Thursday 4 April 2024

Manchester Punk Festival 2024 Review

I’ve not written a thing about music since 2023. In my head, CPRW was very much finished. I didn’t miss it, I had no urges to get back on it and I was very much enjoying just listening to new music for the sake of enjoying it. Looking at the CPRW website, the very last thing that I had posted was my review of Manchester Punk Festival 2023. Thinking back, I hadn’t intended to write anything about that weekend either but was inspired and ended up writing a ridiculously long and detailed account of every event that happened that weekend. Long story short, I had a very nice weekend.

Fast forward just under a year and I’m loving the second day of MPF 2024 (even though I have a sober hangover) and thinking, okay I need to dust off my fingers and do some writing to document yet another really special weekend. I’m going to try and do this in a more succinct fashion than normal though. I’m going to avoid writing about every single band I saw over MPF. I saw 38 bands across the weekend and they were all great. I’ll list them all at the end of this post and share a playlist that I encourage you to check out.


I always feel like the big thing that folk who have attended MPF talk about at the end of the festival is the atmosphere. The key words that always come up are ‘friendly’, ‘community’, ‘love’ and ‘family reunion’. For me, ‘family reunion’ is the key one. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been to every Manchester Punk Festival. At my first one in 2015, I did not knowing a single person. Now, nine years later I can’t walk down the street without bumping into a friend I’ve met throughout the years. As much as we all love the bands that play, the opportunity to catch up with friends is just absolutely wonderful. At the end of last year I lost a very good friend of mine and I have found it hard, but being around so many people that I love to pieces was very comforting and healing. I’m sure there are many people reading this who have been through similar things and felt the same as me. Personally, I was lucky enough to not only be able to spend time with my dear friends from the New Cross Inn in South London but also got to see mates from Manchester, Bristol, Bath, Gloucester, Reading, Scotland, Wales, Belgium, Netherlands and plenty of other places. All the love goes to our forever ‘festie besties’ Robyn and Brett who once again flew in (from Denmark) just for the festival. I find it so nice how much they have become a part of this scene over the years and have made so many friends because of the festival. That’s what this whole community should be about – inclusion and making new friends. It’s amazing and I love it.

I think that another thing that really helped to keep the atmosphere so good was how nice the security staff were. In particular, the people working at The Union and Yes. Just some of the friendliest and most helpful security staff I’ve encountered at any festival or gig I’ve been to over the years. A few years ago there were some issues with security at the festival and it’s great to see those issues have been rectified. It really shows the work that the festival organisers put in to continue to make the festival the best it can possibly be and they’ve got to be thanked for that. We turned up slightly late for Hot Water Music’s headline set on Saturday night at The Union and the venue was operating a ten in, ten out policy. I was very impressed with the security person’s communication about what was going on and their efforts to ensure that we could get in and see as much of the set as possible. I also noticed during the Random Hand set, where there were constant crowdsurfers during the entire set, how great the security were at working with the crowd to ensure that everyone was able to have their fun in the safest possible way. It was great to see security getting what was going on and looking after people without being fun police. Lots of respect to them for that.

I do have to ask though, no clowns for MPF 2025 please. Unless you can book Clowns the band again though – I’m all for that!


From my experience, MPF 2024 was an almost seamlessly organised event. How an event the size of MPF can operate as smoothly as it does blows my mind. This is a testament to the massive amount of hard work put in by the fine folk from TNSRecords, Moving North and Anarchistic Undertones, as well as the army of volunteers that help with the festival, to ensure that everyone that has bought a ticket has the best weekend possible. I can’t begin to fathom just how many hours are spent and how much stress there is with planning every detail of the festival, but I can appreciate and give all the respect to everyone involved.

The only thing I can think of where things didn’t go quite to plan was at the start of the Buds. set on Sunday lunchtime. They were all set up and ready to blow our minds but the sound person had disappeared and their microphones weren’t on. Poor Buds. were left in front of an at capacity Zombie Shack awkwardly trying to make the best of it before Dakota from New Junk City popped behind the desk and pressed the button or turned the knob that makes sound come out of microphones. Mentioning this is in no way meant to be a dig at the hardworking sound people of the venues, I just wanted to highlight that this was another great example of the community coming together to make things work after a minor setback.


Manchester Punk Festival uses seven venues and I think this may be the first year that they’ve used the exact same set of rooms as they did the year before. I was a big fan of this as it gave me a sense of familiarity. As someone who gets a bit anxious about going into new places, not having to find my way somewhere new or trying to work out which part of a venue the punk rock is happening in is always a relief. That said, if the festival ever wanted to add more venues to help with the festival’s growth then I’m all for it.

Having the same venues each year doesn’t help with me being a moron and going to another venue instead of the one that I was planning to though. After Tripsun at the Union, I wanted to catch a bit of Grotbags at Zombie Shack before rushing back to the Union for the end of Chewie. I was a buffoon who headed straight to Yes instead. I entered the venue to discover that Old Chase were playing. Don’t get me wrong, Old Chase are great and if I wasn’t desperate to catch a bit of Grotbags I would’ve just hung out and laughed at my mistake, but instead I quickly made use of the Yes toilets (AKA the best toilets at the festival) and rushed over to Zombie Shack. Luckily the walk wasn't too bad and I was lucky with pedestrian traffic and crossing roads, so my plan wasn’t ruined too much.

At some point over the weekend, I visited every venue and had a great time in them all. The sound at every venue was top notch all weekend. Even after managing to break my ear plugs and struggling to get on with the foam ones that the venues provided, I never had any issues with the sound. At future MPFs though, I am going to make sure I bring a spare pair of ear plugs just in case I do manage to break or lose them. Over the course of the weekend, I somehow managed to lose my ear plugs before finding them again and then breaking them on Saturday night before realising that the next day was Easter Sunday and I was going to have to suck it up as best I could.

Extra Curricular

Alongside booking 140 bands for the festival, MPF also offer some different activities throughout the weekend. There’s podcasts, comedians and poetry happening at Sandbar as well as the yearly Sober Social event. There are record distros at the Union for us record buying nerds and for the first time ever the festival ran a punk rock yoga class at Yes, with Jo from Raisin Awareness. I didn’t attend the yoga but have been informed by Emma and Robyn that it was a great class and a fantastic addition to the weekend. I did manage to catch some of the Pretty On The Inside Podcast which was co-hosted by our friend Lara, formerly of the CPRW Podcast. Lara and fellow co-host Hannah had three special guests appearing on the podcast in the form of Sarah from Shout Louder/MPF crew, Katz from Follow Your Dreams and TNS Records/MPF crew and Lesley from Midwich Cuckoos and Lockjaw Records. It was a really interesting and insightful chat that I’m assuming will be made available for everyone to hear at some point. If not, unlucky – you should’ve been there!

Another event that MPF puts on alongside the festival is the warm up show on the Thursday before MPF. There were five diverse-sounding bands from the many sub-genres of punk rock and they all killed it. Reason To Leave, Tokyo Honey Trap and Pussy Liquor all really impressed me in their own way. Pussy Liquor in particular was a great surprise and I look forward to seeing them again. The night ended with Knife Club and Call Me Malcolm. I was looking forward to seeing a Manchester Knife Club show and it did not disappoint. It was carnage in the “fun zone.” Exactly what I was expecting. Then our friends Call Me Malcolm ended the night in a big way. This was genuinely one of the best Call Me Malcolm sets I’ve ever seen. It was a lot of fun, the crowd was one of the most raucous I’ve ever seen them have and the new songs sound so good in their set. Thanks again to Mark and Lucias for wishing Emma a happy birthday on stage – I certainly wasn’t worried at all about what Mark might say. I don’t think he’ll ever top his line about ‘printing paper’. And now it’s documented, you’re welcome, Mark. The warm up gig isn’t just about watching bands though, it’s also the first round of catching up with friends from all over and I thoroughly recommend attending every year even if the line-up isn’t quite to your tastes. It’s the perfect thing to get you ready for the festival.


Okay, so now we’re at the bit you probably care most about – I’m going to talk about the bands. I left it this late in the post in the hope that you would read the rest. Viewer retention or something. Of course, there’s always the possibility that you just scrolled down to this bit but, who knows, I’m not the boss of your scrolling and blog reading. I’m just thankful that you clicked in the first place. That little click will give me the boost that will fuel me through the day and reassure me that writing this wasn’t a waste of my time when I could have been playing Football Manager. It’s been a week at this point and I cannot remember the name of a single player at Annagh United, or is it Annagh City? Apparently I can’t remember the name of the team I’m managing either. Yes, this is more rambling… Are you still with me? Bands, yes I did see them and they were great.

As I mentioned at the start, I’m not going to talk about every single band I saw at MPF because that would make this post even longer and I’m aware of attention spans being short these days. Plus, last year a very tall man (I’m assuming, lovingly) called me a psychopath and he’s probably right. I can honestly say that every band I saw over the weekend was great and, from talking to friends, the bands I didn’t see were also great. From what I have gathered, every band that played was on top form. I’m going to take this opportunity to talk about a few of my favourites though.

Something that always excites me about MPF is seeing bands that I’m friends with play the festival. MPF gives the opportunity for acts to play in front of bigger crowds than perhaps they normally would. I feel like every room I went to over the weekend was at least 75% full at all times, which was great to see. Festivals are great for checking out new bands and I’m pleased that so many people took chances on bands that they perhaps weren’t that familiar with. (Notice how I still haven’t mentioned a band? I’m not even trying to be funny and keep you waiting at this point, I’m just awful at being succinct.) Anyway, my great friend Katie MF finally played her first MPF and she was fantastic. In all honesty, I was a little disappointed that she wasn’t playing a plugged-in electric set as, you know, it’s a punk festival and that but upon reflection I was super happy that Katie played acoustic. This allowed the crowd to get involved in big sing-alongs throughout her set and it was up there with my favourite Katie MF sets I’ve ever seen.

Tripsun are the band I’ve seen more than any other and I was so excited to see them get a great slot at the big Union stage. Their album Kill The Dream was the best thing released in 2023. It’s an album that not only has catchy songs, great vocals and musicianship but is also unbelievably moving and powerful. And, sadly with everything that is going on in the world right now, is more relevant now than ever. Earlier in the day I had been talking to some of the guys in the band and they were nervous about their set. They had absolutely no reason to be as they killed their set. The energy that Tripsun omitted from that stage was nothing but infectious and there was a gang of fans, including myself, down the front of the stage shouting every word right back to the stage. There was a really special moment when Stu Daly from Chewie joined Tripsun on stage to sing his part of Apathy (video footage here). The sheer joy on Stu’s face as he got to join the band is a big memory I’ll take away from the festival. This was the kind of stage and crowd that Hassan, Mike, Andy and Zandro deserve to have. Not only for being an amazing and talented band, but also for working so hard DIY-style for almost ten years and being some of the best people I know. Hassan’s hardcore band Ikhras also played the Friday after party and Bread Shed and delivered the best 10 minutes of hardcore I’ve watched in some time. Keep an eye on them.

Another gang of pals taking to the Union stage was Till I’m Bones. This was also their first time playing the festival, so the fact that they were given such a big slot on the main stage of the festival is a testament to how much faith that the festival organisers had in the Kent based emo-ska punks. We left The Social Club and Zombie Shack early to make sure we were able to get down the front for the start of the set and this decision was justified as Till I’m Bones pulled a huge crowd – especially for a band that have, at this point, only released four songs. If they were nervous it did not show as they played the best set I’ve ever seen them play. Seriously, they get better every time I see them and this was the third time of this year. It was nice to see Jak have so much more room to play the rockstar frontman and he excelled. With a longer set than they would perhaps normally have, they decided to play their cover of On A Rope by Rocket From The Crypt which got a great reaction. The five piece also managed to get not one, not two, not four, but three human pyramids during their set – that were in no way pre-planned in a big group chat beforehand. Till I’m Bones are on a fast track to being one of the most popular bands in UK ska and it’s exciting. I just wish they had more songs released.

On Saturday afternoon, MPF had a feel of Gainesville’s The Fest as Reconciler and New Junk City played after each other. Reconciler took to the stage of an at capacity Zombie Shack and proceeded to play a set that had me thinking ‘what took me so long to see these guys?’. Playing a collection of songs from their albums Set Us Free and Art For Our Sake – which I highly recommend you check out – it was one banger after another. I’m in love with lead singer Joseph Lazzari’s voice and how wonderfully it filled the room. We had to leave a little bit earlier than I would’ve liked to hurry around the corner for New Junk City. Emma and Robyn literally ran to the venue as New Junk City were the band Emma was most looking forward to seeing. A lot of people were excited to see the band and I know they did not come away disappointed. Gorilla filled up quickly and there was a sense of anticipation for the Atlanta band to take to the stage. As soon as they did and started their set everyone around me seemed to begin to sing – this may have been there first time in the UK but there was definitely no shortage of NJC fans. I think you can almost guarantee that they’ll be back as soon as possible. What an MPF debut for both of these bands.

The organisers of MPF had made an extra effort this year to book some new, younger bands as they are the future of this scene. One such band were Bury’s Novacane who were given the opportunity to open the Yes stage on the Friday. I was very impressed with these four young guys who had a confidence and ability far beyond their years and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on their development. This was followed up by German gruff punks Irish Handcuffs. I’m a longtime fan of German and mainland European punk and I was thrilled to see Irish Handcuffs back in the UK, getting the opportunity to play to a nice sized crowd as well. I don’t know how many folk in the room were super aware of them before going in, but they most certainly left with some new fans. I hope this opens the door for even more bands from the Booze Cruise scene to play MPF – hint hint, Captain Asshole for MPF 2025 hint, hint, please.

Two great surprises of the festival for me were Big Mess and Cheekface. Copenhagen’s Big Mess played early at Zombie Shack on the Friday and blew me away with their garage punk/powerpop sound. Short, snappy fast songs with catchy choruses was the name of the game with Big Mess and holy moly did they deliver. Their set went by in a blur, barely stopping between songs for the entire half an hour of music. It was really impressive. I wasn’t counting but I would imagine they easily squeezed 15 songs into their set. I can't wait to see them again at Nasty Cut Festival in May. Get a ticket and come hang out. A good amount of my pals were very excited to see Cheekface and it took about 30 seconds of their first song for me to realise why. What a nice, fun and wholesome band. All around me there were people singing along, dancing and just having the most joyful of times. Shout out to Hannah and Lara of the Pretty On The Inside podcast for having the best dance moves. After their set Emma rushed off to buy a record, our friend Toby was also there and told the Cheekface singer that it was her birthday weekend and got him to sing happy birthday to her which was a sweet moment.

Before I move on to the bit I’m sure everyone is most keen to hear about – the ska bands I saw – I have to talk a little bit about Chewie’s set. I only managed to see half because I was trying to squeeze in another band before them and, as mentioned earlier, I went to the wrong venue. I arrived back at the Union to see it the fullest I’d seen it thus far and managed to squeeze my way through the crowd to where I thought Emma would be, only to discover that she had moved, in time to see Chewie invite Erica Freas on stage to perform Grown Out with them. This was then followed up with Girlfriend’s Hana Lamari joining Chewie to sing Solace. Two great moments which were only topped by the song Language. Chewie were joined by Hassan and Zandro from Tripsun and then a crowd surfing Chris Fishlock jumped/was pulled onto the stage to join them for the final chorus. Up there with the best moments of the weekend.

Now, ska punk. Everyone’s favourite genre of punk rock and I refuse to be told otherwise. Even Matt Speer loves it, but not as much as he loves me. I was fortunate enough to catch Hans Gruber and the Die Hards at Fest last year and upon them getting announced for MPF I encouraged everyone I knew to see them. They absolutely did not disappoint. I think the greatest compliment I can give them is that they reminded me of Lightyear. The whole set was chaotic, but also remained mind-blowingly tight. I don’t want to mention any of the antics, because I think it’s best to go into a Hans Gruber set completely blind and just experience everything without any knowledge of what to expect. Basically, if you see Hans Gruber and the Die Hards playing anywhere near you and you don’t pop along then you are the silliest of Williams. Catbite were returning to MPF for the second year in a row and once again showed us why they’re the most exciting band in ska punk right now. What a band. Superlatives fail me for expressing just how good Catbite are live. They know how to work a crowd. Once again I found myself surrounded by friends and strangers all with the biggest smiles on their faces as they partied with Catbite. There were stage dives and crowd surfing a plenty – including our pal Bee. A particular cool moment was when your friend and mine, Pook joined Catbite on stage with a trombone to perform Scratch Me Up, it sounded fantastic with added trombone and Pook’s signature growl. Canadian ska punk legends The Planet Smashers were in the UK for the first time in years and quickly showcased why they’re such a legendary band in the scene. Once again, the set was full of dancing and singing along with the biggest of smiles. I hope it’s not another seven year wait for them to come back to the UK.

My festival finished with a double bill of UK ska punk legends. This felt like a big moment for the ska punk scene. At the first MPF there were only three ska punk bands on the line-up (Stand Out Riot, Beat The Red Light and The Filaments), but over the years ska has wormed it’s way in to being a big part of the festival. The fact that King Prawn and Random Hand, two of the biggest and best bands in the history of the UK ska scene, were closing the biggest stage at the festival on the final day felt like a monumental moment and I was excited. First up were King Prawn who were making a very rare appearance ‘North of Milton Keynes’. The band had done a short tour leading up to their appearance at MPF and were clearly as tight as ever. Mixing some older King Prawn songs with some newer stuff, the two different eras of the band blended together seamlessly. This was the perfect way to warm us up for Random Hand. During the band’s final two songs, Dominant View and Survive, I spotted my pals Cat and Kev across the crowd and hurried over to them for one last sing along of “We survive, yes we carry on” in what was one of my favourite moments of the weekend.

And finally it was time for the greatest Random Hand set I’ve ever seen. I know that they were quite anxious about being the band that closed the day, but I honestly couldn’t think of a band more fitting to do it. MPF is a festival that has always championed the very best of the UK’s DIY scene and I can’t think of a band that deserves the opportunity more so than Random Hand. The band have been grafting on the roads for over twenty years now and have earned an army of loyal ‘Handlers’ across the country. They also put on one of the best live shows of any band I’ve ever seen. Legends is a phrase that is sometimes thrown around too much, but it’s a term that I am more than comfortable giving to Random Hand. The feeling of anticipation filled the room as the band walked on stage and then promptly walked off the other side (much to everyone's amusement), before coming back on with a set of their very best songs. With the incentive of a free creme egg for everyone, it wasn’t long until the room was moving. Random Hand’s music and energy on the stage has this magical way of connecting with a crowd and the pit went absolutely wild. I was told afterwards that there had been 68 crowd surfers during their set which is almost one a minute. Bloody bonkers! But there were also some massive circle pits, walls of death and a human pyramid. This was my first time seeing Random Hand since the release of their fifth album (not titled Hando Number Five) so there were a couple of songs I was yet to see live but they fit perfectly into the set. There’s an obvious development in Random Hand’s sound over the years but there’s still that familiarity that drew me in all those years ago. I don’t think there’s much that makes me happier than watching Random Hand deliver a thunderous set on stage and this was the best. I’d throw this set in the hat for the greatest MPF sets ever. If you were there, I have no doubt that you would agree with me. Simply put – fucking amazing.

Here’s the list of all the bands I saw and a playlist.

Thursday Warm Up Show: Reason To Leave, Tokyo Honey Trap, Pussy Liquor, Knife Club, Call Me Malcolm

Friday: Novacane, Irish Handcuffs, Fresh Specimen, Big Mess, Coral Springs, Jet8, Katie MF, Hands Gruber and the Die Hards, Cheekface, Tsunami Bomb, Ikhras, Corrupt Vision, Regal Cheer

Saturday: The Great St Louis, The Earth & Me, Reconciler, New Junk City, The Planet Smashers, Tripsun, Grotbags, Chewie, Catbite, Hot Water Music, Grafteoke

Sunday: Buds., The Social Club, Till I’m Bones, Goo, Thousand Oaks, Dave House, Riskee & The Ridicule, King Prawn, Random Hand

Final Thoughts

A lot of people are saying that MPF 2024 was the best one yet. Is that true? It’s not really for me to say. I can say that I had an amazing time watching a wide range of bands play top tier sets to full rooms. I got to spend lots of time with a lot of wonderful people. And the weather was perfect. It wasn’t so hot that I spent all my time sweating and it also didn’t rain as much as was forecast – the MPF weather wizards strike again. As I said earlier, I had been struggling with some stuff and to have that weekend of escapism, to be amongst the people that I feel most comfortable with, was very healing for me. Again, all the love and respect to the legendary organisers, staff and security at the venues, volunteers and anyone else who played a hand in giving us a wonderful Easter weekend once again.

I’m already excited for MPF 2025, the tenth anniversary of Manchester Punk Festival. Let’s see what surprises they spring for next year.

Buy a ticket for MPF2025 here.

This review was written by Colin Clark. Photos and editing by Emma Prew.


  1. This review made me giggle and smile and remember what a great time I had too. I'm CPRW famous now! 😁

  2. Hi Colin,
    My name is Luke and I was facilitating sound in the zombie shack this year. I arrived at zombie shack at 14:22 - after sound checking Bud fully and misreading 14:50 as the start time rather than 14:20. I had gone to eat something before mixing ten bands as I had not eaten anything yet that morning and it's a long shift (which I know from previous experience and I'm not as young as I used to be - the Friday I did 15hrs 10-1 and you take breaks simply where possible in our industry). Which they knew and other mpf team working zombie shack knew. Unmuting some muted channels is not rocket science pioneered by community coming together to overcome adversity and i think framing starting two minutes late as such is a bit of a stretch.

    This bit of snide nitpicking for a token foible paragraph detracts from all the hard work done to form the mpf we all know and love. I'm very grateful to Bud for wanting to start on time though. More of that please. Ta though, I've enjoyed your reviews before because habitatually working MPF means I don't always see bands I've loved since childhood and so many lifelong friends that I could cry.

    Luckily I was able to jog to and from the union during ten minutes of the middle of random hand on the last night as it is so meticulously and holistically planned that there is a longer break in microvenues while the main headliners are on. I'm very humbled to facilitate a landmark display of the DIY punk generational family doing events management to an exemplary standard (imperfect as I myself might be).

    1. Hi Luke, thanks for reaching out to me.

      Firstly I cannot apologise enough if you felt that the paragraph was snide nitpicking. It was absolutely not meant to come across like that. I have nothing but respect for all the hard work everyone involved do, not just over the weekend but throughout the year and I'm mortified to think that anyone woud think otherwise.

      I included the paragraph not to have a dig but to higlight the community spirit of the festival. Now I that I have some more infortmation I am more than happy to edit the paragraph.

      I thought that the sound at Zombie Shack was superb all weekend, even on Sunday when I broke my earplugs and had to go without it was not issue.

      Once again, I'm sorry if I've caused any offence with this, it was, and never will be my intention.