[Interview] Level Up Festival: Ska-punk is Alive and Skanking in South London

We had an in-depth chat with the collective of promoters working on the UK’s best ska-punk festival.

Interview by Sarah Williams.

Now in its second year, London’s Level Up Festival is proof that ska-punk certainly ain’t dead. Last year was a sold out skankstravanganza, but 2018’s line-up is even more exceptional, featuring the likes of Random Hand and Lightyear as headliners. In terms of DIY-level festivals, this by far the biggest and best ska-oriented event, taking place at New Cross Inn on July 20th – 22nd.

The event is an unusual collaboration between three promoters, bringing three distinct tastes to their bookings. Paul and Mike Smith who run Be Sharp are London based, with Paul spending his days as the Events Manager at the up-and-coming New Cross Inn. Chris Fishlock runs Bristol-based Fishlock Promotions, known for booking DIY all-dayers, including the well-known Fishstock event. Finally, Jason Berden brings his influence all the way from Belgium, where he also books the incredible El Topo Goes Loco Festival. We spoke to all of them, to get an in-depth insight into Level Up Festival.

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L-R: Paul Smith, Jason Berden, Chris Fishlock, Mike Smith

Level Up festival is looking incredible this year! Tell us what we can expect.

  • Paul: Some of the best bands in the world and happy faces. Last year was one of the most positive events I’ve been involved with, and that’s mostly down to everyone that travels from all over, purely to have a great time. The floor will be fine too.
  • Jason: Some old legends, such as Lightyear or Random Hand, making their return, as well as some of the best upcoming bands of the UK ska scene. I also added my fellow Belgians in Koala Commission to the Saturday bill, to show our island friends that the mainland scene is as strong as ever before!

Continue reading “[Interview] Level Up Festival: Ska-punk is Alive and Skanking in South London”

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”

Shout Louder Podcast #4: Manchester Punk Festival Special

Mark and Sarah discuss all things MPF 2018 including insider tips and line-up clashes, plus we announce the Wotsit Called Fest headliner!

We are so excited to share Podcast #4 with you! This is our favourite one so far; we just hope you love it as much as we do. You can listen on iTunes, Soundcloud and many other podcatchers, or on the link below.

Recorded in the extremely silly, hungover aftermath of Dugstock Festival Mark and Sarah discuss all things Manchester Punk Festival in detail. We pick through the whole line-up, talk about the festival’s history and give you insider tips on surviving the weekend. Even if you’re not attending the festival, it’s worth a listen to hear some fantastic punk tunes and to laugh at how tired we are.

Stay tuned till the end as we will also be proudly announcing the Friday night headliner of Wotsit Called Festival. Wotsit Called was one of our top festivals of 2017 and it’s growing even bigger this year. It takes place on the last weekend of September at The Palace in Hastings – you can book tickets here. We can’t wait to tell you who they’ve booked!

The podcast is available on iTunes (here) and all other good podcatchers, or you can listen to it right now:

These are the songs we play:

Continue reading “Shout Louder Podcast #4: Manchester Punk Festival Special”

Lightyear Interview: “You’re Either There Or You’re Not”

An in-depth interview with Chas Palmer-Williams of 90’s ska-punk heroes, Lightyear.

Article by Sarah Williams. Photos by Piano Slug.

Lightyear are a band who need no introduction. They are infamous on the UK ska punk scene, known for their live antics (see: pantomime horses, morris dancing, gratuitous nudity), off-beat referential lyrics and multiple ‘last ever shows’. 2018 marks a huge milestone year in their career. Now permanently reformed, Lightyear are headlining Manchester Punk Festival plus Level Up festival and fitting in a handful of club shows, however their big news is that they’re crowdfunding to create a documentary telling the story of the UK 90’s punk scene.

This Music Doesn’t Belong To You aims to document the un-documented years when UK’s 2nd wave of punk exploded in the late 90s. As Lightyear put it, “It was a golden era of innocence, passion and debauchery,” which has so far gone unrecorded. At the time of writing, This Music Doesn’t Belong To You has just reached 100% funding, after a long pledge campaign. You can still visit Pledge Music to buy the film and assist with funding.

We had an in-depth conversation with singer Chas Palmer-Williams about the documentary, the development of the underground music scene and what we can expect in the future of Lightyear.

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Welcome back! What took you so long?

Life got in the way. We’ve all become (believe it or not) adult, with kids and stuff. We decided we really wanted to hang out again and make new music. We always felt like we had a third album in us; the second album wasn’t quite the end. We’re writing again and seeing how it comes out, and hopefully we’ll do another album. We’re back on it!

It’s great to hear you’re writing new music! Was it tempting just to turn up and play the hits?

For me personally there’s nothing worse than an old band who are just playing the old hits and not writing new music. If you play a song that you wrote when you were 18 about breaking up with someone and then you keep on playing it without writing anything new to put it into context, then it feels really weird. It’s almost like writing a book but you keep reading the first chapter and there’s no end chapter.

You’ve permanently reformed! ‘Permanent’ is a big word. Do you think you’ll still be playing together when you’re in a nursing home?

I don’t know if I want to be in a nursing home with Neil because he’s a weirdo.

I don’t want to be that band that just stands there blurting out the hits for the sake of doing it. I want to be able to jump around and mean what I say, express it and let loose. We’re pretty shit anyway, but when we get shitter we’d just knock it on the head, but we won’t make a big announcement.

Of course, you did make a big announcement back in the day.

When we were younger we were married to the band, it was everything. We were rehearsing 2-3 times a week, doing nearly 300 shows a year. It took priority over weddings and funerals – someone would die and we’d keep on touring. It was unquestionable dedication and then when that stopped it was this huge vacuum in my life. All of a sudden there was nothing. That totally span me out and I ended up living in a squat in Amsterdam; it went all mad for a while. The big statements and ultimatums all seem a bit dramatic now that we’re older.

Continue reading “Lightyear Interview: “You’re Either There Or You’re Not””

Gig Review: Lightyear’s 20 Year Anniversary Tour [21/10/2017]

Ska-punk legends Lightyear make their triumphant return to London stages in a whirlwind of friends, fun and nostalgia.

Review by Sarah. Photos by Piano Slug/Luke.

Tonight is an incredibly special night for many ska-punk fans across the South East. We’ve been talking about this gig for months. Ever since “mildly successful 90’s ska-punk band” Lightyear announced that they would be returning for good, the anticipation has been building for London’s 20 year anniversary reunion show.

As tradition dictates, I begin the evening in the Wetherspoons round the corner from The Garage. Within a minute I start bumping into far-flung mates who’ve all united for the excitement of a Lightyear revival. Everyone’s discussing which ‘last ever Lightyear gig’ they attended; most of us having seen two or three ‘final’ tours from the band. Some of us made it to 2015’s Slam Dunk sets, but almost all of us were at the 2012 gig at Islington Academy. Having formed in 1997, Lightyear released two albums before breaking up, playing their first ‘last ever show’ on 26th September 2003. Since then they’ve done at least four ‘last ever’ gigs/tours in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012 and 2015. It’s my firm belief that Lightyear will never really get sick of giving all of us a good time, and it’s heartening to see that they’re reforming ‘permanently’. My only concern is whether the gig will live up to our lofty expectations.

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Local boys, Eat The Evidence are a good wake-up band for the early doors crowd. They take all the worst elements of ska-punk and and somehow make them fun. In my mate’s words, just as they’re setting up on stage, “He’s about to rap, isn’t he? Oh god.” The sighting of an accordion in a ska band is also an immediate red flag, but it turns out to be jumpy, bouncy fun, with things looking up later in the set when the accordion gets switched out for a guitar and a ukelele.

Eat The Evidence apparently approached Lightyear after one of their ‘last ever gigs’ and made them promise to book them as support if they ever reformed. When the new tour was announced they made sure to call that favour in. Never before have I seen a band so excited to be playing a show – their singer is literally buzzing, decked out in an old Call of the Weasel Clan-era t-shirt and blabbering about how they’d even all bought tickets for the gig before they were booked. It’s endearing. Continue reading “Gig Review: Lightyear’s 20 Year Anniversary Tour [21/10/2017]”

Gig Guide: October’s Unmissable Shows

We’ve done the hard work for you, and found all of October’s best gigs. Remember: sleep is overrated.

September’s been an eventful month. We received the sad news that Grant Hart of Hüsker Dü, funk and soul legend Charles Bradley and Matt Bellinger of Planes Mistaken for Stars have all passed away. Pennywise got through all of IT without playing Bro-Hymn. Iron Chic keep teasing us with new tunes. And Propagandhi just released their new album Victory Lap.

I bought 30-odd new CDs that I somehow need to make time to listen to, and now I’m faced with the dilemma of having to delete something off my iPod to make room for new tunes. On top of that, I’ve gained about 8 new band t-shirts and have run out of wardrobe space. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right?

There is a lot to be excited about in October. Here are my top picks:

Gig of the Month: Punkle Fester

  • When: Saturday 14th October
  • Where: Talking Heads, Southampton
  • Who: Darko, Fair Dos, PMX, Almeida, Grand Collapse, Captain Trips, Müg, Misgivings, On A Hiding to Nothing, Screech Bats, Sombulance, The Bitter-town Hounds, The SLM
  • Event page HERE / Tickets £10 advance, £12 OTD

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Love skate-punk? Of course you love skate-punk. Not only does this all-dayer have the most inventive name of all time, it has the best UK skate-punk lineup you could possibly imagine, with plenty of variety throughout the day to keep you on your toes.

It’s worth arriving early for some zombie/dinosaur/shark-infested fast-punk from The SLM and I’m eager to catch Sombulance again after a lively performance at Punk Rock Holiday, especially now I’ve had enough time to learn all the words on their new EP Lifer. Portsmouth 4-piece Misgivings are unmissable if you’re into gruff. I’m still reeling from Müg‘s awesome set in London last weekend: they’re a high-quality and highly underrated bunch.

Southcoast skatepunks Captain Trips are hosting the festival – I’ve never seen them before and I’m silly excited about it, having had their new single on repeat for a month or so. Following them are Grand Collapse playing overwhelmingly frantic hardcore thrash (more on them below).

I’ve never seen a band with the ability to leave an audience gaping in awe quite like Almeida do; their style of progressive-thrash is a technical marvel. I’m sure PMX will make a fair attempt at out-doing them, though. The Scottish act have the melodies to get a crowd on side and the technical ability to floor them. The penultimate band are Manchester’s premier heavy skatepunk act, Fair Do’s: bound to be melodic, aggressive and full of those widdly-widdly guitar bits that make you pull faces and wiggle your fingers around (don’t judge me, we all do it).

Finally, Lockjaw heavyweights Darko are closing the show. Hardcore skatepunk doesn’t begin to cover it – their songs are fast, intricate and unimaginably catchy. No doubt they’ll play plenty of tunes from their latest masterpiece Bonsai Mammoth, and they’ll probably have us weeping with joy. Or spilling pints on ourselves in a wall of death. Either’s fine by me.

Continue reading “Gig Guide: October’s Unmissable Shows”