Outbreak Festival is hardcore’s worst kept secret. No longer lingering in the depths of the underground, this year’s Outbreak weekend saw 10,000 punks packing out Depot Mayfield.

Last year’s 10th anniversary blowout served as a monumental weekend for the hardcore scene, yet, somehow, 2023 managed to raise the bar even further. Outbreak Festival is proving to be an alt tastebreaker, a smelting pot of subcultures; with a fresh, hip-hop infused line-up, the event is singlehandedly taking daring leaps forward to inject new life into the stereotypical hardcore festival formula.

While the large-scale warehouse may be a far cry from the festival’s humble DIY beginnings, the exposed brickwork Depot Mayfield still manages to capture something satisfyingly and suitably gritty. With its dripping ceiling, exposed piping, and pop-up skatepark, the venue feels like it’s hosting some kind of illegal, underground skate rave.

SUNAMI performing to eager fans on Friday.

The acts on offer only amplify this ‘skate-rave’ energy. Outbreak has truly delivered the crème de la crème of hardcore’s finest, combining the most raucous moshers from both sides of the alt skate scene. 

Immediately, this is proven by the formidable Pest Contol. Opening up the festival on Friday, their flurrying, thrashy sound is enough to get crowds ravenous – it may be early doors, punters still slowly filing into the building, but the Outbreak crowds are here to party. And this is what Outbreak has mastered: it doesn’t matter if you’re a headliner or the tiniest name on the undercard, the crowd will treat you with the same respect. 

Heavy-hitters SUNAMI only confirm this fact further; vocalist Josef Alfonso takes a moment to comment on how the band have “never played in front of this many people” – yet eager bodies are constantly clambering onstage to plummet back into the chaotic crowd, indulging in the new sound like starved animals.

The festival’s all-killer-no-filler makes it easy for fans to fully indulge. A second stage act like formidable Pain Of Truth has the crowd howling along to war cries and garners onstage cartwheelers galore, energy equally as feral as the crowds who see Defeater on the mainstage. It puts the right bands, no matter how small, in front of the right crowd.

SCOWL’s Kat Moss in action.

SCOWL are perhaps one of the best examples of Outbreak hand-selecting the finest hardcore acts and giving them the opportunity to flourish. 2022’s Outbreak served as the group’s UK debut, and they have flourished massively since. Their return to the Outbreak stage is only proof of their growth, the neon-spattered punks’ Saturday set ferocious on all fronts and filled with fans desperate to follow vocalist Kat Moss’ every whim. Delightfully furious in her white go-go boots, Moss is adored by the crowds; it doesn’t matter if she’s howling “split this shit in a fucking circle,” or barking out enraged baiting calls of “what happens if you fuck around..?”, everyone is eager to get involved. And she is fully aware, face splitting in a joyous grin when punters oblige, smiling deviously out into chaos she inspires within the crowd.

There is also a conscious effort to involve newer sounds in the line-up – this is not your standard hardcore festival. Machine Girl are one of the stand-out acts of the weekend, a breakcore clusterfuck of digital hardcore, glitchy blastbeat drum and bass chaos. The line-up hints at a booking team well aware of the limits of their audience’s tastes, and wanting to push it that bit further – and crowds love it.


The love for the acts on offer isn’t exclusively felt just by the crowds either – it’s shared by the other bands on the line-up too. Show Me The Body’s set is a truly stunning whirlwind of community, a love-letter to what hardcore music has to offer. The banjo-heavy set is raging, fans launching onstage in masses for a chance to howl into Julian Cashwan-Pratt’s mic – but bands on the sidelines of the stage are equally as guilty of wanting to get up-close and personal.

Goth cowboy Denzel Himself, having performed his own mighty set previously, repeatedly hurls himself onstage, sweaty face pressed up close to Cashwan-Pratt’s equally as sweaty features as he screeches into the mic, before propelling off to stagedive. Similarly, Soul Glo are little menaces – it seems their raucous, skank heavy set and huge stage invasion on Saturday wasn’t the last we’d see of them. The singer runs out to sing with Cashwan-Pratt multiple times, the giddy sense of comradery making the set a total delight.


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The constant sense of community, despite the variation of sounds on offer, definitely sets Outbreak apart from other festivals. It doesn’t matter if it’s Loathe, with their crushingly atmospheric set that serves as a sermon in disguise, or the spittle flecked onslaught of Code Orange, or the chilled out flow of rapper Earl Sweatshirt‘s reflective anthems – crowds are hungry for more. Earl even gets crowdsurfers despite his relatively calm performance, the bouncier tracks received with a sharper hardcore reception.

With Earl’s set in mind, the initial Outbreak line-up definitely posed an intriguing question: how will hip-hop sounds mix in with the grit of hardcore? What happens when you put hip hop artists in front of a hardcore crowd?

…pure chaos. In the very best way, of course.

Action in the pit.

The headliners serve as the finest example of this – perfectly tailored to go from one end of the hardcore spectrum to the newer injection of hip-hop, each night still manages to harness the same level of ferality from the crowds.

The spite of hardcore legends Converge starts the headline sets off gorgeously, opener As Eagles Become Vultures immediately making the crowd become feral themselves, urged on by the incomparable Jacob Bannon. Filled with deep cuts, every track gloriously rough around the edges and raw in a way that has fans in uproar. Howls of delight erupt when the iconic image of Jane Doe is plastered on the backing screen, or bodies fly and the pit is pulled back for the venomous rumble of Under Duress or Cutter. It’s exemplary hardcore chaos. Bannon punctuates the visceral set by lobbing the mic into the air, the harsh slam of it hitting the ground the last thing that bursts out of the speakers.

Death Grips close things off on Saturday – and their electropunk and frazzled industrial hip-hop is almost more menacing than the gristle of Converge. I’ve Found Footage is a true experience – the familiar tech-y rumble rousing every member of the crowd into motion like an electrical pulse, bodies moving along to the staccato whirring immediately. The stark red backing screen silhouettes the trio, yet their darkened figures are transfixing – they have waves of people flowing onstage, sweaty arms and legs flailing for every fractured, gritty track.

Converge headlining the main stage.

The finest example of how a hardcore crowd can amplify the chaos of hip-hop truly comes in the form of Denzel Curry‘s festival closing set, however. The lack of barrier transforms every tune into something wild and unhinged, something heavier, hounding and more charged. And it seems Curry came to the set prepared for the heightened energy – even having a message appearing on screen when he asks for a wall of death telling crowds to all “take three steps back.”

Busted nose? Not an issue, mate.

And that’s the real kicker of Outbreak – especially now that it’s inviting hip-hop rappers and more diverse alt voices to join its ranks. That hardcore mentality, the DIY, ‘sign a waiver to maybe get a busted nose’ enthusiasm of crowds, is enough to elevate just about any set into something new, something fresh and exhilarating. Hardcore acts are used to that sort of interaction, but the more diverse acts seem to relish in it.

Outbreak 2023 – an undeniable success, bloody noses be damned. It’s a community that truly can’t be topped. We can only pray that it continues to diversify, while still harnessing that good-natured, gusty hardcore energy in the years to come.

Photos: Ahklaq Haque

Here’s to next year!