14 of the wildest moments from Outbreak Fest 2022

Hardcore mega-gathering Outbreak Fest celebrated its 10-year anniversary this weekend. We were there for every sweat-drenched spin-kick and free-flying stage-dive across a bonkers three days…

14 of the wildest moments from Outbreak Fest 2022
Sam Law
Ed Mason, Nat Wood

You need to sign away your safety with a personal injury waiver if you want to be allowed past the sound desk at Outbreak Fest 2022. With retrospect, that makes sense. Precious few events like this would have the unhinged audacity to move up into the sold-out 5,000 capacity mini-arena that is Bowlers Exhibition Centre and still insist on having all stages totally open without any kind of barrier. The team behind Outbreak, however, are clearly still so wholly immersed in the world of modern hardcore that they’ll do whatever it takes to stick to their roots, even as they open their doors to the kind of crowd they could’ve once only dreamed of.

Sure, the number of punters spotted with fresh stitches, bulging black eyes and clattering crutches increases exponentially over the weekend, but we don’t meet a single one wishing they’d not immersed themselves in the chaos of the greatest hardcore event these shores have ever seen.

It’s not just about the music, either. A festival merch stall featuring gorgeous custom Carhartt jackets has all but sold out a couple of hours after gates open. The all-vegan line of food vendors offers far healthier (and, for many attendees, horizon broadening) dining options – though the fact that they, too, prematurely sell out does leave tummies rumbling. Talks by uber-producers Will Yip and Walter Schreifels offer untold insight into your favourite bands’ studio process. Hell, there’s even a half-pipe and art installation tucked away in a huge hall to the side of the second stage.

The most important element, mind, is the heave of local and international fans who’ve convened for this unprecedented gathering, and the chaos they help whip-up when things get loud

1Knocked Loose hammer open A Tear In The Fabric Of Life

“People say to me that they don’t have events like this in the UK,” Knocked Loose frontman Bryan Garris reflects in the middle of the Kentucky maulers’ Friday night headliner. “I tell them that they don’t have events like this anywhere.”

Indeed, as the first true full-capacity heave of the festival leaves the main hall looking like a warzone, it becomes a set delivered and received with unheard of ferocity. Songs like Where Light Divides The Holler, Trapped In The Grasp Of A Memory and Billy No Mates always pack a punch, but their impact is on another level this evening. The appearance of Malevolence’s Alex Taylor on All My Friends escalates it further still. Then a bludgeoning final salvo of Mistakes Like Fractures, Counting Worms and Permanent pounds us into the concrete as Bryan can only gaze, with wide-eyed purpose, into the fray.

2Your Demise wave a frantic farewell

Despite having always been one of the UK’s most purely enjoyable hardcore acts, it felt like Your Demise never got their dues during an an all-action original run. On what seems to be the final stop of this current, high-octane reunion, there’s no lack of enthusiasm. It’s chaos from the start, with MMX, Burnt Tongues and mega-banger Forget About Me whipping up a storm of stage-dives. Only when they drop a signature The Kids We Used To Be do things fully unfold, though, with a full-on stage invasion of people crowdsurfing over the top of the band.

“We weren’t sure about this comeback,” confesses frontman Ed McRae. “But this afternoon proves it was absolutely worth it!” No word of a lie.

3Malevolence deliver a surprise mugging

Malevolence are on an unstoppable roll right now. Having already crushed Download’s second stage, and with a headline of Bloodstock’s Sophie Lancaster stage still to come, the Sheffield supremos are probably at capacity for formal festival bookings at this point, but they can’t resist the opportunity to turn up and lay a few more people out as Friday’s special guests. Names as esteemed as legendary supergroup Trapped Under Ice had been fantasy-booked by punters for the slot, it’s to Malev’s immense credit that they don’t even vaguely disappoint. With some absolutely gut-lurching bass-drops and a swamp’s worth of sludgy melody, new songs like Malicious Intent, Slave To Satisfaction and Still Waters Run Deep leave their mark. But it’s when Bryan Garris runs on for an explosive Keep Your Distance that the room comes truly unglued.

4Movements quicken pulses, without breaking bones

They might not crack many skulls, but Movements tug the heartstrings harder than just about anyone else this weekend. Given, on a Saturday line-up that also features the relatively-melodic likes of Angel Du$t, Citizen and Basement, songs like pulsating opener Colorblind, the almost overtly emo Full Circle and timelessly breezy banger Skin To Skin aren’t necessarily the sore-thumb stand-outs that they would’ve been at previous Outbreaks, but they do offer a diversity that’s embraced by many of the bruised and beaten needing a moment’s reflection. By the time the woozy Kept shifts into a grungy Daylily, Outbreak feels both stirred and soothed.

5Ceremony get political

Californian punk collective Ceremony take the stage with a backdrop displaying not their band name, nor any recognisable logo, but a crudely crossed-out map of the United States. On the same weekend that the supposed Land Of The Free’s Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade protection of abortion rights, there’s been a little less political vitriol than you might have expected, but the next 30 minutes of loose-limbed hardcore punk feel like they’re fuelled by outrage.

From the pounding Sick via an unapologetically gritty Terminal Addiction to the wavy Turn Away The Bad Thing, it’s an undeniably high-class set. But perhaps the most memorable moment is guitarist Anthony Anzaldo’s impassioned plea for the straight white men who still make up the vast majority of fans at shows like this to have the fortitude to stand up for those less privileged around them. Absolutely superb.

6Higher Power receive the worship they warrant

Far more often than not, Leeds underdogs Higher Power find themselves confined to sweaty basements, or lighting the fuse for bigger bands, rather than properly hogging the limelight for themselves. Roaring onto Outbreak’s main stage three slots before Turnstile on Saturday, they prove that they’re more than capable of significantly bigger things. Packing arena-ready new track Fall From Grace in alongside the likes of Low Season, Seamless and Staring At The Sun, their blend of ’90s alt. cool and contemporary Northern punk grit wrings anarchic adulation from a near-capacity crowd. Not that it goes to the head of frontman Jimmy Wizard, mind, who seems to be tucked in side stage for almost every other band we catch this weekend. Thoroughly deserved.

7Turnstile find out what they’ll miss at Glastonbury

We’ll be honest: having opted to take in Turnstile’s feverishly-anticipated Saturday headline from the front row, some of the finer details of their performance got lost in a sweaty, shirtless blur. Their set at Glastonbury the following day might have a little more hype, but Outbreak was furthest they’d ever been from home when they first played here in 2013, and the gathering still holds a special place in the Baltimore boys’ hearts.

Cue non-stop mayhem. From MYSTERY to Real Thing to BLACKOUT, it’s a conveyor-belt of bodies headed for the stage, with even lower-octane moments like UNDERWATER BOI and ALIEN LOVE CALL offering the audience no respite but the chance to stew in their overheated juices. It’s not clear when – or if – Turnstile will play a show as connected to the underground as this again, but when a penultimate HOLIDAY bursts into the takeover sing-along of T.L.C they’re capping an evening no-one here will soon forget.

8Scowl deliver a Sunday morning wake-up call

Despite having released only about 20 minutes of music so far, there’s an argument that Scowl are already significantly bigger than Sunday’s high noon opening slot. The Santa Cruz quartet don’t seem to care, of course, and duly go about kicking the shit out of anyone who’s hauled themselves out to the B.E.C. early enough to see them. Compared to their run with today’s headliners Touché Amoré in the United States back in March, they’re visibly tighter, with Kat Moss – who tells K! afterwards that she’s barely been home since those shows – wielding a far more intimidating onstage presence. Eschewing any softer sounds, too, Bloodhound, Trophy Hunter and How Flowers Grow aren’t the calling cards of wilting petals, but rather those of an outfit determined to claim their time in the sun.

9ZULU deliver the heaviest set of the whole weekend

There’s a lot to talk about with Los Angeles powerviolence crew ZULU. One could muse on their uncanny ability to meld elements of Black American culture into none-more-abrasive sounds without being even vaguely gimmicky, or how their music marks the intersection where the current hardcore movement and the energy of Black Lives Matter thrillingly meet. For the duration of their swift Sunday set, though, we’re focused solely on not getting knocked out. Although they’re broken up by snippets of funk and soul, songs like Do Tha Right Thing (And Stop Fronting) and 52 Fatal Strikes inspire sheer brutality in the front rows. It’s an awesome sight to behold.

10Drain two-step further towards superstardom

Drain must have imagined they’d reached peak live bedlam around this time last year, when their Real Bay Shit showcase in central San Jose saw more than 2,000 fans descend on what was very much a DIY gig. Today dwarfs that. Opening with the Jaws theme, there are plenty of mosh sharks waiting to raise bloody hell as Feel The Pressure kicks into Hyper Vigilance and a positively stomach-busting Sick One. Frontman Sammy Ciaramitaro can’t stop grinning as he seems determined to high-five absolutely everyone who’s made it to the front row. Yet, there’s little ostensibly friendly about The Process Of Weeding Out and California Cursed, which see some of the most vicious limbs thrown all weekend. Down we go.

11Witch Fever work their black magick

A darkness seems to descend immediately before Witch Fever step up. It’s fitting. Although the hometown doom-punks’ marriage of riot grrrl vigour to the textures of sludge and alt. metal isn’t an obvious fit for the overarching Outbreak aesthetic, their appetite for chaos and confrontation sees them fit right in. Oh, and their songs are fucking brilliant, too. From the breathless desperation of Blessed Be Thy to the deep textures and mountainous riffs of I Saw You Dancing and Reincarnate’s unapologetic abrasion, it’s just the latest star-making performance from a band who – with the release of debut album Congregation on October 21 – are destined to be massive.

12One Step Closer take a giant leap towards hardcore’s big-time

You can barely get into the second stage 10 minutes before One Step Closer have even come on. The Pennsylvanian crew have been making a splash Stateside, but today feels like their party in the UK, and they do not disappoint. Keeping it floored from buoyant opener I Feel So to anthem-in-waiting The Reach, the tangle of spin-kicks and crowdsurfers is kept somehow afloat by the understanding of melody ingrained deep in their songwriting. If there’s one fault that we can pick from their performance, it’s that frontman Ryan Savitski keeps calling for a crowd splintered by the outright chaos to “bunch up” or “move in” without having the gumption to drop the name of his band. Joking aside, these lads are quickly becoming one of the hottest properties in all of punk.

13Deafheaven demolish the doubters

When Every Time I Die abruptly called it a day at the beginning of this year, it opened a space at the top of Outbreak’s bill that looked borderline impossible to fill. For many, the decision to draft in Californian blackgaze pioneers Deafheaven – by no means a like-for-like replacement – simply didn’t make sense. Tapping straight into the blast-beaten savagery of Black Brick, however, they make short work of the main stage. The indie inflections of Honeycomb and straight shoegaze influence in worthless animal prove a willingness to experiment, but the lack of anything from more out-there latest album Infinite Granite also shows an understanding of this crowd’s pulse-quickening needs. By the time Brought To The Water spills into a near-inevitable Dream House, there’s no-one watching who’s not been seethingly swept along.

14Touché Amoré drop the curtain with an emotional masterclass

Unlike most of his fellow frontmen, Touché Amoré bandleader Jeremy Bolm can be found purposefully wandering through the crowds for much of Sunday. It’s testament to the desire for human connection and genuine love for the hardcore scene that makes the Los Angeles heroes’ festival-closing appearance perhaps the most purely cathartic of the weekend. On face, songs like New Halloween, Lament and Rapture are fuelled by grief, but the many tears spilled during their performance here are those of tight-wound release and sheer joy.

Admittedly, resplendent in his elaborate button-down shirt, and with glittery Fender in hand, brilliant guitarist Nick Steinhardt looks initially unsettled by the sheer number of bodies piling past on the stage, but even he’s throwing himself into it by the time we crash through Flowers And You into a climactic Pathfinder. A straight-from-the-heart headline that leaves us gagging for whatever Outbreak are going to try out to top this with an even bigger outing the same time next year.

Outbreak Festival 2023 will take place from June 23 to 25, at central Manchester’s Depot Mayfield

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