Manchester Punk Festival – Sunday 31st March

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Manchester Punk Fest

Manchester Punk Festival

Manchester, UK City Centre - Sunday 31st March

Spring has sprung, we’ve lost an hour, to be honest there’s a few from late last night that are hazy at best, but undeterred, and after a lot of coffee, we’re up and ready to party on the final day of this year’s Manchester Punk Festival. Our initial plans for day go out the window due to an epidemic of Sunday drivers on the way into town, so we miss the first act and can’t get into the second, I can only offer apologies to James Domestic and Thick Richard, we tried. Instead we head over to The Union, catching a few jaded faces from last night en route and our day starts with the pummelling ska fuelled punk of Till I’m Bones. Despite three days of excess there is still a sizeable lively crowd and when they play I Don’t Want To Party With You, they make it clear this is a lie, they do, and they do. Their set also includes the bonus of a stonking cover of On A Rope, one of my favourite tracks from Rocket From The Crypt‘s finest album, Scream Dracula Scream. I promptly added their entire back catalogue, all four singles of it, to my immense playlist as this was an early highlight of the final day.

Till I'm Bones

After a brief stop, and a reunion with some more friendly faces still feeling the after effects from last night, we head back into The Bread Shed for Irked. There seem to be a kill or cure approach in effect as the first shots of the day arrive mid afternoon, it’s the last day and tomorrow is a bank holiday so that fuck it feeling is in full effect. If the coffee tequila didn’t jolt me awake then Irked’s discordant punk racket certainly does. Irked quite happily admit they too overdid it last night, they sum this up with the words “Sunday, fucking hell, we’ll get through this together”. Their set is a mutual mid afternoon cobweb clearing ahead of the highly anticipated set by young upstarts, Noah & The Loners, after their recent planned appearance in Manchester was cancelled due to ill health. 


Noah And The Loners have clearly recovered from whatever ailment struck them down earlier this year. This is the third band of the weekend that represent the next wave of punk, as with Novacane and Caution Elderly People they probably get still ID’d, musically they sit between the two aforementioned acts, melodic but with that brash energy that can only come of youth, that time of life before you start complaining about your back and feet hurting all the time, did I mention that my feet hurt? Noah & The Loners seem to straddle punks past and present, the rhythm section reminds me of of early Misfits, there is that same driving fuzzed out bass and drum driven quality, but without the daft haircuts or the horror obsession. The energy and drive that Noah & The Loners possess is born of the rage and frustration of youth. They are constantly in motion with energy levels that are off the chart. As I’ve said before, it seems that punks future is in safe hands. Amongst the crowd are some of punk’s old school in Hagar The Womb, who are just as enthusiastic and focused on the future as we are, worlds collided in The Bread Shed, and it was awesome .

Noah & The Loners

Next is Carol Hodge, the first time I’ve caught her with her full band, in the Zombie Shack. The Carol Hodge Band are crammed onto the compact stage in the cramped dark venue due to the space needed for Carol’s flower bedecked keyboard that obviously sits front and centre. They kick off with my personal favourite, The Moan Of A Thousand Years, which is always a good start to any gig. Anyone arriving expecting Carol to revisit her tenure with Crass frontman Steve Ignorent will be disappointed, at least on that front, but they shouldn’t be in any other sense. This is a set of Carol’s solo material, but unlike previous occasions when we’ve caught her live she is backed up by a solid trio that add weight to her soaring melodies. 

Carol Hodge

We find ourselves torn, we’ve still got many bands and hours to go but we’re in no man’s land venue wise, with an oddly long gap until the next band in Zombie Shack and an even longer gap to our final destination at Rebellion Bar. With our feet in absolute tatters we opt for the great British time killing solution and head to Manchester’s Salisbury Ale House, a pub that has been a watering hole for Manchester’s punk, metal and alternative scenes for as long as I can remember, to consider our options. It turns out we’re not the only ones caught in this dilemma and there are a few familiar faces who made the same decision. Rested and refreshed we decide to head off to catch a few tracks of the grinding discordant confrontational racket that is Pissed Jeans in an absolutely packed Gorilla before heading to our final destination.

Pissed Jeans

We finally make it to Manchester Punk Festival‘s furthest flung outpost, Rebellion, for the unlikely line up of Madonna, The Weakerthans and No Doubt, sort of. After a few cocktails to warm us up and a catch up with drunk / hungover friends we get MDNA. It’s Madonna, but through a demented and very twisted punk lens with an all star line up that includes members of Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man, Plot 32, Knife Club, The Shadowcops and Follow Your Dreams. I would say that Madonna has never sounded better, but maybe not, this is a party and the unlikely set is delivered by five distorted reflections of various eras of Madonna, imagine if you will a plethora of Madonna’s in a really weird hall of mirrors. Unique is an understatement, but it certainly kicks the party off in unlikely style. This is probably the only time there has been stage diving and a wall of death to these songs, utterly perplexing and slightly disturbing, in other words pretty much a perfect start to the party at the end of Manchester Punk Festival. I never expected to see a frenzied mosh pit to Like A Prayer with a bearded Madonna crowd surfing, unforgettable on so many levels. 


The drinks are flowing with a decadent end of the festival fervour and the penultimate act is The Weakerthans, sort of. Dave House leads a band clad in a suitably Canuck style, t shirts with maple leaves on and beanies, I guess that counts, for a set celebrating the cult Canadian outfit. This is not in the vein of the opening MDNA set, this is about as close as you’re going to get to the real thing, and as you ain’t going to get the real thing this is a perfect substitution, shut your eyes and you’re there. This is an expression of love for The Weakerthans and Samson era Propagandhi, and I get to hear one of the greatest songs about cats ever written, A Plea From A Cat Named Virtue, live, which as it’s now Monday makes my day. After this more shots flow ahead of the final act of the weekend. 


Tonight, possibly tomorrow morning, Smoking Gives You Big Tits are No Doubt, Helen Bradley is clad in sparkly two tone checker board chic as they kick off with Excuse Me Mr., which is delivered with a touch of their own unique style. Whereas The Weakerthans set was pure and unadulterated, tonight’s No Doubt set is cut with Smoking Gives You Big Tits idiosyncratic outlook. Take the superb Spiderwebs where the brass parts are delivered via kazoo, because of course they were. They also incorporate Gwen Stefani’s solo material into a bouncy ska fuelled set and of course Don’t Speak is included, and gets a suitably drunken singalong. Do I need to tell you the closing track? Just in case, it was of course the iconic Just A Girl. Apparently there was a 3AM egg and spoon race to win a pair of tickets to next year’s Manchester Punk Festival, I would have loved to have seen whether anyone was capable of taking part in a race, or had any sense of balance, at that point, but you have to know when to draw the line. I think mine was drawn and staggered over about an hour ago.

Smoking Gives You Big Tits

We haven’t even seen a fifth of the bands on offer over this immense weekend, everyone else’s weekend will have been different, but I have no doubt that everyone else’s will have been the equal of ours. Next year sees Manchester Punk Festival celebrating its 10th anniversary, all being well we’ll be there for an eclectic line up that celebrates the current and future punk scene like no other festival, we’ll see you down the front or near a bar. A massive thank you to Manchester Punk Festival for inviting us back again to cover an event that really is like nothing else, you really need to be here next year. Why not grab yourself a bargain early bird ticket and be sure to keep an eye on their socials for line up announcements over the coming months.

Manchester Punk Fest

Live photography courtesy of Gary Hough from Shot From Both Sides and Scott Bradley from Phukin Photos.