Paradoxically, not being able to do anything has given me time to do whatever I want.
The absence of work and social commitments has left a yawning chasm of free time in my day. Zero plans to adhere to mean I can be impulsive in a way that my anxiety-addled brain rarely allows.
I believe that the pace of modern life is out of sync with most people’s natural rhythms. Anecdotally, I know some people work best before 11am, whereas people like me are most concentrated and creative in the late afternoons and early evenings. Some people need nine hours of sleep a night, others survive on five. Many people who’ve been on furlough for months will have been able to get up and go to bed at whatever time they want.
In my furlough freedom, I’d wake up at nine-ish every morning. I make a black coffee and retreat to my bed with a book in the company of my cat. Once I’ve absorbed a chapter or so, I ask myself what I feel like doing with my day.
Ask anyone in my family or friends: I’m a terrible replier. Whether it’s a text, a missed phone call, an email or a flaming dog turd squashed through my letter box, getting a response from me is virtually impossible.
Contacting me is like shouting into the void, unless you’re one of the (approximately) three special people that I maintain regular daily contact with, who probably hear from me too often. I have no doubt that anyone who’s contacted Shout Louder asking for a review will be familiar with this phenomenon, if the number of bold, unread emails in my inbox is anything to go by (NB: I don’t write reviews, please don’t expect one).
In the UK’s quasi-lockdown, we’re unable to interact with our friends in person, which has left me rather hamstrung by my self-imposed failure to reply to all communications. I’ve been forced not only to start replying to people, but also to actively reach out and contact my mates.
I consider myself an avid reader, but the reality is that I’ve not read consistently since I was in high school. As an only child, both reading and writing fiction was my primary pastime. As I’ve grown up, reading’s been shoehorned into train rides, bus commutes and bedtimes when I’ve been trying to stifle the restless din of an insomniac brain. I go to the library twice a week, trawl charity shops for second hand classics and naively promise to read gifted books that are often guiltily remanded to a shelf.
Lockdown’s given my reading a new lease of life. Unable to seek dog-eared novels from my usual sources, I’ve been devouring the stand-by books that have dusted-up my shelves, unread for years. Those Christmas gifts and obligatory charity shop purchases from years past have finally come to good use. Books I’ve been ‘meaning’ to read have finally been cracked open.
In the words of Burnt Tapes, “This year’s been a weird one.”
Despite that, it’s not been a bad one. Shout Louder’s been quieter than usual, but I did publish two books (PAPERCUTS #1 & #2 – get yours here!). I started a punk rock radio podcast that was surprisingly popular (65k listens on Episode 4 is surely a fluke?!) and co-hosted Do It Together Fest… which I hope would have made a few folk’s ‘Top 10 Gigs of 2020’ list even if it weren’t one of the only gigs in 2020.
The musical landscape is not the only thing that’s changed dramatically in 2020, but it’s the one I’ve noticed the most. I’ve read that the unpredictability of the year’s events has driven people to a lot of nostalgic listening – replaying comforting past releases rather than diving into new albums. I’ve definitely fallen into that trap: it turns out I still know all the words to Anthology by Alien Ant Farm and every Limp Bizkit and Slipknot album.
I’ve also found myself exploring a lot of genres outside of ‘punk rock’, because for me punk is ultimately about live music. Without gigs, without all-dayers and without people buzzing with excitement around me, I’ve had less interest in discovering new bands. According to my Spotify Wrapped, I’ve spent 2020 listening to ‘jazz rap’, ‘neo-soul’ and grime instead. For anyone interested, my personal 2020 Bangers playlist can be found here.
I’m not doing a traditional Top 10 Releases but I didn’t want to let the occasion pass without identifying a few top albums, EPs and singles that I’ve enjoyed this year.
We’re seeking contributions for our new PAPERCUTS print zine. Send us your stories, essays, poetry and photography.
Shout Louder’s first print zine was released in January 2020, with 250 copies selling out in two weeks. PAPERCUTS is a 92-page paperback book collecting submissions from 34 writers and photographers from within the DIY punk scene, including authors in the UK, Canada, Belgium, Denmark and South Africa.
Following the unprecedented success of PAPERCUTS #1, I’m keen to make another high-quality book celebrating the DIY punk scene. This time, a proportion of the proceeds will be donated to The Music Venue Trust’s Grassroots Music Venue Crisis Fund.
The theme for this edition is Gigs, Festivals & Tours.
I walk around every day carrying a dizzyingly-advanced dystopian-sci-fi computer in my pocket. Every day, I clock up multiple hours of screen time and I send countless messages. I am constantly connected… and yet I frequently fail to connect.
I am notoriously bad at replying to messages… and emails, phone calls, comments and voice notes especially. Honestly, I fear listening to voice notes in case it’s someone yelling at me, because the written word wouldn’t suffice to convey their anger. This is an entirely irrational thought, but it’s there nonetheless.
Memories of festivals passed have been popping up on our social media timelines lately, reminding us of all the fun we’re missing out on in 2020. This year of cancelled live music and ultra-distanced friendships can be tough when we’re reminded of the good times, but punk rock festivals aren’t all hugs, bands and blazing sunshine, are they?
Let’s consider some of the stuff we won’t be missing out on.
Being with your friends in a big, sunny field is glorious… but you’re rarely able to completely escape the sea of dickheads that exists outside of your social bubble. This varies depending on the festival, but dickheads exist everywhere.
Punk rock can save us from the mundanity of life. It can aid us in silencing the demons at large who thrust their voices in our heads.
They say punk is a lifestyle, one which only some can endure. That’s not true, as punk is a universal genre of music and culture, instilled in the framework of this breaking planet. To be truthful, punk is needed more than ever in these unprecedented times where animosity is overthrowing human affection. People are changing, they’re frightened, which is understandable, but love has been undermined by stupidity and panic.
Punk rock isn’t a cure, nor is it a foundation to lay problems upon. What it does is create collaborations amongst musicians and writers, even in virtual terms. It also has the charm to build friendships and conversations.
Manchester Punk Festival is a large multi-venue festival taking place in April each year. Remaining fervently DIY, it is staffed by a dedicated volunteers who come back every year. As part of that group, Sarah endeavoured to find out what makes MPF’s volunteer team so special.
Article by Sarah Williams, originally written for the Manchester Punk Festival 2020 programme.
The heart of DIY is a willingness to dedicate your time and energy for the love of punk. While MPF is run by a collective, there’s a supportive group of volunteers working behind the scenes at the event: packing and selling merchandise, running the stages, looking after the bands, wrist-banding and making sure that you’re having the best festival possible.
“The volunteers are such a crucial part of this weekend, we wouldn’t be able to do it without them,” says Kaz Hinsley, who helps to head up the volunteer team. “Each and every person that helps in some way really does make the weekend run more smoothly.”
Volunteering at MPF is unlike volunteering at any other event. Everyone pitches in a few hours, with a big grin on their face, proud to be helping the festival run without a hitch. It’s a stark contrast to commercial festivals, where volunteering can mean struggling through a six hour shift on a comedown, covered in glitter and mud, doing the bare minimum to earn yourself a ticket. MPF’s volunteers are all keen to see that the festival operates at the highest standard possible.Continue reading “Volunteers: The Unsung Heroes of Manchester Punk Fest”
For UK bands, touring Japan is the Holy Grail of punk rock. Success in DIY music cannot be quantified by financial gains or commercial exposure, but it can be measured by how far you’ve travelled to share your music with excited fans.
With the assistance of dedicated organisations like RNR Tours, increasingly more UK and European bands are playing Japan. We’ve covered them in Tree’s Fair Do’s tour diary and Tom West’s Japan Tour Survival Guide. Although many tours have been cancelled recently as a result of COVID-19, PMX made it over just before the global travel restrictions.
As more UK and European bands are receiving attention from Japanese crowds, we thought it time to reciprocate and give column space to the Japanese bands making waves over here. No doubt a knock-on effect from Anarchistic Undertones promoter Ian ‘Tree’ Robinson’s trip to Tokyo with Fair Do’s last year, Manchester Punk Festival this year had booked four incredible Japanese gems: SHAMES, Stone Leek, Green Eyed Monster and Gibberish (who have one Japanese member). Although MPF’s fallen foul of the Corona catastrophe, there’s no doubt that the same bands will be invited again for a future event. Beyond these, there is a whole culture of uptempo, angry, exciting bands that many of us are yet to discover.