Live Reviews

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Manchester Punk Festival 2023

Easter weekend; commonly known for stuffing our faces full of chocolate and spending time with family. In Manchester, this weekend is for the alternatives of society coming together and bringing chaos to the city. Spread across 7 different venues with over 140 bands, Manchester Punk Festival is here for the win. With acts such as Off With Their Heads, The Flatliners, Wonk Unit and many more, this sunny weekend was set out to be a belter.


As we make our way over the moors into the city of Manchester, the highly anticipated sun finally breaks through the crowds. This was definitely t-shirt weather and we couldn’t wait. Rocking up to the first venue of the day, The Union, ska punk rockers: Faintest Idea, bring all the energy with everyone in the crowd jumping around. This band was something like no other, heavy punk guitar riffs and angry vocals all mixed with the use of perfect percussion was an interestingly, unique surprise. The place was filled with more mohawks than we’ve ever seen. From studded leather jackets and patched ripped jeans to dungarees and bucket hats, this truly was a varied mix of people. As fan favourites House Of Cards and Nose Dive bellowed through the speakers, pints of beer went flying up in the air whilst the dads at the back started their own six-man mosh pit. You know it’s going wild when a fellow ginger is going mental in the crowd. The Norfolk septet put on an incredible show, you could feel the love between each band member as they bounced around the stage with nothing but a smile on their faces. A great start to the day. 7/10

Still here in The Union, up next are English punk rock band, Petrol Girls. The second they hit the stage, lead singer, Ren Aldridge instructed all the women to get to the front as this was a show, especially for them. The fans seemed very pleased when Clowns, a hit off their recent album, began to play. Halfway through the set, we were treated to a little Aldridge Ted Talk about gender; how the band (in their own words) “demand universal basic income”, “safe housing for women who have nowhere to go”, “funding for immigrants” and “the most important demand being that any men, cis-gender men, always challenge misogyny”. They then went on to play Fight For Our Lives; a song about ownership, power and control. “You don’t own us”, Aldridge screams as the fans cheer with their hands in the air. “Make our bodies our own”. A statement said tonight that will stay with us forever. An eclectic set, filled with energy. We would 100% recommend seeing them live. 7/10

We’re off over to The Bread Shed now to dive straight into Burning Flag’s thundering set. From the depths of the old mill towns of Northern England, these hardcore punks are here to put on a proper good show. Now, this is my type of music, good old scathing riffs and dirty breakdowns, this band deserved a way bigger crowd than the amount here tonight. But you know the saying, quality over quantity and the fans sure made up for it by moshing the heck out of The Bread Shed. With it being our first time in this venue, realising there was no barrier made the whole experience much more intimate. The crowd went wild for the last song of their set, head-banging themselves into oblivion. We enjoyed it, the band enjoyed it. What more could you ask for? 8/10

We are still here in The Bread Shed, patiently waiting for the next band of the night. Manchester’s own punks, Going Off, soon take to the stage. “Manchester Punk Festival, how we feeling tonight” screams lead vocalist, Jake Huxley. The crowd goes wild. We had a feeling that this gig was about to be THE gig of the night. The vibes were immaculate as Huxley hypes up the crowd with his super fast, aggressive vocals. “Is everyone having a good time?” Yes, we absolutely are. The crowd surfers are surfing, the moshers are moshing and everyone is having a good time. The band’s lyrical theme is often politically charged, writing about the things that are worth shouting about. The intensely energetic performance continued as the circle pits began to form. Huxley’s face lit up at the sight of a bunch of sweaty lads all pushing and shoving each other. Oh, how we love metalheads. Going Off is a band to be seen and a band to be heard. Best gig of the night. 10/10

Hurrying back over to The Union, we managed to catch a glimpse of punk rockers, Off with Their Heads. Hailing from Minneapolis, USA, it was great having a change from our typical British Punk. The crowd was the biggest we’ve seen today with everyone singing along to every song. Playing hits from their most popular album Be Good, this crowd was loving every minute. Halfway in, lead vocalist takes a minute to thank everyone for being here and to show their appreciation for the other bands, “Huge shoutout to the Petrol Girls and to The Beltones” to which everyone cheered. The atmosphere was amazing with crowd surfers popping up one after another. There were some true, dedicated OWTH fans out there tonight. Overall, a great show from the Minneapolis monsters. 7/10

Finally, we are back in The Bread Shed for the last band of the night and it is definitely one for the punk books. Old school punks, The Restarts formed back in the 90s, hammer their way through the night performing hardcore hits for an hour straight. With this being the longest set, we had some doubts on how they would keep our attention. Well, how wrong were we? The floor was shaking for the whole sixty minutes with no one stopping for a rest. This set transported us to how we would imagine an underground 70s punk gig would be. It was amazing. “I love this venue. Such a warm, family atmosphere. Support your local venues” shouted lead singer, Robin Licker, “We need to fight the society that’s pulling us backwards. We love punks. We like to think that punk is unique, we’re all equal and the way we dress shows it”. The crowd roared with approval as they dived into a clear fan favourite, Outsider. As the show comes to an end, Licker speaks up again about mental health, “Keep an eye out for each other. The pandemic was tough. Send them a text.” Definitely words to stand by. What an awesome gig to remember. 9/10


And we are back in the beautiful city of Manchester for the second day of MPF and kicking off the afternoon is fast, hardcore, political punks, Jodie Faster. Being the first band up for the day, this crowd was a tough one to warm up but the energy soon built and the mosh pits soon formed. Better late than never! “We are Jodie Faster, it’s great to be here” lead singer shouted as the fans cheered. There were good vibes all around for this set as both the crowd and the band were bouncing around as pints were spilling everywhere. The highlight of the show was just how much time the lead singer spent speaking to the audience, talking to us on a personal note, “I lost a friend recently and it triggered a lot of thinking. Life is short, tell people you love them. Here’s to rock n roll”. What a great set by great people. 7/10

After a quick food break, we are now down at Gorilla, waiting for the second band to take the stage. Walking in, we managed to catch the last few songs of Throwing Stuff’s set and they were amazing. Even though they weren’t on my “must-see list”, adding them to the review only feels right. As it came to their last song, the lead singer jumped off the stage, into the crowd and surfed all the way to the back of the room. Once back on stage, he gave a spare microphone to a member of the audience to which they ended the night in a romantic metal duet. Awesome guys, wish we could’ve seen more. 8/10

Now, the band we are here to see finally jumps onto the stage almost 15 minutes early. We have to say, the best thing about MPF is getting the opportunity to see all the bands do a sound check right in front of you. The things being shouted down that microphone would not be allowed in this review! Diving straight into a monster of a track, the room was electric from start to end. All the way from Paris, France, we were treated to a proper French frenzy by punk rockers, Youth Avoiders. Never have we ever seen someone jump as high as the lead singer, repeatedly one after another. A small break was taken to show gratitude, “Thank you for having us here. Cheers to you and cheers to Jodie Faster, our good friends”. Everyone raised their pints in the air, cheering, unknowingly covering themselves in beer. The best moment of the set was when a member of the audience jumped up on stage, sang with the band and then proceeded to jump into the crowd. Truly epic. 7/10

Quickly running up to The Bread Shed, (definitely our favourite venue), trying not to miss the next band, we get there with minutes to spare. Up on the stage is British anarcho-punks, Zero Again. After posing on the stage for the photographers below, the lead vocalist jumps off and straight into the pit to perform their first song. The vibes were immaculate with everyone hyping each other up. As the song came to an end, he got back up on stage, soon to be beckoned by the crowd to come back down and sure enough, he did. Not just for another song or two but for the whole duration of their set. It was insane. At first, the fans were so respectful of him, giving him enough space to move about but the lead singer didn’t want nice and respectful, he wanted a brutal, back-breaking mosh pit. So that is exactly what he got. An extremely energetic performance. 8/10

Still in The Bread Shed, we are waiting for the next band and by the looks of it, they were a band worth waiting for. The room was packed to the brim with fans all waiting to see Snuff. This has to be the busiest gig yet! Again, we got to witness the soundcheck. The to-ing and fro-ing of “wehays” and “woohoos” between the band and the crowd was a full performance in itself. But soon enough, the punks got down to business. Everyone in the crowd was jumping up and down, banging their heads and well, banging into each other. “Who’s having a good day then?” screams lead singer as everyone cheers back. “Shoutout to the sound techs, wouldn’t be here without em”. The man sitting behind the sound desk definitely appreciated that one. Halfway through the set, a guy from the crowd appeared out of nowhere on the stage and jumped into the audience to crowd surf. It wasn’t until we left, we saw the queue of people outside anxiously waiting to get inside but the venue was at max capacity and we’re not surprised at all. 7/10

As we’re approaching The Union, we are met by crowds of people all here to see one of the main acts of the weekend, The Flatliners. We are soon inside and the bands kicking things off with endless classics. The audience was singing along that loud, the band themselves may as well have been a backing track. Everyone was loving it. “Manchester how are we feeling? We’re The Flatliners from Canada and it’s so great to be back!” Playing hits from their 2010 album Cavalcade mixed with songs from their most recently released album New Ruinwe had people up on shoulders, arms swaying in the air and crowd surfers floating over us all. It was the pure epitome of a festival gig. 7/10

Back over the road to The Bread Shed for the final gig of the night, little did we know just how good this band was about to be. American hardcore punks, Death By Stereo, hailing from Orange County, California are here to put on THE show of the weekend. “Every person standing in this room right now is the reason this scene will never die. Together we are never-ending” screamed lead vocalist, Efrem Schulz. The crowd went wild and the mosh pit was brutal. Definitely the most chaotic gig we have been to by far. “This next song is about a serious addiction that is taking over our country, and that addiction is called guns. They love guns more than they love their own mothers. This song is called Free Guns With Purchase”. Well, everyone completely lost their minds. This was the song of the night. With gnarly breakdowns and transcendent riffs, these guys knew exactly how to put on a show. As each band member jumped around the stage in sync, crowd surfers were coming from all angles. Halfway through their set, all three guitarists came off the stage, made their way to the bar and took a “dirty shot” (a mixture of whatever is left in the beer mat – yuck). Whilst still playing the songs, they then headed into the moshing ground and demanded a circle pit. As the band come to the last song of the set, we have a heart-to-heart moment with Schulz, “I’m so happy to be here right now. I sold my soul to punk. I give my life to you. So now scream as loud as you can for as long as you can” and he proceeded to throw a full bottle of water over the crowd. Poor photographers. But sure enough, the fans screamed their hearts out and battered each other at the same time. Chanting for another song, the band finally gave in and performed one more hit, Entombed We Collide. What an amazing song to end the night. “Peace out. One love. Up the punks” 10/10


So the last day of MPF is sadly here and we re in The Union for the last time ready and waiting for the first band of the day, Cheerbleederz. Only a few minutes before the start of the set and the venue empty, waiting to be filled, a man walks in with his daughter who must’ve been no more than two years old. She began running around the room, stomping her feet and dancing. Definitely a little mosh-pitter in the making. 2pm arrived and the three-piece, indie London rockers are here to bring the energy. “This is our first show in the UK this year” singer Sophie shouts to the crowd. “And if any of the lyrics are different, it’s because I like to switch them up to annoy Kathryn” to which the audience laughed. Playing songs from their recent album Even in Jest, everyone was showing off their moves on the dance floor. The girls seemed happy that there was a good turnout of fans, “It’s so cool that there are so many people here so early” with big smiles on their faces. A great start to the day. 7/10

After a quick break and a little drink in the pub, we are now heading over to The Bread Shed to see the iconic, 7-piece ska punk band, Fidget and The Twitchers. Following the chat we had with the band yesterday, it’s safe to say we were very excited to see them in action. Taking to the stage, we have one band member missing but that certainly didn’t affect their awesome performance. “This is our first time playing in the North” lead singer Danny shouted to the crowd, as we cheered them on with excitement. This music is definitely music to bounce to, to dance to, to sing to but to mosh to? Absolutely. There’s one guy in particular going wild in the pit as this beautiful mixture of instruments creates the perfect feeling of utopia. “We really appreciate you all coming down on a Sunday. Shoutout to Boom Boom Racoon who were awesome yesterday”. The crowd certainly agreed as the room erupted with cheers of approval. One guy with an awesome neon green mullet appeared above the crowd, surfing backwards and forwards with the biggest smile on his face. The band were going that mental, Danny even lost a guitar string halfway through one of their songs, “I’m now a five-string bass player”. Ben, the actual bass player, did not look impressed. With the set coming to an end, Danny managed to fulfil his “lifelong dream” of crowd surfing – whilst playing the guitar. “Thank you so much MPF, this has been amazing. I love you all”. We love you too Fidget10/10

Down in Gorilla, British indie rockers, Me Rex switch it up with their talent for writing songs that give you all the feels. One minute you’re up and dancing about and the next you’ve got goosebumps singing along to lyrics that hit home. Whilst listening to lead singers, Miles and Rich, the way they can harmonise together is truly beautiful; as though their voices were made for one another. “Someone said that punks can’t keep secrets, but I need you to keep these next songs to yourselves”. The crowd soon perked up, eager to know what would be played next and sure enough, Me Rex gave us an exclusive performance of two unreleased songs. Every single person in the room was clapping along, the atmosphere was amazing. “Big up Cheerbleederz”, to which everyone cheered. It’s really nice to see bands appreciate other bands. With their set coming to a close, “the party is never over, it goes on until you die” is screamed down the microphone as they dive into the last song of the night. Great vibes all around. 7/10

We are back up at The Bread Shed now, just in time to catch the one and only, Ithaca. We had heard good things about this band and they definitely delivered. It was amazing to finally see a female screamer this weekend and Djamila absolutely smashed it. The guitarists brought the house down with their unbelievable talent; annihilating riffs and hardcore breakdowns, what more could you need? Ithaca is here to show who’s boss. “When I say to boogie. You boogie. And boogie actually means pushing and shoving each other”. Well, let’s just say, everyone did indeed “boogie”. Before you could say the word punk, the room split into two and the biggest pit we’ve ever seen appeared right in front of us. We may or may not have taken a few steps back. But it went off in The Bread Shed tonight. If there isn’t a broken ankle by 11 pm, MPF has been unsuccessful. “Thank you so much we really appreciate your energy and remember, trauma does not define you. You can heal”. Truly amazing words from an amazing band. 8/10

Four bands down, only two to go, The Bread Shed is home for the rest of the evening with no complaints at all. Next up is our photographer’s favourite, Discharge. Formed back in the 70s, this incredible quintet know exactly how to put on a show for the hardcore metal heads out there. They played some old stuff, and some new stuff; there was a song for everyone and the crowd absolutely loved it. “MPF have you had a good weekend”, the room erupted. “We are Discharge. Happy Easter, this one’s called The Nightmare Continues”. It was going wild in the mosh pits tonight. Absolute carnage. Most fans are definitely coming out battered and bruised. With the grinding, distorted guitar riffs mixed with the raw, visceral vocals, it’s clear to see how this band has influenced others within the industry. We’re talking Anthrax, Metallica, Machine Head and so many metal titans all shaped by a little band from Stoke-on-Trent. How insane. Jeff Janiak, (lead vocalist) darts about the stage, feeding off the crowd’s energy and vice versa. An incredible show leaving the audience hungry for more. 9/10

Here we are, last but certainly not least, the final band of Manchester Punk Festival. We have been waiting three whole days to see this infamous duo take the stage (certainly an unusual one for them) and the moment is finally here. Now, these guys are not your typical band. Unlike others, they don’t need a stage to perform. Wherever they pull up and whip out their equipment, is their stage. That’s right, I’m talking about the iconic street performers, Glitchers. Straight off the bat, we’ve got lead singer and guitarist, Jake, running across the stage that much he needs two microphones, one at either end. You’ve got the drummer, Sophie, who appears to be playing with her eyes closed (how is that possible) and finally, you have the mosh pits and boy, were they gnarly. We have seen plenty of pits but this one takes the biscuit. We were truly scared of what was going off in there. As the night went on, Jake was another lead singer who managed to fulfil his dream of crowd surfing whilst playing the guitar and he looked pretty awesome doing it. Sophie spoke up about how she was “dedicating this song to the women who love going to gigs but don’t like being touched by men”. Everyone in the room cheered extra loudly for that one. And of course, they brought out their classic megaphone for the last song of the night Fuck The Tories to which every single person in the room went ballistic. For two people who don’t normally play in venues, they sure brought the roof down. 10/10

And that’s a wrap on MPF 2023.

Written By: Sian Connolly

Photo Credit: Andy Davies

Photo gallery features: Bruise Control, Faintest Idea, Petrol Girls, Burning Flag, Going Off, The Beltones, The Restarts, Off With Their Heads, Jodie Faster, Casual Nausea, Youth Avoiders, Zero Again, Snuff, Death By Stereo, The Flatliners, Cheerbleederz, Fidget and The Twitchers, Me Rex, Ithaca, and Discharge