Manchester Punk Festival (Friday)

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Manchester Punk Fest 22

Manchester Punk Festival (Friday)

Manchester City Centre - 15th April 2022

It’s been three years since Manchester Punk Festival took place, three long years, and in that time the four horseman have been hard at work but now we’re back in Manchester for the annual celebration of Independent and DIY punk in all of its forms. There are two things separating this year’s three day festival from previous incarnations, the first relates to the inevitable ever changing line up post Brexit and with the spectre of covid still lurking in the wings, the second is the fact that the people attending the celebration of our scene are a bigger attraction than the bands, there are so many people that we haven’t seen since the first lockdown. This promises to be an emotional and joyous weekend for, at least partially, different reasons to usual. But with the soundtrack in place, regardless of who is delivering it, and Manchester fully open we can finally celebrate our scene and being back together again after all this time.

The Manchester Punk Festival still occupies a unique spot in the major festivals on the UK’s scene, as it stands alone in being almost entirely focused on new music and promoting the DIY and independent punk scene, there are none of the first or second wave of punk bands present on the line up, and more than any other festival it reminds you that the punk scene is alive and well and still evolving and looking forward, rather than dwelling in a rose tinted misty romanticism for it’s past glories.

Arriving in town for the first Manchester Punk Festival since 2019 the reunions are coming thick and fast resulting in several unplanned and alcoholic pit stops and catch ups before we head in to see the first band, the wonderfully monikered Smoking Gives You Big Tits, in Yes, one of the few venues in Manchester I haven’t visited before, and it is absolutely hammered ahead of this years festival opener.  This is initially a stripped back incarnation of the band, they start with an unexpected acoustic, complete with kazoo, reworking of Limp Bizkit’s Break Stuff, something I won’t forget in a hurry, and I mean that in a good way. The full band then emerges and they launch into their idiosyncratic  Mancunian conversational random spin on punk rock, veering wildly between the personal, random cultural references and political fury, they are a truly glorious start to the weekend. 

Over in The Union, the ‘hub’ of the festival, there’s a sense of two years pent-up anticipation about to be unleashed. “Are we havin’ it?!” drawls Jamie of Aerial Salad, as the band stride onstage, in the glow of some triumphant Manc swagger. A whole two years since the release of Dirt Mall means that instantly, from opener Virtue, there’s a sense of familiarity to the set; incorporating the laddish grain of Bromance and Lazy, the anthemic sing-along-a-chorus of Fever Dream and even the opportunity to boogie to Mike’s coiled bass in Such A Pity. A scuffle in the taxi queue, puking up your chips in the ginnel, and a sweaty bedroom encounter (Spit On My Face, indeed), they’re the aural equivalent of a fateful night out. And it’s not yet early evening. The Mancunian trio are followed swiftly by In Evil Hour who bring a dark, but no less joyful, intensity to the opening afternoon of Manchester Punk Festival. They bring a furious element of melodic hardcore, with a slight metalcore influence, that well and truly establishes that Manchester Punk Festival is back in business.

The Chicago skate quintet Much The Same, who rose up in the same scene as Fall Out Boy and Plain white T’s –  pull a mainly be-capped, be-rucksacked crowd for this send-off to their recent, mini UK tour. A seasoned act, their name is a nod to their similarly-veined output of Epi-Fat staples such as NOFX, Lagwagon and No Use For A Name. Ups and downs, in the forms of line-up changes, a hiatus between 2007 and 2015, and a cancer battle for guitarist Dan O’Gorman, haven’t burred the edges on the polished melodi-core they serve up. The band play tight, not giving anyone room to breathe between songs, and maintaining that hectic tempo while the seemingly effortless vocal harmonies (including a guest appearance from Jo from Dutch pop-punkers Coral Springs) seem to glide over some complex, layered riffage and skipping drum patterns. Lovely to see some true fans mouthing along with every word, too. A pristine performance. 

By now we’ve hit the mid afternoon slightly perplexed stage of the first day, something that means we either stop or carry on regardless, you know how this went. My quest to see anyone with a great band name continues with Misfortune Cookie in the packed out Zombie Shack. The name strategy continues to pay off as what you get from Misfortune Cookie is a set of revved up raw punk ‘n roll that hits the spot. To my slightly altered state their sound resembled Dolly Parton fronting a punk band after listening to Social Distortion, although this could just have been me, regardless this is a band that should be seen and heard.

At the best of times, Pizzatramp could be..affectionately..described as unpredictable, but not even a late Covid diagnosis, or a broken-down van, can hamper Jimmy’s intent to represent the Caldicot trio at Manchester Punk Festival. Piecing together a ‘makeshift’ band from Bruise Control’s Tommy, with his whole *one* practice, on drums, and Tia, who also performed with Warshy and Crazy Arm over the weekend, on bass, they work from visual cues and pre-song communication such as “it goes..’duh-duh, then dun-dunnn’..” perhaps makes the whole execution more focussed? An already simmering crowd laps up My Back’s Fucking Fucked, Millions of Dead Goths and I Got Work In The Morning, before boiling over fully at the snappy intro to Claire Voyant, the tracks sitting between thrashy trash and slacker cool riff-rolls, with Jimmy’s incensed cry (aimed at racists, Tories, and racist Tories) finding space to inject humour, snipes at audience-located acts, and, somehow, Taggart trivia into the mix. Equal parts hysterical, intense, and riotous, it actually adds up to a staggeringly accomplished set. 

In comparison Witch Fever are raising hell in Gorilla, their post everything riot grrrl fuelled fuzzed out goodness has drawn a hefty crowd that makes me glad I made the trek down before heading back up to The Union for Belvedere. After the release of their latest album, Hindsight Is The Sixth Sense, expectations were raised, and they don’t disappoint. Poppy punky assorted core perfection that would round out a memorable Friday, if it weren’t for the fact that Melt Banana are next. 

Melt Banana defy description, they are an intense surreal aural assault that resembles a head on collision between techno, hardcore punk, noise rock, space rock and numerous other random ingredients, utterly bewildering, pummelling and completely mesmerising, I’m not sure you can put into words just how unique Melt Banana are, I’ll just say go and see them, it’s an experience to treasure and one that I won’t forget. After the insanity of Melt Banana we hobble back towards home, stopping occasionally to complain about feet and hamstrings, it seems that two years sat on the couch streaming movies isn’t that good for your fitness levels but we’ll be back tomorrow regardless for another welcome overload on our senses.

Written by Adam Pytro and Phinky, photography by Gary M Hough of Shot From Both Sides