Monday, 16 May 2022

Album Review: Sham Laws by Slow Science

When Slow Science were announced for Manchester Punk Festival it came as quite the surprise. The four-piece split up in 2014 and I hadn’t ever heard of any rumblings of a reunion. I was pleased to see them returning, as I only ever got into them after catching them at their final show at Urban Bar in Whitechapel. To go along with their MPF appearance they had another surprise. A brand spanking new two track EP titled Sham Laws! This pleased me greatly and I couldn’t wait to check it out.

I’ve realised as I’ve written this that there might be a few folk who are unaware of Slow Science’s sound. I think the best way of describing them is as anthemic, melodic pop punk with dual vocals and beautiful harmonies. There’s also a healthy dose of gang vocals. All the good stuff.

The first track is named Cold Smoke. Now, whenever I usually see that a song is five and a half minutes long I groan. That’s a long length for a song, especially for someone with my attention span. I absolutely loved this song though. It’s a real lesson in making songs long but also keeping them interesting. There’s loads going on but it doesn’t feel congested. It’s also not super repetitive. Cold Smoke starts out in a punchy fashion with Jon taking the lead before the track switches to a more melodic style and Stacey takes over. I love this. The pair switch multiple times throughout the song and combine on the huge chorus. The gang vocals accompanied by some delicious harmonies during the final moments of the song are an absolute thing of beauty that needs to be heard to be believed.

What We Are is the second track on Sham Laws. What a journey this song is! Once again there is a lot going on but once again it all works perfectly. It starts with a dreamy fuzzy guitar riff that all your emo heroes of the past would be jealous of before Jon’s vocals come in as well as some gang harmonies trading lines. A great way to start the song. The chorus has a familiarity to it that sends me back twenty years but doesn’t feel like something they’ve rehashed. What We Are also has plenty of moments where the band can show off their musicianship with some slick solos scattered throughout the song. The ending of the track also shows off a different side of Slow Science as they strip things back and have some huge gang vocals to get things finished, as the band yell “turn to what we are, not what you became” repetitively and the song fades out.

This is one of those times where the level of musicianship and songwriting is so high, I really struggle to review and eloquently describe just how brilliant it is. Basically, don’t take my word for it, go check it out for yourself and you will be as awestruck as I am by it. New material suggests that Slow Science’s appearance at MPF wasn’t a one-time thing and I hope they find their way back down to London pronto.

Stream and download Sham Laws on Bandcamp here.

Like Slow Science on Facebook here.

This review was written by Colin Clark.

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Album Review: Now by Rent Strike (by Rich Bailey)

I've always enjoyed a bit of ‘folk punk’; especially Drag the River, Wingnut Dishwashers Union, The Taxpayers and Chuck Ragan’s stuff. I first came across Rent Strike when they released ‘IX’ in 2018 and vaguely followed their comings and goings ever since. ‘Now’ is a slight departure from earlier recordings in that it is more on the ‘folk’ side of things rather than ‘punk’; but that said, it doesn’t detract from some great storytelling and personal lyrics that are very emotive.

Album opener Radio Silence starts initially with typical folk guitar and folk singing, then drums, bass and the rest burst in and give the whole song a fuller, padded out vibe: later we return to the guitar/vocals. This is a great opening track about how peripheral noise (radio, TV etc.) is meaningless. Taking My Time reminds me of early Magazine, especially John Warmb’s vocal delivery – albeit in a Michigan accent. There's great, intricate guitar over pounding rhythm section. A song about revisiting the past to take what’s rightfully yours rather than putting up with what hand you’ve been dealt; “Bathed in radiation, born under a sour sign, all that I’m left with is this meaningless existence, being made to work and wait around to die.”

From The Outside is a highly emotional piece about the unfairness of existence which ends with a hopeful sense of trying to make things better; “… but I’m gonna be strong, and I’m gonna see.” Work! (Future Perfect) is a lament about having to work to live and how one person copes (beer and cigarettes) with this immutable fact – a lot of people’s favourite track on the album. There's some excellent use of slide guitar! The Solid Wall of Stuff has great lyrics about wasting life and not really knowing why; brilliantly delivered with female vocal echoes.

Next Time and Redline (Derive) are long, slow burners with thoughtful, personal lyrics that are emotionally raw and honest with magnificent and sparse guitar work that complements the words beautifully. GBRO is a song about the end of a relationship and who actually called it; “So who’s hand is on the switch anyways?” It's a swing style track with excellent trombone from Michele Fortunato. Time And Decay has an opening verse with an acoustic led impassioned pontification about getting old and being likened to an old, slow computer. The rest of the band then kicks in for a sped up country punk song about how we all turn into our parents (God forbid!).

At The Threshold is a slow, mournful broadside about how we are slowly killing out planet and we haven’t got long to do something about it. The longest track and perhaps my favourite Now (… and Forever!) links back to the opening song about sleeping with the television on and is a magnificent opus about God being dead, everybody hating the police and how to cope with how the world is changing – a quality track! The album's closer is A Spectacular Time, a synth laden, intricate song about the end of a relationship (or the end of an album?) with the closing lines – “I’ll never know if the moment was right, But I had a spectacular time.”

All in all, the album consists of some hopeful undertones to some personal and bleak topics.

Stream and download Now on Bandcamp and like Rent Strike on Facebook.

This review was written by Rich Bailey.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Album Review: Total Disarray by Quaker Wedding (by Marcus Pond)

Total Disarray is the sophomore LP from Quaker Wedding, a three-piece outfit from New York City. If you scroll back in the CPRW archives far enough, you’ll see that I ranked their debut record, In Transit, as my 3rd favorite album of 2020, so when Marco (who runs Salinas Records and is the frontman for Quaker Wedding) sent me the link to the new songs, I was beyond stoked to check them out. Of course, even though I totally meant to write it up ahead of time, I waited until the vinyl came in the mail, because spinning it in my living room is always a better experience than with my headphones on a laptop.

Although Quaker Wedding released “Russian Hill” as a 7” single last year (by the way “Running List”, also made the tracklist), “Vintage Dress” is the song that was given the music video treatment and leads off the record. It sets the lyrical tone for the album, with palm muted verses leading to a crashing chorus about a dissolved relationship. Looking at the lyric sheet, it reads like a diary, and lines like “when you left it / you left me to be the one / to throw your dress out in the trash” had me speechless when I first heard them.

Like their debut, the album art on Total Disarray hints at the band’s relationship with location (faded photos of mostly desolate cityscapes with images of maps around the edges), and they hash out that relationship out in songs like “Woodbridge” and “A New York Minute”. The former is a burst of anger-fueled energy about all the things you hate about where you live driving you crazy, while the latter is a bittersweet number about knowing “how it feels to be a ghost / to haunt the place I love / without the people I miss most”.

The sequencing on Total Disarray is perfect, as they hit the listener with the best three-song leadoff I’ve heard from any album this year (I know it’s early, I’m just setting the bar here), and after slowing it down with tracks like the wistful “Staten Island Ferry” and the darker, moody “In And Of Itself”, they close with the one-two punch of the aforementioned “Russian Hill” and “Hurricane”.

The comparisons I’ve seen online to Jawbreaker are apt, as “Russian Hill” sounds like a bop that could’ve been from the 24 Hour Revenge Therapy sessions and is one of the brighter tunes on Total Disarray. Conversely, “In And Of Itself” has a (at least to my ears) Dear You kind of vibe. More than anything, both bands play heavy punk songs with impeccable lyrics, and if that’s what you’re into, Quaker Wedding has 10 fresh tracks that you should really dig.

Songs to check out: “Vintage Dress”, “Woodbridge”, “Running List”, “Russian Hill”.

Stream and download Total Disarray on Bandcamp.

This review was written by Marcus Pond.

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Gig Review: Whitmore – 20th Anniversary Of Smoke The Roach at New Cross Inn, London 30/4/22

If you are of a certain age and you grew up loving UK punk rock music then I have no doubt that you have fond memories of the P-Rock TV channel. The channel, which only ran for about six months, played music videos from bands such as Rancid, The Distillers, The Vandals, Allister and Home Grown, as well as UK acts such as 4ft Fingers, King Prawn, Farse and [Spunge]. One UK act that is potentially most associated with the channel is Whitmore, because of the video for their song Alison. In 2022, the album which featured Alison, Smoke The Roach, turned twenty years old and Whitmore figured it would be a good time to celebrate this. A few shows were booked, including one at the New Cross Inn put on by Be Sharp Promotions. Of course, I had to pop along to the party.

I turned up early and caught up with Be Sharp’s Paul and Martin of Slagerij, one of the support bands for the evening. It was a bit disappointing to see the room looking a bit sparse for a band that is remembered so fondly but it was interesting to see the folk who did turn up. It looked to be mostly a bunch of folk in their mid to late thirties who have perhaps been allowed a night off from their partners for the gig. There were, however, also some young people in attendance. They were the opening act, Keep Summer Safe. The three-piece are a fairly new band but I recognised lead singer and guitarist Gian from filling in for Fastfade a few years ago. I felt like they were a great choice to open the show with their fun and energetic style of pop punk that fits perfectly between old school bands such as Blink and New Found Glory and newer bands like The Story So Far and Neck Deep. From the outset, the band made it clear they were about having fun and it was super nice to see. The between song banter was entertaining and at one point their bass player even left the stage to go to the bar for a drink! I get the feeling that I’ll be seeing Keep Summer Safe a lot at New Cross in the coming months and years.

Slagerij were next to take to the stage and had been supporting Whitmore at all of their Smoke The Roach shows. They had only been at the New Cross Inn a few months previously, supporting [Spunge] on their Room For Abuse tour. I had been impressed with the three-piece back then but this time I enjoyed them even more. This might be as I was a bit more familiar. It might be because the venue wasn’t as busy as the previous time. There’s a very good chance it was partly because I hadn’t just done my first three day festival in two years before the gig. As I watched the band bounce around the stage with relentless energy, I tried to think of some of the newer bands in ska that play this style and the only one I could think of that is remotely close were our friends Baldhead And The Dreads. Despite only being a three-piece, I was very impressed with the way they commanded the stage, using every square inch of it during their set. As they played through their set, Slagerij got more and more people dancing and got some great crowd participation during their penultimate track, Can’t Stop A Nation. This was a lot of fun and I hope it’s not long until they find themselves back in London again.

As we waited for Whitmore to take to the stage, Paul and I spent some time talking to Des and Jarv from [Spunge] who had travelled to South London for the gig. My mind is blown that not only do two members of the band that I have stated many times are my gateway band know who I am, but that they took the time to talk to me and thank me for the work I do with CPRW. It was really overwhelming but much appreciated. They also told me to write that Whitmore are shit….

I couldn’t do that though as Whitmore played a brilliant set. This was a Smoke The Roach set but when they didn’t open with Alison I soon realised that they wouldn’t be playing the album in order. I think this was a great idea as it gives you the surprise factor you don’t get if you play the album from start to finish. Much like Slagerij before them, Whitmore commanded the stage like the seasoned professionals that they are. Led by the one and only Robb Blake, who is still heavily involved in the ska scene putting on great shows at his pub in Salisbury, Whitmore worked the crowd into a frenzy. Even though there can’t have been more than sixty people at the New Cross Inn, each and every person in the crowd showed so much enthusiasm for the band. Everyone danced, sang and remembered what it was like to be twenty years younger during their set. I’ll always prefer to be in a crowd of sixty really enthusiastic people rather than one with four hundred people, most of whom aren’t that bothered. One of my thoughts during the set was how I really didn’t appreciate Whitmore nearly as much as I should have during their heyday. I was expecting to enjoy Whitmore’s set but they exceeded all expectations. I had forgotten how many bangers are on Smoke The Roach. Obviously there’s Alison but songs such as Scones, On The Ceiling, 29 Times, Hydrant and Tell You Twice still sound as good as they did twenty years ago. Hopefully Whitmore don’t leave it too long before playing more shows because they are still so good and I’d certainly love to see them again!

Here on CPRW our main focus is to always champion new and exciting bands but I always think it’s important to spend some time every now and then looking at the bands that came before and show respect. Whitmore came along at a time when I was taking my first footsteps into the world of underground UK punk and it was awesome to see them play such a good show. I’m still waiting for the day when some legend of a promoter gets all the old favourites back together for a nostalgic all-dayer to end all all-dayers. It would be magic.

This review was written by Colin Clark. Photos also by Colin.

Monday, 9 May 2022

Album Review: Crepuscolo Dorato Della Bruschetta… by Snuff (by Chris Bishton)

Snuff are back. Crepuscolo Dorato Della Bruschetta Borsetta Calzetta Cacchetta Trombetta Lambretta Giallo Ossido, Ooooooh Così Magnifico! (yes, seriously) is the latest from the UK punk powerhouse and, given all the difficulties that have come with writing, rehearsing and recording over the last couple of years, it comes relatively quickly following 2019's Fat Wreck released There's A Lot Of It About.

If you don't know the band, which I doubt but I guess it's possible, they've been almost constant mainstays in the UK punk scene for over 30 years. There's been inevitable line-up changes, side projects and mini-breaks over that time and the band stripped back to a three-piece to write this new album, but Duncan Redmonds remains perpetual, meaning not only do you know what to expect, you also know you're going to get a banger.

With 10 tracks, it's not the longest and only one of these tracks lasts more than three minutes, but what you get is a snappy 25 minutes or so of that instantly familiar Snuff sound. There's harmonies, singalongs and very distinct vocals galore. The expected horns, trombones and organ are all in there as well. Listen to it from start to finish and I think most will also agree having just 10 tracks is to the record's benefit – there's very little need for any skips here.
The first track is Looks Alright From Here. The opening few seconds start with the guitars, followed by drums and then cymbals before Duncan's frantic and unmistakable vocals kick in. It's the way all good Snuff albums start. Vintage stuff.

Green Grass Chippings is next. I think it had been pre-released as an online single, but I hadn't actually caught it before. It's one of my favourites on the album – absurdly catchy vocals – but not quite as the brilliant One Of Those Days which follows and is the best song on the album. Fish 'N' Chips then reminds me further of their very indisputable sound. You can't hear this and wonder 'who are this band?' and 'where are they from?' – patently Snuff and obviously British.
Snuff being Snuff also can't resist a cover and there's a classic here with their take on Curtis Mayfield's Hard Times. The band themselves refer to their sound as "Motown Punk" and this is as good a cover as they've done. In fact, when you listen to the whole album on repeat you'll hear Motown references and sounds all over the place.

Barba Gelata then starts with the sound of a British ice cream van before a three minute instrumental. It's the only song that feels a bit out of place, but I'm sure that's more me than most.
Lemon Curd gets me back on track before being followed by Stolen From View and Small F; all solid tracks before it finishes with Bing Bing – a Snuff catchphrase and a feel good song, the mid-pace of which winds the album down nicely.
This Snuff release probably won't rank as many people's favourite, but why should it? A band with this much back catalogue can't put out better and better records indefinitely and it's right that everyone should have their own personal best. But, it's fast, harmonic, raucous and distinctly Snuff and I love it for that.

The album is available on the band's own 10 Past 12 Records and Austria's SBÄM Records.

You can stream and download the album on Bandcamp and like Snuff on Facebook.

This review was written by Chris Bishton.

Thursday, 5 May 2022

Gig Review: Manchester Punk Festival 2022: Day Three (by Colin and Emma)

(Emma’s parts are in italics.)

The third and final day of Manchester Punk Festival was here and promised to be just as busy as the previous couple of days. To start our day, we met up with our lovely pals Dan and Jess, the Vegan Punks for some delicious vegan fast food before heading to The Union for our first band of the day – the mighty Crazy Arm!

Crazy Arm hold a special place in my punk heart, since they were probably the first truly DIY punk band I ever saw live (around 12 years ago) and I have loved them ever since. Over the years their line-up has changed, as has their sound to a certain extent but the fact remains that they always put on a brilliant live show. We arrived in the room just as the band were kicking off their set and I quickly found my way to the front of the stage as the band churned out tracks from last year’s album, Dark Hands Thunderbolts, alongside classics such as Tribes, Still To Keep and Broken By The Wheel. Another top notch performance and the perfect start to the day.

Photo by Charlotte Corry

After Crazy Arm I rushed to Zombie Shack (via dropping some records off at the Air BNB) for Clayface. This was another of those times where I didn’t look at the schedule properly and thought I had a lot less time than I realised. Because of this I had to quickly say hi and bye to some friends because in my head I was running late. I felt bad about that. After dropping off the records, I bumped into some fine folk I know from New Cross Inn. They had said they didn’t really have a plan so I suggested they come and check out Clayface with me, which they did. Clayface were another late addition to the festival and brought their own style of gruff melodic punk to the stage. Clayface are a band I discovered on Bandcamp a few years ago and had yet to get the chance to see them live, much like every other band of the weekend they did not disappoint. Being a local band they seemed to have a good amount of pals in the crowd to support them and it created a wonderful atmosphere. This was one of those times I wish I’d have known more songs and I would’ve loved to have a proper sing-along but thoroughly enjoyed myself anyway. I spoke to the NXI folk afterwards and they said they had also enjoyed the set which pleased me. Then I had to dash off for my next set which was starting at The Union

After Crazy Arm, I met up with Robyn elsewhere in the crowd and we made a quick exit to head to Gorilla for the first band of the day there and one Robyn was especially excited to see – Signals Midwest. Signals Midwest are a four-piece from Ohio, USA, who play punk rock in a similar vein to Spanish Love Songs or The Menzingers. From the instant the band stepped foot on stage it was clear they were enthused to be there and it really showed throughout their energetic performance as they happily jumped around the stage. The set was mostly comprised of tracks from the album Dent, which had only been released a week or so prior so I was mostly unfamiliar, but it was all great. Emotionally charged pop punk music is definitely a big hit with me.

Photo by Emma Prew

The Infested were one of my biggest surprises of the day. I had heard of them previously but hadn’t ever bothered to check them out. What a big mistake that was. Before the festival the band announced they would be calling it a day this year so, after checking some songs before the festival, I decided I had to take this opportunity to see them as I might not get another chance. When I arrived back at The Union the band had already started their set. In that opening they had had some trouble with guitars and amps so the singer had decided to ditch his guitar and that they would just have to power through with one guitar. This didn’t stop them putting on a very energetic show with the band’s frontman taking the opportunity to dance around the stage and jump down to the barrier to join the crowd. Sadly they had to cut the set short as they ran out of songs they could play with one guitar but you have to commend The Infested for powering on and still delivering a fantastic set. After the set I had a chat with Ell from Baldhead And The Dreads where I asked why had I not been to see them before as they were so good.

Speaking of emotionally charged pop punk, up next at Gorilla it was time for the return of the sorely missed (by me personally but also, I’m sure, by many others) Shit Present. I’m not even going to tone it down, this was the set of the weekend that I was most looking forward to and as soon as I was singing and bopping along to familiar favourites such as Anxious Type and Melbourne it was like nothing else in the world mattered. Isn’t it great when music makes you feel like that? The band were obviously a bit nervous to be making their ‘come back’ after several years without playing live but the smiles on their faces showed just how stoked they were to be there. It wasn’t all old songs that Shit Present treated us to, they also shared that they’d just finished recording their debut album and played a couple of songs from it – oh my gosh, they sound absolutely amazing. I simply cannot wait for this album and for the next time I get to see this band live. PS. Iona, Robyn and I are both a bit in love with you. 
Photo by Emma Prew

Next I made my way to Zombie Shack for the final ever set for Don Blake. I arrived there quite early so I could sit and watch the beginning of the Crystal Palace vs Chelsea FA Cup Semi Final. As the beginning of the Don Blake set drew nearer, Zombie Shack began to fill very quickly. It soon got to capacity which was great for the band but a shame for any folk who wanted to see them one last time. We’ve been following the Bolton foursome since the beginning of CPRW but had only seen them one time before, at MPF 2016, so this was well overdue. Don Blake are one of the finest pop punk bands in the UK, always impressing me with their relentless hooks and some of the best vocal harmonies around. As this was their last ever set, they clearly tried to squeeze as many songs in as possible. It was nice to hear tracks from across their discography, this was a real best of and a great send off for the band. They’re a talented bunch and I’m keen to see what the guys do next.

Photo by Emma Prew

It’s been a good few years (maybe five?) since Colin and I first, and last, saw Northern Irish punk rockers Good Friend live. I know I enjoyed them that time but it was nothing compared to seeing them make their MPF – and Manchester – debut in Zombie Shack. This was DIY punk rock at its finest and the pure raw energy that the trio seemed to exude as they tore through their set was brilliant to watch. There was a bit of an endearing scrappiness to their performance and they kept us entertained between songs with jokes and banter. We were also treated to a guest appearance from everyone’s favourite UK-based acoustic punk troubadour, Sam Russo, who added guest vocals to one track. I expected to enjoy Good Friend but I didn’t expect to enjoy them quite as much as I did. One of the highlights of the weekend for sure and I hope to catch them live again soon.  

Photo by Emma Prew

Jaya The Cat were well into their set when we arrived after watching Good Friend. We only managed to catch three songs – Fake Carreras, Amsterdam and closer Here Come The Drums. Much like when we arrived late for The JB Conspiracy the day before, The Union was packed and the room was bouncing. During the part in Fake Carreras when they get everyone to sit down the whole room obliged, apart from the guy in front of us who had a patch claiming he didn’t like dogs, and then jumped back up in unison. I hope someone caught that moment on camera as that many people doing that must have made an awesome visual. I felt moved by this and made my way closer to the pit for final track Here Come The Drums. It was at this point I noticed the floor had gotten extremely sticky and was glad I hadn’t had to crouch down there for Fake Carreras. As I mentioned, I only got to see three songs for Jaya The Cat but what a fantastic three songs it was.

In quite a distinct shift in musical styles, next to take to the stage at The Union were London-based indie punks, Fresh. I’ve been lucky enough to see the band live more than a few times over the last couple of years and they always put on a fine show that is a lot of fun to be part of. This was Robyn’s first time seeing the band live after missing out the last few times they played (or were supposed to play) MPF and, so for that reason alone, this was going to be pretty special. The energy that this band generates on stage, especially that from Kathryn, is just wonderful to behold and it soon spreads into the crowd. Songs such as Girl Clout, Get Bent and Revenge were so cathartic to sing along to and I loved every second of Fresh’s set. Plus, it’s safe to say that Robyn thoroughly enjoyed finally getting to see Fresh live as well. What a band.

Photo by Emma Prew

After Fresh we made our way to Bread Shed for our choice of headliner, Roughneck Riot. As we arrived we discovered popular grime punks Riskee And The Ridicule still had some time left in their set. Like they have done every single time I’ve seen them, Riskee had the crowd in a wild frenzy, baying on every word that frontman Scott spat. Riskee are one of the hardest working DIY bands in the scene and it’s pleasing to see them get such rewards from all of their grafting. It was great to catch a bonus bit of their set.

Before the night’s headline band at The Bread Shed, Roughneck Riot, were ready to kick off their set, a familiar face appeared on stage to introduce the band. You may know Chris Lowry as being the face of the Warrington Ska Punk blog and podcast, but for this weekend he was serving as a sort of announcer before bands at the Bread Shed. I just must quote what he said before fellow Warrington punks Roughneck Riot, as his words were so poignant – "Today I realised the thing that makes MPF different from any other festival. At other festivals, the bands are these amazing distant heroes. At MPF, your friends are your heroes, and your heroes are your friends." And with that, the six-piece raucous folk punk troupe burst into a raw and passionate performance. It was my first time seeing the band since they went on hiatus before the pandemic as well as my first time hearing songs from their new album, Burn It To The Ground, played live. Of course, the set featured a selection of those newer tracks alongside older Roughneck classics. Everything was met with much enthusiasm from the crowd with people dancing, moshing, singing, crowdsurfing and just generally having a jolly old time. It was a tough choice between Sunday night’s headliners with Jeff Rosenstock and A Wilhelm Scream both playing at the same time but I don’t think that anyone in The Bread Shed at that moment regretted their decision for a second. Knowing how apprehensively excited Colin was to get in to see Plot 32 at Zombie Shack after the headline sets, we ducked out of Roughneck’s set a little early but had a lovely time while we were there nonetheless. 

Photo by Mark Farthing

The one set I was most anxious about getting in to for the whole weekend was Plot 32’s. The Leeds based ska punks were opening the after party at the tiny Zombie Shack and I expected it to quickly reach capacity. I, along with the New Cross Inn ska punk scene, all seemed to leave whatever headliners we were watching and arrived at the Zombie Shack about half an hour early just to make sure we got in. This proved to be a good idea as Zombie Shack quickly reached capacity. As the band squeezed onto the tiny stage there was a feeling of anticipation in the air and as soon as they opened their set (with Favourite Things, I think) the room began to move in an excited fashion. I quickly finished my pint of coke, partly as I was concerned about getting knocked and spilling it everywhere and partly because I wanted to join in with the party. Plot 32 were the perfect choice to open this party as there was so much joy and enthusiasm in the room. It had been a long weekend and we were feeling tired but having such a joyous dance with so many friends to a band that have become one of my favourites in the ska scene over the past couple of years was the best. Songs such as Issues, Remission, Save The World, their cover of the Vengaboys’ Boom Boom Boom and set closer Go Hard Or Go Home were all just perfect and made the choice to leave Roughneck Riot early even more worth it. Plot 32 are another band playing Level Up Festival in July and I can’t wait to see them again.

Photo by Mike Smith

As it had started raining for the first time ever at MPF, Emma and I arrived early at the Bread Shed for what was our planned final band, our friends from Denmark, Forever Unclean. As we arrived though, California act Corrupt Vision were just starting their set. As we arrived and I initially listened to the band, I was pretty sure this wouldn’t be for me. The thrashy grindcore nature of songs aren’t usually for me but then they started to add some ska up-stokes here and there and this was when they really won me over. I’m actually really easy to please – just play ska. Corrupt Vision turned out to be one of my biggest surprises and major highlights of the whole weekend. This is why it’s important to check out bands you’re not aware of at festivals and gigs in general, you will come across some absolutely cracking stuff.

And just like that it was time for the final band of our Manchester Punk Festival 2022 – Copenhagen’s Forever Unclean. You probably know, if you’ve read this blog before, that this Danish trio are one of our favourite bands and we are also lucky enough to call them our friends and so seeing them do their thing at the MPF 2022 after party was an absolutely pleasure. If you are unfamiliar with the band (where have you been?!) then let me tell you that they play short, fast-paced indie punk songs with a wonderfully cathartic and raw energy that can best be experienced in a live setting… and so, at the very front of the crowd, that is what we did. Spirits were high down the front and we all had a joyful time singing along to our favourite songs, new and old. This was the first time for many people, us included, to hear songs from the band’s debut album, Best, which was released earlier this year and they blended in perfectly alongside songs from EPs Float and Woof. Every last bit of energy remaining in the band – who I know had been enjoying the weekend as punters up until this point – and crowd was exuded here. The mass singalongs for Waves and Worthless were one of those truly special moments that make us realise just how much we love this scene and everyone in it. The perfect ending to the perfect weekend. 

Photo by Emma Prew

Manchester Punk Festival was the absolute best time. I can’t even fathom how much hard work and stress the organisers went through putting the event on and for everything to run as smoothly as it did is a real testament to the legends that put the festival on. Every set I saw was absolutely superb. Over the four days, I personally saw thirty eight different bands and if CPRW was the sort of site that dished out ratings based on a criteria that seems pretty random I’d be handing out a lot of tens. Something I always really appreciate about the work that MPF do is how they actually listen to their crowd and take on comments about things that haven’t been as good as they could be in previous years. For instance, when they first used the Union venue in 2019 it did feel a bit lifeless; however in 2022 The Union became one of my favourite venues of the whole festival. I don’t know what they did but there was always such a special atmosphere whenever I saw a band there, no matter what size the crowd was.

I feel like the whole overriding emotion that the majority of people had at the end of MPF 2022 was love. I loved being able to see so many great bands again. I loved seeing so many friends I haven’t been able to see for years. I loved being in the environment where the punk community could come together once again and celebrate this movement that has been built over the years. The wonderful Matt Speer of Ear Nutrition described the weekend as Nutritional. I couldn’t agree more. It’s been a tough few years for many reasons and to be back at MPF really felt like a bit of healing process had started. I can’t thank everyone from the organisers, volunteers, bar staff, sound people, (most of) the security, the friends and the strangers and the food places we visited enough for what was the most wonderful weekend.

Something I’ve just remembered and I’m going to add on here is about the amount of MPF first timers I spoke to who had the best time. It feels like once you go to the festival once you’re definitely going to make it an annual event if possible. This has got to be down to the incredible community spirit that surrounds the festival, along with the incredible amount of talent that gets booked to play. I’m already so excited for MPF 2023. Tickets are already so sale, get one now and don’t miss out.

This review was written by Colin Clark and Emma Prew.

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Gig Review: Manchester Punk Festival 2022: Day Two (by Colin and Emma)

(Emma’s parts are in italics.)

Our Saturday started in a busy fashion. Firstly with a CPRW meet up where all of the team who were attending the festival got together for breakfast. It was a lovely time. Then we made our way over to Sandbar for the Sober Social. This was a new event for MPF put together by Sarah Shout Louder, Helen from Smoking Gives You Big Tits and Chloë Glover to bring together people who either don’t drink, were trying to stop or cut down on their alcohol consumption or for people who were just interested in alcohol-free booze. The point was to show people that there are plenty of other like-minded people in the punk community. I feel like the event was a success and I hope they bring it back for MPF 2023.

Whereas a lot of our friends headed to The Union to see Darko (I’ve heard from everyone how good they were), we decided to go and see Daves at Zombie Shack. I first heard of Daves at the end of 2019 and had been keen to see them live ever since. They play this loud, shouty style of pop punk that I adore. It was nice to see a decent crowd had gathered at the Zombie Shack to see the three-piece. In my head, I’d given them a big build up and I was so happy to see that not only did they meet all of my expectations, they blew them away. Playing songs such as I Drank The Beer, Get Out Of My City and Change, Daves got the Saturday off to the perfect start for me. I’m very keen to see Daves live again, hopefully it will be soon.

Photo by Emma Prew

As we left Zombie Shack and headed around the corner, we soon become aware that a lengthy queue was forming for the first band of the day at Gorilla. We joined the end in hope that we would be able to get in and see Onsind at some point but the queue continued to grow behind us – we later found out that the queue was caused by a delay in opening the doors due to something that needed fixing inside the venue, safety first and all that. Anyway, I did make it into the venue part way through Onsind’s set and found the room full of eager music fans dancing and singing along to the Durham band. Over the years, Onsind have transformed from acoustic duo Daniel and Nathan to a six piece band with the addition of keys, drums, bass and another vocalist. It was a shame to miss the beginning but what I did experience was a wonderfully, joyful and wholesome set of songs. I’ll never get bored of a room of punks singing ‘never trust a Tory’.

Photo by Emma Prew

One of my most anticipated bands of the weekend were up next and I was excited. As Colin headed off to watch Hell’s Ditch, I managed to meet up with Robyn as the crowd thinned a little between bands. We moved into a prime position near the front as we waited for Brooklyn-based emo band Proper. to take to the stage. It was our first time seeing the band live but I was aware that they had a slightly different line-up for their UK tour, however that did not seem to hinder them in the slightest. Tearing through a set that mostly consisted of tracks from their excellent new album, The Great American Novel, as well as a couple of older tunes, Proper. instantly lived up to all of my hopes and expectations. The performance was slick and precise without being over the top. I loved how the band members seemed genuinely stoked to be there and told us about their antics on tour throughout the UK – including learning about ‘oggy oggy’, of all things. Great stuff. Would recommend. Would watch again.  

Photo by Louise Buckler

Hell’s Ditch are a band you might be familiar with as their members have been in plenty of other UK DIY punk bands over the years. For me, the most familiar is their frontman Nicholas Davis who was formerly the singer in River Jumpers. I was very pleased to finally get the opportunity to see Hell’s Ditch at The Bread Shed at MPF. It was nice to see a few pals from the NXI scene had also gathered at The Bread Shed to check them out. My pal Chris of Warrington Ska Punk had been helping out at The Bread Shed all weekend and had been introducing the bands on to the stage, I’m still not sure if that was something he’d been asked to do or something he just decided he would do but before Hell’s Ditch began their set he joked about them having only seven songs and a forty minute set to fill. I also had wondered about how this would work. I can give you the answer to that question now, by saying they filled it by playing some banging pop punk songs. Nicholas has one of my favourite vocals in pop punk and the rest of the band played their roles perfectly. I felt a lot of positivity ooze from the stage as they played and it felt great to be in that environment at that exact moment. They also filled the time by playing (reluctantly by some members of the band) a great cover of The Clash’s Train In Vain which went down a storm. I had to leave the set a little early to make sure I could get to Yes to see the next band.

As I arrived at Yes, I bumped into the legend that is Chris Fishlock outside and then we made our way to the basement for Beng Beng Cocktail. Beng Beng Cocktail are a three-piece acoustic ska act from France who recently released their new album with the help of TNSRecords. I’ve been a fan of the band for a couple of years, after discovering them on a big ska compilation. Because they’re based in Europe, and a lot of silly billies in the UK voted to leave the EU making it very difficult and expensive for bands from the mainland to tour the UK, I didn’t expect I’d get the chance to see them. To my absolute surprise and delight they were announced for MPF so I would get to see them. Chris and I took a place right at the front of the stage for them and it seemed as if Yes quickly filled up with a lot of other likeminded people to see them. Despite being a largely acoustic act I was very impressed with how full their sound was, filling the room brilliantly. All around me people were skanking along with the band and having a great time. There was a rawness to the sound that is something I always enjoy and I was very pleased that the high hopes I had for the set were not let down. A great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

After The Beng Beng Cocktail set I met up with Emma outside of the venue. I thought the plan was to have a bit of a break and some food before continuing our day. She then asked me when I was seeing Holiday. It turned out I’d got my timings confused and the answer was right now. So I hurried to back to Gorilla and, after a thorough searching from the over-zealous security guard, I made my way into the venue where Holiday’s set was well underway. Holiday were a late addition to the festival but, for me and many others, it was a very welcome one. The four-piece are clearly one I’ve been sleeping on for years as I absolutely loved their set. The band play an upbeat melodic pop punk style and were obviously loved by everyone in attendance. Holiday are one of those bands that are equally as enjoyable to watch between songs as they are when they are playing, with some entertaining banter between the members and the crowd. I was very pleased to have taken the opportunity to finally see Holiday as who knows when they will play again but I really suggest that if they do play again you also take the opportunity to see them. One of the best pop punk bands the country has produced in the last ten years. Today’s task is to find a copy of their excellent LP California Steamin’ on vinyl.

Slow Science were next on my agenda. I’d last seen Slow Science at their last ever show in 2014. Unfortunately, I’d only get to see about half of their set here as I wanted to also catch some of The JB Conspiracy who were playing at The Union at the same time. The plan was to catch the first 15 minutes of Slow Science at Zombie Shack before rushing to see JB. Sadly some technical issues seemed to delay the start of their set so I only got to see about three songs in the end but goodness it was nice to see Slow Science back. They are one of the most underrated bands from their era, combining indie punk with dreamy emo riffs fantastically. They’ve also just released a brand new EP named Sham Laws which is really, really good.

Photo by Emma Prew

The JB Conspiracy are ska punk legends and I always try to see them live whenever I get the chance. Due to the Slow Science clash I only got to see about four songs, but as you can probably imagine it was four of the best songs of the day. As we entered The Union it was great to see such a full room for the band. JB have proudly flown the UK ska punk flag for years now and deserve all the respect and love that they receive wherever they play. I was very pleased that we arrived to see them play The Long Road To Zurich which is my favourite song from their latest album, Beginnings. It was during this track I noticed that the band had Evelyn Crabb from Lead Shot Hazard and Filthy Militia filling in for them and doing a superb job. Before the set finished they also played classics Drop Your Anchor (which got a huge sing-along) and closer Time To Leave to finish the set in real style.

Photo by Lindsey Cormack

I’m not sure there’s another band that’s more beloved by myself and my New Cross Inn going companions than Dublin’s Chewie. At the after party of MPF 2018 we all had a lovely time singing our hearts out to this band and we would do it again at The Union on a Saturday afternoon. I know some people have said that a big venue like The Union is a bit soulless compared to the more DIY MPF venues of the past (RIP Sound Control) but there was something magical about seeing Chewie up on the big stage, playing their hearts out and having, at least what felt like, the whole room singing along to every word like their lives depended on it. I don’t quite know what it is about Chewie but they seem to bring out a raw emotion in all of us – I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if their set brought some folks in the audience to tears. Probably the highlight of the day.

Photo by Paul Smith

Leaving The Union behind, we quickly made our way back to Zombie Shack where The Netherlands based  Coral Springs were already playing an energetic set to a full room of people. Vocalist Jo seemed to have the audience hooked on their every word as their enthusiasm bled into the crowd, particularly those down the front. Coral Springs play fast paced and catchy pop punk music which soon proved to be a lot of fun live. And what a voice Jo has! The band were also joined by Tom from Darko for one track which went down a treat. I’m definitely keen to see these guys again – hopefully for a whole set next time. 

We stuck around in Zombie Shack for Irish punks Bar Tape. I’d only heard of Bar Tape because they were on the MPF line-up and what a great find they turned out to be! As they set up, I noticed that one of the band members was sporting a Dopamines T-shirt. I have a bit of a theory that if I see someone in a band wearing a Dopamines T-shirt then there is a high chance I’m going to love their band. The theory works as they played a storming set. Playing fast and raw melodic pop punk, this is exactly my can of coke. Despite being very new to the band I was pleased to hear some songs I recognised such as Guts & Skin and David and the others I wasn’t as familiar with had me itching to check out the band further. Moments like this are why I love going to festivals – the chance to discover new favourite bands you probably wouldn’t have even heard of if you hadn’t have attended.

Photo by Emma Prew

After a quick catch up with Sarah Shout Louder I popped back to our Air BNB before returning to The Union for this evening’s headliners, UK ska and reggae legends The Skints. After my short break, I arrived at The Union to find the venue absolutely packed for the band. It was nice to see The Skints make a return to a DIY festival, showing despite all of their well deserved success they haven’t forgotten their roots. It was also incredible to see a band that features a woman of colour headline the festival, proving MPF is one of the most diverse festivals in the country. Now, to be completely honest, I wasn’t originally planning on seeing The Skints. I’d planned to see first Shai Hulud and then Svalbard headline at Gorilla but because of my earlier interactions with the security at Gorilla I decided I didn’t fancy going back to that venue. I also haven’t listened to anything new from The Skints in a long time so was pretty unfamiliar with the majority of the set. I had a nice time though, there were plenty of friends there and everyone was in high spirits. The room swayed along with the band and showed them so much love which was very pleasing to see. Like I said, I didn’t plan on seeing The Skints but I did leave with a smile on my face so all’s well that ends well.

Photo by George Elcombe

Next it was time for the Saturday after party and the now legendary yearly appearance of Grafteoke. After The Skints, a group of us met up outside The Union and convoyed down to Rebellion, getting there with plenty of time to spare and before the venue hit capacity. If you don’t know, Grafteoke is basically the members of Pure Graft being a backing band that invites members of the audience on stage to fulfil their punk rock front person dreams. At the last MPF, this was many people’s big highlight of the weekend and it promised to deliver again. To start the set, the band played their own version of the Andrew WK smash Party Hard before inviting members of the crowd to the stage. Bands that got covered throughout the set included Limp Bizkit, Bad Brains, Green Day, Descendents, Jimmy Eat World and Smash Mouth to various degrees of quality. A lot of fun was had all around though, by the folk on stage and the massive crowd. Grafteoke have proven to be such an excellent addition to the festival.
Photo by Emma Prew

The next legendary cover set had been a long time in the making, since MPF organiser Tree and a collection of Manchester based musicians (from various bands in the scene) attempted and failed to play a set of Oasis songs back in 2018. We couldn’t get into the venue at that time but heard afterwards that there were technical difficulties and the whole thing was a bit of a disaster. As such, you could forgive us for thinking that this 2022 edition of an Oasis cover set might also be a shambles. It was not. I don’t consider myself to be a hardcore Oasis fan but nor do I hate them, as many – punk fans or otherwise – seem to. Even so, I did not expect to enjoy this set as much as I did. Tree proved to be an excellent front person and had his Liam Gallagher impersonation down to a T. The rest of the band, which featured members of Bruise Control, Fair Do’s and ROTPM, were also brilliant. I had a lovely time singing along to hits such as Wonderwall and She’s Electric and would love to see this incarnation of Oasis (I believe they’re using the name ‘Chunderwall’) again. 

Photo by Paul Smith

Day two had been an excellent but exhausting day. I’d sacrificed dinner for seeing a lot of excellent bands. I think the only thing I ate after breakfast was a malt loaf bar which was very naughty of me. I’ve been hanging around Paul Smith too much. The day had been jam packed with special moments and I was on such a high. Day three had a lot to live up to!

Buy tickets for MPF2023 here:

This review was written by Colin Clark and Emma Prew.