It’s 2001, Popstars is making its TV debut, your mum has finally mastered the art of the chicken tikka masala (a noughties staple) and you've plastered your box room with as many Kerrang pull-outs as possible. Above your head is a double page spread of pop-punk poster boys Sum 41, standing in the middle of a skatepark dressed in cargo shorts with guitars that hang below their knees - encapsulating the essence of your DIY punk dream.
Fast forward 20 years later and the Fat Lip music video is still kick-flipping around your mind. The same could be said for the brains behind Manchester-based record label Sour Grapes; Alex Tadros, Giorgio Carbone and Borja Regueira, whose worlds collided when they met in the sweaty confines of Manchester’s music scene. They have now turned their attention to putting on gigs at Projekts - a DIY skatepark in the city.
“Sour Grapes is an independently run label that focuses on psychedelic, punk and garage rock music,” begins Giorgio when I catch up with the team for a chat about the gigs, “None of us are from Manchester, but we all met through music and gigs here; Borja is a sound engineer, I’m a musician and Alex is a journalist, and we had a shared passion from the start to put on our own shows and become part of the music scene we’ve always loved.”
Citing the city’s scene as a reason to make the big move isn’t anything new, with many creatives longing to follow in the footsteps of the musicians, DJs and electro giants that have given Manchester its legendary cultural status. Manchester’s music scene has long nurtured communities of people that span beyond its suburbs, just like the three fanatics from Italy, Spain and the Middle East who now form the pulp of Sour Grapes.
Known as the city’s ‘underdog’ promoters, you might recognise the Sour Grapes emblem from the back of a toilet door in a music venue or the odd Northern Quarter lamppost. An ingenious DIY marketing tactic synonymous with organisations that form the basis of their manifesto over a few pints of ale in their favourite poster-strewn boozer.
“We were all drawn here because of the music,” continues Giorgio. “Big Hands is our home and since we started, we’ve grown from hosting one local gig a month at the venue to bringing in bands from the likes of France, the States and beyond. We’ve also recently started putting on shows at Night & Day Cafe, the sister venue of Big Hands and another iconic space that’s been pivotal to the music scene. The Projekts collaboration just feels like the natural next step for us.”
From lager-soaked mind map to pop-punk dream come true, Sour Grapes’ relationship with Projekts began when an impromptu trip landed the trio directly outside the venue - a former car park turned skatepark that sits just behind Piccadilly station. “It automatically sprung to us that it would make a great gig venue - a space that would allow us to bring bands to the city to perform in a completely unique setting,” explains Borja.
Running their HQ out of the back of the UK’s last standing cassette tape shop inside Afflecks Palace, Mars Tapes, the collaboration between Sour Grapes and Projekts skatepark is as harmoniously obvious as Sharon and Ozzy’s marriage. Last October, the label set the wheels of their new skatepark project in motion, with a trial gig that saw Californian psych rockers Hoover iii perform to a sell-out crowd as skateboard enthusiasts ollied around them.
“The sound was incredible, and that was our main worry. With it being an open air, outdoor space, we were concerned that it may get lost, but it worked and that was a huge relief. The venue is great because wherever the audience is standing they can see the band, which is sometimes compromised in smaller, indoor venues.”
After the monumental success of 2022’s inaugural event, Sour Grapes have now launched WAX, the UK’s only recurring gig night in an open air skatepark, that kicks off on Friday 24 February. With a roster of rockers from across the globe, each show will have an open skate session alongside a sponsored bar and space for local artists and bands to sell merchandise.
Manchester-based trio The Orielles launch the programme with a free entry DJ set on Friday 24 February, before Death Valley Girls, Memes, The Black Lips, The Cool Greenhouse, Nice Biscuit and Frankie & The Witch Fingers all make their debuts amongst the half-pipes, ledges and ramps of Projekts. “We’re still committed to giving local Manchester bands a platform, so the support slots for all the shows are filled by one of our favourite acts at the moment, or a band already on the Sour Grapes label,” says Giorgio.
Alongside their residencies at music institutions across Manchester, Sour Grapes have signed some of the city’s best underground talent to the label, from the 60s rock and roll sounds of The Big Peach to the distorted power of psychedelic trio School Disco.
The label is as much about bringing together creatives through the medium of cassette as it is through communal shows. Borja explains: “We didn’t want to do CDs and we didn’t have enough money for vinyl, so we settled on the cassette, which has now become a bit of a niche. The shop stemmed from us acknowledging that people wanted to own one-of-a-kind physical forms of music, but it also allowed us to sell music from our own label as well.”
The true essence of Sour Grapes is ‘do it yourself’ - a term that’s prone to losing its true meaning, but the trio are doing exactly what is says on the tin. Through a chance meeting in a home away from home, Sour Grapes are an independent crew on the cusp of creating Manchester’s newest music craze - these are the first recurring skatepark gigs in the UK. The city is renowned for its rave scene that’s still credited as being one of the UK’s most influential movements, but it doesn't stop there. From being at the forefront of the 70s punk scene with bands like the Buzzcocks, to the rafts of indie bands that blossomed following the success of bands like The Stone Roses, Manchester has always been a city that champions new live music. It’s no wonder that another live music first has been born in the city.
WAX launches on Friday 24 February 2023.