From its humble beginnings at Sound Control in 2015, Manchester Punk Festival has blossomed into a truly international affair, with accents from across Europe and beyond audible on stage and in the pit. In the words of one famous Mancunian: “It’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at.” Still though, local representation matters. In the first of a two-part preview, Chris Adams speaks to the Greater Manchester bands planning to welcome you to their city very loudly indeed at MPF2024.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock since 2016, the evolution of goth-grunge quartet Witch Fever won’t have escaped your notice. Preparing for their third MPF appearance – and their biggest slot yet – vocalist Amy Walpole is excited: “It’s cool because there’s loads of bands in underground scenes that you don’t often see in the same place. We also love it because it’s on our doorstep, so it’s not hours in a sweaty tour van,” she says. The group, who met in Manchester after moving to the city for university, put out their blistering debut album Congregation in 2022 and promise a set that’s “cathartic, powerful, and vulnerable”. As for the pressure of a hometown show? “It’s way scarier playing to a room full of people you’ve met and know rather than a room full of strangers,” confesses Amy.
Hailing from Urmston and Bolton, Supera Morza are braced for their MPF debut. Another band at the grungier end of the spectrum, guitarist Finn James Joseph says playing the festival feels like a milestone moment for the young four-piece: “As we started to gig more and more through 2023 we’ve talked more about it and it’s always been on our list. We’re so excited to jump on the bill for 2024. Not only will a lot of our mates be there, but we’re looking forward to meeting even more new people who keep the punk scene alive in Manchester.” With just a solitary EP and a string of singles to their name (check out Past Vibration), what can the uninitiated expect? “A balls-to-the-wall assault on the senses,” says Finn. That’ll do nicely.
Follow Your Dreams, who play technical hardcore with a political streak, are rather more familiar with the festival, boasting three previous sets and even one of the organising crew in frontwoman Kaz Hinsley. “It can be tiring,” admits Kaz, who sorts out merch and volunteers. “It’s nice to escape for a little bit of respite to set up and play. It’s so much fun though doing both and it’s an amazing feeling walking around the festival and seeing everyone having a great time.” Guitarist Tom Houseman also makes the very salient point that MPF is… confusing. Why? “Because it’s almost always blazing sunshine, which makes it not feel like Manchester at all,” he clarifies. Bucket hats and shades at the ready for a band that’s “loud, in your face, and crazy sweaty”.
Another band that can jump on the tram into town are Bury/Prestwich upstarts Novacane. A throwback to 90s post-hardcore and alt-rock, their mission is a simple one. “We want to impress,” says drummer Aston Minta. “We’ve never played MPF before so we’re massively excited. A lot of our favourite bands are playing and a few people we know have played before so we’re really grateful for the opportunity.” They only released their debut single Drive in September, but the teenagers are growing in confidence with every show. “I’d say this one there’s a bit of pressure,” Aston adds. “We really want to leave a stamp and make sure we give everyone a good time.”
The shy and retiring Grotbags, emerging from the comfort of their “massive mansions” in Levenshulme, Oldham, Ashton, and Littleborough, are another band playing MPF for the first time. “After years of desperately pleading with us to play, we have finally agreed to make time from our busy schedule to play, for an undisclosed fee. MPF are incredibly lucky to have the greatest band in the world, Grotbags, headlining this year,” said a spokesperson with a tongue planted firmly in their cheek. Having supported the likes of Martha and Chris Farren, their idiosyncratic pop-rock can be humorous, catchy, and baffling all at the same time. “The Grotbags live spectacle passes with distinction in all merits, more of a full body experience than a bog standard rock show,” they brag. And who are we to argue with them?
Blagged (formerly The Mustard) have changed their name just in time for the final poster run. Drawing members from Wigan, Warrington and Darwen (ok we can’t really claim the latter two), they killed it with a late-night slot at Rebellion last year and they’re eager for more. “This will be my fourth personal performance here and I’m as excited as the first. We all are!” says drummer Graham Aspinall. “The vibe of the entire weekend is brilliant. It’s literally hanging out with friends all day/night who have come far and wide to be there. Then go on stage at your allocated time. Play your shit. Then hang out with friends again.” Last year’s Make A Move EP was a classy slice of modern, melodic punk rock. With a short European tour under their belt last autumn, Graham says the live show can be summed up in one word: “Mirth.”
Finally, Taurine (formerly Floor 4) are another band from the rich met-in-Manchester tradition. “We have a 50:50 split of northerners and southerners which is… fun,” says guitarist Jack. “We’ve never played MPF before, I think this is actually our first proper festival. We’ve had it in our sights for ages as one of those big festivals that give grassroots bands a chance.” With a focus on gender identity and queer politics, there’s an undeniable energy about the quartet. And with their stickers plastered in the toilets of bars across the city, word is spreading. “Nothing beats a room full of your mates bouncing around together and an early night in your own bed,” concedes Jack. “We’re loud, chaotic and full of silly guitar noises.”
Check back in a couple of weeks for part two…
Pick up your MPF2024 ticket here.