|Rebellion Festival 2012 - Blackpool, Winter Gardens - 2nd - 3rd August 2012|
|Written by Johnny H and Dom Daley|
|Tuesday, 14 August 2012 04:00|
Spread out over 4 days, with over 200 bands playing on 7 stages, Rebellion Festival at just £95 for the entire weekend is still the best value ticket you can get anywhere on the UK festival circuit. Where else could you get to see a line up featuring headliners such as the Buzzcocks, Social Distortion, Public Image Limited and Rancid and still get change from a hundred pounds?
With more quality merch stalls than you can possibly get around in one browsing trip, thousands of like minded punters all looking to enjoy themselves, and a whole host of new bands to discover, you'll excuse me if I pass on my chance to stand ankle deep in mud this year and instead I'll once again return to the much drier and much happier surroundings of the Winter Gardens.
Okay granted it's in Blackpool, which is a pain to get to, and also granted it's not exactly the nicest place in the UK to visit, even just for a weekend, but with me now into my third consecutive year of attending this festival even I have to admit I'm kind of looking forward to a cold pint in our base camp Oi!rish bar, before getting the chance to sample the delights of the local cuisine (anyone up for a mixed grill burger?...nope didn't think so), alright maybe scrub that last point.
Anyway I think you get the point by now that Rebellion Festival is still the place to be if you like your music of a more punky persuasion. In saying that though Ginger Wildheart is also playing here this year (although it's sods law that his set is one of only a few stage clashes this weekend that means we don't actually get to see him play) plus if all the Oi! Oi! Oi! gets a little too much for you, you can always just come along and simply sample the mighty fine punk art exhibition or watch films such as Corrupt Lieutenant and East End Babylon in the breathtaking surroundings of the Spanish Ballroom. Did I mention there is also a literary festival running in the same venue featuring the likes of John King, Gaye Black, Viv Albertine plus many others? Oh right I just did.
There really is something for everyone here at Rebellion Festival, but for Dom Daley and myself it is primarily all about the bands, but first there's the small task of getting to Blackpool in time to see them.
Travelling up to Blackpool as we normally do, by car, just after the Thursday rush hour has died down, the journey to Rebellion this year was surprisingly easy in comparison to previous years. 240 odd miles in about 4 hours, with some of the best glunk rock (I think you are going to hear quite a lot of Zoot's affectionate term for glam punk this weekend) we can muster up from Dom's iPod, makes the journey that much more palatable it must be said. In fact it isn't until we get to Blackpool's refashioned Promenade that we actually hit any traffic. Well if you're going to be stuck anywhere behind a defecating pony and trap jammed packed full of Japanese tourists all busy taking pics of the mountains of crap cascaded from it's rear end it's gonna be in Blackpool right? This gives my co pilot and I a much welcome chance to observe the local fashion for tucking your tracksuit bottoms into your socks whilst listening to some Lords Of The New Church, plus as our car edges along we also try and figure out if the waxwork advertisement we spend about 20 minutes in front of is actually supposed to be of Leslie Ash or Helen Mirren. We settle on the probability that is in fact Leslie Mirren (or Helen Ash) before we finally get to our hotel.
Quickly checking in and unpacking our man bags for a Thursday trudge around the merch palace we know awaits us, we are soon making our way down to The Winter Gardens for the first time this weekend, but wait a minute what is that glowing golden orb up there in the sky? Woah is that really that thing we used to see during this time of the year called the sun?...the irony of the fact we are going to be indoors all weekend most certainly isn't lost on us as shorts and a T-shirt quickly become the fashion essentials of the weekend. Along with plenty of water.
Yup you read that correctly, we are not just pissing it up here at Rebellion (that would be oh so easy) nah we are actually here to watch the bands, that is after we've spent the best part of 3 or 4 hours ploughing through every stall the event has to offer like a ten year old on Christmas morning. Never mind how much stuff you can acquire online these days, nothing still beats the buzz of picking up a an album that you would have otherwise not have given the time of day to but here someone brings it to life for you. You ever heard The Wanderers album Stiv Bators did just before forming The Lords, or have you happened upon a copy of Agnostic Front's 'Raw and Unleashed' on Play.com recently? Nah I didn't think so, but here I get both within 10 minutes of browsing, it's great being a music junkie sometimes it really is.
Sadly with all this browsing going on we only really get to sample the new band stage happening in the nearby Pavilion as nothing more than background noise. I do have to question if it is such a great idea to showcase new bands on a day when most people are only just arriving as I really would have loved to have watched the likes of Legend In Japan and the Drones, but with the prior knowledge of just how busy this festival is due to get over the next few days, it surely would have made more sense to have had these up and comers all play during the times allocated to the DJ sets in the same venue throughout the other 3 days of the festival, and in turn get the chance to perform to a slightly fuller crowd. Oh and while I'm at it airing my only real gripes about Rebellion, how any line up of bands (old or new) set to play Rebellion can continue to ignore the likes of This System Kills, JD & The FDCs and The Hip Priests is frankly beyond me, I'll say no more than that.
Anyway by the time 5 Shitty Fingers are cranking out their peculiar brand of piratey folk morris (I kid you not) punk on the Pavilion's Bizarre Bazaar stage, we're all but done with our stall browsing, and finally we can relax with some of the most ummm bizarre music we've heard in a long time. Wonk Unit's Alex Johnson continues to defy any pigeonholing of his work with this almost surreal outfit but honestly outside of this environment will anyone really care how many of these guys fingers have shit on them?
Moving over to the Empress Ballroom for the first time ready to catch a bit of Duncan Redmonds' day job band Snuff (he's also the man behind the 5 Shitty Fingers), the first thing that strikes us apart from the unrelenting heat is just how much more well attended the Thursday night is this year. Fair play The Filaments have packed this place out ready for our weekend to truly get underway, and now it's time for a little bit of British hardcore punk rock played with tongue firmly in cheek.
But wait what's this? Snuff are playing as a five piece with a hammond and trombone player and are actually sounding rather serious about what they do. Fuck me how times change eh. Well at least at this point we can put to bed the rumour that The Hip Priests weren't invited to play because Lee Love is just too ugly for such an event as Rebellion because Lee Murphy playing the hammond for Snuff is a dead ringer for old Fletch too. With the sounds of 'Soul Limbo' still resonating in our ears (like someone tapping a knife on a Partridge sized dinner plate) we decided it was time to up sticks for a much needed injection of glunk, this coming in the shape of Mat Sargent's Rock N Roll Gypsies back in the Bizarre Bazaar. Featuring the likes of Monique Maasen, Robin Guy, Ronny Rocka to name but a few, this all star band is basically the live vehicle for Mat's long awaited 'Sex, Drugs And HIV' album, and the guys involved specialise in the type of rock n roll that gets Texas Terri down the front of the audience - need I say anymore? The tunes are as low slung as the guitars they play and 'Cigarette In The Ashtray' soon has those brave (or is that pissed) enough to venture out onto the dance floor dancing like loons. I'd certainly be interested in hearing more of this project especially with all the good causes it is looking to help support.
Moving back to the Empress Ballroom for our first shot of OI! this weekend, we decide we'll give The Business a quick look ahead of catching the Heavy Metal Kids back in the Bizarre Bazaar. Well who wants to listen to a PA between bands when there is so much great live music going on?
Taking up a prime spot on the balcony area of the Empress Ballroom for the arrival of Micky Fitz and the boys, the whole size and scope of Rebellion immediately hits home and it quite frankly takes your breath away, well that and the sweltering heat. Taking the stage to the intro strains of 'Johnny Reggae' the guys in The Business look like proper hardcore hooligans from their Adidas Sambas right up to their number 1 haircuts, but let's not forget this is a band with a fiercely political conscience so let's not type cast them eh, especially when they play music as good as 'Out In The Cold'. 'The Truth, The Whole Truth' and the song that was most definitely not written about yours truly - the simply stunning 'H Bomb'.
As Micky Fitz reminds those of us who might want to pop along to the Pavilion that the Heavy Metal Kids were about to start, I have to admit I'm half tempted to stay right where I am as The Business are certainly on fine form tonight, but with the ongoing saga of just how long it took me to see the band known as the Heavy Metal Kids in the first place nagging in the back of my mind I really would be a fool not to catch them when they are only playing next door wouldn't I?
So it is back to the Pavilion we go to catch up with the Heavy Metal Kids just as they had launched into their usual set opener 'Hangin' On'. It's been a full 12 months since we last crossed paths with the Kids and that was right here at Rebellion albeit a few feet to our right in the Arena. I left that review up in the air pondering what they might do next. Well with the benefit of hindsight I guess 2012 has been a pretty good year for the guys, what with them touring with UFO and then playing selected headline dates around the country, but with Ronnie Thomas stepping down from bass duties ahead of that aforementioned support tour I have to admit up front that I miss not only his stage presence but also his backing vocals, which is especially true here tonight where it takes a good few songs for the sound to settle down around Justin McConville's caustic high flying vocals.
The setlist itself plays out pretty much like every time I've seen the Heavy Metal Kids with oldies like 'Chelsea Kids', 'She's No Angel' and set closer 'Delirious' all sounding superb alongside the highly underrated tunes from the 'Hit The Right Button' album. But, and this is a huge but, without a new album to promote and new songs to play, to me this is all starting to run the risk of turning the band into something I would hate to see them being, that being just another nostalgia act. I know they have other great tunes to pick from the band's back catalogue like 'We Gotta Go' which is also aired here tonight, but what I really want from the Heavy Metal Kids right now is for the band to hit all the right recording studio buttons all over again and get a new bloody album out there, I mean whatever happened to the record that 'Uncontrollable' was taken from? Whether the band want this though is a different matter altogether, and only time will tell regarding what lies ahead.
So after our thoroughly enjoyable singalong with the Heavy Metal Kids it was back to the Empress Ballroom for a 12:45AM appointment with perennial godfathers of powerpop the Buzzcocks.
Having never seen the band before but having been a long-standing admirer of their work, I wasn't about to let the mixed reviews of their live shows I'd read recently stop me from sampling their sugar sweet yet barbed punk pop up close and personal, so with pint of water in hand (yup I know this is getting a little too sanctimonious even for me) we set off looking to get as close to stage as possible just as the first chords of 'Boredom' rang out across the packed out Empress, and lo and behold in response the place goes totally mental.
Playing a set largely made up of old classics along with some newer tracks from 2006's 'Flat Pack Philosophy' the Diggle and Shelley songwriting combination is still as lethal as it was back in their heyday, and with very little between song banter it was left to tracks like 'Promises', What Do I Get' and first encore 'Harmony In My Head' to do all the talking.
Listening to these songs live it's easy to pick out the bands that pretty much owe their entire careers to the Buzzcocks, and in the night's closing couplet of 'Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)' and 'Orgasm Addict' you have quite possibly two of the greatest powerpop/pop punk singles ever released delivered with almost disposable efficiency, just how great music should always be played.
Live the Buzzcocks come over almost like a cross between The Who and the Ramones rather than being just another punk band, and here tonight they gave those who would follow them over the next three days a lesson in how to deliver a winning headline set, one that quite frankly leaves both Dom and I pretty much lost for words (now that really is a first).
After the excitement of last night's performance from the superb Buzzcocks the bar had been set at an Olympic high for the headliners that were to follow, and having carved up who we were going to check out on this Friday night it was with some excitement we headed into the always impressive surroundings of the Empress Ballroom to catch Zero Boys who caught our eye when perusing the line up. The quartet hit the stage and immediately launched into their no nonsense brand of punk rock, which is actually along the lines of the great T.S.O.L if I might be so bold. We were treated to some of the classics off the 'Vicious Circle' album, the highlights for me being 'Living In The 80's' and 'Drug Free Youth', but the band played hard and fast and were thoroughly entertaining especially at half past four in the afternoon. Getting a decent sized crowd to leap about like loons for half an hour was the best way to start this Friday at Rebellion but the Zeros saved the best 'til last and totally owned the Aerosmith classic 'Toys In The Attic', hopefully someone will send a tape of this version to Mr Tyler to show him what a rock 'n' roll band sounds like playing his song.
It was a quickstep and jump across to the Arena next to take in some glunk rock in the shape of Germany's 2nd District and see if they had the chops that were filled on this very stage last year by fellow countrymen Radio Dead Ones. Marc de Burgh led his troops through an impressive set that had songs from their albums 'Poverty Makes Angry' and 'Emotional Suicide' and the recent single 'The Love Has Gone'. Leaning on bands like early Backyard Babies and the previously mentioned Radio Dead Ones, 2nd District managed to pull in a decent crowd who got into what the band were trying to do and songs like 'Bad Habit' went down really well. Having previously made arrangements to interview the band at some point throughout the weekend it just wasn't possible to get together, but fear not people it will happen in the very near future. There was plenty of Pistols like riffing going on from dual guitarists (for today) Pascal Briggs and Daniel Klein as well as the solid rhythm to keep the punks pogoing, and the band fed off the enthusiasm of the people down the front in the room at Rebellion that hands down has the best sound of all. I was able to get my fill of glamorous punk rock (and merch) and the boys from Bochum did their growing reputation no harm, and on this evidence they should expect a recall for future festivals. Bringing out a young lad called Louie One Song Raw who contributed vocals on the track 'I Crisis' was memorable and proof that the future of glunk is in good hands.
With barely time to partake in some apple juice and some much needed fresh air and food, it was then back into the Arena to catch Sick On The Bus and their speed fuelled punk rock with the added attraction of the last two songs of their set being graced with the presence of one Texas Terri for a top notch run through 'New Rose' and 'Neat Neat Neat'. These were very well executed and go down as further proof that TxT has this music coursing through her veins. This is where it all starts to get a wee bit fuzzy for me and at times I couldn't remember if I was to go to the Empress or the Arena or the Olympia or the Bar and its a point where I wished I was organised and wrote things down. Anyway one thing I do know is it was fast approaching nine o'clock and the night was just beginning but I knew I had to be in the Empress for a performance by a Rebellion mainstay, the one and only Boys! Tonight though they would be without the bass playing and singing of Duncan Read, but to be fair and to give The Boys credit it doesn't matter who's in the line up as long as they play rock 'n' roll music. Tonight they opened with a cracking version of 'T.C.P.' and for the next hour Honest John Plain, Matt Dangerfield and Casino Steel caused trouble by knocking out classic after classic tune, climaxing in a superb rendition of 'Brickfield Nights'. You know what you're going to get when The Boys take the stage and they certainly don't mess about, okay there might be the odd fucked up ending or intro but it all adds up to a great time and you can see why the organisers ask them back time after time, simply because their so damn good at what they do. When you look at a setlist that features the likes of 'Sick On You', 'First Time', 'U.S.I.', 'You Can't Hurt A Memory', 'I Hate My Fucking Job' and 'Terminal Love' you realise not many bands write them like this anymore and those who "get it" simply get lost in the moment as tonight The Boys were on the top of their game and it was yet again a pleasure to be in their company on the main Empress Ballroom stage. Did I mention that I love The Boys?
It was then time a gentle stroll round the Pavilion and another chance to glance at those Johnny Thunders 7" singles that had caught my eye the day before, but there really was no time for browsing as the Olympia 2 was calling and Australian Oi merchants Rust weren't going to wait for Uber Rock to turn up (or were they?), although it must be said such was our military like precision this weekend it appeared that even though we'd pencilled in one or two overlaps, as we bounced down the concrete stairs into the cavernous car park that doubles up as the two staged Olympia, Rust immediately struck up the first ferocious chord before launching into their set of in your face Motorhead fuelled streetpunk/Oi! Not having heard the band before our drive up North their no compromise approach was a decent enough distraction, until a dreaded amp problem reared its ugly head and left the band without a guitar for what seemed like an eternity, which as a result meant they lost momentum and through no fault of their own my attention wandered to the Olympia main stage where my favourite glunk rock 'n' roll lady was about to pounce.
Never one to disappoint Texas Terri launched straight into the 'Be Bop A Lula' inspired 'Lifetime Problems' a song, which in itself is a lesson in how to open a festival set, and how to rock and fucking roll. Once again UK Sub Jamie Oliver sits in on the drums along with Chema Zurita on bass, who also plays with Jamie in Short Bus Window Lickers, and of course there's A.C. Speed from Dragster on guitar who to a man are all excellent onstage foils for Texas Terri kicking up a shit storm on their respective instruments. Watching these guys do their thang was a no brainer "must watch" for me, and as the band launch into 'Mafia' it appeared I wasn't alone in this viewpoint as the room was a rockin' and there was no better place to be than right here right now. There was even time for some new material to be aired before the band kicked in the festivals best set covering such gems as 'One Hit Wonder', 'Never Shut Up' and 'Oh Yeah', all topped off by a stunningly brutal stab at the mighty Dead Boys 'Sonic Reducer' and to close Terri knocked out 'I Wanna Be Your Dog'. Whatever tension was going on onstage it was making for superb music and performances from the band. I wasn't bothered if Social Distortion were supposed to already be on stage over in the Empress, this was the only place to be for anyone with any rock 'n' roll blood still pumping through their veins and once again Texas Terri had delivered the goods. If there were medals being handed out on this Friday night then ladies and gentlemen we had a winner in Texas Terri! Next year get this lady on the main stage for fucks sake! It's a must.
So with the smug satisfaction that I'd just seen the performance of the Friday in Texas Terri we headed back over to the Empress Ballroom to catch what was left of Social Distortion. However upon arrival I was pleasantly surprised to see that the band hadn't yet taken to the stage and were indeed running a little behind schedule, which for Rebellion isn't something that usually happens as it runs like clockwork, perhaps they were also waiting for Uber Rock...ha, who knows? So we take our place on the now world's stickiest floor, and ready ourselves for Mr Ness and I have to admit I have a feeling it could go one or two ways, either he'll grasp the spirit of this festival and raise his game a la the Buzzcocks the night before, or he'll go with the more pedestrian pace he preferred during last year's Shepherds Bush set. Now whilst there was nothing wrong with that set list seeing as he had a decent new album to promote, Rebellion is something altogether different and I was kind of hoping he'd just knock out the best of Social Distortion and set Friday night on fire. As the band took to the stage things were certainly looking promising with 'Bad Luck' opening the show, this was quickly followed by 'Bye Bye Baby' and 'Story Of My Life' all getting aired in the first four songs, so not a bad start. There were a few tracks from the last studio album given an airing and 'Mommy's Little Monster' which is always a winner and such a great song. But there was something missing with the performance and for some reason it never seemed to really get going, and before you knew it Ness and the band trooped off after playing just eleven songs. They did return to knock out a pretty decent version of 'Don't Drag Me Down' followed by 'Ready For Love' before the ever predictable 'Ring Of Fire' but then they were gone. I'd have loved Social Distortion to have come out and really gone for it by playing the likes of 'The Creeps', 'Mass Hysteria', '1945', 'Prison Bound' and 'Cold Feelings'. Maybe I'm just being too fussy or maybe it was following the boundless energy of the Olympia I was simply up for more of the same, something less cool and calculated. Don't get me wrong I love Social Distortion and maybe I am being overly critical but if it doesn't move you then it just doesn't move you. Maybe next time eh?
You can't please all the people all the time and so we trudged out of the Empress just shy of 2AM (once I finally managed to unstick my creepers from the floor) and into the mild night air for some much needed shut eye.