Excitement was high for the 10 Year Anniversary celebration of Outbreak Fest! Fans flocked to Bowlers Exhibition Center in Manchester to experience the largest hardcore music festival in the United Kingdom.
It was a repeated sentiment that this particular edition of the festival was one worth coming out for.
Not only was this a massive festival compared to previous years (this included a venue upgrade that was three times the size of previous years and fit bands on two stages, rather than just one), but a large portion of the bands that performed throughout the weekend were from the U.S. and either never, or very rarely, make the trek to perform in the U.K. Because of this, festival-goers were ecstatic for the opportunity to experience live performances for the first time from some of their favorite bands and went to great lengths to make it happen. One group that flew in from Germany had experienced flight delays and changes, and said that it was clear that “everyone on their flight to Manchester was there for the festival”.
All of the talk of the expansion of Outbreak Fest over the years invited conversations of the expansion of hardcore music as a whole. During a live taping of an episode of the 100 Words Or Less podcast, host Ray Harkins led a discussion with Bryan Garris of Knocked Loose about how the band went from playing small shows in their local scene to being leaders of the genre, playing huge venues all over the world. Garris went on to explain how the band has stayed consistent, never switching up their sound or attempting to appeal to a wider audience; they simply kept showing up as they were and people started responding to their authenticity. Their organic popularity helped them land a few tours and festivals that exposed them to the mainstream rock world, which had never been attainable for hardcore bands just a few years earlier and with every new accomplishment they achieve, they help raise the glass ceiling for hardcore bands everywhere.
The culture is what distinguishes hardcore festivals from other rock music festivals.
There are typically no barricades, as it is an expectation for festival-goers to hop onstage, grab the mic to sing along and stage dive off back into the crowd. Understanding this culture, Outbreak organizers did a fantastic job of accommodating. Instead of discouraging or preventing fans from these kinds of displays of appreciation for the music (there are so many rock concerts and festivals that place security throughout the crowd and eject people for moshing, crowd surfing, etc.), they set up several measures that allowed the behaviors to go on safely. Outbreak Fest had what was called the “Golden Circle” at each of the stages, which was essentially a barricaded area closest to the stage where just about anything goes, but is the only area where moshing is allowed. Upon check-in, those who wanted to be in the Golden Circle were required to sign a waiver and were given a wristband. Without the wristband, there was no Golden Circle access. This felt like a great way to organize the crowd: those who wished to partake in the physical aspect of rock shows could do so at their own discretion and those who didn’t could enjoy the show in the back area without concern of being in the line of fire. This separation gave festival-goers the chance to make a decision for themselves on how their experience would be… a ‘choose your own adventure’ of sorts.
While each of the two stages were packed with incredible performances the entire day, there were a handful of sets that really stuck out. Year of the Knife kicked off the main stage with an incredibly thrilling performance, demonstrating why they were one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend. Despize, an up-and-coming Glasgow band, packed out the second stage very early in the day. Incendiary back-to-back with Static Dress made for an interesting contrast in energy on the main stage.
Built into the schedule that evening was a slot for a surprise set from “special guests”. There were whispers among the crowd all day that Malevolence — a Manchester hardcore band, dominating the European metal scene right now — would be playing the slot; the band had been previously scheduled to be in the U.S. supporting The Acacia Strain on this day, but were forced to drop the tour due to visa issues, so it was very well-known that the band would be home during this time frame. So, when the Malevolence logo appeared on the screen and the band walked onstage, they were met with supportive chaos. This was easily one of the most active sets of the day and having Bryan Garris come out to perform his part of “Keep Your Distance” helped establish this set as one of the most iconic Malevolence performances of their career.
At the end of the day, festival-goers got to witness firsthand some of the things Garris had discussed in the podcast interview as Terror (a band that helped lay the foundations of hardcore music as a genre) took the stage right before Knocked Loose (one of the latest and greatest, and arguably one of the biggest bands to exist in hardcore, period). Despite the bands having different approaches to the genre and completely different career trajectories, both bands exhibited great respect for one another on stage and had garnered an overwhelmingly positive response from the crowd.
Photography by Jayme Bigger