Tuesday, 3 May 2022

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

(Emma’s parts are in italics.)

We started the first proper day of Manchester Punk Festival 2022 by heading down to the main hub of the festival, The Union, nice and early to get our wristbands and programmes – which included a very helpful map for navigating your way around the different venues that MPF uses. Earlier I’d seen a tweet saying to get there early to avoid queues. It seems I took this far more seriously than most folk as we arrived just after 11am, doors were at midday and there was no-one there! Eventually some of our pals turned up too and it was great to hang out with them whilst we waited.

Photo by Colin Clark

After collecting our wristbands at The Union and filling our tummies at Bundobust (amazing vegan and veggie Indian street food), we headed down to Yes. Yes was a new venue for this year’s MPF and my first impressions were that it was a very cool bar and restaurant space – we didn’t manage to eat there over the weekend but I know some folks that did spoke very highly of it. The live music at Yes would be taking place in the basement – I’m not 100% sure of the capacity but it can’t have held more than 100 people. The space was already packed by the time we got down there but there was room for us to squeeze in at the back – clearly people were keen for their first taste of MPF 2022.

Smoking Gives You Big Tits were the band tasked with opening the festival and, boy, did they do a good job. From the semi-acoustic opening track with Helen’s absolutely incredible vocals – which, by the way, ranged from sweet, clean and pop-like to pure snarling and everything in between – to a more full band sound, complete with kazoo, SMGYBT were captivating. It wasn’t all about their slick musicianship though, the performance was also a whole lot of fun and thoroughly amusing in parts. What a perfect start to the weekend.

Photo by Mark Bartlett

The first band on at The Union were Manchester’s favourite sons, Aerial Salad. There were a lot of people who were clearly very excited to check out the three-piece as, when we arrived back at the venue, the room was packed full of people. They kicked off the set with the classic Habits And Problems before bassist Mike screamed “Aerial Salad in the fucking house” down the microphone. They most certainly were in the house. From then on, they played at set of favourites from their latest full length Dirt Mall as well as some newer songs they have been releasing as singles. The first time I saw Salad live was in 2018 and to see how they’ve grown as a band since then is quite staggering. The songwriting, the stage presence, everything seems to have gone up multiple levels and I’m predicting it won’t be long until they’re headlining one of the stages at MPF.

Photo by Craig Darran

Just Panic were one of the bands playing the festival I was most excited to see. I first saw them at the very first MPF back in 2015 and they haven’t played again since. When they were announced, I would tell anyone who would listen that they need to go and see them. They were given the job of opening Gorilla on the Friday. Emma and arrived nice and early for their set. So early in fact that the doors for Gorilla hadn’t been opened yet. We hung around and had chats with Triple Sundae, who were playing after Just Panic, then we were joined in the queue by the fine folks in Don Blake. When Just Panic took to the stage it looked as if a decent sized crowd had gathered. Playing their fantastic brand of raw folky pop punk, as soon as they started I was mesmerised. If my memory serves me correctly they played the majority of their Stand Up Straight In The Line Of Fire EP and they all sounded great. I enjoyed having a sing-along to bangers such as If The Sea Rolls In, Crime and We Apologise For Any Inconvenience before they finished with a cover of Against Me’s Walking Is Still Honest. This was great! Well worth the seven year wait to see them again. After the set, Emma asked me why she hadn’t seen them before. She was also very impressed.

After a great set from Just Panic it was time for one of our favourite London-based bands to take to the Manchester stage, Triple Sundae. Colin and I were joined at the front by all of our friends from the New Cross scene for what I was sure was going to be one big singalong – at least from our section of the room. I don’t remember which song specifically Triple Sundae opened with but I do know that their performance was energetic and passionate from the outset and I had a wonderful time singing along to favourites from EPs Glow and Peace Of Mind. They also treated us to a new track – which I can’t wait to hear again – and an oldie, Unseen, where long-time friend of the band, Theo, jumped up on stage to sing the chorus. This band is special and I hope this set earned them some new fans – they deserve it.

Photo by Lindsey Cormack

Next, we headed over to The Bread Shed where Bristol-based four piece The Menstrual Cramps were on next. Having recently seen them at Fishstock and being thoroughly impressed by their performance, we were keen for more. Once again The Menstrual Cramps put on an energetic and impassioned show for all in attendance. All four members of the band look like they’re having the time of their lives on stage and lead singer Emilia, in particular, looked to be having so much fun as they stormed about and danced around the stage. The band’s political and feminist anthems are vital listening in today’s punk scene. A friend mentioned that they heard someone saying that The Menstrual Cramps ‘should keep politics out of punk’ and something along the lines of not coming to the festival to be preached to. Well, if you don’t like what this band is singing about then you do not belong at Manchester Punk Festival!

After The Menstrual Cramps I hurried back to The Union to catch a bit of the Popes Of Chillitown. The Popes are one of the bands I’ve seen the most so I know they always deliver a great set. When I arrived they were already deep into their set and had the crowd whipped into a frenzy. I took my place in the crowd with the wonderful Makky Hall and preceded to watch one of the most popular bands in the UK ska scene tear the Union apart. I was pleased that I hadn’t missed the big Popes banger Wisdom Teeth – the reception that that track gets whenever it’s played is always massive. As does set closer Vamos a la Luna, which had the crowd losing their stuff one last time before the Popes had to wrap things up.

As is the way with festivals in the Covid-19 era, there are always going to be last minute changes to the line-up. Unfortunately due to a positive test, Faintest Idea were no longer able to play their slot at MPF. It was, of course, disappointing as the band always put on a great show but those lovely chaps in The Bar Stool Preachers stepped up to the challenge to play two sets in one day. Their pre-planned set was due to be at the end of the Bread Shed after party and we were planning to go to the other after party so a bonus opportunity to see BSP did not go unappreciated. The Preachers are not a band I listen to much at home but the times I have seen them live I’m always so impressed with how slick and charismatic their performance is. The crowd always laps it up and there are singalongs a plenty – this was obviously no exception. Gorilla however was rammed and I began to feel very warm and almost claustrophobic so we didn’t end up staying for the whole set but what we did see was top notch. 

Photo by Paul Smith

Apologies, I Have None or Random Hand was one of the biggest clashes of the weekend for me. I absolutely love both bands and picking between them was tough. I eventually decided to pick Apologies because I’d already seen Random Hand in January and they are playing Level Up Festival in July. Emma and I arrived at Bread Shed as the band were beginning to get ready and took our place in the crowd. Unfortunately for us, a particularly loud gentleman also took his place near us and seemed insistent on talking his way through the entire set. To start with I found him quite distracting but he eventually disappeared so we could enjoy the set properly. Apologies are one of those bands that feel special every time I see them. They create such an atmosphere in any room they play in and have crowds singing along with every word. Of course, this was also the case on this night as the band played through plenty of classics from London and Pharmacie. It seemed as if the sing-alongs got bigger and bigger for every song and it was just beautiful. Shouting along at the top of my voice to songs like Sat In Vicky Park, Concrete Feet and The 26 will never get old for me, even though I’ve been shouting them back at the band for about ten years now. What a set. What a band!

Photo by Paul Smith

Emma and Robyn decided that they would call it a night after that rather than head to the after party. Brett and I however wanted to go check out the bands playing at Rebellion. So after dropping them off at the Air BNB, as we annoyingly only had one key between the four of us, we headed to Rebellion, arriving just as Fair Do’s were about to begin their set.

Fair Do’s are one of only a few bands that have played every edition of MPF. I believe the only other one now is Throwing Stuff? The shredders are local heroes and are very popular throughout the UK skate punk scene. Surprisingly, this was only my second time seeing them and it had certainly been a few years since my first time. What impressed me the most was the strength of lead singer Danny’s vocals throughout the set. I’ve always remembered Fair Do’s as being incredibly tight and technical but I hadn’t really given much thought to what a good voice Danny has in the past. This technical skate punk stuff isn’t usually my go-to but I thoroughly enjoyed Fair Do’s and they were a great way to kick off the first after party.

Photo by Brett Coomer

I knew very little about Terrorpins before their set. What I did know was that they were fronted by Tim Loud and I always enjoy seeing him live. Before the set started, Brett and I speculated about what they would sound like. I had decided they would be a mash up of punk, folk, country and ska. I can’t really say whether or not I was completely right with that prediction but, whatever the sound was, I absolutely loved it. The foursome were a late addition to the after party. They were originally down to play at Yes but switched due to the dreaded c-word appearing in the Ducking Punches camp. I had been looking forward to seeing Ducking Punches but Terrorpins were a great surprise and one I wouldn’t have experienced if it wasn’t for the changes. Unfortunately, the band don’t currently have anything online to listen to but I will keep a close eye on their social pages for when they do.

Photo by Brett Coomer

The last band of the day were another bunch of local heroes in Bruise Control. I believe that Bruise Control formed either just before lockdown or during and are a new band to the scene. Playing some fuzzy garage punk, their set was an absolute riot. Lead singer Jimbob was an incredible front person as he paced around the stage, screaming into his microphone – he looked as if he’d been put on the earth to front a band like this. There were also plenty of moments where he threw himself into the pit and was carried around the room by the crowd. I wish I had been more familiar with the band before catching their set so that I could have a sing-along with the crowd as they are a band that most definitely warranted one. Super tight and an absolute riot to watch. Bruise Control strike me as a band a lot of people are going to be talking about in the near future, as one of the most exciting new bands in UK punk rock, and I’m looking forward to catching them on their first UK tour next month.

MPF after parties are always special affairs, some might argue the best part of the entire festival, and this really backed that argument. It was the perfect way to end the day but now it was time to try and get some kip before another busy day tomorrow.

Buy tickets for MPF2023 here: https://manchesterpunkfestival.co.uk/mpf2023-tickets/

This review was written by Colin Clark and Emma Prew.

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