Saturday, 10 October 2015

Gig Review: Manchfester 3.5 at Retro Bar 3/10/15

The night after RVIVR, Emma and I were up early to make the 170 mile drive up to Manchester for Manchfester 3.5. Put on by Manchester based promotions company Moving North, Manchfester 3.5 was going back to its roots by putting on a smaller show with a line up that included bands that were on the first Manchfester show - Above Them, Bangers and Great Cynics - along with ten other bands.
Unfortunately, due to heavy traffic getting into Manchester, we were late to Retro Bar (where the gig was being held) and so missed opening band Selmer Thurma (who were playing their first show). But we did arrive in time to catch the majority of acoustic folk-punk Andrew Cream, from Leeds. I am a bit familiar with Andrew after reviewing his split with Don Blake last year but this was Emma's first time seeing him. She really enjoyed his set and described the sound as being big – despite being part acoustic. The highlight for me was the song Celebrate Variety, which was on last year's split and is a song that sums up the spirit of the scene excellently.

Manchester's Gut Model were the next band on Retro Bar's small stage. Neither of us had ever heard of Gut Model so we didn't really have any expectations for the four-piece. When they began their set we soon discovered they mix alternative rock music with punk to create a sound that not many bands are playing. The lead singer in particular put on a confident performance, rather than staying on the stage he made his way onto the floor and spent the majority of the set stumbling round singing his songs.

Offering something different to the rest of the day’s entertainment were County Durham's hardcore punks Control, who have recently been touring America. Normally I'm not a fan of this kind of music when I hear it recorded, but I do love seeing a hardcore band play live. There is something about the energy and passion of the performance that makes it very hard to dislike.

Control were followed by another Manchester band - Fair Do's. I caught a little bit of Fair Do's set at the Manchester Punk Festival earlier in the year so was interested in giving them a proper listen. Combining skate and melodic punk rock with technical guitars, Fair Do's fit into a lot of different genres and have the potential to stand out in them all. I was amazed by front man Danny's guitar work especially, combining a series of hammer ons and pull offs with strumming that he does at an impressive speed. People who say playing punk rock is easy need to check out Fair Do's!

Stay Clean Jolene were one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing for the first time. Ever since I heard and reviewed their 2014 album I've been hooked on them. They play a much more straight forward style of punk rock music than the bands on before them, focusing on the quality of the songwriting rather than intensity. Songs such as Concrete Block, All I Need and Record sounded absolutely fantastic live. I especially enjoyed the harmonies throughout the songs, mixing a dirty vocal with a clean one always adds so much to a song. Stay Clean Jolene are a band that need to be heard by everyone - amazing band.

Unfortunately, earlier in the day Above Them had to pull out of the show due to lead singer Oli being unwell. This led to an hour long break during the middle of the gig. Emma and I were actually quite pleased about this because we were starving. We popped round the corner, found a pizza place named Speedy Peppers, had one of the best vegetarian pizzas I've ever had (Emma says I haven't tried many vegetarian pizzas – “it wasn't that good”) and made it back to Retro Bar with plenty of time to see Pale Angels.
Signed to Specialist Subject Records, Pale Angels play their own brand of grunge punk rock music and for a three-piece they put on a seriously energetic performance. They played the whole way through their thirty minute set without ever stopping for a break between songs or stopping moving. I'm interested to know if they would do that if they played a longer set. A really unique band.

Up next were the recently reunited Former Cell Mates. Emma in particular was looking forward to their Americana-influenced punk rock after listening to them before the festival. The five-piece from the North East of England looked really happy to be on stage together and clearly had the time of their lives playing at Manchfester. There were permanent smiles and lots of laughter from the band, especially their lead singer. The crowd really responded to them as well, prompting the first sing-alongs of the day, much to the bands amusement. I'm not sure how long the band is back together for but I hope we get to see them again soon.

Another band on Specialist Subject are Doe, who were next up on the Retro Bar stage. The female-fronted three-piece from London surprised me at the start of their set when I noticed that they have two guitarists but no bass player, something that you don't see very often. This was my first time listening to them but Emma had seen them before at WTFest in Southampton last year. She commented on how much they'd grown on her in that year and that the bands new guitarist (who was playing his first show with the band) was very good. I really enjoyed Doe's set as well and have been enjoying listening to the band since the festival. It's great to hear more female voices in punk rock, with Doe joining an ever growing list of excellent female fronted bands such as Muncie Girls, Shit Present, Petrol Girls and Demon Smiles, to name just a handful.

Next it was time for the party to really get started with London's Great Cynics. (Fun fact - Moving North's Kieran Kelly put on Great Cynics front man Giles Bidder's first ever gig). Emma and I were both really looking forward to seeing Great Cynics, even though we've both seen them countless times before. A Great Cynics set is always filled with fun times and great sing-a-longs and Manchfester was obviously no different. I don't think I've ever seen anyone who enjoys playing live as much as Giles seems to, constantly bopping along with a big smile on his face. Together with bassist and vocalist Iona and drummer Bob, Great Cynics are a band that should be absolutely massive. Their brand of indie pop punk is completely accessible to everyone whatever their particular musical taste. If you like well-written songs, singing along and great live performances then Great Cynics are a band for you. This year they released a brand new album titled I Feel Weird on Specialist Subject (there's a theme here) and their set was packed with songs from that album. All of them sounded great live but I particularly enjoyed hearing I Went Swimming and North Street.

You may have noticed in the event poster at the top of the page that a band named I'm Not Sorry was scheduled to play at Manchfester. This turned out to be a bit of a surprise. The day before the festival Kieran Kelly announced that I'm Not Sorry were actually my favourite UK band - Apologies, I Have None! I was beyond excited at that announcement..
As they were playing much later in the day due to Above Them having to pull out, Retro Bar was starting to fill up by the time the Londoners came on. They started with a brand new song from an upcoming release then went into Sat In Vicky Park, during which Retro Bar came alive. I've heard this song live so many times now and it still gets me pumped up. The lyrics "A Man Cannot Be Measured By The Number Of People He's Fucked, The Numbers On A Payslip Are No Indication Of Worth" are some of my favourite lyrics of all time and rightly got a massive reaction. The set was packed with great sing-a-long songs from 2012's London full-length, as well as Raging Through The Thick And Heavy Darkness Of A Bloodlust from last year's Black Everything EP and another brand new track thrown in. The Apologies set was when the crowd really woke up with a massive human pyramid and plenty of crowd surfing going on. During the final song, The 26, some of the crowd got on stage, picked up bassist James Hull and surfed him into the crowd, much to his surprise. It's this kind of behaviour that makes me really love the punk rock scene; you never know what will happen. Apologies, I Have None are brilliant - see them at a little venue soon because it won’t be long till they are playing much, much larger venues.

After a long but very fun day it was time for the night's headliners, coming all the way from Cornwall it was another Specialist Subject band (best punk label in the UK?) - Bangers. Bangers are Emma's favourite UK band after discovering them whilst living in Cornwall for university. Bangers and Emma follow each other on Twitter and have corresponded a few times but had never actually met. Whilst we were standing waiting for their set, their drummer Hamish came up and introduced himself to Emma, as he'd seen she was attending the gig. I thought that was a really classy thing to do and showed how tight a community the punk scene is.
Bangers are a band I always enjoy on record, but you don't get the full Bangers experience until you see them live. You can describe a lot of punk bands as intense and you can describe a lot of punk bands as fun, you can describe Bangers as both! Roo's deep, gravelly voice booms round a room but also incites many fist-in-the-air shout-along moments. Bangers released an excellent new album called Bird this year and this was our first time hearing a few of the tracks from it live. They fit in so perfectly with the older material without sounding like it could just be older material. I was pleasantly surprised that they played my favourite song of theirs, Straight Gin Makes You Batshit Crazy from 2010's Dude Trips album. The crowd got even crazier during Bangers set, making the most of their last chance to dance. More human pyramids were formed and there was plenty more crowd surfing. I liked how it was all done safely though, no idiots jumping on stage then just leaping onto anyone without consideration, it was people picking folk up, surfing them for a bit and making sure they got down without injuring themselves or anyone around them. Call me boring but I prefer that. Bangers were a perfect choice to finish the day off, a brilliant punk rock party band.

It's safe to say that Manchfester was a fantastic day. As Emma and I made our way to our hotel we talked about how varied the days bands had been. Not one band sounded like the band before them, which was excellent. I personally find that punk rock music gets a bad reputation for all bands sounding the same, something that obviously isn't true. We also spoke about how friendly everyone throughout the day had been; I wonder how true this would have been at a hip hop all-dayer or a indie rock festival. A big thank you to Kieran Kelly for putting on a truly brilliant show!

This post was a joint effort from myself and the brilliant Emma Prew. She also was my photographer for the day. Check out here website

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