All good things must come to an end as they say, and it’s with a heavy heart we wave goodbye to Manchester ska-punk institution Bomb Ibiza. With the club-nights and the gigs, over the last six years Em Johnson and the gang have provided countless great memories and times and showcased and helped out a ton of bands, from the jolly madness of Sunday’s Ska Bars to the bigger gigs held at Satan’s Hollow. It’s hard to overstate just how important Bomb Ibiza was to SB6 in the early days so I feel like writing something about Bomb Ibiza for those of you that are interested. The most I can hope for is that someone might read this and think about promoting gigs and all that it entails. I know firsthand what a difficult, thankless task it is and I know that promoters don’t get nearly enough credit when things go right but always (often rightly so!) get the kibosh when things go wrong. So anyway, here’s my memories of Bomb Ibiza and my own little tribute to something that me and Manchester are gonna miss, more than we probably realise right now…
Back in the days of yore of early SB6, 2002 or so, the Manchester punk scene was a different beast. Whilst there were punk gigs (there was the more cider-punky gigs at the Star and Garter and the hardcore scene catered for by Marios at Say it To My Face and some others) the ska-punk scene never really got a home. A lot of the bands and people from the DIY punk scene, where the likes of Capdown had played their early Manc shows, had gravitated to Leeds. Whilst we were going down south and playing our first Sonic Boom Six shows for amazing, up-for-it punk crowds with bands like Howards Alias, No Comply, Adequate 7 etc in Manchester the promoter to make those kind of shows work hadn’t appeared. Apart from the odd decent gig of that kind here and there, and the odd band, there was no focused place or promotion for it. Hell, we even promoted gigs ourselves and got bands like Lightyear, Shootin Goon and Captain Everything over because it was the only way we could think of to try and get things going. It just turned, spluttered and wouldn’t kick into life.
You could see that there were enough people into that kind of stuff, and enough local bands to make it work (I remember us, Rhythmic Coughing, Harijan, Minions of Jeffrey, Echo Freddy and others all jockeying for gigs) it just needed a focus. That came largely in part through a website that Mackie from a ska band from Yorkshire called Milk 2 Sugars and his friend Si started when they came to Manchester. It was called MancPunkScene and, although it was met with a lot of understandable skepticism by parts of the punk scene, it did slowly but surely build up a dedicated user base.
There are a lot of different takes on how much difference MPS made. I understand that people that had previously felt at home in parts of Manchester’s punk scene would feel affronted that MPS ‘created’ anything. But to me, and others like me, and to Sonic Boom Six, which means a huge deal to me, it was simply very important. It was the epitome of what is good about the internet; a tool to communicate. Personally, I know I never really felt properly at home dipping into Thursday nights at Rock World, dipping into the hardcore gigs, dipping into the DIY bands scene. It was good, but I still liked silly bands that skanked and played trumpets and everyone at those places had hated that for a good few years now. From my perspective MancPunkScene meant that a lot of the kids that liked different punk bands started being friends but most importantly to me it meant that the kids that liked the bands like Lightyear, Five Knuckle, No Comply etc finally started speaking together. And when I say ‘being friends’ I don’t mean e-buddys that you speak with online but then can’t say boo to a goose when you see them in real life (I’ve met a few of them…) but genuine, dyed-in-the-wool, speak on the phone, this is what life’s about friends that I still have. A lot of people who I’d seen about and said nothing more to than ‘hello’ previously you’re suddenly planning to meet up before a gig with for a drink. And then you’re waking up in their spare room with a coat over you not remembering much of the night before but knowing you had a good time.*
So, with the vim and vigour of a place to speak about strange things like Antimaniax and Aquabats, suddenly gigs like the HouseHoldName tour 2004 at the Star and Garter that Rhythmic Coughing put on were totally rammed. The one we put on the year before literally had about 30 people paying in. An all-dayer at the Star and Garter which had No Comply, Howards Alias, Sonic Boom Six and a bunch of other bands on was rammed and really exciting. People were talking, people were meeting new people, something was happening. I remember speaking to Em at that gig and she was definitely inspired to capitalise on this crowd (in a good way!). With this new-found little community developing, Em with help from Gail and Mina decided to do a skapunk clubnight at the Squirrels Bar in Owens Park Student Halls of Residence in Fallowfield and they decided, after a Lightyear song, to call it Bomb Ibiza! I remember pompously telling them it was a bad name because there was nothing wrong with Ibiza (I was big into going out to dance music nights at the time so was wounded by any perceived sleight from my punky cohorts) but over time I grew to like the name because it was silly and fun and unpretentious which is something I always liked about the ska-punk scene. Whilst every other scene, from hip-hop to hardcore to dance I’ve been a follower of has a capacity for pretentiousness and cool cliques in every club, Ska-punk is so geeky in the first place that you never get any of that. People don’t look you up and down when you come in and check your trainers. It’s the outside world that has the hang-ups about ska-punk and all that. When you see a load of kids jogging on the spot to ‘Ska Wars’ it’s easy to see that none of them give a flying fuck about that and none of them are looking at each other to see how each other is dancing either. It’s just silly, trivial fun, which is, to me, a huge part of what rock music is about.
That first night was a good little laugh. I can probably name everyone there, but it was something new. There was another one that followed at the Brickhouse (maybe there were a few at that venue…) and more people started turning up. I remember Alex from Reading ran the PunkerMentality website turning up with some competition prizes. Em had also started promoting some gigs under the Bomb Ibiza banner. Forgive my memory but I can’t remember many but I do remember the Toasters at the Roadhouse with us and Zen Baseballbat and the ensuing chaos that followed because Fandangle’s drummer had a problem with the kitshare organisation. It turned into a shitstorm and I remember the woman at the Roadhouse screaming at Em and calling her an amateur which was well unfair. That venue has a great atmosphere and some of the best gear and dimensions for live music, it’s just a shame that the staff there didn’t give a shit about live music. But that’s another story.
However, it was when the night moved to Satan’s Hollow that it really got moving because you had the mutually beneficial relationship of a venue and club that needs both gigs and a night to bring students in the week with a promoter who can provide it. Marios from Say it To My Face was a great help in those days and helped the Bomb Ibiza guys through their steps into putting on bigger touring bands and the organisation and professionalism that takes. The first few club-nights were - in the echoing truth that a large dance-floor declares - relatively empty but the dedicated few always trundled their way over, happy to drink beer and engage in drunken conversation with the omnipresent Miller. However, with heavy heavy flyering over the freshers period, I guess it must have been in 2005, the first club-night of the student year was absolutely rammed in Satan’s and had an amazing atmosphere. The music was more varied too, with a more student-pleasing indie bit (with Ordinary Boys, Dead 60s etc) to a punk set courtesy of Jess (who dropped NOFX, Against Me! and all that) which worked well and kept a lot of the people who weren’t just there to hear ska coming back for the social element. From then on, Bomb Ibiza was up and running and, although attendance does go up and down, never returned to the empty-room-with-the-dedicated feeling of the first few club-nights.
The first gig I remember being really rammed was Suicide Machines, Howards Alias and us in January 2005 (actually Dave Kelly’s last gig!).We went down really well and I speak to a lot of people who say that was the first time they saw us. It was a great night and I got to sing a bit of ‘Nervous Breakdown’ with Jason from Suicide Machines and he did a little ‘Sound of The Police’ shout-out which I was stoked about. The gigs started to get bigger and better over time and soon it became the place for the punk and ska gigs in Manchester, even with its stupid fucking round stage. Tons and tons of memorable gigs from Bomb Ibiza followed as it got established over the years with Streetlight Manifesto, the Slackers, Voodoo Glow Skulls, RX Bandits and the Aquabats being some that spring to mind. In the summer of 2006 we did a launch gig for Ruff Guide and played ‘Saw Red’ by Sublime for Em which is on YouTube somewhere… There were just a ton of good gigs for a good few years. And I guess the thing that I need to impress upon the reader is, in general, before Bomb Ibiza these gigs were missing Manchester.
Once the club-night and gigs had been established Em didn’t rest and, as I remember, borrowing an idea from a Bradford gig that she co-promoted with another lad she brought the Ska Bar to the Retro Bar in Manchester. There simply weren’t enough big supports to go around all the smaller bands and with Satan’s being over-sized for the littler touring bands the Ska Bar at the Retro Bar was the answer. Essentially a developmental territory for the bigger Bomb Ibiza gigs and a chance to keep prices low and music-business politics out of the equation as much as possible, the Ska Bar quickly became a whole little life of its own, with bands like Stand Out Riot, the Fractions, Harijan (RIP!) and coming into their own as part of this in a way we had been lucky enough to do in the early days of Bomb Ibiza. The small community that was built here is awesome with the fun of nights like the charity Karaoke (which is always blessed with a star turn from another of Manchester’s omnipresent gig barflies, Mikey Wong) to the rapport that has been built with the staff. Francis from Stand Out Riot will be continuing the good work Em and co started in the Ska Bar after Bomb Ibiza is lain to rest.
Over the last few years, with Em leaving uni and getting a job that takes up a lot of time and with the inevitable ebb and flow of lives and people, Bomb Ibiza has slowed down a bit and the Ska Bars have really taken on a life of their own and become a little institution. They’re always proper good fun so if you’ve never been down to the Retro Bar on a Ska Bar Sunday, keep your eyes on the forum and go and take a look, it comes recommended. It’s great that
So, all that’s left to say really is to Em and everyone that helped her (shouts to Gail, Francis, Jess, James, Marios and anyone else that lent a hand) THANK YOU! and goodbye to Bomb Ibiza. I’ve met a ton of great friends through Bomb Ibiza! and had some amazing times there and it really meant the world in the first few years of the Boom to know that a local promoter that was helping out the music scene that we were a part of had our back. It was a massive help. All the effort and time that Em and co put into Bomb Ibiza was massively, truly appreciated. I need to give a shout-out now to TNS, Slit, Say it To My Face and everyone else that will continue to provide Manchester with quality punk nights and does the tough job of being a promoter and bringing us these shows time after time. And maybe if you’re reading this and you have some time and passion on your hands, maybe it might inspire you to go out there and create a little Bomb Ibiza of your own?! The world needs you!!!
Bomb Ibiza are having one more event. Come and check their forum HERE and come and support the cause. I hope that we can be part of it one way or another!
Your dearest pal
Barney x x x
* Not in a sex way.