Outbreak Festival [Day Two] - Live in Manchester (Cover Artwork)

Outbreak Festival [Day Two]

Live in Manchester (2023)


The festival’s move to a city centre location made it somewhat easier to get there in time for the first bands of the day. Kicking off the Saturday was Candy. Seemed an interesting choice to open day 2, given how wilfully antagonistic the recent record was, but the band predictably leaned into the less experimental side of their arsenal of songs and did a damn good job of waking people up.

Next up were Narrowhead, which was a real show of two halves. Started out very woozy, with huge alt-rock and shoegaze vibes which was a real change of pace after Candy, but then as their set went on they became massively more gritty and focused on the harder aspects of their catalogue and the crowd reacted in kind. I suspect they may well have earned themselves some new fans with this performance. Following Narrowhead were one of the rising stars of hardcore in the form of SCOWL. I was expecting this one to see a lot of crowd interaction, but I didn’t expect them to go off as head as they did. Kat is a born star and the band give her the perfect platform to conduct SCOWL’s brand of mayhem. Lots of singalongs, cartwheels, etc and the stage rarely had less than about 10 people on it between the band and fans. A huge show for a band with a similarly huge future.

Following SCOWL on the main stage I ran to speak to Jami from Code Orange (interview coming separately) and after this were two to of the first acts of my weekend to depart significantly from guitar-based music. Firstly was Armand Hammer who I can’t pretend to have been too familiar with. The response was initially muted, but by the end of the NY-based duo’s set, they and the crowd had synced up their vibe a lot more and people were really getting into it. Right after Armand Hammer wears Mike. I knew some of Mike’s material and liked what I had heard, but his somewhat lackadaisical style meant that in comparison to some of the day’s acts the overall experience felt a little flat unfortunately, though Mike’s unquestionable charisma helped things roll along.

Gracing the main stage next was Soul Glo. I must confess to not having been as enamoured with the record as some people, but I’ve gone back to it more since this show as they were absolutely spectacular. Raw, unbridled energy, musical and vocal diversity, crowd interaction and a sense of real gratitude towards the crowd combined to make one of the sets of the weekend, topped off with another full stage invasion at the end of their set. A bit like Bad Brains, The Mars Volta and Outkast had a barfight. Magnificent. The unenviable task of following Sun Glo mercifully fell to fellow Philly locals and one of the bands on the bill entirely capable of doing so, Jesus Piece. The new record, …So Unknown from earlier this year is a big step up for them and I was really excited to see the new material on display. My excitement was rewarded with a punishing display of one of the most sonically punishing hardcore bands in the game today, coming out and doing what they do best. The crowd were feverishly awaiting their arrival and things ramped up and up from the moment they took to the stage as Jesus Piece laid waste to Depot Mayfield with a deliciously noxious mix of savagery, righteous indignance and a dash of good old showmanship. Wild, brutal, life-affirming.

Closing out the Saturday was the frankly wild combo of Code Orange and Death Grips. Given the timing of Code Orange’s Underneath being released (early 2020), this was the first chance I had to see the material from it and I’m so glad I did get to see it before the new album cycle starts (presumably) in the coming months. There was a pretty hefty dose of production to accompany the madness, with visuals designed for each individual song of the set and this did add to what would have been a completely mad set even without them. Jami was clearly ready to tear the place down, as were the rest of the band (despite having one substitute member as Shade was having foot surgery) and proceeded to pretty much level the place. The more recent material featured heavily, as one would expect, and sounded absolutely rabid. Jami commented afterwards that it was one of the best shows Code had ever played. Very easy to see why, having been there.

So to the day’s headliners, the mighty Death Grips. The chances are, even if you don’t know a huge amount of their music, that you probably know of Death Grips’ reputation as a live act. It is a reputation well deserved, it turns out. Few bands have the ability to rouse that many people into bouncing in unison. The times I’ve seen a big crowd that unified in vibe and movement are limited to bands like Oasis and The Prodigy. Despite not being the most committed Death Grips fan in the world, I feel really lucky to have caught them, and at an event like this as well. Just a fantastic experience and one I won’t forget.