Although it’s one of the more progressive communities, even in 2019, UK DIY punk rock remains a veritable sausage fest.
Attending shows as a woman alone, I’m often asked who my boyfriend is, which band member I’m banging, or whether I’m actually interested in the music I’ve paid good money to listen to. When working at shows, there’s an assumption that I’m there to help out on the door or sell merchandise, and that I wouldn’t know the difference between an XLR and a Speakon.
I organised Shout Louder Fest in February 2019 but, in the run up to it, multiple people assumed that I’d employed Ian ‘Tree’ Robinson of Anarchistic Undertones to book it for me – I was just tagging along at my own gig (comments which he did his best to quell). As someone who frequently writes about punk rock, I’ve often had folks on the internet assume that I’m a guy, even when Shout Louder profiles are full of selfies with my hair running amok. Out at gigs with our resident photographer, Josh, it’s often assumed that he’s the running things and I’m simply there to hold his lenses.
Chris, our drummer, and I are on route to pick up our bassist Travs from the deepest, darkest wilds of west London. We are currently at a standstill on the A-something-or-other and the (thankfully) empty car next to us is on fire. Firefighters look on with the helplessly professional nonchalance of people that are sure, “Yes, that is definitely a fire.”
We’re due on stage in Stafford at 7:30, with a requested arrival time of an hour before. When a promoter asks you to arrive at 6:30, you can extrapolate from that the options available to you:
You need to arrive at 6:30
6:00 if you want to be in any danger of being invited back.
7:29 if you think you should actually be higher up the bill.
I am haunted by a teeny, tiny, soul crushing anxiety every waking minute, so I’ve plotted our arrival for 5pm. And even then, my anxiety thinks we’re cutting it fine. An atypical 3-way argument ensues whereby Chris insists everything will be fine, my anxiety scoffs, and I sit in the middle trying not to annoy either of them.
Over five years, Manchester Punk Festival has flourished and become one of the biggest and best festivals Europe has to offer.
For me personally, MPF is a bigger event in my calendar than Christmas. I enjoyed the first three years of the festival so much that I decided to move to Manchester, because it has the most active, welcoming and diverse punk rock scene in the country. I’ve since had the privilege of volunteering at the festival, writing articles for their programme and website, and seeing first-hand the love, stress and dedication that the organisers pour into the event every year.
This year I’m also ‘performing’ at the festival. Come and join us in Font Bar @ 12:30 Friday to watch a live recording of the Shout Louder podcast. I’ll be talking about mental health in music, with Lucias of Call Me Malcolm and Holly from Hell Hath No Fury Records.
With 138 acts at this year’s Manchester Punk Festival, you’re spoilt for choice. These are the 10 I’m looking forward to the most.
Wolfrik are a recent Lockjaw Records discovery – these guys crank out fiery melodic thrash, with a huge metal/classic rock edge that’s insanely fun to listen to. Knowing the incendiary effect their Skeleton City EP’s had on everyone who’s heard it, I’m excited to see the impact it’ll have on a keen live audience.
I’ve not managed to catch Svalbard live yet, although their 2018 album It’s Hard to Have Hope was one of my favourites of last year. They’re well known in the metal scene, however they’re also an ideal fit for fans of dark, furious hardcore punk. Lyrically tackling feminism and politics and writing soaring Counterparts-esque guitar parts has made front-woman Serena Cherry one of my personal musical heroes. I’m looking forward to an intense, earth-shattering live show.
We have a gig in less than an hour and there is a bear on stage.
I’ve been a musician for just shy of twenty years and an outwardly functioning human being for almost double that; functioning in the sense that in that time I’ve somewhat miraculously kept myself fed, watered and free from major scarring. I even tie my own shoe laces (though I do wonder if there’s a statute of limitation on this – I’ve been wearing the same Etnies for as long as I can remember and I’ve not re-tied the laces since day one). The point is, outwardly, as far as society is concerned, I function.
Inwardly it’s a different story. At current count there are thirty seven different warning lights flashing, smoke is billowing from several important looking dials and the rabbit that usually steers the ship lost the manual in 1996. The point is, I get anxious.
Notes from a downward spiral: Alan shares a relatable tale of the numb listlessness and anhedonia that comes with a bout of depression.
This article written by Alan Corcoran is part of our #MentallySound series, discussing mental health in music. Trigger warning: depression.
Mostly I just feel paralysed. If my head was in a better place I’d probably think that sounded melodramatic, but for now the only feeling is a lack of feeling. Options stack up in front of me. Impossible options. I cannot make any decisions today.
I know there’s work to be done. Life admin. Basic stuff. Exercise would be good. Shaving and a shower are definitely on both a mental and physical list. Relationships of every kind are going untended. Texts. Gigs. Invites to celebrations. Sorry, sorry, sorry.
A gnawing in my stomach reminds me that I’m at least still capable of some feeling. Anxiety, like a snake in a particularly on-the-nose fable, sidles up to wrap itself around in an embrace. Breathing exercises can get fucked, I can’t breathe. A headache fog fills my brain.Continue reading “Unsent Text Messages & Neglected Friendships”
Fanzines are as old as punk itself, and have always been an integral part of the scene, especially in pre-Internet times: an open and unbiased resource for spreading the word about new bands, albums and gigs. A cheap and easy format to make and distribute.
You may think that the format is now obsolete and unnecessary, what with the world wide web at everybody’s fingertips, but zines and zine culture is thriving, and the internet has not hampered that.
If anything, it can act as a formidable marketing tool for zine makers, now able to reach a far wider audience than they arguably could have ‘back in the day’ when zines were only shared at shows and amongst friends in their own scenes.
Many punk zines have come and gone over the years, but a personal favourite of mine, Lights Go Out, has been consistently putting issues out since 2008. I recently caught up with the dude who runs it, Mr T, and asked him about his zine:
Manchester Punk Festival has grown significantly since its beginning five years ago. As one of the biggest punk festivals the UK has to offer, it remains fervently independent, affordable and free from corporate sponsorship.
Now that MPF is booking massive international headliners, increasing its capacity with new venues and still selling out of tickets (in 2018, there’s a handful left for 2019); it’s easy to forget the DIY roots of the festival… but the organisers definitely haven’t.
The festival is coordinated by a collective composed of three distinct Manchester promoters: TNSrecords, Anarchistic Undertones and Moving North. Outside of MPF, AU and Moving North are still putting on small DIY shows at least once a month, while TNSrecords are working hard championing and releasing records from up-and-coming punk rock bands. All three groups work to promote independent music, tirelessly and with no expectation of financial gain, and they apply the same mentality to Manchester Punk Festival.
Origins of Manchester Punk Festival
Things all kicked off in 2013 with TNSrecords’ 10 Year Anniversary all-dayer; the biggest event they’d run by themselves. They’d had a stage at Strummercamp for a number of years, which contributed to their desire to run a bigger festival. In the year before, they’d seen a gap for a collaboration in the Manchester scene, which led to them calling a meeting of like-minded promoters.