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American Football close out Outbreak Festival 2024

Outbreak festival ends with a glorious whimper, not a bang – and no-one does it better than American Football

This isn’t the way you’d expect a hardcore festival to end. After a weekend of moshing, two-stepping and stage diving with a tinge of emo nostalgia to sweeten the palette, Manchester’s Outbreak Festival is closing the book on its 2024 edition in almost uncharacteristically soft style with a celebration of American Football’s debut album for its 25th anniversary. Understandably, some were confused. How would this work – slow, sad stage dives into a pool of tears below? But then again, to that end, their showing is a quietly mesmerising thing. 

Looking out at the healthy contingent who have opted to assemble before Bowlers Exhibition Centre’s outdoor stage instead of getting an early tram back to the hotel, it can’t be denied there’s an appetite for the Illinois emo legends’ twinkling fare. In front of a backdrop replicating the iconic house on the front of LP1’s cover, American Football move through the tracklisting at the pace of  a sunset stroll, with the rousing slow-burn of early cut ‘Five Silent Miles’ offered as a prologue. A winding, warm version of ‘The Summer Ends’ holds the crowd in the kindest of chokeholds, while ‘Honestly?’ allows for a mild-mannered dance party for six minutes, which ‘I’ll See You When We’re Not So Emotional’ resumes with a splash of extra energy. 

American Football are quiet sorts, but when they do speak, it raises a smile. “You wouldn’t believe it, but I’m so happy to be here,” vocalist Mike Kinsella admits with the awkward earnestness of someone far younger than his 47 years. The crowd is too, judging by the joy with which they pile on for one last stage invasion to ‘Never Meant’, an almost hilarious but oddly touching moment that beautifully caps a brilliant weekend. Even in an event that thrives off adrenaline, this works, offering a gentler counterpoint to the hive of activity this industrial warehouse has played host to. When you’re tired, possibly hungover, but happy, this is just what you want to watch as the sun sinks behind the stage on a Sunday – not just at a hardcore festival, but any festival. 

American Football return to UK stages in September. Find tickets here

Photo credit: Anna Swiechowska