“This song is all about friendship,” says a bright-eyed Frenchman. “This stage belongs to us all, I want to see some STAGE DIVES!” he continues, as the signature down-tuned riff of ‘In Friends We Trust’ kicks in to the apparent approval of the assembled crowd, most of whom ended up on the stage for the majority of the song (causing much consternation in the lone security guard). Thus ended a night of pop-punk revelry, spearheaded by French upstarts Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!
Rewind a few hours and theres a 30 man-strong queue snaking round the block outside the innocuous entrance to the basement of Manchesters premier live music venue; Sound Control. The notable sporting of le tricolore on t-shirts and jumpers is notable, but it is still 30 minutes till even the opening act is on. Some folks, it seems, really are keen on tonights (nowhere near sold-out) show. As show-time draws nearer we filter in, to be greeted by the stale air and bare walls of my second home. First up is Boston Manor, the Blackpool quintet and new acquisitions of pop-punk powerhouse Pure Noise Recordings. Kicking off with some slight technical difficulties, the representatives for the North of England are undeterred, launching into crowd favourites like ‘Peach State’. Stop dropping names, and playing games, roars frontman Henry Cox incorporating just the right amount of grit into the performance. Vocal harmonies and instrumentation are on point as BM launch into ¾ of new EP Saudade, the singalong chorus to ‘Trapped Nerve’ being a personal favourite. Rounding off the performance with a rendition of ‘Driftwood’, the Blackpool boys acquit themselves well in a whirlwind performance that leaves us wanting more. A full-length for 2016 would be ideal, boys.
Next up are Hopeless Records Trash Boat. Whilst on record comparisons between TB and fellow pop-punkers Knuckle Puck are frequently levelled, live it is clear that Trash Boat are a whole different kettle of fish. Taking a much more direct approach to pop-punk than the afore mentioned Knuckle Puck, Trash Boat go down a storm with the kids at the front as the first few mosh pits start to form. Material from this years Brainwork is recited word-for-word, whilst unheard material kicks up one helluva circle pit. High energy and delivered with passion, the originality of Trash Boat might be questionable but tonights performance isnt, and theres something to be said for that.
After a surprisingly long time setting the stage up (25 mins? Really?), its time for the headliners, Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! A band as zany and surreal as their namesake (a Gonnies reference), Chunk champion a self-coined bipolar take on mixing metalcore and saccharine pop-punk. Complete with crushing breakdowns, pinched harmonics and singalong choruses, Chunk are nothing if not unique. Starting with the chugging riffwork of ‘Haters Gonna Hate‘, the crowd immediately explodes in a shower of crowdsurfers and sweaty moshers. Whilst the lyrical content of most Chunk songs is generic at best and downright incomprehensible at worst, there are fingerpointers aplenty as lead vocalist Bertrand switches with very little warning between screamed and clean vocals.
The lack of any real bridge between hardcore and pop-punk sections is the signature of a Chunk record (and is what sets them apart from the likes of A Day To Remember), and the Parisians only accentuate this live. Set highlight was possibly the cover of Smash Mouths ‘All Star’, which saw yours truly crowd-surfing with considerable aplomb. Whilst sometimes its kind of sad when a cover gets one of the best crowd responses of the night, Chunk have never taken themselves too seriously and this breakdown-ridden cover doesnt really serve to undermine any of the original material on show. The set is rounded off with In Friends We Trust, a suitably pop-punk end to a night that made up for what it lacked in originality with ballsy riffs and unadulterated energy. Overall this music is good fun, and if people would only get their heads out their arses they might see it as such…