What To Expect From… No Play Festival 2023

Main Stage

Arriving in Liverpool to add to the city’s (somewhat) noteworthy lineage of rock and alternative all-dayers is No Play Festival, and boasting a fairly stacked inaugural lineup at that. Not that that’s too big of a shock—the team behind it has been promoting shows from some of the most exciting names in heavy and alternative music since 2016—but in terms of putting a good foot forward, this certainly seems to be it. As far as headliners go, Yonaka do feel like a good choice, topping a main stage that’s overall more melodic yet genre-ambiguous, while also having the indie-rock cred that pushes an event like this just that bit higher above the waterline. Their live reputation definitely precedes them too, as does a sonic fluidity and creativity that’s been since effectively the beginning. Topped off by a new EP that’s been picking up major steam—and the fact that this is their first headline show in the city in six years—and the choice is as solid as it comes.

Joining them is a slew of acts who’ve similarly carved their names in general disregard for settling in one musical space, in favour of flexing something much more vital and colourful. In the case of Vukovi, that’s only become more prevalent has time as gone on, as they’re now among the flag-bearers for dense, hard-edged but insatiably catchy alt-rock marching entirely to its own beat. Superlove fall into a similar camp; they’re a bit more hit-or-miss overall, but they’ve got an undeniably energy to them that pierces through regardless, between alt-pop glitter and a tide of alt-rock pulverising. Meanwhile, Higher Power split the difference between hardcore and ‘90s alt-nation anthemia; Lizzy Farrall has become deeply ingratiated in alt-pop stardom that still has room for its creative swings; and Gen And The Degenerates take more straight-laced rock music into some noticeably bracing and flexible avenues.

As for the newer names joining the fold, the ambitions of rising just as high are there too, in full force. Most notable are Love Is Noise, who feel on the cusp of a real explosion with their Deftones-ish take on atmosphere and melody, lodged into big, robust alt-rock anthems ready to fill every corner of whatever space they’re offered. Happydaze are a lot less heady by comparison, but they’ve got a verve for pop-punk affixed with modern trimmings (that don’t feel inelegantly forced in, crucially) that could reach similar heights. Finally, at the point where they’re just about getting their feet wet, Knife Bride and Angel Number seem to already be paving bright futures for themselves. They’re two pretty unique entities in their own right (coining the respective micro-genres of ‘slut-metal’ and ‘electrogaze’), though that’s about right for a lineup like this—diverse, and prioritising those making the absolute most of it.

Guillotine Stage

The customary home of heavy music that these things often have is the Guillotine Stage, skewing mainly towards the grassroots, ground-level brutality that’s been on the rise pretty consistently for a few years. In other words, mainly hardcore and nu-metalcore, and headed up by Conjurer who fit neither of those descriptors even remotely. Still, it’s always good to have them around, as a paragon of more ‘true’ metal that still fits among a crowd of younger, no-less-hungry beatdown merchants. And besides, as a great band—one of the flagships of their corner of modern metal—they’ve every right to sit at this level, where they’re far more likely than not to decimate.

Though, for something more in that aforementioned pocket, Graphic Nature certainly aren’t a bad choice. 2023 has been extremely kind to them so far, with this as the latest in a long line of summer shows that are really bulking them up as a band. As far as their output goes, it’s been similarly phenomenal for them with their debut A Mind Waiting To Die this year. Combining the two has only seen them assail new heights thus far, and that doesn’t look to be changing. Indeed, you can say the same for Going Off, as a new dynamo within hardcore that’s on just as much of a tear this year, as well as Death Goals for a brand of hardcore that prioritises its emotional rigour with frequently excellent results. Even on opposite ends of their genre spectrum, the same greatness permeates deeply in both.

In terms of up-and-comers, Creak’s debut full-length is on the horizon, the sort of hardcore / nu-metal / metalcore hybrid that’s fully equipped to go toe-to-toe with where this lineup is trending. If there’s one band to really springboard into something massive within their scene off the back of this, Creak are probably the best bet. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of good stuff elsewhere though—Forager power forward on the back of kinetic nu-metal; Knives bring post-punk nerviness and noise-rock angularity to their brand of punk; and Lure In take shape through some utterly colossal atmospheric metalcore.

Best Life Records Stage

As the place for smaller, more locally-based acts, there’s naturally a bit less profile around the Best Life Records Stage. A bit less hype too, in what does feel like somewhat of a late addition; for a festival initially billed for two stages, tacking on this inevitably smaller draw rings as a later choice. Still, it’s hard to complain, especially when most of these acts are relative unknowns given a chance to shine at an event like this. And besides, some do indeed come with some noise around them, as Cameron Hayes’ alt-pop has made a couple of festival appearances already this year, and Sleep Outside made a few waves among DIY emo with their EP This Won’t Ever Last in 2021.

As for the rest though, there’s a decent range of styles to make what’s among their first bites of the cherry fairly appealing. Among them, SYLLO is a fair standout, drawing mostly from 2000s indie-pop that’s blessed with all the verve and swell you’d want from it. HCK9 is also one that might be worth paying attention to, in an electro-rock vein that feels deliberately on the contemporary edge when it comes to approach. Whirring synth palettes and clattering production certainly give that off, and it comes together rather nicely at that. Finally, Cartoonhead are deeply ingrained in an indie / emo style that certain crowds will no doubt find irresistible; Stay In Nothing already display some solid acumen when it comes to grunge and big, swirling soundscapes; and FEAD arrive off the back of some local Liverpool buzz with their reliable alt-rock.

No Play Festival takes place on 5th August at the Invisible Wind Factory, Liverpool. For more information, visit https://www.noplay.uk/festival.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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