Live Review: Outbreak 2023 – Saturday

Live Review: Outbreak 2023 - Saturday
Words: Jacob Schwar
Photos: Nat Wood / Ashlea Bea / Anna Swiechowska

Saturday was to be heaviest day of the weekend, putting this statement into perspective were the hardcore band Candy whose brutal set was a much needed wake-up call for the early afternoon crowd. Kicking things off with the ferocious track ‘Good To Feel’ which got the pit nicely warmed up!

Their leadsinger Zak Quiram paced the stage with a truly menacing presence as they tore through songs such as the pummelling ‘Systematic Death’ and the somewhat groovy ‘Love Wants More Love’, they’d round up their set with the politically agitated track ‘Human Target’ which left the audience reeling. Though technically a hardcore band, Candy are able to fuse different styles of extreme metal such as death and grind-core alongside some very subtle electronic samples making for a terrifyingly atmospheric sound which came across fantastically well live!

Photo Credit: Ashlea Bea

Up next and on the opposite end of the heaviness spectrum were Narrow Head, a band who quite honestly I struggled to really get into previously, though after witnessing their set at Outbreak I can confirm I’m now a fan! Narrow Head can be described as an alternative metal act who combine aspects of grunge and shoegaze making for a dreamy though firmly poignant sound. Their set was a much welcome change in pace with songs such as ‘The Real’ and ‘Moments of Clarity’ providing a pop-like yet ethereal vibe with influences easily identifiable from Smashing Pumpkins to Dinosaur Jr amongst their wall of sound.

It was around the time of the song ‘Cool in Motion’ that singer\guitarist Jacob Duarte removed his instrument and stood centre stage singing passionately as if he were some 90’s rockstar showing the era this band takes its most influence from. They’d end with the hit ‘Sunday’ which has become a real favourite with its anthemically feel-good chorus though charmingly bittersweet sentiment simultaneously. I was truly in awe of Narrow Head’s performance, their latest album Moments Of Clarity (2023) has been on constant rotation since Outbreak and I highly recommend them for fans of dreamy music.

Photo Credit: Nat Wood

I noticed the venue becoming increasingly packed for the next performance on the mainstage, though it was with no surprise as up next were rising stars Scowl! A band I’d seen previously back in 2022 on their first UK tour and as you can imagine I was splendidly excited to see them again, though this time performing in front of thousands and on a stage 3x the size. Opening their fiery set with the menacing yet relatable anthem ‘Retail Hell’  which saw the crowd go utterly insane with bodies flying off stage and hardcore kids slam dancing like maniacs!

The enchanting Kat Moss with her luminous green hair and jovial stage demeanour screamed through high energy tracks such as ‘Shot Down’ and ‘Wired’, thanking the audience after each song for being such great company. Following up with a real set highlight was the performance of ‘Psychic Dance Routine’ in which the audience including myself hummed along to opening riff in which the band were taken aback in surprise, an awesome sign that the newer more accessible sound of Scowl is appreciated by even the more diehard fanbase, it really was a magical moment!

They finished with a proper party tune ‘Opening Night’ showcasing their love for alternative rock though with an ample dose of hardcore in the mix and that was Scowl. I can see this band getting bigger and bigger going forward, they do things just a little differently then most hardcore acts and to see their new music get so much praise by a live audience shows they’re destined for greatness!

Photo Credit: Anna Swiechowska

Following on from that ecstatic performance we now have Soul Glo on the main stage, a group I’m quite familiar with having seen them a couple weeks prior supporting prog-metal juggernauts Coheed and Cambria. Opening their set with ‘Coming Correct Is Cheaper’, a fiercely aggressive track full of angst that really provides the perfect introduction for Soul Glo.

Following up with a fan favourite ‘Jump (Or Get Jumped By The Future)’ in which they tore up the stage sonically, admittedly Soul Glo were one of the loudest bands of the weekend, even with earplugs in it was intense! Their vocalist Pierce Jordan menacingly paced the staged with a firm look of disconcertment, the way he rambled through his politically charged lyrics were a sight to behold as fellow bandmate and guitarist GG Guerra, who’s a rather stout gentleman, quite literally went berserk shouting at the audience!

Soul Glo put on something special with their performance however I think they were misunderstood by a majority of the Outbreak crowd, perhaps being too intense or different for the rank and file hardcore lot who were there to karate-kick their way through the set. Soul Glo’s music naturally is very unpredictable though just as uncompromising which is what I love about heavy music, I was impressed by what I saw if not a little intimidated by such a ferocious display of musicianship, you’d better check this band out next time they’re in town!

Photo Credit: Ashlea Bea

Continuing to raise the bar for the heaviest performance on the main stage we come to hardcore heavyweights Jesus Piece, a band I’d been wanting to see for several years and my goodness… was it worth the wait! Out came vocalist Aaron Heard, topless and psyched, to a roar of applause from an already feral crowd, they kicked straight into ‘In Constraints’ from their latest album …So Unknown (2023) and the place went wild!

Jesus Piece were intense to say the least, drummer Luis Aponte especially was on fire, hammering his kit within an inch of its life though always with a smile on his face which was amusingly impressive to witness. They tore through great tracks such as fan favourite ‘Curse Of The Serpent’ and another new song ‘Fear Of Failure’ which obliterated the audience, slam dancing and stage diving was mental at this point as you can imagine. The real highlight of the Jesus Piece set was when they pulled out the formidable track ‘Oppressor’ in which a chap from the audience took the mic from Aaron and sung the last half of the song with a retinue of passionate fans screaming a few lyrics into the mic then jumping back into the crowds, content as ever!

I first discovered Jesus Piece through a live performance of this song captured by filmmaker hate5six back in 2017 in which the exact same thing occurred with the crowd participation, to see it happen before my eyes was truly breathtaking and something I’ll never forget too soon.

Photo Credit: Anna Swiechowska

Up next was the band that made me want to come all the way up to Manchester this weekend in the first place, you’ve probably guessed already, it was time for Code Orange. Tensions were running high amongst the audience as I’m Gonna Getcha Good! by Shania Twain echoed throughout the brick arches of the venue, an intoxicated chap took to stacking empty cups seeing how high he could get before it all came crashing down but with much applause from the crowd, a great example of the kind of shenanigans the outbreak crowd got up to this weekend.

Things would soon take a turn as members of Code Orange walked on stage with which the audience transformed into a crazy, feral mob, preparing a space for the massive oncoming mosh pit and getting ready to invade the stage! As surprising as ever they opened with their newest song ‘Grooming My Replacement’, a truly brutal song seeing Code Orange taking their sound in a new direction though with some subtle influence from their earlier works such as I AM KING (2014).

Continuing the devastation with ‘Swallowing The Rabbit Whole’ for which the crowds tore each other apart, this was the most insane moshing I’d seen this weekend which was much expected from a band such as this! Though their set wasn’t all complete brutality as they rather cleverly inserted some of their more tender and sincere tracks betwixt the chaos such as the hauntingly beautiful ‘Bleeding In The Blur’  sung by the incredible Reba Myers as well as an alternatively melodic rock version of the ethereal ‘Dreams In Inertia’ harking back to the more indie rock driven past of the band members.

Photo Credit: Ashlea Bea

It was extra special to see Jami Morgan now as a full-fledged lead singer as originally he was both drummer and vocalist when I last saw them back in 2019, he had a more than capable attitude when it came to being a frontman and it was clear to see he was loving his position. Code Orange would pull out a real belter with the next song ‘The New Reality’ which was the Code Orange I remember first falling in love with back in 2017, the band have since evolved into a creative force to be reckoned with, still retaining the heaviness factor and a fiercely committed approach to creating music that’s challengingly different.

Though things weren’t done yet, it came to that time in set for them to unleash their heaviest anthem ‘My World’ and the entire venue shook! It was absolute chaos as hundreds of bodies, including Jami Morgan at one point, flung from the stage into a crowd that was slam-dancing like no tomorrow, the band played that song with such intensity as I’d ever seen from them before, it was truly terrifying but very emotional. They’d finish with probably their greatest song ‘Forever’ which allowed us one more chance to go crazy and ‘tear s**t up’ before exiting the stage to cries of applause and pain, we just witnessed something extraordinary, I would be lying if I didn’t get a bit teary eyed afterwards, hands down the best set of the weekend!

Photo Credit: Ashlea Bea

Finishing the night off we come to the headliners Death Grips, a band I’m not over familiar with though I was anxious to check out their live show considering the venue was completely packed for them, though after such a destructive set with the previous act I was wondering whether they’d be able to topple that performance, it remained to be seen. It was clear to see Death Grips fans were a different breed, ferally cheering drummer Zach Hill as he set up his kit as well as going crazy during a 10 second sample test in the sound check, I wasn’t quite sure what we were in for with this performance, I was going in somewhat blind.

The trio came out on stage with a pulsing blood red screen as their background, projecting an unsettling glow upon the thousands of raised hands and harsh interior of the venue. They opened up with the catchy ‘System Blower’ and instantly the whole room began to bop, it was quite the sight to behold,  even I couldn’t resist the infectious groove of Death Grips! They pulled out a number of great tunes such as ‘No Love’, ‘Guillotine’ and ‘The Fever’ which were a few songs I was familiar with so was incredible to hear them in a live environment. Death Grips were intense I have to admit, their sound is hard hitting and quite brutal when it wants to be, I was generally on edge through their set!

Whether it was the heat, massive amounts of people, the music itself or most likely a mix of all three, I was experiencing an intense feeling, like in a trance, it’s amazing what music can do to you, considering this I’ll be checking out Death Grips discography in depth going forward most definitely!

Photo Credit: Ashlea Bea

Photo credits: Nat Wood / Ashlea Bea / Anna Swiechowska

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