted one so I had to settle for some plain crisps instead. Remembering a conversation that I had had with Brett in the morning trying to explain what a Cadbury’s Cream Egg was and finding great joy in his confusion, I also had to pick him up one of those. I munched my crisps on the way to Yes in time to see a last minute set from Tragical History Tour. Derrick and Michael were a late replacement for Billy Liar. They hadn’t had time to practice and were completely unprepared. Derrick wasn’t even using his own guitar. This resulted in a bit of a ramshackle set which came with its difficulties. I thoroughly enjoyed the songs they did manage to play though and will always take the opportunity to see Derrick perform when I can.

From Yes, I headed to Gorilla for the first time of the day for my final two bands before the after party. First up was Shit Present, a band that I hadn’t seen in years. The plan was to meet up with Emma and Robyn at Gorilla but it was so busy that it took a little bit of time to find them. I eventually did though and was delighted to hear that they had had a lovely day together. When it was time for Shit Present to start I decided to let them go off into the crowd together and let them enjoy hanging out together without me some more. I feel like Shit Present are one of those bands that are universally loved throughout the UK DIY scene and it’s so great to see them back with some new material. This was a fun performance, with Iona’s voice being the highlight for me. Iona has one of my favourite voices in music and it was so nice to hear it live once again. It turned out that we were very lucky to get a Shit Present set at all, their normal bass player was sick so they had to draft in a member of Soot Sprite to learn the set. They smashed it, if you hadn’t known that this wasn’t Shit Presents normal line up then you would have been none the wiser. They played a good chunk of songs from their upcoming new album, What Still Gets Me, which they had on sale early for anyone wanting to pick it up there and then ahead of its release. They didn’t forget the classics though, all of which got fantastic receptions. As I said earlier, this was my first time seeing Shit Present for years and it was a lovely time.

Before the evening’s headline act, Emma and I caught up with Kev some more – it really was fantastic to see him again. MPF is great for reacquainting all friends. This is one of the many great things about the festival. It was then time for Bad Nerves, a band that I have to admit I didn’t know too much about. As I watched them set up on stage, it became very apparent that this was a band of cool dudes. Bad Nerves play a mixture of powerpop punk and fuzzy indie rock music that creates an infectious energy live. Even though I didn’t really know any of the songs, I can remember being stood watching and feeling like I was witnessing something quite big. It felt like quite a big deal for MPF to have Bad Nerves on the festival as it seems they’re set to become the next big thing in UK punk music. The band were seriously slick on the stage, arguably a bit too slick for my own personal tastes, but I feel like I can always appreciate when a band is seriously good at what they do even when it’s not for me. Gorilla felt far from packed out but there was a decent sized crowd of people down at the front showing a lot of enthusiasm for the band, singing along to every word. Watching a load of people party down at the front to a band that they clearly love was actually a really cool way to finish the main part of the festival.
Photo by Emma Prew

We had a little bit of time before the after party at Rebellion began so Emma, Kev, Robyn, Brett and I took the time to have a sit down in the Gorilla bar. It was nice to have this quieter moment before deciding to stroll down to Rebellion. Thankfully there wasn’t so much of a wait to get in this time and even though a decent sized crowd had turned up it was nowhere near as busy as it had been for Grafteoke the previous night. The line up for the evening was the Chloe Hawes Band as The Gaslight Anthem, Speed Dinosaurs as Sublime and Hell’s Ditch as New Found Glory. Emma was extremely excited for The Gaslight Anthem set, potentially more so than any other set across the entire festival and went and found herself a spot at the front of the stage whilst I did some chatting with pals before joining her. I have to admit that I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with The Gaslight Antehm. I loved them, then I saw them live and I didn’t enjoy it at all and it did put me off their future releases. Emma was so excited though and that was enough for me. As soon as Chloe and co launched into the set you knew it was going to be a lot of fun. The front of the stage became one big party with every word being sung back to the stage. After the set, I heard a few people say that this set was better than seeing actual Gaslight play these days and I wholeheartedly agreed. I always felt like this music was written to play in small bars and clubs and not the massive stages that they went on to play. This felt like the perfect way to end the festival so we decided to skip out on the final two bands and head back to China Town one last time. Much like in 2022, we finished our final band and it began to revert back to normal Manchester weather… rain!

If you’ve managed to make it this far through the review, well done you’ve read 12,000 words. Didn’t you have anything better to do? You may have noticed that I spoke a lot about things that happened to me rather than just focusing on the bands that played. I actually did this for good reason. It’s not just nonsensical rambling of someone trying to cover for the fact he didn’t write notes… honest. As good as every single act I saw was, for me MPF2023 was all about the people and the community. So many of my highlights came from the little interactions I had with people throughout the weekend. I found myself going off a lot on my own to see different things all weekend but I never once found myself standing around by myself at any venue. I’m so lucky that through this community I’ve been able to meet so many wonderful people and become their friends (or at least someone they’ll politely chat too). It’s said every year that MPF is like one big reunion and in 2023 it felt like that more than ever. I loved it.

As always all the love, respect and appreciation has to go to TNSRecords, Anarchistic Undertones and Moving North, as well as Shout Louder, the army of volunteers and the venue staff for their work at the festival. MPF is always the weekend of the year I get most excited for and it’s always, without fail, the best weekend of the year. All festivals can pull together these amazing line ups but I can’t think of one that I’ve been to that even comes close to creating the feeling of community that you get in Manchester. It’s why we continue to return every year and have no doubt that we will do so for as long as this festival exists.

Thanks to all the bands I saw play killer sets. Thanks to all the friends for the superb hangs.

I was going to end this stupidly long review with a simple Is It April Yet? But then I realised that Easter weekend is early next year and it falls in March, so we get MPF early next year! Is it March yet?

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Monday, 17 April 2023

Emma’s Manchester Punk Festival 2023 Review

I wasn’t planning on writing a review of Manchester Punk Festival this year. I wasn’t really planning on writing any kind of review ever again – it takes up a lot of energy and free time that I’d rather use for going outside, reading graphic novels, watching Critical Role or drawing (among other things). But then I attended Manchester Punk Festival 2023 and it was without a doubt the best MPF yet. I felt inspired to write. However, what inspired me was more than just the bands I saw, so I’ve decided to write my review as more of an overall highlights piece that covers more than just the bands… At least, that’s what I set out to do. It’s ended up being a lengthy, rambling love letter of a review all the same.

I hope you enjoy reading this even a fraction of the amount that I enjoyed attending MPF 2023!
Festivities for Colin and I effectively began on the Wednesday with an unofficial pre-pre-show at the New Cross Inn, our London home from home, with one of Bangers’ limited reunion shows. I was always a big, big fan of the Cornish punk rock trio and would attribute my dive into 2010’s UK DIY punk scene mostly to them (with a little help from Great Cynics and Apologies, I Have None). I was sad when they decided to call it a day around seven years ago and over the moon to hear they’d be playing MPF 2023. When they announced a couple of other shows, including at NXI, I knew I had to take this extra chance to see them again.

It was a wonderfully nostalgic evening with Bangers somehow managing to sound better than ever – maybe the break did them good! Also on the NXI bill were Phantom Bay, a heavier sounding band from Germany; Cosmit, the Specialist Subject supergroup; and Binboy, a trio featuring two members of Shit Present. I was especially happy to get to see Binboy as they were one of my top discoveries from the MPF playlist – and I loved them. As it happened, I didn’t end up seeing them at MPF so was glad to catch them beforehand.


The only problem with starting your festivities an additional day early is that you’re inevitably tired before the festival has even begun. Thankfully we had a fairly easy journey to Manchester, driving over to Milton Keynes, leaving the car at my parents’ house and then taking the 1 hour and 40 minute train directly to Manchester. We were in no great hurry so it wasn’t a massive issue when our train ended up being over half an hour late – actually, we were pretty pleased to learn we could get a 25% refund. As Kill Lincoln would say, I can’t complain!

When we eventually made it to Manchester we headed to our Airbnb in Chinatown – I wouldn’t recommend, it’s noisy – to dump our stuff before heading out to Freight Island to meet up with some of our London pals. Over the next few hours Colin and I attempted to eat the biggest pizza ever (22”) with a little help from Frosty. Robyn and Brett, our traditional MPF Airbnb buddies, were arriving a little later into Manchester with their flight from Denmark landing at 4.30pm. They made great time however and were able to come over and meet us before heading to the official MPF pre-show at Rebellion. Seeing Colin run across the room to give them both huge hugs is one of the most wonderful and magical things about an event like MPF. We get to see our best friends from South Africa, via Denmark, and it’s instantly like we’ve never been apart. I also gave hugs but didn’t do any running – I was very full of pizza.

Heading over to Rebellion for the pre-show, the MPF vibes really started to sink in and were further reinforced when we entered the venue and received more big hugs from MPF (and pre-show) organiser Tree. Damn, it felt good to be back. The pre-show was a lot of fun with five bands that spanned a variety of different punk sub-genres – Galivantes (gypsy ska punk), Slash Fiction (emo/indie punk), Negative Measures (hardcore), The Overjoyed (melodic punk rock) and Incisions (hardcore). Slash Fiction in particular were a highlight for me. Beforehand, Colin had said that he thought I’d like them and, well, when is he ever wrong! The music on the night was great but mostly it was just really nice to see people from all over the UK and Europe punk scene again. Shout out to Dan and Jess (Vegan Punks), Matt (Ear Nutrition), Charlotte, Brian, Cat and Rich and, of course, all of the NXI crew and Robyn and Brett.


I’d like to say we woke up on Friday feeling fresh and invigorated ready for MPF to begin proper but, well, we were staying in a not very well insulated Airbnb and, despite it being six floors up, it was very noisy. So, instead, I woke up with a big need for rehydration and coffee. Coffee (and breakfast) was found at Feel Good Club – where several people had brought their doggies in and so we spent a lot of time aww-ing over them – before it was time to head to the Union for wristband collection. Queuing for wristbands came with much smiling, waving and hugs, with everyone just so keen for the weekend ahead. Wristbands secured, Colin and I headed off to Bundobust (yep, more food) with Robyn, Brett, Matt and Charlotte for Indian style tapas. It’s what we did last year after collecting wristbands so I figure that makes it a tradition now. I had some very tasty food along with the most delicious vegan chai tea. Tummies full and energy levels replenished, it was finally time for some music!

Much of my day would be spent at Yes, which is also where we were all headed first. Last year, MPF’s almost acoustic sets took place in the basement of Yes which was a pretty small space. This year however, bands would be playing in the appropriately named Pink Room – it was very pink – which was a much more reasonable size. Jason Stirling, formerly of Matilda’s Scoundrels, kicked things off. It was an enjoyable performance but perhaps lacking some lively energy for an act opening the festival. However, next up were Great Cynics playing their last ever show – at least until they have a reunion in seven years time like Bangers – which was a joyfully nostalgic singalong from start to finish. So good to see them one more time.

Having changed up my schedule just the day before, next on my list was the late addition of Animal Byproducts playing at Zombie Shack. I’ve seen them a couple of times before now, but it’s always a good time bopping along to their catchy trumpet pop punk – ‘Please don’t forget that it’s your bin day!’. Heading back to Yes for Flinch, I managed to catch the last few songs of Lazlo Baby. They weren’t a band I knew but their bouncy folky melodies certainly had me wishing I’d checked them out ahead of time. Still, it was great to be able to experience a bit of their live set. Congregating towards the front of the room with the MTAT crew, this was our first time seeing Flinch as a full band. Flinch play sad, quiet songs packed with emotion. It was great how respectful the crowd was of this sort of music, particularly when there were some sort of technical difficulties and we all waited quietly for it to be resolved. Us punks are a polite bunch!

It was then time for Colin and I to part ways – we like watching bands together but we also like going off and doing our own thing and finding out what the other got up to later. I was off to Bread Shed to watch Green Eyed Monster who were over all the way from Japan. I paused briefly outside the venue to say hello to Steve Millar (of Arms & Hearts fame) and Chloe Hawes and hear about their much anticipated (by me anyway) The Gaslight Anthem cover set on Sunday. Entering Bread Shed there was already a decent amount of people in attendance and we didn’t have to wait long for Green Eyed Monster to start playing. What immediately hit me about GEM was not just how talented they were as musicians but just how exuberantly happy they clearly were to be there. To travel across the world and play to people at a festival who just adore you must be something special for sure. All the love was certainly well deserved.

Basking in the wholesome-ness of Green Eyes Monster, I left a little early to head back to Yes (see what I said about spending a lot of time there?) for the next two bands. The first of which was Sniff. Sniff is an artist whose live show really has to be seen in person to fully understand and appreciate it. So, if you weren’t there then I don’t want to spoil too much – because you really should make it a priority to see Sniff live in future. Let’s just say it was a lot of fun and unlike anything else I saw over the weekend!

If you were to ask me before the festival which single artist or band I was most looking forward to seeing or would recommend catching live then my answer would be this next band – Stöj Snak. I’ve seen them the previous two times they played MPF and their albums are some of my favourites of all time, so, yeah, I was excited. While Stöj Snak were setting up I had a lovely chat with Sara Harrington about illustration, design and their trumpet playing on the last Stöj Snak album. I’d never spoken to Sara in person before so it was lovely to share our collective appreciation for the band we were about to watch – Sara actually said they were the reason she’d bought a ticket for MPF. Money well spent if you ask me!

Now, this is supposed to be me keeping things short and sweet for this whole review but I could easily write an essay about Stöj Snak (actually, I did that for their last album). In summary, Stöj Snak were as excellent as ever – even if they were missing their double bass player. There was a kazoo solo (which was actually Sara’s trumpet part on the album), crowd participation in the form of mass tambourine playing and the unplugged, much-loved staple of a Stöj Snak live set, rendition of Ronkedor. I couldn’t have asked for much more – except maybe a few more songs as I think their set got cut short due to overrunning earlier in the day (even though they were the last band on at Yes, but whatever). Although, I have to say that the overall highlight was when the crowd dispersed at the end and I spotted Mike Smith (of Tripsun and general NXI/Be Sharp fame) – who I didn’t know was in the room or that they were planning on watching Stöj Snak. He was in awe of how good Stöj Snak were which made me infinitely more happy than I already was. Is there anything better than sharing your excitement about something with someone else and having them completely understand and agree?

Next on my agenda was Kill Lincoln at Gorilla which, having witnessed their first ever UK show at the New Cross Inn a week earlier, was guaranteed to be a wild time. In hindsight, ‘wild’ is probably an understatement. The venue hit capacity and everyone inside went crazy for the ska punk band. The band themselves put so much energy into their live performance, not least their hypeman Drew who has some of the best dance moves in ska whether they’re on stage or in (or on top of) the crowd. At NXI, trombone player Ume found their way to standing on the bar at the back of the venue before being crowdsurfed back to the stage. Gorilla is a bit bigger than the New Cross Inn and I had a strong suspicion that Ume would end up at playing trombone at the little upstairs seating and merch area. I was correct and it was spectacular. It’s safe to say that Kill Lincoln’s UK and MPF debut was an overwhelming success. I can’t wait to see them again. In the words of Paul Smith (to Colin) ‘You’re a fucking idiot [for missing them]’ – if you missed them.

My chosen headliner for the evening was Off With Their Heads, a band I’ve seen a handful of times before but not for a long while. I headed over to the Union with Robyn and Brett and managed to find Colin in a busy crowd. It turned out that OWTH, who were playing as a three-piece for their UK dates, had decided to start playing early although they hadn’t started playing Home yet – the album they were supposed to be playing in full. They ended up playing it in a random order and in amongst other songs which was kind of weird for ‘an album show’ but it didn’t really bother me. They’re one of those bands that I know lots of songs by but don’t necessarily know song names or which album they’re from anyway. The whole set was good and I didn’t get bored, despite the length of their set – even a festival headliner shouldn’t play for more than an hour in my opinion! But the standout moment has got to be when I was stood around chatting to Robyn, Brett, Dan, Jess and Colin before vacating the Union afterwards and someone yelled my full name at me across the room. It took me a good few seconds to realise who it was that came running up to me, simply because I just didn’t expect to see them there, but the person shouting my name was my old university pal James Jackson. We worked out that we probably hadn’t seen each other for about seven years – not since the last Bangers show in London in fact. He was attending his first MPF and was having a lovely time so far. Honestly, that was the unexpected highlight of the whole weekend.

We’d decided to end our night with New Cross Inn favourites and regulars Lead Shot Hazard at the Bread Shed after party. It was their first time playing MPF (and, I think, in Manchester) but the crowd soon warmed up to them and they really got the party going with their upbeat ska punk. We had one last sing and dance for the day down the front before calling it a day – but what a day it had been! We left in in high spirits and I have to admit I was not feeling nearly as tired as I would usually after the first day of MPF. What was this new energy? Would it last?


Our Saturday started with Colin going out to get us hot cross buns for breakfast – what a hero – before heading out to the Sober Social at Sandbar. I enjoyed a much needed coffee – more bars should sell coffee as standard. As someone who no longer drinks alcohol, I am all for encouraging sobriety – or at least beginning the day with some non-alcoholic drinks and/or drinking water in between your beverage of choice. We had some nice chats with folks, mostly about what we were excited for with the day ahead. The subject soon moved onto The Flatliners who were headlining that evening. Jess and Robyn, who are the biggest Flatliners fans I know, were discussing their unofficial ‘Flatliners Fan Club’ with Emilia (who Colin and I met a few weeks ago in Bristol). I couldn’t really join in but do appreciate how passionate they all were about this band they love. We then went for lunch at Hatch, inviting CPRW’s Dan #2 along with us.

After some tasty grub courtesy of Herbivorous at Hatch and further chatting – it turned out Dan #2 (Reading-based) knew of Emilia’s band (Bristol-based) and is going to a gig they’re playing soon, small punk rock world and all that – we headed to Yes. We were starting our day with Chloe Hawes. I’d seen Chloe play solo briefly at a previous MPF (I think I only caught half the set) but was keen to see them play as a full band this time around. It was worth the wait as the full band sound was excellent. It was also great to see all members of the band rocking out and just have a lovely time on stage. I look forward to seeing full band Chloe Hawes again soon.

I stuck around Yes by myself (but you’re never alone at MPF!) for a couple more bands, opting to see some smaller acts that were either new to me or I hadn’t seen for a long while – rather than going to see Pkew Pkew Pkew, who I’d be seeing at New Cross after MPF anyway. The first of these bands was Murder Club, a four-piece from Wales. I didn’t really know them at all besides the three tracks I’d listened to when sorting out my schedule but I really enjoyed their set of sweet poppy songs and they had some amazing harmonies. After Murder Club was The Lab Rats, a band I have seen once before (at MPF in fact) but not for quite a few years so I was keen to see them again. Unfortunately the power on stage seemed to cut out half way through their first song but everyone waited patiently for it to be fixed and when the folk punk duo did get going properly it was great. Vocalist Molly has an amazing voice and it was so good to hear some new, at least to me, songs as well as a few from their 2018 release Utopia. Hopefully they’ll have another album or EP out somewhere down the line.

Leaving Yes behind, I headed over to Zombie Shack where I found Colin, Charlotte and Bee all waiting to watch some noisy Cornish grungey punk in the form of Swansong. Their music was not really something that I’d listen to much at home but it was captivating to watch live – such ferocious energy. I was also feeling quite pleased with the fact that I’d managed to start my day with four bands featuring non-men members that all sounded completely different. Kudos to MPF for making such an effort with diversity on their line-up, both in terms of genre and gender.

It was then time to head for the Union and a double whammy of Prew favourites – NXI regular faves of the last few years and band I’m friends with, Call Me Malcolm, and the band that helped me get into UK DIY punk rock in the first place, Bangers. Spirits were very high and they weren’t about to come down any time soon. Both bands sounded absolutely awesome on the big stage. I know some people have issues with the Union as a venue, saying it’s soulless but it must be amazing for a punk band to play on such a big stage and to so many people. I thought the sound was great too – although what do I know! Call Me Malcolm had the crowd singing and dancing throughout the duration of their set, along with the biggest ‘wall of cuddles’ they’ve ever had. (There’s a great clip of that here.) Then it was time for Bangers! CMM were great and all but Bangers were the real highlight of my day. I positioned my self right and the front and proceeded to bop and sing along to every song they played. Obviously I had experienced the Bangers reunion at NXI a few days earlier but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of seeing them another time. Once again they seemed to play better than ever and it was just so wonderful to see how much it meant to them to be playing together again and just how appreciative they were of everyone who came to watch. I can’t remember the wording exactly but Roo said something along the lines of ‘the only thing I ever wanted was to be in a punk band and play music’. I love you, Bangers. Thank you for everything.

While most of our pals hung around to watch Onsind and The Flatliners, Colin and I headed off to Gorilla for some [more] ska. First up was the band of the weekend that Colin was most excited to see, Joey Terrifying. The angry Scottish ska punks, fronted by Make That A Take legend Derrick, were reforming especially for MPF. The room wasn’t especially full, I think most folks – myself included really – probably didn’t know who they were but it was so enjoyable watching the Scottish contingent of MPF, the TNS crew and Colin going crazy for Joey Terrifying. Derrick is an amazing front person and such a hardworking person in the DIY punk scene that it was great to just see him let loose. As you can imagine, I didn’t know any of the songs the band played but it was great to watch – including the stage invasion at the end. This felt like a really special MPF moment for sure. Then we had Lightyear. They did what Lightyear does best – the unexpected. It was chaos, it was fun, it was Lightyear. At one point, New Cross’s Frosty ended up on stage after crowdsurfing. It was a joy to see his drunken confusion as he found himself singing and dancing as if he was a member of the band. Chas, vocalist of Lightyear, also made a comment about how he’d seen Kill Lincoln and didn’t want to be shown up by them so he proceeded to go into the crowd and climb up to the seating/merch area like Ume had done the day before. It perhaps wasn’t as majestic as Kill Lincoln – Chas wasn’t playing a trombone throughout – but it was certainly entertaining to see. A special mention has to go to Catbite who were watching all the nonsense from the side of the room at the insistence of Paul Smith (Be Sharp Promotions and All Corners Artists Booking). I hope they enjoyed it!

After Saturday’s headliners it was time to head to Rebellion for the annual Grafteoke set, the band Pure Graft providing full band karaoke for MPF attendees – which is always a highlight of the MPF weekend. When we got to Rebellion we found that a sizeable queue had already formed so we did what British folk do best and joined in. It soon became apparent that the venue would be late letting us in (and therefore making the whole after party run later than planned) due to the metal band that had been playing a gig beforehand being really slow to pack up their gear and load out. We did at least get the queue entertainment of watching the band and crew load up their trailer – they had A LOT of stuff. They didn’t seem pleased that we were crowding around and watching them but it sounds as if they weren’t very cooperative with the Rebellion and MPF staff, so screw them. When we eventually made it into Rebellion, it was still a little while until Grafteoke got going as, understandably, they had to wait for everyone to get inside. I must admit that all this waiting around really ruined by mood and I wasn’t exactly pumped when Grafteoke did get going. However, I did very much enjoy our pal Chloe getting up on stage to sing Boss Of Me by They Might Be Giants aka. the Malcolm in the Middle theme song. I don’t specifically recall what other songs people did – maybe Colin can elaborate further in his review – but everyone seemed to be having a great time.

The after party was completed with cover sets – AFI by In Evil Hour and Reel Big Fish by Call Me Malcolm. Regardless of whether I was especially into either band’s songs, there’s no denying that both bands put on great performances. CMM in particularly played the Reel Big Fish songs arguably better than the original band. We didn’t end up getting back to the Airbnb until almost 3am and so I was well ready to call it a night by then!


Trying to sleep in as long as possible, we eventually got up for the final day of MPF. Our plan was to go to Sandbar for the Shout Louder podcast and also to have pizza for lunch while we were there. Colin and Brett decided to go and quickly check out the merch/records at the Union while Robyn and I got a table and ordered drinks and pizza. Sadly Sandbar was all out of ingredients from a busy day beforehand and so there was no pizza but they kindly told us we could bring other food in. So, it worked out alright as Colin and Brett were able to get us cake from Teatime Collective, who were set up at the Union all weekend, that we tucked into during the podcast. Not pizza but not a bad start to the day by any means.

Sarah’s podcast guests were Andy and Kaz of TNSRecords/MPF and the interview was a lot of fun. As well as tales of organising MPF and highlights of past festivals, the podcast featured an exciting game of band name Pictionary and the, I presume, first ever human pyramid to be formed during a podcast. Kaz was at the top of a pyramid and Andy spit beer into Kaz’s mouth – which is apparently something they do. Yep, I don’t know either. It was funny though. It will be interesting to see how the chaos translate to audio only!

It was a tricky pick for me as to which band I should start my day with – Alldeepends or Cheerbleederz. But ultimately I decided that I should go with the band I hadn’t seen before – which was weirdly the London-based one and not the one from Scotland. This meant Robyn and I were off to the Union to see Cheerbleederz. The room was already busy and full of folks bopping and singing along when we made our way into the crowd. The band looked to be having just as much, if not more, fun on stage than the audience was. What a joyous way to start the day. After Robyn bought some merch from Catbite (telling them she was the person who did their interview in the MPF programme) and Cheerbleederz, we were off to Yes. Up next there was Jess Silk who was one of the artists I’d found on the MPF playlist and knew I had to check out live. Dan #2 was already at Yes and decided to stick around with us, which I believe they considered to be a good decision as they really enjoyed Jess Silk’s political songs. I did too. With just their acoustic guitar and incredible voice, Jess Silk put on a killer performance. Would recommend.

Much Sunday was spent dotting about between venues quite a bit more than I’d done the previous two days. But that’s not really as tiring as you’d think, I think it’s better to keep your legs and feet moving throughout the day and going to different venues can help with that. Next on our agenda was Gorilla for Cherym. I LOVE Cherym. The Irish trio have such a brilliant stage presence and are so fun to watch play live. Obviously they sounded great too! We ducked out a little bit early to allow us time to get back to the Union for Catbite. As it turned out we had plenty of time and could even position ourselves on the barrier. Having seen Catbite myself at the New Cross Inn the week before I knew to some extent what I was in for but that didn’t stop my enjoyment one bit. This is a band meant for big, big things and it felt so special to see them at MPF. They were clearly having the absolute best time themselves, too – it’s been nice reading all their social media posts during and after the festival. Catbite love MPF and we love Catbite. As you can imagine, there was lots of dancing and smiling…

…And then it was time for Goodbye Blue Monday, everyone’s favourite certified misery punks. It was time to bring the mood down but, also, I love them so I was okay with that. It might have started a little oddly if you didn’t know Goodbye Blue Monday as they came on stage to bagpipes playing (much like the start to their new album) but they soon won over the crowd with their fast paced gruff pop punk. I know speaking to Graham and Sean earlier in the weekend that they felt it was a mistake to have them on the biggest stage but there’s no denying that they absolutely smashed their set. They’d also mentioned beforehand that they would be playing (or attempting to play) Hara-Kiri which is a 16 minute long song about suicide. Damn, they pulled it off. It was incredible. It made me appreciate the song and the album as a whole even more than I already did. If you missed this then you’re a silly idiot. Also, well done me for not bursting into tears – it was close.

Heading back to Gorilla for almost all of the rest of the night, it was time for some indie punk in the form of Me Rex and Shit Present. Both bands were excellent – I could probably say that about any band playing MPF at this point, but hey. I’m forever in awe of how talented a bunch of musicians Me Rex are, with all three members of the band singing while also playing multiple instruments. I like Me Rex on recording but I love seeing them live. They’re definitely one of those bands that has to be seen in the flesh to be fully appreciated. Dan #2 may have a shed a tear or two whilst singing along to every word. Shit Present kept the singalongs coming, playing tracks from their previous two EPs alongside new singles off of their forthcoming debut album. Shit Present are one of few bands that have played MPF two years running. Last year I was hyped for new music from them but this year even more so, as it’s almost within reach. In fact, it literally was within reach as Iona said that people could buy the album, ahead of its release next month, exclusively at MPF. Unfortunately I had already pre-ordered the album but Robyn made sure to buy a copy. This year is going to be big for Shit Present and I can’t wait to see them again.

I admit that I didn’t know much about the Sunday night headliner that we’d opted to see, Bad Nerves. But I was there based on enjoying at least one of the songs on the MPF playlist and not being fussed about seeing the other headliners. They didn’t quite seem like a typical MPF band but had a lot of energy and put on a good show nonetheless. There were certainly some folk down the front loving every second of it anyway. I’m pretty sure that Bad Nerves weren’t from Manchester but the singer definitely had Manchester vibes with their sunglasses on for the first part of the set! I feel like this could be the next big ‘popular’ punk band like Idles or Fontaines DC.

Then it was time for the ultimate end to the festival – if you’re me and your favourite band of all time is The Gaslight Anthem. However, to avoid being stuck outside Rebellion in a queue for ages like the previous night, we hung around Gorilla for a bit longer with Colin talking ska and the Scottish music scene with Kev (Paper Rifles) – I piped in occasionally but it was just nice to sit back and listen to two people who are so passionate about music talk. That’s truly one of the biggest highlights of MPF – just being around like-minded people and having a catch up.

Chloe Hawes and their band playing as The Gaslight Anthem was everything that I’d hoped for, times ten. They honestly did a better job than the real Gaslight Anthem has in recent years and it seemed like it went really well with everyone in Rebellion. They played all the hits along with my favourite song, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, which may or may not have been as a result of me suggesting it on Twitter months ago. I had the most wonderful of times at the front singing along to every word and couldn’t have asked for a better end to my MPF 2023. After doing the rounds and saying goodbye, I finished my weekend on a huge high. Leaving then meant we missed out on seeing Speed Dinosaurs play Sublime covers (I don’t know any of their songs) and Hell’s Ditch play New Found Glory covers (I don’t think I like any of their songs) but I was more than happy with my MPF ending with TGA.

Over the following days there was much talk amongst the punk community and within my friendship groups that this was somehow the best MPF ever and I most certainly agree. For one thing, personally, I didn’t feel nearly as tired throughout the weekend (even though I technically did not get much sleep at all) and my feet held out pretty well too – no blisters! I took a spare pair of shoes and alternated between the days which was clearly a genius idea. I also drank a lot of water throughout the weekend – I basically asked for one tap water with whatever drink I was buying. More importantly: Every band I saw was really, really good. The venues and staff were all top notch. The organisation was flawless. And most of all, every person I met was lovely and just generally having the best time themselves.

I’m still in awe of how amazing Manchester Punk Festival is and cannot thank the festival organisers and volunteers enough for delivering the best weekend of the year, year after year. I’m already counting down the days until the next one!

Get your tickets for MPF 2024 now!

This review was written by Emma Prew.