Outbreak festival 2024: as it happened

Hardcore got nostalgic as Nothing, The Hotelier, Joyce Manor, Thursday and more all delivering epic anniversary sets

Outbreak Festival had to find a way to branch out. Having solidified itself as the UK’s premier hardcore hang in the last decade, the festival blossomed by booking everyone who’s anyone in the genre – but then they reached a point where they had booked everyone they could. While it’s hard to imagine Outbreak ever straying completely from its roots, it ambitiously thought about its attendees’ increasingly mixed genre playlists and brought in a slew of alternative hip-hop titans last year, which included headline sets from Death Grips and Denzel Curry. As they returned to Manchester’s Bowlers Exhibition Centre, they repeated this, albeit on a designated day, for 2024, while their usual hardcore bookings rubbed shoulders with names from the heavier end of emo. On top of this, they followed one of the biggest cultural waves alternative music has experienced this side of the pandemic – nostalgia. 

As such, Outbreak’s 2024 line-up featured a handful of special anniversary sets to tempt gig-goers to make the pilgrimage to a grey, industrial corner of Manchester on the last weekend of June. Their way of drawing new blood to their festival was to look backwards. It’s not a new idea, but that hardly matters when such sets brought a wealth of standout moments to the weekend. 

It began mid-afternoon on Saturday, with Nothing taking to Outbreak’s new outdoor stage for a spectacularly dark birthday party for their 2014 album Guilty Of Everything. While it’s slightly jarring to watch in daylight (and would be even more so if it was sunny), their murky shoegaze is beautifully experiential, with bass that could punch a hole in your heart and flashing visuals that evoke the sensation of memories being recalled in real time. Between the undulating opener ‘Hymn To The Pillory’, the dreamy ‘Everything’ and the rest of this underrated gem’s tracklist, theirs is a spellbinding performance. 

The Hotelier
Photo credit: Anna Swiechowska

A whole 24 hours later and the mood, while still nostalgic, strikes a rather different tone. The Hotelier’s run-through of Home, Like Noplace Is There marks a sea change from the chaos of Outbreak’s heavier sets, setting a more jubilant tone but still with an undertone of abrasiveness to satisfy every type of person here watching. And satisfied they are – “It’s really amazing that this record has connected so much with you so far away from where it was written,” says frontman Christian Holden, with the crowd chanting “OHHHH THE HOTELIER!” as they leave the stage.

Joyce Manor
Photo credit: Anna Swiechowska

Joyce Manor took the baton and ran with it for their 10th anniversary celebration of Never Hungover Again, breezing through the album’s 20 minute runtime with a mighty sense of attack. People threw themselves in all directions for crunching opener ‘Christmas Card’, opened a gaping mosh pit for ‘Heart Tattoo’ and run amok, with big hitter ‘Catalina Fight Song’ sending punters piling up around the band on stage as if they’re offering water in a drought. It’s underestimated sometimes just how loved Joyce Manor are, but the scenes here meant they will be far harder to overlook. 

One of the weekend’s landmark bookings, however, is saved almost until the end. Inside the exhibition centre, second stage headliners Thursday create a gigantic moment with a setlist comprised of a pick-and-mix of War All The Time and Full Collapse hits. It’s a showing that’s both gigantic and graceful, with the towering ‘Cross Out The Eyes’ and the explosive ‘Understanding In A Car Crash’ practically setting the place alight, assisted by a cameo from Touche Amore’s Jeremy Bolm on ‘Paris In Flames’. After ‘War All The Time’ brings proceedings to a crushing conclusion, the resounding feeling is of absolute triumph. 

Photo credit: Anna Swiechowska

Given the hunger with which these sets were met, it looks like Outbreak’s ploy to lean into nostalgia worked. At the same time, however, said nostalgia never overrode the programme. Even the third stage, stacked with UK hardcore up-and-comers, created a gigantic buzz, while there were huge moments created by more modern names that would have been inevitably talked about on the tram back into the city. Whether it was an impassioned turn from Touche Amore, a fun-filled party thrown by Hot Mulligan or the blazing showing from Mannequin Pussy – who at one point got every man in the crowd to yell “PUSSY!” at them – everyone left with fond memories made. 

Outbreak festival returns with its Autumn Edition on 27 October at Manchester’s BEC Arena. Find tickets here

Photo credit: Anna Swiechowska