Usually, with Groezrock being the following weekend, we don’t get the chance to come to Manchester Punk Festival. This year though, with Groez taking a bit of a break, we jumped at the chance to head over to Manchester and see what MPF, now in it’s fourth year, was all about.
A multi-venue festival over three days featuring some of the best underground punk bands from all around the world, as well as some top quality headliners, it’s easy to see why this event is becoming one of the hottest events of the year. The organisation is second to none – everything ran exactly to time, queues were managed well and the sound was spot on for every band we saw. It’s rare for an event this size to be spot on for every last detail, so credit has to go to the team behind the festival for putting such an incredible thing together and keeping it running so well all weekend.
The festival began for us down at Rebellion with Captain Trips, a melodic pop-punk/skate-punk band from Fareham. They’re a solid live band with some very catchy songs, and while we weren’t familiar with any of their material beforehand, they certainly did enough for us to go away and check them out afterwards.
Crazy Arm were up next, a band we’re very familiar with. Their rootsy, country infused punk rock really hit the spot, and the massive singalongs to ‘Still To Keep’ and set closer ‘Tribes’ offered an early insight into the fact that not only was the line-up packed with great bands, the audience was really up for a good time too. Crazy Arm don’t seem to play quite as many shows as they used to, but the mention of a new album during this set should hopefully mean we see a bit more of them this year.
Following Crazy Arm we headed over to The Bread Shed to finish the evening with Roughneck Riot and Random Hand. We managed to get straight into the venue a few minutes before Roughneck Riot started, but plenty more people piled in straight afterwards and took the place right up to it’s maximum capacity. The Warrington six piece play a high energy brand of folk-punk which had the entire, packed room bouncing. They’ve been gigging relentlessly for a number of years and have built a solid reputation as one of the best live DIY punk bands in the UK, and on this showing, it’s obvious why.
Returning ska-punk heavyweights Random Hand were the Thursday night headliners and we’ve really missed them over the past three years. After Roughneck Riot, we weren’t sure if the crowd had anything left to give, but somehow Random Hand managed to raise the energy levels even further. As well as incredible tunes like ‘Not A Number’, ‘Play Some Ska’ and ‘Scum Triumphant’, the band have the best stage banter you’ll see anywhere. Frontman Robin Leitch is absolutely hilarious – a fine example of this being when he removed his shirt and said: “Alright then you Manc bastards! Have a look at some Yorkshire nipples. Some proper White Rose nipples!” They’ve only been back for three shows, but it’s like they’ve never been away. Here’s hoping they don’t go away again, because they’re quite simply one of the best and most entertaining live bands the UK has ever produced.
Friday got off to a surprisingly good start. We were never in any doubt that heading to Rebellion for Eat Defeat would be a cool start to the day as they always put on a great show, but what we weren’t expecting was how many people had thought the same as us. The Leeds pop-punkers had Rebellion packed to near capacity for their opening slot on day two and they played an absolute blinder. ‘Shortcuts’ was a particular highlight, but in truth their set was pure gold from start to finish. I’d expect them to be back next year playing much higher up the line-up.
Underdog was our next calling point for acoustic stage opener Enda McCallan. The room was fairly quiet at first which made for quite a nice, intimate show. The crowd grew steadily throughout his set and ended with a fun singalong for his final song, Irish Eyes.
Quite the crowd had gathered in Underdog by the time that Arms & Hearts took to the stage. Despite a couple of technical problems in the form of a loose cable that needed a few gentle kicks and a broken string, A&H did a sterling job of entertaining the crowd. He’s one of the finest solo acoustic acts on the scene at the minute, a point backed up by the massive singalong to his set closer, ‘Fortitude’, which was played unplugged in the crowd.
Our next stop was The Bread Shed for The Bennies, but we got there in time for the last few songs of Throwing Stuff, who were certainly a noisy bunch. What we saw of the northern hardcore mob’s set was absolute chaos of the very best kind.
The Bennies were certainly on top form, as always. The Aussie party machines are just the perfect live band – great energy onstage, a room full of people bouncing, upbeat, happy songs, the whole package. Unfortunately we had to leave a couple of songs before they finished to head back to Underdog in time for our pals in Dead Drummer, but when we did there were quite a few people queuing to get in, clearly disappointed at missing such a wonderful band.
As disappointing as it was to leave The Bennies early, that sadness was soon removed as Dead Drummer took to the acoustic stage. The York based two-piece-acoustic-psycho-thrashabilly-blues band are something to behold. One the surface, they’re simply a comedy duo with silly songs about being dead, but once you dig a little deeper there’s a lot more going on. For a start, they’re both incredible musicians with huge vocal range. There’s synchronised finger clicking, which is just amazing, and once you get past the silliness there are some great socially aware songs. Criminally, the audience numbers were a bit thin on the ground, but those that were there got to experience something quite special.
After a pit-stop for food following a long day of beers, it was time for Apologies, I Have None on the big stage at Gorilla. We’re big fans of Apologies, and have followed them for close to a decade now. They’re a very different band to what they were back then, but they’re still a phenomenal live act. It was a surprise just how heavy they sounded, but no surprise at all that they looked right at home infront of one of the biggest crowds of the entire festival. ‘Everybody Wants To Talk About Mental Health’ was a particular highlight, that was until closer ‘Sat In Vicky Park’ happened and the entire room erupted, prompting frontman Josh to dive straight into the crowd, bringing the mic stand with him after a cable tangle. Top band.
Lightyear closed the stage at Gorilla with an epic headline performance. Last time we saw Lightyear they asked if there were any vegans in the audience and then threw some ham into the crowd, so we were intrigued to see what fun and games they would get up to this time. The answer? Human Tombola. Unfortunately we left before the end, so didn’t see the prize draw, but Human Tombola was basically a chap with loads of raffle tickets taped to his bare torso, crowdsurfing wile people ripped the tickets from him. Funny stuff. Between songs frontman Chas communicated in Alan Partridge quotes too, which is always entertaining. There can never be enough Alan Partridge quotes. Musically, their upbeat, bouncy ska punk was a great way to wrap up an excellent day of great bands.
As the final day rolled around, we found ourselves looking at the line-up not recognising quite as many names as we did the previous two days, so it offered us the chance to take the day at a more leisurely pace without having to rush between stages to catch our favourite bands. We started the day back at the acoustic stage with Foxes Faux, or 20% of. Singer/guitarist Kurt Wood seemed somewhat annoyed that his bandmates hadn’t arrived in time, but decided that the best way was to crack on solo and give the modest crowd the best he could. There was no fault at all with the performance, however you can’t help but feel we missed out on something that could have been so much better.
We also caught the first few songs of Tom Aylott, who defied the rules of the acoustic stage by playing an electric guitar. He played some really cool indie pop-punk stuff which reminded us of Ash, which is never a bad thing.
We managed to grab a quick glimpse of Holiday at Gorilla, who played awesome melodic punk rock, before heading back to the acoustic stage for Millie Manders’ punk-elele set. Despite being overcome with anxiety at one point (and then brilliantly defusing the situation) her set was just great. The ukulele is an odd instrument, one which we’re not usually a huge fan of, but with Millie’s blend of hip-hop style vocals and upbeat ska-punk tunes, it really works well. Millie Manders, as both a solo performer and with her band The Shutup, are certainly ones to watch.
Next up we decided not to see any bands for a bit and instead head to Font for the Premier of ‘Which Band Is Your Boyfriend In?’, a documentary about sexism in the music industry, primarily in the DIY punk scene in the UK. We’ve been aware of the film for some time, and have seen the amount of time, effort and sheer hard work that Suzy Harrison has put into making this, so it was great to finally see it out there. Despite a few technical difficulties, the whole experience was a positive one, and it was quite eye opening to hear some of the stories of what some of the women in the UK punk scene have experienced. It’s easy to forget, because we’ve done everything we can to create a nice little scene in York where everyone is welcome and everyone is treated equally regardless of gender, race, sexuality and anything else, that not everywhere is the same. The film features interviews with the likes of Petrol Girls, The Skints, Magnificent Seven, and Muncie Girls (and loads more) and is definitely worth checking out. Keep an eye out for future screenings and it’s general release, you won’t be disappointed.
After a short food break, we made the decision that our final headliner would be Propagandhi. We headed towards Gorilla just five minutes after Mobina Galore had taken to the stage assuming that we’d left plenty of time to get in. No chance, the queue was already around the building. Rather than join the queue and chance it, we headed down to Rebellion and caught the last few minutes of The Tuts. I’ve never been a big fan of The Tuts, I just can’t get into their music. While they’re a tight live band with a good energy onstage, the song and a half I saw of them did little to change my mind. They’re just not my bag.
So, our headline act for the evening and final band of the weekend (an early Sunday morning train meant we had to opt out of the later bands at The Bread Shed) were Iron Chic. During their set we’re fairly sure that Rebellion was the hottest place on the surface of the planet. The venue was packed from front to back, the band were on top form and everyone had a wonderful time. Massive singalongs, everyone bouncing around, sweat dripping from the ceiling. It was the perfect end to an excellent evening of punk rock in Manchester. Roll on next year.