|Rebellion Festival 2010 - Blackpool, Winter Gardens - 5th-8th August 2010|
|Written by Johnny H|
|Sunday, 15 August 2010 06:00|
Blackpool is a place I've always thought you go to if you are either a) a bit of a masochist or b) criminally insane. But here I am in the stag and hen capital of Europe on a windswept Summer's weekend for four days of the finest Punk Rock you'll find anywhere in the world, and I'm starting to think I must now fit into one of the two former categories. My love of all things Rebellion started about three years ago at a Cock Sparrer gig in Wolverhampton, where I literally became one of the family over night. Rebellion Festival is just like Hard Rock Hell is for the metal fraternity, it is much more than just a festival, it is an event, it is also "independent" and you just get swallowed up by it all. Having been told year after year by some close mates who go year after year about just how great Rebellion is, I finally succumbed due to the overall strength of this years line up
Being my first time at The Winter Gardens I wasn't expecting much more than a visit to the home of UK Darts as seen on Sky TV, but what an ignoramus I must be, as the building itself built in 1878 is a beautiful example of what once made Britain Great. OK skipping the posters on the walls boasting the talents of years gone by from the likes of Freddie Starr and The Black And White Minstrels, there is something quite apt about the fact that Punk Rock has also found its home at the very heart of what was once commonly known as "Variety". Spread over four days and six stages Rebellion Festival plays host to every genre you can think of from Ska, Oi, Burlesque, Psychobilly, Glam Rock to good old Punk Rock. Obviously I'm never going to be able to catch every band playing but what follows is my account of the four days I spent at what I believe is the best festival in the UK right now (along with Hard Rock Hell).
Arriving mid afternoon and checking into the hotel, I quickly set sail for the Winter Gardens only to bump into someone from my hometown. I immediately thought back to my already largely written introduction and started my weekend with a smile. Once on site I was blown away with the actual size and scope of The Winter Gardens, not just because of its fantastic architecture but the presence of the building sat almost at the foot of the towns landmark tower. Ok, the complex may play host to utter shit the other fifty one weeks of the year but this weekend this place belongs to the heart and soul of Punk Rock.
Making my way into the Empress Ballroom just in time to catch The Restarts I'm met with a tirade from their singer against the EDL, which is most welcome in my household, as they launched into 'Legacy of Bigotry' and then proceed to unleash a whirlwind set that had the audience flying through the air with the greatest of ease. Quickly moving to The Arena I caught a bit of Middle Finger Salute who had come on recommendation of a respected band member. Sadly they were all a bit Punk Rock by numbers for my liking but that's not to say they didn't go down well. Blitzkrieg were up next on the same stage and I'm having hard Rock Hell flashbacks again as isn't that Jax Chambers from Girlschool on stage? Hmm. Yes, it is, and she seems as equally at home playing Street Punk as she does Heavy Metal.
Moving over to the cabaret area referred to as the Bizarre Bizaar I was welcomed into its elegant surroundings by a Burlesque show from Lucy Longlegs that seemed to be paying tribute to what appeared to be Lady Diana, which was a bit of car crash striptease if ever there was some. Talking of car crashes Mongey Crew (a few members of Splodgenessabounds tribute to Glam Rock) were a fucking four car pile up of musical entertainment. Hilarious but as equally frustrating after about 5 minutes. Back to the Arena then for Welsh punkers Picture Frame Seduction who appeared to have brought some mates in from Whitby? who they dedicated their track 'Nuclear Free Zone' to. I like the fact these guys ply themselves with a suitable degree of irreverence. A double header with The Oppressed would have been an interesting bit of billing though.
Intrigued by the fact that a band had the balls to actually call themselves T-Rex and were on the Rebellion bill meant I was soon back in the Bizarre Bizaar, and I was amazed to see ex-Saxon six stringer Graham Oliver putting his name to such a musical travesty. I cannot help but think back to Saxon's stunning Sunday afternoon appearance at this years Download Festival and wonder where he might have rather have been. Beating a hasty retreat after just a few bars of 'Ride A White Swan' to the Arena to catch 1977 street punks Menace, my Punk Rock is instantly denied due to the venue being over capacity, so I decided to partake of an ale, and lo and behold they've sold out of lager!!!! Not being someone to let a double blow deny me of some musical entertainment, I decided to return to the much larger Empress venue and check out Streetlight Manifesto, who although I knew nothing by, and are not really my type of music, actually turned out to be the band of the day. Tight punchy Ska/Latin Rock with a horn section that could have played in a Stax Review show, the Americans certainly went down a treat not unlike Max Splodge and his Splodgenessabounds who back in the Arena were destroying their back catalogue with suitable aplomb. Is that Decca Wade I spot on the drums as well?
With morbid fascination of what might be, you'll forgive me if I admit that the band I really wanted to see here today was The Glitter Band. I was raised on this shit, and so were a large number of other people going by the generously sized crowd that was assembled. So it was with great applause that founding member John Rossall took us for a quick run through the hits he helped pen back in the early/mid seventies. Okay he may look like a curious mix of William Shatner and a member of the PDC these days but the hits spoke for themselves. Personal highlight being an early set run through of 'Let's Get Together Again' .
After a near five hour drive earlier the same day I was never got to last to see The Lurkers and Section 5 so I bid my pals good night and set myself up ready for day two.
The first rays of morning sunlight ushered in the usual mix of UK weather ahead of the day's proceedings, and as the rain fell I turned over and got some well deserved shut eye ahead of the day's Punk Rock marathon. I finally arrived on site just in time to bump into fellow Slugfester and singer with This System Kills - Pig, and we made our way into the Arena to catch Radio Dead Ones, who single-handedly blew my previous days cobwebs well and truly away. Equal parts Backyard Babies and Rancid, the Berlin punks played a selection of new and old tunes including brand newbie 'Angelina' that saw their merch booth doing some brisk business once they had finished playing.
Browsing the stalls between bands I overheard a version of Poison's 'Talk Dirty To Me' like no other version emanating from the Bizarre Bizaar, this then seamlessly segued into a George Formby tune. This was the sound of Multi-Coloured Pop Shop doing what they do and by 'eck if it isn't a right riot of fun. Back into the Empress for the first time of the day and we were greeted by Blood Or Whiskey, a band I can only describe as being the band Brad Pitt would have formed if he had stayed in character after filming 'Snatch' playing covers of the 'Gilbert's Fridge' series from back in the late eighties (Google it and you'll see what I mean). Not exactly my cup of tea, but this type of folky celtic thing goes down a bomb at Festivals so who am I to argue? Watch out for them at Leeds and Reading later this month. With Hazel O'Connor and The Subterraneans next up, I have to admit to having more than a little bit of nostalgia start to creep through me, this really was the sound of my youth club days, and by playing most of the 'Breaking Glass' album she made a lot of forty somethings very happy indeed. Slipping an odd placed cover of The Stranglers 'Hanging Around' in early on also suddenly made me realise just how much of Hazel's sound crossed over into the New Romantic era that followed her peak in popularity, especially the saxophone sound which Duran Duran would have appeared to have lifted.... heavily. Looking not a day older in thirty years Hazel was a bit of a revelation with a set peppered with tracks like 'Will You', 'Monsters in Disguise' and finishing with the hit 'Eighth Day'. This was the surprise package of the festival so far by a long way.
Moving into the Olympia for the first time this weekend, the cavernous tiled venue with a tent erected to cover the ceiling is possibly best described as a sound guys worst nightmare. Two stages running at right angles to one another, and running consecutively like Reading Festival once did, it appeared that all the bands were running with only an onstage line check prior to beginning and it really is like the Groundhog Day of worst nightmares for anyone working in the stage sound profession. The bass heavy mix that swamped Sick On The Bus' usual ferocious mix of Motorhead and heads down see you at the end Rock 'n' Roll was a bit of a let down, but songs like 'Need Your Love', 'Slut' and 'Loser' managed to keep the faithful raging on stage front. So with the final chords of Sick On The Bus set still ringing in my ears the other stage in the Olympia venue sprang to life with Gene October and his most recent incarnation of Chelsea. Demanding the sound guys turn them up and afford the true 1977 punk rockers the respect and sound they deserved, ironically Chelsea had at that time the best sound I'd heard in the Olympia.
Back into the Empress for the end of The Rezillos set and 'Top Of the Pops' sounded like it was being played on a state of the art stereo after the boom or bust of the Olympia. The Rezillos managed to get the first encore of the weekend that I'd actually witnessed much to the delight of their fans who had packed out the venue. Now to the toughest call of the day.... do I watch Argy Bargy in the Olympia wind tunnel of sound or do I stick with the great sound system in the Empress and watch Stiff Little Fingers? Well I stuck with the latter and witnessed quite possibly the set of the weekend so far with hit after hit and Jake Burns promising no new shit. SLF really are a band reborn since Ali McMordie rejoined them and who couldn't fail to scream along to classics like 'Silver Lining' and the sublime 'On The Edge'? At around 12:45 I decided to leave the hot hot heat of the Empress to get my place for Cockney Rejects back in the Olympia, and walking though to stage 1, I catch The Varukers slaying those who have turned up to witness their 100mph brand of Punk Rock. And what's this? The sound was as clear as a bell, things were looking up ahead of the arrival of The Cockney Rejects. Or were they? Because as soon as the band hit the stage the guitar was instantly lost in the usual bass buzz that had plagued the venue for most of bands I'd seen previously and it took the crowd singing along to 'We Are The Firm' before I actually recognised it was being played. It was at this point I decided to bid farewell to The Winter Gardens for the day and got back to my room where my 'Flares and Slippers' were waiting for me minus the buzzing bass sound of the Olympia.
Being woken up by a call from Cock Sparrer's Colin McFaull is enough to get anyone out of bed for a hastily arranged interview, and what a great way to start a Punk Rock day? So I'm pleased to tell you that is exactly how my Saturday began. Having managed to find Colin and Darrel's B&B with the usual Hayward tours efficiency, the one and a half hours I spent in their company was an interviewers dream. Genuine to the core I left with enough text to fill a weeks worth of Uber Rock and a smile on my face following our crank call to fellow Uber scribe Ian Maiden, but more of that to come when the interview goes online later this week.
Getting into the Olympia at the rather silly hour of 2pm to catch Texas Terri Bomb, the bastard child of Iggy and Wendy O was already slipping and sliding around to her raucous back catalogue. The set ended with a bang on the button rendition of 'I Wanna Be your Dog' that left the crowd and Ms Bomb smiling like the Joker. Being in the venue quite so early meant I was able to catch up on some lesser known bands like The Agitators from Belgium who played some mighty fine Street Punk to the delight of those of us who had managed to get into the Olympia early enough, their tune 'Lifes Too Short' being a great rebel rouser. Oddly when half full the Olympia's booming sound didn't boom and by the time Civet hit the stage the four ladies from California were actually sounding pretty damn decent. Tracks like 'All I Want', 'Alibis' and 'Son Of A Bitch' managed to get the first pit of the day up and running and I can't help but think back to my "Runaways if Kim Fowley had had a Mohawk" tag I'd joked about when I first heard the band's debut. Civet also managed to accumulate more bands watching them side stage than I'd seen for the whole of rest of the weekend, and the sight of Texas Terri flashing singer Liza Graves will be etched in memory for a long time to come.
Picking up some reasonably priced Civet merch for myself and Gaz E, I made my way back to the Empress for Goldblade where John Robb and cohorts were back to full strength following the scaled down version we had seen at 'TJ's in The Square'. Packing in all the hits for a throbbing forty five minutes of Rebel Songs, the band looked totally at ease with the much bigger stages and with the usual lady stage invasion taking in the last three songs of their set meant the the lads could be safe in the knowledge that Blackpool did indeed believe in the power of Rock 'n ' Roll. With a little time on my hands before the surprise earlier set than expected from Peter and The Test Tube Babies, I take a quick walk around Blackpool only to discover its just like every other town in the UK albeit with a large erection on its seafront. An obvious double entendre I'm sure Peter from the Test Tubes will not have missed out on, having built most of his bands career around seaside smut and innuendo Crammed into the smaller three hundred capacity Arena venue I finally witnessed the 'Pissed And Proud' band from my youth delivering classic after classic. Tracks such as 'Moped Lads' and 'Banned From The Pubs' had the largely skinhead crowd around me delighted, as was the Hawaiian shirted Peter. Who the fuck am I to argue, this was the perfect way to start a Saturday night. One thing though lads, Strongbow s not a suitable alternative to Merrydown.... you lightweights. After the rock sauna that was the Test Tubes set, I needed to get some ale in to cool down, and what better way than to sit on the concourse and chat with some of your fellow punters about events so far. I just happen to choose four lads from Halifax to start chatting with and they are a riot of laughs and boast within their number the singer from English Dogs 'Forward Into Battle' line up. Now you wouldn't get that at Download or Reading would you.
Back into the Empress for UK Subs, and I'm all too aware that we seem to review these guys every month at Uber Rock. Well that's also because Charlie and the lads are one of the hardest working live bands in the UK today so the packed out hall's fantastic reaction to 'CID' and 'I Live In A Car' were fully warranted in my book. For the hour or so the band played, they mixed it up a bit tonight, with a new track and a few lesser know numbers mixed in around 'Warhead' and 'Tomorrows Girls' The encore of 'Limo Life' and 'Party in Paris' was perhaps up to this point the best 1-2 I'd heard all weekend, but The muthafuckin' Dwarves were still to come, so let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Next up was a triple billing scheduling headfuck for yours truly that ultimately meant I could only watch one full set from three bands I really wanted to see, so, here's how I managed to do the best I could to witness the Godfathers of Thrash Punk, Goth and Glam all in one easy sitting.
First up then GBH in the Olympia, and they sounded tight and not jet lagged at all having flown in from the US just for this show, ripping through some choice 'Perfume and Piss' cuts as well as oldies like 'Diplomatic Immunity' and 'Time Bomb', I would have loved to have stayed for the rest of the set, but with Peter Murphy playing probably the smallest gig he's played since the club days of Bauhaus I could not miss the chance to witness his stripped down set of epic goth delivered in the perfect music hall surroundings of the Bizarre Bizaar. Walking into the venue to an acoustic version of 'Bela Lugosi's Dead', there is a clarity and edge to the sound that full on punk rock misses, and Peter's backing band (led by Mark Gemini Thwaite) brought a sort of Gary Numan-esque reinvention to the man's musical legacy. OK he may now look like more like Neil Diamond with a great set of eyebrow tweezers but his music still resonates 'Hunky Dory' era Bowie played in a crypt at Midnight. Encoring with a fitting version of NIN's 'Hurt' it is unfortunately at this point I have to take up my place in the Empress to witness the return of The New York Dolls.
It's a full eight months since I last witnessed a white hot New York Dolls confuse the fuck out of a largely apathetic Hard Rock Hell crowd. Tonight they managed to also confuse the fuck out of a largely inquisitive and packed out crowd by simply reverting to a Dolls style they had seemingly long since forgotten Being only 2/5ths of the band we saw back in December, David and Sylvain had to get suitable people in to replace Steve and Sami, both off with Mike Monroe in Japan, and although 'Looking For a Kiss' kicked things off in admirable style, it became obvious that this was a band still getting used to functioning together rather than slaying all comers as they had done every other time I'd witnessed them. Frank Infante is a great name to put in place of Steve Conte, and the interesting on stage dynamic between him and Sylvain certainly made for eye brow raising entertainment. Stepping back toward the rear of the impressive Empress for the tail end of the show, most people appeared to have not got the fact this was a new version of the Dolls and had left to make it back to their beds. Me I made it to 'Pills' before I joined them, as watching the New York Dolls effectively rehearsing is not something I'm not best in love with L.U.V. Plus in only a few short hours I'd be back for perhaps the highlight of my weekend....but only time will tell with regards to that.
With the new football season having kicked off twenty four hours previous, I was left to open my account of the season with a live Sky game in the town we had lost to in the previous seasons' play off final, ironic or what? Given that Sunday had probably the strongest overall line up in the Empress Ballroom, I couldn't drag myself away from my hotel until I'd watched a rather flat 1-1 draw with Sheffield United, downing a few half decent Stellas to get me in the mood for the Punk Rock to follow.
Arriving at The Winter Gardens at around 4pm, and just in time for an ale before Fucked Up, everyone around me amazingly still looked game for a laugh given the full on partying that had obviously gone up up to that point. Stories of transsexuals in a gay night club discussing their shoe collections with an unnamed Punk Rock legend were starting to circulate, whilst I'm watching Damian Abraham browsing one of the massive vinyl stalls like a kid in a candy store, and I'm once again reminded of what makes Rebellion events so damn special. Its left to Damian's band Fucked Up to start off my final day of music and they chose the awesome track 'Two Snakes' to do so. It's not long before Damian's smashed a can into his head and once again he proceeded to spend most of the band's set in the crowd. The venue's security team seemed baffled by this, but this was simply Fucked Up enjoying their time in the "Vegas of England" as only they knew how.
So how do you follow the full on physical assault of Fucked Up? Well with more of the same basically, but this time courtesy of NYHC legends Agnostic Front. Roger Miret and crew were certainly not going to play nice, rolling out tracks like 'Dead To Me' from 'Warriors' alongside older classics like 'Friend or Foe' from the 'United Blood EP' it wasn't long before the first real pit of the day was up and running major league style. A five song tribute to the band's Victim of Pain' album flew by in no time as did a frantic run through 'Police State'. Agnostic Front are a band that never deliver anything less than 100% and by the amount of AF shirts that appear to be around me immediately after their set you have to admire the longevity and appeal of this truly legendary band...long may it continue. With just enough time to grab a few quick ones whilst the Slackers entertain those who actually get their quirky romps through Ska Punk, I'm soon back in The Empress ready for the arrival of the one and only Blag Dahlia and his mighty Dwarves. Arriving onstage to the 'Mighty Mouse' theme tune what followed can only be described as "a lesson in Punk Rock for all those lucky enough to catch it". With a set littered with highlights such as 'FEFU' and 'Dominator' the only real head scratching moment was realizing that Hewhocannotbenamed wasn't present in this line up. Even managing to slot in a choice cut from the band's as yet unreleased 'Dwarves Are Born Again' album, recognise the fact that the Dwarves are back sluts...Back with a fucking vengeance. Performance of the weekend without a doubt.
Having witnessed Gallows a hell of a lot of times during their more formative years, and personally regarding them as something of torch bearers for the UK Hardcore Punk scene, this was going to be the first time I'd caught them live since the release of their fantastic 'Grey Britain' album. Having headlined one of the stages at the previous week's Sonisphere Festival, I was slightly surprised by the stance the band appeared to take when playing to what was effectively a Punk Rock crowd. Having spent the best part of the last three or four years shoving their own brand of Punk Rock down the throats of Heavy Metal kids there were certainly enough diehards here tonight to keep Frank from doing his best Donny Tourette impression, and having seen them play to both types of audiences I wonder if perhaps the ginger wonder kid scored a bit of an own goal here tonight. Musically the band have certainly never sounded tighter or more indeed more feral, 'Abandon Ship' in particular being met with a mass exodus over the barrier from those prone to those sorts of things. A cover of Sonny Curtis' 'I Fought The Law mid set seemed to me like a bit of a token gesture when in fact the band already had a stunning cover of 'Staring At The Rude Bois' that they could have just as easily played to probably more acclaim from those in the crowd still making their minds up. Closing as ever with 'Orchestra of Wolves' this was ultimately a performance from a band I love, that I'd actually rather forget...Sorry guys
With the Empress Ballroom already filling up for the arrival of US legends Bad Religion, celebrating their thirty years of making Punk Rock, not even the lure of an ex member of Junkyard could keep this Uber Rocker away from his hotel and bed. You see after four days and good knows how many band's and pints of Fosters (yuck) I just couldn't muster up the energy to watch I band I've never liked. So with Rebellion Festival 2010 under my belt and the prospect that I didn't turn into a masochist or go criminally insane even after spending four or five days in Blackpool I think we can safely say...."I'll be back next year".