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.

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