It’s become something of an institution within the Manchester punk scene. An annual congregation of the city’s ravers and misbehavers that this year celebrated its tenth birthday and final instalment. The original edition was intended as a one off. Disparate promotion groups converged with the idea of combining an electronic and punk rock music event under the same roof. The blueprint didn’t focus on big names, and it wasn’t about cash either. It was a party – in the purest sense of the word. Different hues of chaos spanning multiple floors. Like shifting from the kitchen’s charged-up sniff-fiends, to a crew of stoners in an upstairs bedroom, or out back where hippies are tripping. Anarchistic Undertones would cover the punk side of things, whilst Daylite Robbery and Hectic Harmoniz set it all within the context of the jungle. The night was a success yet despite how well the freedom-centric partiers of the drum and bass collectives and the anarchic spirit of AU blended, the event was to be a one off. There were no plans laid at the time for subsequent Punx Inna Jungle events.
All that changed following the tragic passing of AU founder Peter “Pingu” Williamson in November ’09. The untimely death would prompt the next instalment of the party. This one would be a tribute. Unfortunately, Hectic Harmoniz had already called it a day by this point but those behind the group, as well as people involved with both AU and Daylite Robbery Sound System agreed to team up once again to pay suitably-chaotic homage to their pal. Part accolade to Pingu’s tireless efforts exposing the music he loved to a larger audience and in equal measure fundraiser for an aggrieved family, the event managed to secure over £2,000 for funeral costs and various legal fees that had occurred owing to the specific circumstances surrounding the death. This is hardly the place to go into all that though. The takeaway point is that the tribute was a success. Those behind it committed to continuing Punx Inna Jungle at least once or twice a year from that moment onwards.
Each subsequent party has been in the same spirit of those original efforts – the goal seemingly to create the ideal habitat in which to celebrate the life of Pingu. It’s still not about the money, and the bands and DJs selected have always been those in their scene who most embody the ideals of liberty, freedom, and equality – irrespective of their “fame”. Since the early days at Jabez Clegg, it’s been forced to find a new home. The story goes that AU promoter Tom Skinkis was jailed during the infamous London riots of 2011, and following the MEN running a frontpage photo of his mugshot, the original venue no longer wanted to host the event. As it turns out, Tom was wrongfully convicted and Jabez Clegg eventually came to terms with this. They even asked for Punx Inna Jungle to return but by that point the damage had been done. AU and the other groups involved told Jabez to shove it, and would continue within new pastures.
The next, and almost every other, instalment of Punx has taken place at what would become its spiritual home – Antwerp Mansion. If you consider yourself anything of a devotee to a Manchester session and have never set foot in the Victorian town house at the heart of Rusholme, then you really need to assess your priorities. Set back from the main road, and located within its own dilapidated gardens, the sprawling den of iniquity is a creaking, shambolic structure that oozes as much character as it does questionable substances from its walls. It’s got the air of an illegal occupation without fear of a police intrusion – a setting that perfectly mirrors the antics and ideals that the event has become synonymous with.
For the final instalment, the line-up would be as strong as ever. Upstairs, co-founders Daylite Robbery Sound System pounded out the drum and bass mixes with sets from Chimpo, Mark XTC, Red Eye HIFI, Kydro, Mike E Freedom, and Jonny Opo, Prime, Joe Vickers and many more. A good number of those performing featured at earlier parties under the Punx Inna Jungle banner, making the choice of DJs appropriate for the event’s final outing. Readers who follow Words From The Underground will probably guess that drum and base, dubstep, and jungle is far from where my expertise lie, so understand and forgive this scant review of the electronic portion of the night’s entertainment.
With the jungle raving upstairs, the punx typically reside below. The bands selected span almost every subgenre within punk rock today. Representing folk would be Hastings’ Matilda’s Scoundrels. The techy, fast stuff was covered by PMX and Fair Dos. The harder edged sounds came courtesy of Throwing Stuff, Grand Collapse, and Wadeye. Finally, no Punx Inna Jungle would be complete without a bit of ska, and rapidly rising, horn-driven skank machine Faintest Idea ensured that there was plenty of opportunity to dance. Also billed were London’s Wonk Unit but owing to van failures somewhere along the North-South commute, they couldn’t make it.
To attempt a full blow-by-blow account of the evening’s shenanigans would be ludicrous for a rank amateur like myself. For one, it’s in Antwerp Mansion and the quality of sound in there is, politely put, questionable. That, plus the fact that it was the last ever Punx Inna Jungle set the tone of the evening. Some of my earliest experiences of true underground punk rock were courtesy of Anarchistic Undertones’ flagship event and I’ll be forever grateful for the experiences it’s given me. Many of the strongest friendships I’ve forged within the scene were started sat under tarps out back of Antwerp, and with that in mind, I’d endeavoured to celebrate the occasion in true Punx Inna Jungle style. Did I watch every band that evening? Shamefully (yet hardly surprisingly), no. Too many mates converge at every edition and usually a good portion of the night’s spent catching up, drinking, and generally getting bawdy in the smoking area. It’s all too easy to completely lose track of time when skinning up with one of those friends you only see three times a year. Journo duties and socialising can be seamless and symbiotic but that’s not always the case.
It’s a real shame that this year’s Punx Inna Jungle is the last ever but it’s understandable considering the level of success Anarchistic Undertones have enjoyed with Manchester Punk Festival. The city might have lost a semi-legendary gathering but one of its premier punk rock promoters just got a load of extra free time on their hands. Knowing how well connected the team is getting, that’s an exciting prospect indeed. I imagine they’re cooking up something bigger and better already.