Strummercamp is back after a rest year last year, following its tenth year. Now settled firmly at Manchester Rugby Club, the layout is a little different to past years. Over time there were new tents additions, an outdoor 'open to the elements' stage (all of Strummercamp is indoors, set up for the classic Manchester weather), acoustic tent, dance tent.
This year the organizer has decided upon one tent with split stages inside. The main stage with it's now trademark camouflage ceiling is to the left of the huge marquee, and the faithful local TNS Records is to the right. The entrance where is it does allow a draft in, but this is from a yellow weather warning (which thankfully only really gave a few showers). The merch tent is cleverly stuck out of the opposite side of the tent, utilising al the space they can. I like the new design: I can stand in the middle and watch most of the bands!
The Clubhouse now hosts the opening night and poetry, more bands and the art shows, plus the late night disco. After the late night dancing on the Friday the room is transformed into a haven of tables, tablecloths, candles and chairs where you can take a load off, and there's free crisps and sweets galore. The festival has clamped down on bringing your own booze in, but the prices are still pub prices, around £3.50 for a pint. Very reasonable. There's cricket happening outside if that's your thing, football on the TV and some Manchester Run folks practicing for Sundays race.
Food is available from in the clubhouse for breakfast, outdoors for lunch and indoors for tea. There's limited choice but the choices are good... breakfast barms (sarnies, butties, sandwiches, all the same), paninnis, chili and rice, vegetarian chili, chips, vegan paninnis and burgers, strawberries and cream and cake. Lots of cake. The average price for all these are around £3. Festival chow bargains.
Friday all the music is focused inside the Clubhouse, with the Crash Mats opening the event. Attila The Stockbroker has a few of his brilliantly blunt poems for us. This is followed by The Hurriers and Bexatron. Klonk and Ruff Trade finish the night off for live music, then its punk DJ until the wee hours.
Saturday sees the main stage open up, and the art show take over the Clubhouse next to the New Shangra La stage. The Art show features some Strummercamp regulars like Paul Hannah, Michelle Fitzpatrick, David Worth and Dr Victor Freakinstyle. New artists are Kelly Boyle, Craig Mumberson, Sam Greenwood, Joey Mustanski, Tony Shaw, Scarlet Tentacles, Rich Gulag and Roughneck Riots' Matty Humphries.
Cathy Crabb is the first poet we see on this stage, and she is hilarious. Short poems with attitude, a memorable one being about IBS and shitting yourself n Primark. Laura Taylor is the next poet, and she is indeed intense, and recommended by Attila himself, and has a more blunt approach about HRT costing double prescription costs and 'Bloody Mary', well I'll leave that content to your imagination. Sandwiched between these two greats are a young local band called Fro, who are amazing for their age, with a singing drummer, that alone a feat.
Paper Wings, an unplugged group of youngsters play stirring folk punk to open up the TNS stage. They are also the first band I have seen use spatulas to play a cajon drum... point noted! Turning around we can see Kopek Millionnaires, whose Goldblade member on vocals seems a little wound up to start with sadly. The Dependencies, featuring most of Roughneck Riot but with Caitlin Costello on singing duties, play next back on the TNS. Her gruff vocals are a nice respite from all the male front lead punk bands out there, and unlike some female punk bands they don't sound forced or like they are trying too hard to be like sandpaper. Awesome stuff.
The TNS plays host for the rest of the day to Mise En Scene, a great and huge band from Belgium, who's versions of 'Brown Eyed Girl' and medley of Specials songs get the crowd dancing. Two piece Riggots played at the TNS hosted Manchester Punk Festival a month ago and tore the roof off their midnight set. Here the play to less people but still play as they did then. Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man close the TNS stage today and never disappoint. Comical mosh pit, check. Human pyramid, check. Lightning fast punk and heavy ass riffs, check. After 6:30pm the music is mainly focused on the main stage, with the Shangra La hosting Damien Maddison, UkePunk and finishing with Adventures Of Salvador after 8pm.
The Main Stage has the Northern Embezzlers ("Ey Up!"), Newtown Neurotics and the affable Rory McLeod, who I remember just got on stage at a previous Strummercamp and went down a storm. He is joined by regular festival volunteer Simon on spoons. The Membranes are joined on stage with a choir, giving a mix of a dark yet fun set. Toxic close this day of the festival with punk covers, just what is needed. Buzzcocks 'What Do I Get', Sex Pistols 'Anarchy In The UK', The Specials 'Monkey Man', and a lot of Clash covers obviously, 'Tommy Gun, White Riot', 'I Fought The Law'. The singer is loving the atmostphere "Its fucking mint! So many people from everywhere getting together and having fun". I couldn't put it any better. After the terrible actions on Monday just miles up the road this event was even more poignant, People out, still gigging, still getting on with it, showing no fear, being friendly to everyone else. The minutes silence on Friday at 10pm was very sobering, and this being a family friendly event it is even more affecting. My mum was worried I was coming along this weekend, I told her that's what they want you to feel, sod that and don't live in fear.
The Strummercamp family look out for one another, that's also why I come here year on year. Sadly a few regulars are noticeably missing this time, but hopefully they will be back. Ticket prices are still amongst the lowest on the festival circuit, the atmosphere is the same, its as quiet as a mouse for most of the night for much needed rest and overall its just an event that goes about it all the right way. I wouldn't still be coming along after eleven years if it wasn't great.
"Without people we are nothing" - Joe Strummer
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