Book Yer Ane Fest @ Abertay Student Centre, Dundee, 30 Nov-2 Dec
Book Yer Ane Fest is much more than a DIY punk festival – it's the coming together of a community of music lovers with a desire to bring about positive change
Punks from all over Scotland come together in Dundee to celebrate ten years of Make-That-A-Take Record's annual Book Yer Ane Fest (BYAF). Across three stages, Abertay Student Union and Conroy’s Basement play host to over 50 acts over the course of the weekend, all in aid of local charities and "a beautiful time" in the words of festival organiser Derrick Johnston. With stalls dedicated to charitable organisations such as Food Not Bombs, tackling food poverty in Dundee, and wares from local artists including feminist art zines from Artificial Womb and the talented Debauchcery Lee Designs, Book Yer Ane Fest is much more than a DIY punk festival; it's the coming together of a community of music lovers with a desire to bring about positive change, promoting open discussion through the films shown over the weekend about mental health and the role of women in music, as well as encouraging self-care and contemplation through Hard Core Zen yoga and meditation.
It is rather fitting that Book Yer Ane Fest should begin at the spiritual home of Make-That-A-Take (MTAT) in Conroy’s Basement, where it all started with Johnston, a founding member of the label, playing a solo set as Tragical History Tour. Having recently returned from touring Canada, Johnston acknowledges friends and familiar faces in the audience. The set has the air of a reunion, and an official return home for Johnston – who covers songs from performers past and present, including BYAF favourites Frankie Stubbs (Leatherface) and Tim Holehouse. Following this is a bracing set from positive hardcore band AVAS, who officially open the festival. The crowd then makes the short journey to the Abertay Student Union main stage just in time for a high octane set from Dundee band Houdini Said No.
As well as aiding the discovery of new music, Book Yer Ane Fest is also a celebration of returning bands who have played at MTAT shows throughout the year – including firm favourites Paper Rifles. Uniforms' return to the festival calls for the first ‘human pyramid’ of the weekend from the crowd in appreciation of their raw punk sound. Johnston’s guitar breaking down midway through the set enables him to take up his natural position as frontman, and he encourages an acapella sing along to Pink Couch – which has become something of an anthem for inclusion. This sentiment is echoed by misery punks Goodbye Blue Monday. Singer Graham Lough talks openly about issues affecting his mental health and thanks fans and BYAF organisers for making them feel so loved and accepted as the packed-out venue rocks out to their tunes, including recent hit Misery Punk Ruined My Life. Penultimate headliners Dead or American offer escapism through atmospheric sounds and progressive introspection that conjures up the American West, bringing to mind a guitar-fuelled Ennio Morricone score.
Led by certified hard man and street poet Gary Robertson, who shadow boxes across the stage for the duration of their set, Saturday sees a gut-busting performance from Dundee band The Cundeez, who bridge the gap between the spirit of 77 and the more all-encompassing sub genres of punk from other MTAT artists. All the way from Indiana, folk punk artist Austin Lucas moves the audience with tales of living on the road as a full-time singer-songwriter, appearing similarly moved by the crowd’s response to his solo acoustic set. Lucas steps away from the mic, and his voice carries to the back of the venue as the audience join him in a heartfelt rendition of Alone in Memphis.
While Book Yer Ane Fest is committed to being more inclusive, organisers admit that more can always be done to make people feel more included. Despite this, MTAT cannot be faulted for involving more women in the scene, and for welcoming a variety of female performers on BYAF’s stage this year. This is reflected in the line-up for Sunday, which begins with Irish pop-punk trio CHERYM – who take to the main stage after arriving straight from the airport. CHERYM could be seen throughout the rest of the day supporting other female-fronted bands, including Girls Rock School graduates Fistymuffs who bring the rage alongside riot grrrl duo Bratakus, who talk between songs about their struggle to be taken seriously from their male industry counterparts. ‘Punk Witches’ Dream Nails invite women and non-binary people to the front of the stage to join them in placing a hex on the patriarchy through empowering feminist anthems, and have the audience dancing and squatting in homage to the 30-day shred queen Jillian Michaels.
After breaking a sweat to Dream Nails, the audience are limbered up just in time for headliners The Roughneck Riot, who perform Celtic inspired folk-punk at breakneck speed. The crowd spontaneously erupts into a frenzy; those standing on the fringes are either subsumed by the deluge of bodies performing an angry Strip the Willow or wiped out. It's a pleasure to see festival organisers caught up in the ruckus as the lights come back up on another successful Fest.
Book Yer Ane Fest XII took place in Dundee, 30 Nov-2 Dec