Bringing culture to a head in a space where expression was put first, Outbreak Fest in Manchester was a weekend that will be talked about for years to come. This is why.
Photos: Nat Wood
Something special always happens when a community gets the opportunity to convene in one place. When everybody who loves and thrives off an ethos, an idea and a lifestyle meets head-on and shares what keeps the fire inside them burning, it's always bound to be a spectacle. And when the community in question is one as extraordinary, expansive and varied as hardcore is, you're certainly going to see some stuff.
That's what Outbreak Fest represented, and it was everything and so much more.
What started as a small one-day event in Sheffield back in 2011, headlined by Brutality Will Prevail, Outbreak has taken on many forms over the last decade in many different rooms. With each event being fiercely DIY, and each one featuring the crème de la crème of all things harsh, heavy and hedonistic, ultimately, it has all been leading up to this. An entire three-day programme, brimming with old favourites, world-beaters and new blood, in a space where expression could take the forefront.
But nothing could truly prepare you for how it would feel to be in the middle of it all.
But first off, let's talk about variety. Because more so than anything, this was a weekend where every sort of sound was welcome. From the straight-up battery of Incendiary to the rich and raw world-building of Static Dress, the doomy protest of Witch Fever to the thrashing chaos of Scowl, the vital noise of Mannequin Pussy to the dangerous harmonies of Dead Heat. The power of music conveyed in all of the most cathartic, crushing and calloused ways you can think of, but united by a shared understanding of what it means to create art that bends the mould out of shape.
And with such a wide array of artists, a wide variety of unique moments are going to take place. There was the stage invasion as Movements closed out an outrageously brilliant set with an emotionally draining 'Daylily'. There was Vein.fm descending deeper and deeper into total chaos as their truly unpredictable appearance unfolded. There was the whole room euphorically screaming every single word to every single song that Basement pulled out, and the whole room clambering for the stage when Drain finally got to play their first UK show. There was Loathe showing exactly why they are one of the country's most fascinating heavy bands, and there was Deafheaven showing why they are one of the USA's most fascinating. You also had One Step Closer packing the second stage to capacity, Your Demise rolling back the years and being fun as fuck, Fiddlehead sending shivers up every spine in attendance, and Higher Power returning to the festival where it all started in the most triumphant way possible. Oh, and don't forget Malevolence popping up for a secret set and inciting utter carnage.
And then there are the headliners, playing some of their best-ever shows over in this country. Knocked Loose, sounding utterly savage from debauched beginnings to bludgeoning ends. Turnstile, stopping off on their way to Glastonbury Farm to remind everybody why they are one of the most important bands of this generation. And Touché Amoré, more beautiful, heartbreaking and life-affirming than ever before. All three unique in their approach and their passion for the genre, all three deserved flag-bearers for the genre outside of these walls, they showed how far and wide this community stretches and what it means to every corner as well.
But all of these bands, all of these sets, all of these moments, would be nothing without the gathered masses, intent on making it as special for them as for everybody else. A pit that swelled none stop from Friday lunchtime to Sunday night, a stage perfect for jumping off that was used to great effect and a collective outburst of energy that turned the room into a sweltering sweatbox at every opportunity, there was something in the air that allowed chaos to play out. The unpredictability of emotion, taking over and creating snapshots that will live on long after the bruises have healed and ears have stopped ringing. This combination of things is what makes all of this so remarkable.
But even then, all of this only scratches the surface of just how truly astounding Outbreak as a moment in time was, and how being a part of it felt like something ground-breaking. Three days of pure unadulterated mayhem, three days of moments that both bands and fans will be talking about for years to come and three days of the rest of the world watching with jealous eyes. It was a celebration as much as a showcase, a party as much as pandemonium, and a firm reminder of just how special a scene this is and how powerful it is when everybody comes together and works toward the same goal.
Because Knocked Loose's Bryan Garris summed it up best when he said, 'When somebody told me, 'This sort of thing doesn't happen in the UK', I replied, 'This sort of thing doesn't happen anywhere'.
That is something to be proud of. That is something to cherish. That is something that you should want to be a part of.
Outbreak Fest will return in 2023 between June 23-25. You can grab your pre-sale tickets from right HERE