Top 10 Moments of Manchester Punk Festival 2018

MPF 2018 was a special weekend for reasons beyond just the music. Sarah’s rounded up her personal highlights from the festival.

Article by Sarah Williams. Photos from Mark Richards, Jimbob Taylor, Josh Sumner and Marc Gaertner.

Now widely known as Manchester Pals Fest, MPF 2018 has been even more of a blinder than previous years. I guess we knew that it would be from the moment the line-up was first announced, with Propagandhi topping it. In a landslide of Facebook posts, messages and hugs once the weekend was over, the word out there is that it’s the best festival in the UK. The three-day weekender in the Rainy City is drawing like-minded punk rock fans from all around the world.

The festival is special both as a personal and a collective experience. If you attended, you would have been amazed by the number of familiar faces in crowd. I barely had time to chat to someone properly before running into the next person. With that many dedicated, creative and intelligent people surrounding you, it’s easy to see that the UK scene is thriving at the moment. Although it felt like we were all sharing this one great, special experience, as the weekend is split between five venues around town, it’s possible that you could have had a completely different experience to a friend who also attended.

With that in mind, these are my personal Top 10 experiences of the weekend. What were yours?

Ducking Punches closing Thursday’s show with Smoking Spot

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“This is about how punk has taught us all our ethics; this is for all of you,” Dan Allen says between songs, instantly capturing the spirit of the festival. While most of my friends were queueing to get into Random Hand and getting turned away, I opted to catch Ducking Punches at Rebellion on Thursday night and I really don’t regret it.

Earlier in the day, Danny from Fair Do’s had said, “Look around you. This is what a beautiful, intelligent and ethical punk community looks like.” Both are examples of how appreciative the bands are of the event they’re attending. Far from being a big fest where you turn up, play and fuck off, Ducking Punches were around for the whole weekend, partying and enjoying the music like the rest of us. I had a transcendent moment during somewhere between Sobriety and Big Brown Pills from Lynn where I remembered that all my friends in the world are in this city with me, enjoying an incredible time. There is an overwhelming sense of community that I’ve not felt elsewhere – partly from the punk scene and partly from Manchester, a city with a strong sense of identity.

Closing on Smoking Spot was the perfect move from Ducking Punches, who’ve really grown with their new album Alamort. “This is a song about having the best time with your best friends,” Dan says. Perfect.

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Here’s a photo of Random Hand for good measure. Photo: Jimbob Taylor.

Watching my friends’ bands playing to sold out rooms

For many bands it’s their first time at the festival (and their first time in Manchester), but every act played to a huge crowd. Through general gigging and through this website I’ve become friends with some of my favourite bands, so I’m absolutely bubbling with pride when I see them getting an enthusiastic reaction from a big audience.

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Darko. Photo: Jimbob Taylor.

On Thursday, No Matter opened the festival to an almost full room at Rebellion. Following them were Captain Trips, a skate-punk group from the South Coast that I have a massive soft-spot for. I’ve been trying to get as many people to hear about them as possible, so to see Rebellion full for their set was incredible. Not only was the venue rammed – the crowd were dancing, moshing and generally enthusiastic about seeing them. It made my heart melt a little bit. Continue reading “Top 10 Moments of Manchester Punk Festival 2018”

Exclusive: Darko Premiere New ‘Lifeblood’ Video

Watch of our exclusive preview of Darko’s brand new video!

Shout Louder are proud to bring you an exclusive preview of the brand new video from melodic hardcore masters, Darko. The band have a history of creating videos that are as entertaining and skillful as their music, to which this is no exception.

Lifeblood is a song about feeling trapped and undervalued in a job, but trying to remember that you are the lifeblood. As Dan says in the song, “We call them bastards, yet they need us to succeed.”

“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” Gothe

Rob Piper, guitarist in Darko and director of the video, says that he tried to reflect that sentiment by creating an uneasy, claustrophobic film. In it vocalist Dan Smith is shown with his hands tied behind a chair, sitting placidly while his own shadow rages inside him. Using a series of tight, edgy close-ups and a grim, grey setting the video successfully captures the feeling of entrapment that comes with any job that you cannot break free of.

Lifeblood is the third single to be taken from their brilliant album Bonsai Mammoth (Shout Louder’s Album of The Year 2017), after Hiraeth and Just A Short Line. You can purchase the album from Lockjaw Records, if you haven’t already.

This is an active season for Darko, who will be touring Japan, Australia and the UK in the coming weeks. Closer to home they are touring with Japanese wonders Waterweed, including an appearance at Manchester Punk Festival and a club show at The Star Inn, in their hometown of Guildford. Later on they’ll be slaying Glasgow, Norwich, Bristol, London, Stafford and Southampton with A Wilhelm Scream.

This week they’re playing five dates in Japan as part of the Punk Rules Okay tour with Belvedere, Waterweed, Almeida and Bare Teeth (jealous!). They will be taking in Shinjuku, Nagoya, Osaka and Kofu (keep an eye out for a write-up of the tour on Shout Louder in the near future…). After that, they are heading to Australia with The Decline, celebrated by possibly the best tour poster ever (see below).

If you’d like to hear more, be sure to follow Darko on Facebook and YouTube. Also, read the interview Rob Piper did for Shout Louder to celebrate the birthday of Bonsai Mammoth. If you liked the video, make sure you check out his aerial videography company, Skyline Futures. Multi-talented bastards.

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. Part of our #MentallySound series, discussing mental health in music.

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”

Gig Review: Darko’s Bonsai Mammoth Anniversary Bonanza @ The Boileroom

Featuring: Actionmen, PMX, Drones, Fair Do’s, The Affect Heuristic and many more!

Review by Joëlle Laes. Photos/videos by Mirjam van Reijen, plus some snaps from Joëlle.

After so much anticipation created by the advent calendar announcements via social media, I couldn’t wait for the Bonsai Mammoth anniversary all-dayer, hosted by Darko, an event celebrating a year since the release of their epic debut album. Every announcement seemed like a gift that was personally selected for me. “You like this band? OK cool, we’ll book them.” Thanks guys. Perfect lineup.

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Some of my friends decided to get the ferry over the UK from Belgium, and I was lucky enough to snatch a seat in the car. Getting up at 5am the day before to make the trip over and paying a fortune for a hotel was a bit of a faff, but hanging out with friends and seeing fantastic bands makes up for the lack of sleep and the hole in my wallet. After a good night’s sleep, it was time.

It couldn’t have started better than with a Punk Rock Yoga Session by Jo from Bad Juju Yoga! I, however, got my myself in gear too late and missed it.

Though 2pm seemed like an early start for most attendees, the room filled up nicely for the first set of the day. Darko kicked off their anniversary all-dayer by playing Bonsai Mammoth in its entirety (Sarah recently talked to the band about it – check out the interview here). Watching them, for once completely sober and still half asleep, was an experience to remember. With nothing clouding your judgement, you begin to realise how darn good they actually are. Mesmerised by their guitarwork and vocal harmonies, head bopping commenced amongst the crowd. It definitely set me up for a good mood the rest of the day.

Totally new to me, Wild Tales follow them in getting people hooked by some more indie-ish, danceable tunes and good vibes. This new project from members of Trails and Atiptoe are rather different from the rest of the lineup, in a good way. I was sad to see that they don’t have any music online yet, however I’ve been told this bunch from Guildford will have an EP out soon.

The moment I had personally been waiting for finally arrived. The Affect Heuristic, a band consisting of both Belgian and Scottish members, started setting up for their first gig ever. It’s a strange feeling seeing them live for the first time after witnessing the whole writing process happen in my house. It’s safe to say the crowd was blown away by this shredfest, intertwined with Scottish banter and deep lyrics. The tracks Against The Grain, which addresses toxic masculinity, and Tightrope hit especially hard. For those eager to listen, you can check out two demo tracks here. Continue reading “Gig Review: Darko’s Bonsai Mammoth Anniversary Bonanza @ The Boileroom”

Gig Guide: Bands You Need To See In February

February has a landslide of shows to bust you out of your January drought in style!

Article by Sarah Williams.

Thank fuck January is over. The darkest month is always a death note for gigs. People are too busy pretending that they’re going to save money, stop boozing or start dieting, when in reality we’re all cramming our faces with leftover Christmas chocolates and eyeing up the crème de menthe. No wonder it’s the month we’re most likely to off ourselves.

Fortunately, February is absolutely chock-a-block with noisy fun times. I’m double-booked on three of the four weekends and curating my top gigs was a right mission. I hope you all appreciate the effort and, in turn, make the effort to get down to one of these splendid shows.

Now, firstly, some shameless self-promotion. I’m not going to announce a Gig of The Month in February because I’m a tad biased…

Actionmen & PMX UK Tour

  • When: February 1st-4th
  • Where: Manchester, Ipswich, Guildford, Portsmouth
  • Who: Actionmen and PMX are playing with the likes of Darko, Fair Dos, Riggots, Drones and many more.

The first weekend of February sees four gigs from two incredible bands, including one hosted by Shout Louder in Ipswich.

Actionmen are an Italian trio who you’ll rarely catch in the UK. Deciding how to describe them is a bit of a challenge, so you best come check them out for yourselves. Fast-punk, metal, funk, psychadelia, garage, utter craziness? All of these things are good. Apparently ‘post-melodic hardcore’ is a term made up purely for them. You know the general rule that if a band have travelled from mainland Europe to play here it’s always worth seeing them? That rule has never applied more. They’ve been flooring audiences since 2000 and, if you’ve not caught them before, you’d be a fool to miss this opportunity.

PMX are also travelling all the way down from Scotland for four dates in England. If you’ve not heard me bang on about how great they are already, they’re a supremely talented bunch who’ve been peddling skate-punk and melodic hardcore for over 20 years. They’re preparing to release a new album this year and they’ll no doubt play plenty from their recent EP Dark Days. We had an exclusive interview with them last weekend, check it out: Part One and Part Two.

We also interviewed Darko who will be playing our show in Ipswich on February 2nd. They have put together an incredible line up on February 3rd to celebrate the 1 year anniversary of Bonsai Mammoth – definitely a worth the trip:

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If that’s a tad to far for you, you can catch them at any of the following shows:

Continue reading “Gig Guide: Bands You Need To See In February”

Darko: One Year on from Bonsai Mammoth [Interview]

We speak to Rob Piper of Darko / Lockjaw Records about their intentions for 2018 and their sterling album Bonsai Mammoth, ahead of its first anniversary.

Interview by Sarah Williams.

If you have haplessly stumbled across Shout Louder in the past, you may have heard us mention Darko once or twice. They were our Album of The Year 2017, one of the top acts at Punk Rock Holiday and a lot of other shows. Okay, so maybe we’re a little obsessed with them. Shuttup.

We love them enough that we have convinced them to play our birthday party (Feb 2nd at The Smokehouse in Ipswich) as a warm up for their album anniversary party on February 3rd. They are throwing a big shindig at The Boileroom in Guildford to celebrate a year since the release of their incredible melodic hardcore opus Bonsai Mammoth.

Darko have been around for quite a few years and have always struck me as one of the most talented, hardworking and savvy bands in the scene. Their recordings and their live shows are delivered with stark in-the-moment passion, but there’s an intellectual undercurrent that shines in many of their lyrics and their complex compositions.

To get to know them a bit better, I spoke to guitarist Rob Piper, who also looks after the infamous Lockjaw Records, home to some impressive punk and hardcore acts.

It’s nearly a year since you released Bonsai Mammoth. I’m sure I’m not the only one to put it in my top picks of 2017. How have you found the reaction to it?

Well firstly, thanks loads for your support and kind words about the record; it means alot to know people are enjoying the album. This year has flown past. We’ve had a lot of fun touring the new tracks, hearing people’s reactions and seeing people sing or scream along with us.

Darko had been together for a long time before Bonsai Mammoth, so it feels like success has been a slow burn for you. Do you think there was a particular turning point for the band?

For me I think the biggest success with Darko was finding four other members that can put up with each others shit and share the same ‘can do’ attitude to just go for it, unphased by how popular the genre is, just doing it because we love playing our music live. When we first started the band I had no idea we would be touring Japan and touring to Greece and back. Since releasing our very first EP in 2010, we have hit lots of milestones which I would class as successes. I think myself fortunate for the experiences we have shared and hopefully will share in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

Where did the title Bonsai Mammoth come from?

From what I remember, the original phrase was coined on one of the many long van journeys across mainland europe, most probably scooting the autobahn. A plethora of seemingly random phrases and noises are produced from the cabin on these journeys. A lot of it is bollocks but some is thought provoking and meaningful… In some opinions.

With Sea of Trees, Bonsai Mammoth and a lot of the lyrical content in a lot of your songs, there seems to be an underlying nature theme. Is that a deliberate choice? If not, why do you think that theme comes across?

From Trust to Conformity and the Sea of Trees EP both follow a concept which involves nature versus machine, so I’d say it was more intentional in those two records than the full length. Nature is a such an epic spectrum; it encompasses the reasons why we are alive and how we interact with the earth. I think it’s important for all of us in the band to recognise this and, when writing, it makes sense to use nature to help describe scenes and relay emotions with metaphors. I think each of our personal ecosystems can be compared to the planet and being aware to treat ourselves with respect, as we need to do to the world, to try and avoid the heavy pressures causing poor health. Continue reading “Darko: One Year on from Bonsai Mammoth [Interview]”

Top 5 Punk Gigs of 2017

Shout Louder’s favourite gigs of 2017.

Article by Sarah Williams.

This was an unbelievably tough call. I’ve been to more gigs this year than I ever have before, and the vast majority of them have been worth shouting about. It’d probably be easier to do Top 5 Worst Gigs.

Strangely, some of the best gigs I’ve seen haven’t been punk at all. I spent a lot of this year working at The Smokehouse, a DIY music venue in Ipswich, so I’ve attended a lot of shows that I wouldn’t normally give time to. Easily my most memorable gig this year was Rich Quick, a fast lyrical MC from Philadelphia. The night was quite poorly attended, which meant that those of us behind the bar could actually go and enjoy the performance. Rich spent the whole set roaming through the crowd, rapping straight in our faces and handing out prints of his artwork. It was really unique, intimate and one that I’ll be telling people about in years to come.

Two of my other favourite shows (that didn’t make the cut) were Run The Jewels at the Albert Hall in Manchester, and the Youngblood Brass Band at Islington Assembly Hall in London. Although both performances were incredible, energetic and extremely memorable in their own right, it was the venues that really set these two gigs apart. The Albert Hall is a restored Wesleyan chapel with wood panels, stained glass windows and a huge pipe organ that was a quirky contrast to RTJ’s emblematic fist-and-gun stage display. Islington Assembly Hall is a Grade 2 listed hall full of 1930s art deco features, including a sprung wood floor that made it so much fun to dance around to the band.

But, after much deliberation, I managed to select these five shows as my top gigs of the year:

#5: Descendents @ Kentish Town Forum, London

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This gig would have been higher up my list if it weren’t for the support acts. Without being disrespectful of The Kenneths and Abrasive Wheels (who are both good in their own right), when you’re paying £35 a ticket you expect to see bands closer to the genre and calibre of Descendents. As such the evening felt a bit disconnected.

That being said, Descendents turned up and put on an unbelievable show. Opening with Everything Sux, they charged through 32 hits back-to-back, including not one but two encores. I’ve never seen a crowd demand two encores before, but it was absolutely warranted in this case. They’re as tight and accomplished as you would expect of a band their size. There wan’t a single moment in the set that I didn’t really enjoy.

Check out our review of the gig here.

 

#4: Kick The Crutches All-Dayer @ The New Cross Inn

As far as I’m concerned, this gig is what DIY punk is all about. £5 for 12 bands. A brilliant venue in London. Record label distros. A relaxed atmosphere and a line-up that didn’t stop. It was a completely accessible day of music in London.

Better-known acts like The Kimberly Steaks and Pizzatramp (and Vanilla Pod, although they had to pull out last-minute) are worth going to see on their own, so as part of an all-dayer they’re a fantastic excuse to rock up and check out some band you’re less familiar with. My biggest take-away from the day was Bristolian act Neitzsche Trigger Finger, easily one of the strangest and most entrancing I’ve seen all year. I also got to catch Fastfade, Strange Planes and On A Hiding To Nothing for the first time, and completely loved all of them. It was also a treat to catch Mug, Misgivings and Werecats, all of whom are consistently great. In short, the standard was held extremely high for over ten hours of fast-punk frivolity. Continue reading “Top 5 Punk Gigs of 2017”