Live Review: Pinky Swear Festival – Manchester – 02/05/2015

By now we’ve all got used to the fact that without fail festival season gets busier each year without fail, with nearly every city in the country boasting its own small and medium sized one day events. For Already Heard there was one in particular whose debut event stood out from the crowd. Last weekend Northern indie label Pinky Swear Records, best known for bringing us early releases from a string of awesome bands, branched out by putting their name to a packed bill of up and coming UK pop punk and rock talent across two stages at Manchester’s Sound Control.

Fully aware of what happened the last time a Northern record label started up its own pop-punk themed fest, AH was eager to see what the inaugural Pinky Swear Festival would have in store.

There was a definite buzz in the air to great AH’s arrival at Sound Control, but things got off to a fairly inauspicious start with our first band of the day, Liverpool’s Waster putting in a distinctly hit and miss set. The five-piece churn out plenty of energy and noise, but with both the bass and guitar lines to each song sounding fairly interchangeable, and more than a little like a heavier yet still quite generic take on the Neck Deep influenced side of the UK scene, this wasn’t a set that was as memorable as the band would have hoped. Given Waster have an impending date opening for one of the finest pop-punk bands in the world Fireworks at the same venue, they’ll need to up their game or risk sounding painfully outclassed. (2.5/5)

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Next up was Leeds’ duo Kamikaze Girls on the suitably grungy basement located second stage. In theory things were stacked against the pair as KG have only played a handful of gigs since relaunching themselves as a duo (after formerly being three-piece Hearts and Souls), completely reinventing their sound in the process. Throw in to that vocalist Lucinda Livingstone having switched from bass to guitar in a short period of time and drummer Connor being one half of Pinky Swear Records; along with Lee Burgess, and this was a band with plenty on its plate approaching this set. But it showed not one bit as KG promptly blasted their way frenetically through an electric set, their new found brand of punk-inspired indie-grunge sounding fresh, exciting and rivetingly unpredictable. In a set highlight first single ‘Tonic Youth’ showed there could be really special things to come from Kamikaze Girls. (4/5)

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Despite having a tough act to follow, Milestones gave a strong account of themselves also on the second stage. Their sharp and confident pop-punk bossed by a charismatic and on point performance from frontman Matt Clarke won them plenty of new friends here. (3/5)

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Back up on the main stage local boys Landmarks gave an excellent preview of upcoming EP ‘Fighting Gravity’ with one of the best received sets of the day so far. Vocalist Brad Shea admitted that this was the band’s first show in six months, not that it showed in the slightest. Back and forth vocals between Shea and bassist Adam Long was one of a handful of plus points from a punchy, feel good performance. Both single ‘40mg’ and the EP itself when it’s released next week are both well worth checking out. (3.5/5)

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One of the biggest new acts of the day were Birmingham’s Light You Up who, following the release of debut album ‘All We’ve Ever Known’ earlier this year, have seen their stock rapidly on the rise in recent months with performances on sold out shows with Pvris and a stint on the Pure Noise Records Tour with Hit The Lights and Four Year Strong. Based on this showing, it’s not hard to see why the band have been so hotly tipped and widely talked about. Simply put, the Brummie outfit put on a consummate and masterful pop-rock performance. For all their rise to prominence has been fairly meteoric, most of the band have been around for a while under original moniker LYU and this polished approach to performance showed from both a musical and stage show point of view. Each member of Light You Up performs with composure and charisma in spades and the biggest crowd to gather at the main stage so far suitably responds creating an electric atmosphere and rewarding the band with one group singalong after another. Even for older songs like ‘Broken Jaw’. Frontman Tom Napier reacted even more ecstatically then his bandmates, plowing gleefully into the pit mic in hand to sing to sing a unique rendition of ‘All We’ve Ever Known’ with a sizeable chunk of the crowd circle pitting around him. Later he took his exploration of Sound Control even further, clambering perilously into the rafters of the room for a better view of his adoring crowd during closer ‘Foxfire’. Light You Up have the songs to take them to serious mainstream success, and if they can continue to replicate as engaging and memorable live performances as this at bigger and more prominent festivals their rise will accelerate further still. (4.5/5)

In between sprinting around the venue doing interviews, AH managed to snatch a view teasing glimpses of the all-out carnage ROAM’s set quickly descended into. The boys from Eastbourne have been riding a wave of momentum nearly as unstoppable and chaotic as their crowd became since their signing to Hopeless Records and the release of new EP ‘Viewpoint’, and they rode it full force into this performance. The set, mostly taken from said EP, went down a storm with a constant barrage of crowd surfers making their way from the stage. The set reached its rioutous peak as Trash Boat frontman Toby joined ROAM for the final song, providing a feel good celebration of their progress between two of the UK pop-punk scene’s brightest lights. (3.5/5)

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Continuing the theme of hotly tipped British band’s on the main stage Moose Blood gave a reminder of why no new act has been more talked about then them in the last year. When a set starts with a song as brilliant as ‘Bukowski’ it’s obvious that you’re witnessing a special band still not yet at the peak of their powers. One outrageously great song after another flowed from the stage as the single most anticipated band of the day delivered in sterling fashion, every last word of the likes of ‘Gum’ and ‘I Hope You’re Missing Me’ sung rapturously back at them. ‘Boston’ brought to an end a set that felt like it was over far too quickly. There is no conceivable way that Eddy Brewerton and his bandmates can end festival season without being the most beloved new rock act in Britain. (4.5/5)

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Then finally it was time for the band the whole festival had been built around, and for that matter the reason the festival was delayed from its original date in November last year – Man Overboard. The veteran pop-punkers from New Jersey brought the inaugural Pinky Swear Fest to a close in as close to perfect fashion as possible. Their painfully sincere and heart-wrenchingly reflective pop-punk providing an ideal soundtrack for the Sound Control crowd to wave its fists and sing its collective lungs out to, gradually winding down after the chaos of the proceeding hours. That’s not to say the set didn’t have its own moments of wall to wall pogoing as tracks like ‘I Ate My Gluestick’ and ‘How To Hide Your Feelings’ stir things up one last time. But it was the big singalong songs that were the real standouts. Particularly ‘Love Your Friends, Die Laughing’ which did an excellent job of summing up the mood of both the set and the whole festival, one of pure raucous good natured enjoyment of the best feelings pop-punk has to offer.

There was just time for both Nick and Zack to give festival organiser Lee a sound but tongue in cheek ribbing about his abilities to provide for the needs of bands on tour before a near euphoric airing of ‘Rare’ drained every remaining drop of energy from the room, leaving everyone present utterly knackered but deliriously happy. (4.5/5)

It’s safe to say that Already Heard won’t be the only ones hoping that this was just the first of many awesome Pinky Swear Events to come. Lee Burgess take a bow, you put on one hell of a day, and one epic celebration of why the UK’s pop-punk scene is currently the most red-hot on the planet.


View more of Already Heard’s coverage from Pinky Swear Fest here.

Words and photos by Dane Wright (@MrDaneWright)


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