You might have noticed over the past month we've been very excited about the fifth Manchester Punk Festival taking place over Easter Weekend. The past four years of the festival have been all been absolutely amazing and we were all in no doubt that this year would be the same. As it seems to every year, the festival has grown once again with the inclusion of The Union, MPF's biggest ever venue, which would also be where you would collect your festival wristband and merchandise as well as being home to a pop up record shop featuring some of the UK's best labels and distros. The Union was a fantastic addition to MPF.
(Note: Colin's parts are in regular text and Emma's parts are in italic.)
Sarah from Shout Louder is a good friend of CPRW and myself personally so when she told me that she would be doing a live recording of her podcast, with Luke from Call Me Malcolm and Holly from Hell Hath No Fury Records, it became a must see thing for me. Unfortunately we were a little bit late arriving due to basically getting the biggest breakfast I possibly could before heading to The Union for our wristbands and then back to The Font for the podcast. It was nice to see that a nice sized crowd had already gathered to watch, including fellow punk writers Matt (Ear Nutrition) and Makky (Broken Arrow). Shout Louder do a lot of fantastic work talking about mental health, something Sarah, Luke and Holly all spoke brilliantly about. It was an eye opening listen as well as having some very funny moments.
After the Shout Louder podcast, we made the short stroll over to Brickhouse Social (formally known as Underdog) for the first band of Manchester Punk Festival 2019. Dog Hand String Band are a 7-piece folk punk super group of sorts featuring members of Bad Knaves, Bootscraper, China Shop Bull and Jake And The Jellyfish. Despite being the first band of the day, the venue was packed out with plenty of eager punks lapping up this boot-stomping band. A fine kickstart to MPF 2019.
After Dog Hand String Band, I stuck around at Brickhouse Social to watch a bit of Chloe Hawes’ set. Having reviewed her EP O.W.W.W.P last year, I thought I should try and squeeze in at least a few songs before dashing off to the next act on my schedule. Chloe was joined by Steve Millar of Arms & Hearts fame on electric guitar while she played acoustic. I can report than her voice was every bit as lovely live as on recording and the two of them were captivating to watch.
Brighton's The Meantime Collective were a late replacement for Small Gods, a band I was planning on seeing. As they pulled out and The Meantime Collective took their place, I decided to pop along to Zombie Shack and see them open up the stage. This was a great decision on my part as I really enjoyed their set. Bringing together thrashy punk rock and bouncy ska upstrokes, The Mean Time Collective were a great addition to the festival and a great choice to open the stage. Playing as a three piece, though Facebook says they're normally a four piece, they had a lot of energy and enthusiasm on the stage despite leaving Brighton at 5.30am to get to Manchester in time for their set. The Meantime Collective were a brilliant new discovery for me.
Heading back out into the glorious Mancunian sunshine (who says it always rains in Manchester?), I made my way over to Gorilla where I found a rammed venue waiting eagerly for Manchester’s own Incisions. I’d heard a lot of good things about this foursome prior to the festival and having listened to them a bit, decided they were well worth checking out. Incisions are perhaps a little heavier than my usual tastes but that didn’t stop me enjoying their live show. It was ferocious – in only the best way. I also particularly enjoyed guitarist and vocalist Jordan’s tale of becoming a Crocs wearer after finding a pair in Falmouth (I don’t own any Crocs myself but I did live in Falmouth for a few years!).
Next on my schedule were another band that I’d heard nothing but good things about – ‘Yorkshire’s best-dressed band’, Nosebleed. They were the first band on at the newest, and by far the biggest, stage of MPF at The Union. The space is huge, especially compared to Brickhouse Social or Zombie Shack, but Nosebleed had drawn quite the crowd and I instantly understood why. Nosebleed play rock ’n’ roll with punk rock speed and attitude, plus they have such a great stage presence. I left just before the end to get back to Gorilla for Call Me Malcolm but I did hear mention of the band getting into the crowd so imagine things got really crazy pretty soon after that.
Before the festival had even started, I had been telling everyone they needed to go and see Call Me Malcolm at Gorilla – I gave my reasons in the programme. Of course, the London based ska punk band didn't disappoint. Gorilla was rammed for their Manchester debut and as soon as they began their set the room started moving. It was a non stop party from start to finish. Singing, skanking, moshing, a wall of hugs, Bruce The Bunny – everything that I love about a Malcolm show. The set flew by much too quickly and seemed to be over just as soon as it began, which in hindsight may have been a good thing for me as we still had two and a half days of MPF to go and I needed some voice left for it. Of course they finished their set with All My Nameless Friends. I don't think I saw any song the whole weekend get a reaction as big as this one, the chorus of whoa-ohs at the end of the song was a very special moment.
Energised from Call Me Malcolm’s awesome set at Gorilla, I ran off to see if I could catch the end of Pardon Us at Zombie Shack. The Liverpudlian trio had quite the crowd but I managed to squeeze in and watch about 15 minutes worth of blistering pop punk – and they fit quite a lot into that 15 minutes! The band were celebrating the release of their brand new EP, Pardon Us Stink, which was available after their set but also played a number of older tracks. Finishing up with my favourite tune Carry On from their debut EP, I left Zombie Shack in high spirits to see another half-set – because half a set is better than none!
When I headed down to Brickhouse Social once more I found yet another full room of music fans – this time watching Speed Dinosaurs, a trio whose instruments consist of ukulele, double bass and cajon. Two of the four songs that I caught at the end of their set were from their Mass Extinction Split EP with Stöj Snak. It was the EP’s official release day but I’d already heard it, loved it and reviewed it so it was fun to hear the songs I knew live. Even more fun was the cover song they finished with – Toxicity by System Of A Down. I loved that band as a teenager and hearing a fast folk cover of one of their songs was a highlight of the whole festival for me.
The Penske File were undoubtedly one of the bands I was most excited for over the entire MPF weekend. Dashing round to The Bread Shed for the first time this weekend, the first thing I noticed was the barrier that had been put up in front of the stage since last year. I thought that was a bit of a shame as something I've always enjoyed about The Bread Shed was the intimacy that came with the low stage and no stage barrier – it worked perfectly for a punk gig. It didn't however affect my enjoyment of The Penske File in the slightest. When I finally got the opportunity to see them at the New Cross Inn last year I was blown away by their live show – energetic performance, great harmonies and big choruses, everything you would expect from a top punk rock band. This was the case yet again as the Canadian three piece ripped through their set, playing mostly songs from last year's Salvation album but throwing in a couple of older songs from Burn Into Earth as well. Midway through their set, drummer Alex Standen accidentally broke the bass drum skin. This didn't deter the band one bit though as this was a punk show afterall and they powered through the rest of their set as if nothing was wrong at all. What a set this was.
My absolute highlight (musically) of the festival has to be the final act at Brickhouse Social on the Friday, Denmark’s Stöj Snak. Having adored their passionate and raw set at MPF in 2017, I knew this was one not to miss (despite the heartbreaking clash with The Penske File) and I could tell that others felt the same. Starting out solo, Niels kicked things off with shout-along tracks Screamersongwriter and Fuck! before the rest of the band joined him with double bass, washboard, all sorts of percussion and harmonica. A guitar string was broken early on but that didn’t stop the band from giving it everything they had. It was great to hear a few new songs from their latest split release and last year’s EP 1000 Daisies live. The biggest singalongs however came from older songs and none more so than Ronkedor where the band joined us in the crowd. Singalongs weren’t the only form of crowd participation however as the band handed out percussion instruments for the last few songs which a lovely yet unexpected touch. I don’t quite know how but this was even more special than Stöj Snak’s MPF set in 2017 and if you missed it, you missed out!
Slight side note: After Dog Hand String Band had finished earlier in the day and I’d been standing by myself (because the CPRW crew all split up to see different bands), I started talking to a lady named Katie. She asked who I was most looking forward to seeing and without a pause I said ‘Stöj Snak’. After Stöj Snak’s set she found me again and told me how much she had enjoyed it which was so lovely to hear.
After meeting back up with Colin and Robyn and grabbing a quick bite to eat, it was time to put our dancing shoes back on for Norfolk’s finest ska punks, Faintest Idea. We actually ended up being a bit late as we skanked our way into Gorilla – I assume the band would have begun their set with …Back To The Asylum as is Faintest Idea tradition but I cannot be sure. Either way, the large crowd was happily lapping it up and enjoying every second. The same could be said of the band themselves with Bobble, trombone, and Lil Dan, saxophone, in particular showing off their best dance moves. Classic songs such as Youth, House Of Cards and, set closer, Bull In A China Shop got huge crowd reactions and new song Stomp Them Down was also well received. There was also a pretty special rendition of Corporation featuring Ed Ache of I.C.H/Casual Nausea, the original writer of the song. Another top notch Faintest Idea performance.
Following Faintest Idea at Gorilla were a band I was super excited to see – Authority Zero. Just a week prior to MPF I had never seen the Arizona reggae-meets-skate-punk legends live before but, having played the New Cross Inn a few days prior, MPF was my second time seeing them. They were incredible in London and I was expecting similar levels of awesome in Manchester – I was not disappointed. The room and crowd were bigger but, from the very first notes of A Passage In Time, they went just as crazy for the band as the crowd had in London. And rightly so, Authority Zero are incredibly skilled musicians and put on a captivating performance every single time. You can’t even compare it to other bands because, at least with my own limited punk knowledge, I cannot think of a single band that sounds quite like Authority Zero do. The set was mostly old favourites with a few newer songs from their most recent albums Broadcasting To The Nations and Persona Non Grata. Whether it was old or new, it was loved. There were some technical difficulties part way through with Dan Aid’s guitar cutting out but it didn’t phase frontman Jason DeVore as he led a very much unplanned rendition of Rattlin’ Bog. Just another reason why Authority Zero are one of the best punk bands in the world and were one of CPRW’s highlights of the whole weekend.
Now here’s where I have to attempt to review a headlining band that I don’t know too much about. Because, instead of staying to see King Prawn – a band I have seen and enjoyed a fair few times before – I decided to go and see a band I hadn’t seen live before, 88 Fingers Louie. I knew Robyn and Brett were keen to see the Chicago punks so decided to give them a shot myself. 88 Fingers Louie were headlining at The Union which was the largest of the MPF venues this year although, with the likes of King Prawn and Subhumans all playing at the same time, it wasn’t perhaps as packed out as it could have been. Still, there were plenty of folk keen to see these kings of melodic hardcore. Apparently it was the band’s first time ever in Manchester in their 26 year career so I imagine it was a pretty special occasion for many in attendance. Before too long, I was watching in fascination at just how slick this band was – 88 Fingers Louie sure know how to shred. All I kept thinking is ‘This is a “proper” band’. (No offence meant to the other bands I’ve reviewed!) Despite not really knowing any songs, I enjoyed having a little headbang along to 88 Fingers Louie and was glad to have taken a chance on a new (for me) band.
Harijan, a band that Tim was a member of, were the first to take to the stage for the after party. Harijan are a band I've been aware of for a while but have never really listened properly to, perhaps because they haven't played any shows in a long time, but I was looking forward to checking them out. Obviously, this being Manchester Punk Festival and Harijan having been a part of TNSrecords, they were treated like returning heroes and had people dancing throughout their set. I believe that Harijan were playing as a nine piece for the set, I don't know if this was the norm back in the day or they had managed to get as many members from the band’s history together for this special set. Either way it look great on stage and all those horns sounded superb. Playing a set full of ska and two tone with bit of a working class feel, I'm so pleased I got to see Harijan.
The second band to take to the Big Tone After Party stage were Yorkshire's Catch-It Kebabs. Featuring Tim's sister Chloe on saxophone, Catch-It Kebabs are a band I never ever thought I'd get the chance to see as they split up not long after I discovered them, potentially on Myspace way back when. Needless to say, I was excited to see them. Another band with many members, at one point there were ten people on the stage (unless my maths had got a bit squiffy at 1am), they quickly had the survivors of day one (of which there were still many) dancing away with such big smiles on their faces. Playing a selection of songs from Skanking Sausages and Return Of The Kebabulance, I couldn't believe I was finally seeing them live and I was so happy. Hearing songs such as Bluelight, Party Politics and 5 Years had me joyously dancing their set away.
The final act of the day were Manchester genre crossing heroes Sonic Boom Six. You'd expect a full day of punk rock goodness would have had the crowd completely broken by this stage of the night/morning but SB6's Laila K took to the stage and announced it was really time to party and that's what happened. There aren't many bands capable of getting a crowd dancing at this late hour like SB6. Opening with Bigger Than Punk Rock and Sound Of The Revolution, two old favourites, was a masterstroke and from then on the party continued. It was nice to hear old school tracks such as All In and Monkey See Monkey Do get run outs alongside newer songs like No Man No Right. By this point I was having a hard time concentrating on what was going on so decided it might be time to call it a night. Sonic Boom Six were slaying the crowd as always though. A few days after the performance I discovered that Barney Boom had been unwell for the set, so the level of performance was even more impressive.
While Colin stuck with his ska punk and went to the after party at Bread Shed, I headed to Rebellion with Robyn and Brett for the other after party. My main reason for opting for Rebellion was to see the first band, Above Them. I don’t have the best track record with Above Them. I listened to the Yorkshire band a lot during my uni years but somehow missed out on seeing them live on several occasions… then they broke up. I was gutted. So, when I heard they would be reforming to playing MPF this year I was excited but also a little apprehensive. What if they weren’t as good as I’d built them up to be? Thankfully, they were. They were so unbelievably good. I’d forgotten just how great the songs in their back catalogue are. Sadly, despite recognising all of the songs, I hadn’t brushed up on the lyrics so wasn’t able to sing along as fully as others in the room but still had the best time.
With Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man calling it a day last year, Throwing Stuff have stepped up to be the official band of Manchester Punk Festival (guitarist Kieran is one of the MPF organisers, if you didn’t know). I’ve seen the band a few times over the last few years and, although their style of hardcore punk is heavier than anything I would generally listen to on recording, they always put on a good show. The crazy and intense energy that comes with a Throwing Stuff set is probably just what was needed to ensure that there would be no one falling asleep at this after party! I couldn’t tell you the names of most of the songs they played but I know the set closer was Steve’s Job and included a stage invasion – amazing.
Following Throwing Stuff and closing the first day of MPF 2019 wasn’t going to be an easy task but Mean Caesar were up to it. Despite being a relatively new band, the five-piece from London are a band I’ve seen a lot (at the New Cross Inn) over the past year. Each and every time they get better and better however. Here they were playing to a potentially brand new audience but they soon won over those that had lasted until the end of day one with their hooky gruff punk. It was a little odd to see the band on such a large stage but they owned it, with Lester in particular strutting his stuff up and down the stage as only Lester can. Mean Caesar only have one EP out so far which meant their set was a short one – short but most definitely sweet. A fine end to MPF day one.
Day one had already set up the fifth year of MPF to be the best yet and there were still two full days to go. I was broken already but I couldn't wait to see what fun the next day would bring.
This review was written by Colin Clark and Emma Prew.
Professional looking photographs by Marc Gärtner and Gresle Photography.
(Those that look like they were taken on a phone by Emma Prew.)