Top 5 Manchester Punk Fest Survival Tips

Our top tips on how to make the most of your weekend at Manchester Punk Festival.

Article by Sarah Williams.

Now in its fourth year, Manchester Punk Festival 2018 is bigger than ever. It maintains the atmosphere of a small festival, however there are over 1,000 attendees and multiple venues to navigate. A lot of people are visiting the festival for the first time this year, so I thought I’d share my top tips for getting the most out of the weekend.

Last week, someone asked my friend who he was was most excited to see at the festival and he couldn’t tell them. “I haven’t even looked at the line-up yet. I just follow Sarah around every year, she’s like a walking program.” I don’t claim to be an expert, but here are my top tips as a festival veteran:

#1: Prepare!

I’m a massive advocate of semi-obsessive organisation. Sure, it’s potentially the least ‘punk’ thing in the world, but lending some time to prepare for the festival means you’ll get more out of it. This is especially true at MPF, where there are multiple venues to navigate and so many incredible bands that you’ll struggle to find 10 minutes to inhale a falafel wrap while jogging between stages.

The MPF organisers have gone into meticulous detail to make it as easy for you to plan as possible. They’ve provided all the following:

  • A new MPF app where you select your favourite bands (in the line-up section), so that you receive a notification 15 minutes before their set begins, plus a map and regular updates
  • The famous Clashfinder, giving you the clearest view of the line-up, including a printable version
  • A detailed website with descriptions of every single band plus Bandcamp links
  • Free Bandcamp compilations and a Spotify playlist
  • A very detailed free program which you can download, or pick up in hard copy at the festival, including a detailed description/FFO for every band

We’ve also gone to quite a bit of effort here at Shout Louder. We’ve recorded a podcast with heaps of hints and tips to get you through the weekend, plus a run-down of the line-up. We’ve selected our Top 10 International Bands To Discover at the festival and run a series of ‘band spotlight’ interviews. Check out the full series here.

#2: Get There Early!

The festival has slightly increased the number of tickets this year, however capacity at the individual venues is still limited. If there is a band you desperately want to see, make sure you get there early (well before the set is due to start). This might require a bit more forethought than you’re used to having to invest in a festival, but it’s harder to fit everyone in when you’re not in a grassy field!

Some people have pointed out that there are quite a few clashes on the line-up, but this is a necessary evil. You might be a fan of both Iron Chic and Propagandhi, or Culture Shock and The Stupids (all of whom clash on Saturday night) but they’ve got to be booked at the same time to avoid any of the venues being too overwhelmed. The alternative is to have 500 people happily watching Propagandhi, while the other 500 stand grumpily outside Gorilla, wondering why they didn’t bother to turn up earlier.

The clashes are the price we pay for having a quality and diverse line-up hosted in such a wonderfully unique array of venues. MPF is a celebration of Manchester as much as it is a celebration of punk – the festival wouldn’t have the same charm in a different format. Continue reading “Top 5 Manchester Punk Fest Survival Tips”

Top 10 International Bands To Discover at MPF

Manchester Punk Festival is a brilliant opportunity to catch bands from around the world that you might never see otherwise. These are our top picks.

Article by Sarah Williams.

Every year Manchester Punk Festival bring some brilliant bands from around the world to our little Northern city, this year upping their game with international headliners like Propagandhi, Iron Chic and Death By Stereo.

Although there’s no shortage of acts to see, it’s worth grasping the opportunity to experience artists from further afield. There’s a wealth of talent from America, Russia, Japan, Australia and mainland Europe to enjoy. Last year, my favourite sets included Edward in Venice (Italy), Sweet Empire (Netherlands), Kollapse (Denmark) and Clowns (Australia), none of whom I’d had the chance to see before.

Note: The aim of this list is to highlight some great bands that you might otherwise dismiss because you’ve not heard of them – some are less well-known, others are big names that I’ve highlighted in case they’ve slipped by you in the past. However, I have deliberately excluded major acts that I assume everyone knows (i.e. Death By Stereo, Propagandhi, Iron Chic, The Copyrights). Obviously you should check them out too.

Either way, here are our top international bands worth discovering at MPF 2018 (in no particular order):

The Bennies (Melbourne, Australia)

I tend to assume everyone’s heard of The Bennies now, but then I’m reminded of the last time I saw them back in July last year. They supported their besties The Smith Street Band on tour and, apart from in London, they seemed to surprise audiences in every venue they played. In Norwich, the crowd began the set looking utterly bewildered, but by the end they were dancing and chanting, “Hey motherfucker, I’m a party machine!”

If you’ve seen The Bennies before, you’ll be going to see them again. If you’ve not seen The Bennies before, I highly recommend you go party with them; they are the ideal festival-fun band. Coming all the way from Australia, they play a mix of dance, ska, psych, funk, doom, 80s rock and punk that’s mashed together in this incredible spandex-clad surfer-beach-hair can’t-not-dance catastrophe.

The Bennies are playing in The Bread Shed at 18:05 on Friday.

Svetlanas (Moscow / Milan)

I’m not going to lie, the first time I listened to Svetlanas they scared the hell out of me. It’s proper hard-rocking punk straight out of Russia, like Motorhead have been doused in Petrol Girls, lit on fire and let loose on Red Square. Singer, Olga, has amusingly (and surprisingly accurately) been described by Jello Biafra as having a voice like an angry, cornered mongoose and they’ve been celebrated for their chaotic live presence.

Alongside their ferocious music, they are known for their vehement politically left bearing and, despite gaining a lot of critical acclaim, they’ve remained firmly DIY. After releasing a split with The Dwarves, they also attracted the attention of Nick Oliveri, who officially joined the band in 2016.

Svetlanas are playing in The Bread Shed at 19:45 on Saturday.

Mobina Galore (Winnipeg, Canada)

Mobina Galore are coming all the way from Canada with their pals Propagandhi. You may already be familiar with them, as they’ve toured here before with Against Me, PUP and Milk Teeth, and they’ve previously played Groezrock, etc.

It’s very easy to compare punk bands with female vocals to Distillers, but the comparison stands here, although Mobina Galore’s sound is cleaner and more stripped back. They’re a female duo who play heavy power punk in the form of consistently strong, memorable tunes, with an impressive undercurrent of attitude. This is proper, vocally aggressive, chainsaw riot grrl punk.

Mobina Galore are playing in Gorilla at 19:55 on Saturday, just before Propagandhi.

Continue reading “Top 10 International Bands To Discover at MPF”

Post-Gig Reflections from a Promoter Who’s Prone to Panic Attacks

A brutally honest account of the anxiety and stress that comes with putting on a punk gig.

Article by Sarah Williams. Photos from Friday’s gig courtesy of Sam Dawes at This Is Noise.

Four people have turned up for the gig so far, they’re standing awkwardly in the corner nursing pints and whispering about where everyone else is. The guy taking money on the door is twiddling his thumbs. I need to sell fifty tickets to cover the cost of putting on the show, so I guess I’ll be living on ramen this month.

The sound engineer is frantically trying to fix the PA, which started rattling and cutting out during the sound check. Two guitarists are scowling at the set up – there’s not enough room on stage and the sound is terrible. We’re running an hour behind and none of the bands have played yet; I’m going to cut the set times and maybe cut the opening act entirely. The headliner band is here apart from the singer, who couldn’t get out of work on time – apparently he’s stuck on a train somewhere. There’s a good chance he won’t make it to the gig at all.

“What the hell were you thinking, Sarah?” the venue manager asks angrily. “There’s no point in us keeping the venue open for four people. This is a waste of time – we’re going to cancel the show if you don’t sort this out.”

My parents are here too: “I can’t believe this is what you’re doing with your life! What a waste of time. Couldn’t you have been a doctor or a lawyer? You are a walking disappointment.”

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Worst case scenario. Fortunately, the real gig was a success. No disasters whatsoever. Nonetheless, that was the nightmare I woke up from the morning after I booked the band and the venue. I am riddled with anxiety at the best of times, so putting an event together has reminded me why I don’t do it regularly.

I recently moved to a completely different part of the country and, as a result, had to bury myself in a deluge of job applications, interviews and utility bills. The last thing I need on top of all that is to be driving 200 miles, promoting a show and trying to squeeze in all the other shows I want to attend. Still, there is a part of me that enjoys being overwhelmed, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than live music.

As such, I thought it’d be a great idea to put on a show at The Smokehouse in Ipswich, a few weeks after moving to Manchester. Darko, Actionmen, PMX and Pessimist are playing as part of my birthday celebration and as a send-off from the venue, where I’ve been working for the past few months. On Thursday I’m going to catch PMX and Actionmen in Manchester, my gig takes place on the Friday, and on Saturday I’m catching PUP and The Menzingers in London. In theory, it should be fun.

Continue reading “Post-Gig Reflections from a Promoter Who’s Prone to Panic Attacks”

Top 5 Punk Rock Songs to F**k To

Valentine’s Day Special: 5 banging punk rock tunes to bonk to on this most hallowed of commercial holidays.

Article by Sarah Williams. Disclaimer: SATIRE. Total satire.

Valentine’s Day. A time of roses, romance and rampant consumerism. It’s also time to make tender, passionate love to your sweetheart, or at least to bang whichever crusty reprobate you stumbled into at the grindcore show last night.

We here at Shout Louder believe that you can (and should) incorporate punk rock into every element of your life, so why not let it be the soundtrack to your sexy time? We have trawled through thousands of punk rock songs to bring you this carefully curated list of bedroom bangers.

We have tried to ensure there’s something here for everyone: from the light-hearted bonkers, to the hardcore heavy-weights, even covering couples who just can’t stop arguing. Don’t worry if Cupid hasn’t sought you with his arrow this year. I am sure these tunes will make an equally suitable soundtrack to your tearful, lonely masturbation, if you’re willing to pause the James Blunt.

In the interest of honesty, I have not personally road-tested (duvet-tested?) these tunes. I have had some memorable experiences to the likes of Pendulum, Papa Roach and Tenacious D over the years, but I’m not normally one to put on my mate’s DIY band while I’m tearing my clothes off. Please do give these a try and give us a blow-by-blow account of your experiences in the comments section.

The Offspring – Self Esteem

“Aaah, it’s time to relax, and you know what that means. A glass of wine, your favourite easy chair and, of course, this compact disc playing on your home stereo. So go on, indulge yourself…”

The Offspring’s aptly titled classic album Smash offers a plethora of punk songs for sending your partner into knee-trembling oblivion. Bad Habit and Killboy Powerhead would both provide a powerful and moving experience, or perhaps you’d rather invite them to Come Out And Play?

Your best bet is Self Esteem, which offers a bleak reminder that you’re being used, that you’re worthless and your partner is probably fucking all your friends. It’s okay because you like the abuse.

So, if you’ve spent Valentine’s Day staring at your phone, waiting for your someone to text you back, only for them to turn up on your doorstep late at night, drunk again and looking to score, this is the song for you. You don’t need to stick up for yourself. Embrace it. Stare deeply into your lover’s eyes, hovering just inches from their face and gently stroke their hair with the dangerous intensity of a would-be stalker. Remember, the more you suffer, the more it shows you really care. Right?

Almeida – Kinslayer

Have you ever wondered what it would like to be a drum kit in a hardcore band? Well, this is your opportunity. Keep pace with this track and you’ll get a blast beating straight through the headboard.

If you like your nights to be loud, fast and hard with some intensely technical finger-action, Almeida are the band for you. You’ll be howling like Tom West’s soaring choruses in no time. As evidenced in this video, they’ll even come hang out in your bedroom if you ask nicely enough. Continue reading “Top 5 Punk Rock Songs to F**k To”

All Talk #2: Are You Trying Hard Enough?

Mark Bartlett dissects the magic of recording, songwriting democracy and why we should all contribute to the art we enjoy.

Check Out: All Talk #1: What’s The Point Of Being In A DIY Punk Band?

Hi, I’m Mark Bartlett, lead singer of obscure London emo/pop-punk/post-hardcore/whatever-punks Our Lives In Cinema.

Bands, let’s all examine our work ethic for a moment…

I want to look as excited as I actually feel but I’m just really, really sleepy (and still recovering from a nasty bout of flu). It’s the first of 5 days of recording our new EP All Talk at The Clubhouse in Tunbridge Wells with Ricky Beetlestone. The spirit is absolutely willing but there are giant fuck-off bags under my eyes and a tired rashness to my cheeks that’s making me look like Phil Mitchell at peak booziness.

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I finished work at 2am last night, which meant I was forced to get the N199 night bus outside Charing Cross with all the pissed up Friday night misfits, thus eventually crawling into bed at 3:45am. This isn’t ideal for a 7:45 wake-up time. To be fair, I don’t have to do anything today apart from be here and give approving nods and dismissive headshakes.

I know absolutely fuck all about the technical aspects of the recording process so, after meeting all round nice chap Ricky and lugging a few drum bits around, I snuggled into the leather sofa at the back to try and have a nap. Actually, I did pause to be suitably impressed by the monolithic mixing desk, which seemingly had 500 different dials and doohickeys that a luddite like myself could never comprehend.

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Despite my sleepiness (that I hope didn’t come off as apathetic rudeness to our new producer friend), I am excited. This is the best part of being in a band. We’re making a record; it’s going into the digital cloud to live forever and provide some evidence to future society about exactly who their silly ancestors were.

And this is where the internal panic sets in and confidence turns to doubt. Are all the parts up to scratch? Are the songs too long? Will people hate my voice as much as I do? Are the lyrics cringey? Is this the best we can do? Continue reading “All Talk #2: Are You Trying Hard Enough?”

All Talk #1: What’s The Point Of Being In A DIY Punk Band?

Mark Bartlett examines the trials and rewards of slogging away determinedly in punk scene, in the first of a new series of opinion pieces.

Hi, I’m Mark Bartlett, lead singer of obscure London emo-punks Our Lives In Cinema.

I’m currently in my bed. It’s raining outside; the wind is fucking noisy. I’m really tired and I’ve got a stinking cold. My eyeballs hurt as I’m writing, probably because I don’t own a computer and do all of my writing on the pages app on my phone.

I get myself pretty stressed out, and I feel like I have too much on my plate what with having a full time job (with very strange shift patterns) and all the demands associated with that. Next week my band is going into the studio to record EP no. 2 All Talk. We are also hosting a big charity fest/release party on March 3rd in Kingston, with some of my favourite UK bands. We are going to make new videos, get new merch and press ahead full steam with our plans for 2018.

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When I get stressed out, my wife Ruth always asks why I don’t just drop a bunch of stuff (and get off my phone). After all… hobbies are supposed to be fun and relaxing right? I agreed. I resolved to quit social media and stop being such a try-hard, try to write some songs and be ‘off grid’ for a bit.

This lasted for one week max. A fortnight later, I’ve started organising a festival and taken on all the other stuff that comes with releasing a new record. This forced me to think about why I bother and what the overall point is. I think it’s important every now and then to re-examine why you’re in a band in the first place, give yourself a little bit of self-therapy and re-adjust your expectations accordingly. Continue reading “All Talk #1: What’s The Point Of Being In A DIY Punk Band?”

Top 5 Predictions For 2018

We cast our minds to the future to predict the trends in UK DIY punk for 2018.

Article by Sarah Williams.

Warning: this article is 70% ambitious, 20% self-indulgent and 10% late. Also, trigger warning: some mention of sexual assault.

The beginning of the year is the perfect time for big, sweeping generalisations. How many times have you recently heard that ‘2017 has been a great year for music’?

In 2016 the big news in the entertainment industry was the unprecedented number of celebrity deaths. Last year focussed more on the aftermath of two disappointing votes: in wake of Brexit, Trump and the disappointing UK general election I found my ever-dwindling faith in humanity diminishing further, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

The world of DIY punk was even more uplifting than usual in the context of the depressing political climate. The creativity, talent and camaraderie present in our insular music haven is what gives me hope for society as a whole, and it has flourished in response to the shitstorm around us. I think that creative growth is likely to continue in the new year, which made me consider what else might be on the horizon for 2018.

Through a process of extreme guesswork and mild narcissism, below I’ve compiled my top predictions for 2018. I would love to know whether you agree and what your predictions would be.

#5: We’ll see some weird and wacky merchandising ideas

I encountered a plethora esoteric merch in 2017: miniature vinyl, hats based on obscure in-jokes, a band-branded jars of vegan honey…. There is a tradition within DIY punk to offer something other than the mainstream, but the rise of digital formats and pay-what-you-want releases pushes bands to invent new ways of staying afloat financially.

I’m sure I’m not alone in having more band t-shirts that will actually fit in my wardrobe (I recently spent 30 minutes debating whether to organise them by genre, alphabetically or by size – suggestions welcome). Although I want to financially support small bands at every opportunity, there are only so many shirts I can handle. Patches and badges are obvious; lighters and hats aren’t uncommon; Pizzatramp and Wonk Unit have baby-grows but I don’t think they’ll fit.

Colourful vinyl variants are now standard issue, satisfying the need for a physical product to accompany an album release however, with legions of DIY bands out there vying for our attention, there’s a demand for more unusual products.

I like to think that Andy Davies of Revenge of The Psychotronic Man is ahead of the curve in terms of creative and utterly ridiculous merchandising. In 2017 they’ve brought out an EP on cassette only, created a lift-up and reveal Mr Blobby themed t-shirt (below left) and produced two lines of baseball caps based on a drinking in-joke (below right). That’s on top of their epic ‘it’s fucking booze time’ clock.

Andy’s not alone in his endeavours. In 2014 Darko included ‘essential’ beard oil in some US releases of Sea of Trees, although I’m still waiting to be sold a Bonsai Mammoth plant. In 2015 Random Hand proved that punks love mugs, and yet I haven’t seen a DIY band selling mugs since (Mug are seriously missing a trick on that one).

Some things will be cost prohibitive but we can dream big. Matilda’s Scoundrels branded inflatable dinghy, for all your crowd-sailing needs? A plastic bobble-head version of Faintest Idea’s trombonist, Robin ‘Bobble’ Smith? Grand Collapse could have the monopoly on Jenga knock-offs. On the other hand, perhaps bands like Shit Present should stick to t-shirts… Continue reading “Top 5 Predictions For 2018”