So, setting a bit of background: Blackpool is a shithole. the British seaside was a grand fantasyland in the Victorian times, a playground for the workers of Britain, at Blackpool what’s the number one resort for the industrial north. Decline has taken hold across most resorts as holiday trends change and residents rely on a dwindling tourist industry for employment. Blackpool has significant problems with crack cocaine and opiates, unemployment, alcoholism and violence. Despite these facts, the people who are passionate about Blackpool, its history and present day, put a lot of work in to trying to maintain the grandeur and provide a traditional seaside experience.
Over the past few years, touring Britain in a punk band, I’ve noticed the best bands, the best venues and the best scenes are often in the shittest places. As if defined by working class decline, deprivation and drugs. Blackpool Is the epitome of UK punk. Old, tired, run down, but still breathing and getting stronger.
Rebellion festival, and its predecessor’s holidays in the sun and the wasted festival has been held in Blackpool 18 times (and 8 times in nearby Morecambe). Although we played one of the many fringe events last year and were meant to play another event this year that was cancelled, I’ve never actually been to rebellion. Rebellion is bigger than the sum of its parts. Across six stages there are big bands, old bands, new bands and small bands. Some are always here, some crowd favourites, some no one has ever heard of before. There are bands from all over the world and the fans travel too. I met people from Brazil, Australia, Guadeloupe, Italy, The Netherlands, America, Canada, Indonesia and more. Every Variation and offshoot of punk is catered for and there are stalls selling everything from anarchist literature to rare vinyl with tee shirts, badges and jewellery available everywhere. Arguably it is less of a music festival and more a global punk rock Expo.
I managed to catch 46 bands over the four days, and I shall recount what I remember below. If I missed your favourite band, or your opinions, memories and experiences differ to mine, please let me know in the comments below.
Day one, Thursday 4th of August.
I found out on Monday that my accommodation had been cancelled, despite them taking the money six months ago. I’m not alone in this experience, it seems everyone knows someone who’s had their accommodation cancelled at the last minute only to find their room readvertised at three times the price. Fortunately, I managed to make another booking that only cost me 200 pounds more than my previous booking.
the queue to turn my tickets into a wristband took about 45 minutes which was the cause for much ire amongst the crowd, but honestly, I’m used to much longer queues at other festivals. Then that’s it, it is 13:25 and I am at Rebellion Festival.
I managed to get into the venue just in time to catch Vomit in the Casbah. this is effectively the second stage, a large, dark venue with a big stage at the end. established in 1977, Vomit delivers very listenable classic punk rock. The band say they have spent 45 years refining this sound and it shows. Audible lyrics, tight music, Vomit are a consistently solid and reliable band. They are playing regularly around the UK so be sure to check them out.
To the main stage, the Empress Ballroom. This stunning hall has a high ceiling with ornate plaster work, and truly is a grand space, where Punks from around the world look a little out of place! Pizzatramp… Are Fucking Shit. at least according to their singer. Delivering thrash punk noise from Wales. As I arrive, the three piece, who take up the entire stage, are delivering 3 second songs. interestingly or somewhat disconcertingly, I can smell pizza? it’s hard to tell with Pizzatramp, what is a song and what is a jokeas they play multiple 3 second songs. the people that are into it seem really into it, but it is not really my sort of thing, so I move on.
Dedo Podre, from Brazil, are playing the Pavilion stage, an enclosed circular space with a walkway around it where the majority of the retail stalls are. It seems everyone else knows about this band, however this is my first introduction. playing good old fashioned Street punk, With a strong anti-fascist, anti-sexist and anti-homophobia message. Whilst this sort of overt statements can feel a little forced sometimes, it is a sad reflection of the modern world that bands feel they need to express this publicly. As someone who enjoys listening to non-English speaking bands, I also appreciate this strong message as I don’t want to accidentally support bands with a message that I don’t agree with.
Off the back of a recent UK tour, the crowd are well engaged, the music is good, and the band seemed to be having a great time.
I catch up with some friends (because you can’t walk more than 20 steps without bumping into someone you know here!) And accidentally catch Suzi Moon also on the Pavilion stage. Resplendent In red sequins, the packed-out pavilion feels ready for action. Entering the stage to the theme from the good, the bad and the ugly, the band tear into a trashy punk rock and roll sound that invites many complementary comparisons but is unique in its style. The band could crossover well into more conventional markets and I expect to see a lot more from them soon.
Next up on the pavilion stage are Subalternos, another Brazilian Street punk/ Oi band. With an animated banner saying, “thank you England for showing the real feeling of punk rock”, the band wear their influences on their sleeve. Delivering classic street punk with sing along choruses, raised fists and that sense of unity that we all strive for
I head to the Casbah stage to see Knock off on a recommendation, and whilst they sound good, the hard hitting modern UK82 trio just doesn’t hit the spot for me. Perhaps I need more time listening to them to appreciate the live show, but right now I’ve been on my feet for 6 hours, I need food and a sit down.
Following essential sustenance provided by a gourmet burger king (The ability to leave the venue and the town centre location makes food choices much more varied than the normal festival choices), I head back to Casbah to catch Dirt Box Disco. A packed-out crowd go nuts for the glam pop punk rock outfit, that seem to have only grown in strength since guitarist Spunk Volcano took over on lead vocal duties. With a huge back catalogue and an upcoming Anthemic Pandemic tour this autumn all over the UK, these are a band that deliver filthy metal solo’s, sing along chorus’s and have plenty of fun doing it. If I didn’t have to explain what a Spunk Volcano was, I’d probably get my kids listening to them!
On to Bouncing Souls, the main seller to me, playing the empress ballroom. A mass exodus after Wonk Unit, meant I could walk right to the front, where I met a fan with a lot of Bouncing Souls tattoos, no shirt, and a strong interest in hugging people, which was nice.
As I stake my position, I reflect how one day I’ll be too old for being at the front at gigs, getting knocked about in the pit, but that day is not today. The band enter to the sounds of Toots and the Maytal’s followed by the customary chants of Ole’, Ole’, Ole’, Ole’ from the crowd. Getting straight down to business, the beauty of a festival set is that you get all the hits, back-to-back and condensed into a tight delivery. The crowd has filled out well and is up to the party, singing along to hits and favourites throughout the set, including lean on Sheena, that I’m pretty sure the crowd sang all the words to while Greg Attonito just looked on redundant.
The bouncing floor was a little disconcerting, though perhaps appropriate, as the bands delivered their brand of east coast punk rock covering hardcore, Oi, skate punk and anthemic rock sing along in their usual fashion.
Anti-Flag, come straight into Press Corpse, setting the pace for the impending set. Singer Justin Sane’s vocals are notably lower in the mix than co vocalist and bassist Chris #2, meaning backing vocals become the lead vocals, creating an unusual effect of limited vocals and the lead singer apparently beatboxing? a brief distraction from this unusual mix is the sight of a man who is the spitting image of Donald Trump. whether this is deliberate, or an unfortunate doppelganger is not clear, but clearly, at the front during an Anti-flag set it’s probably the last place we would expect to see him.
the sound quality picks up and the mix improves to allow clarity for both vocalists. Brandenburg gate is dedicated to the ghost of Joe strummer and carries well despite the absence of Tim Armstrong in the verse.
I know it’s Anti-flag, and they’ve never been subtle about their politics, and that’s fine, but some of the USA centric slogans are perhaps not particularly relevant to a middle-aged British crowd, making it feel scripted rather than spontaneous. Taking inspiration from the Circle Jerks, A circle pit is demanded, and the crowd provides this. The sound quality drops again and it’s still vocally unbalanced, but the band are giving 110% and the crowd appreciate this.
“Turncoat” from 2003’s The Terror State, absolutely erupts, and reminds me that this band have been doing this for a long time and have plenty more to give. The band are certainly making use of the stage space, as they haven’t stopped moving yet.
Between songs Justin Sane, makes note of the fact that the band arrived in the UK and Prime Minister Boris Johnson immediately resigned, suggesting that they were responsible for this, so I guess we have that to thank them for if nothing else.
Drink, drank, punk Brings back the light-hearted old school sound of early Anti-flag, followed by a ferocious cover of should I stay or should I go by the clash, delivered unusually quickly, not fast just slightly too quick. this rolls into a series of excerpts of other songs including God save the queen, Fall back down, She, Blitzkrieg Bop and finally back to Should I stay, or should I go?
This is the end (for you my friend) Feels like a riotous conclusion as the band play out to a natural closure, only there’s two more songs. at this point I tried to find the toilet, and followed the signs only to find myself inexplicably at the rebellion introducing stage, just in time for Slackrr, so here we go…
A young band from Southampton, Slackrr are not known to me, so I really have no idea what to expect. The male and female singers complement each other well with duets and harmonised songs which are well received by the small crowd. They deliver pop punk reminiscent of New Found Glory and other drive thru records bands, but perhaps less upbeat and with a heavier sound. Certainly, if this is the threatened return of pop punk, I can get behind that.
I return to the Empress ballroom to see Los Angeles legends the Circle Jerks, who start things off with a convoluted story about not getting signed to major labels, and how nobody wanted them until finally Faulty Products took a gamble on them. They were labelmates with such luminaries as the Anti-Nowhere League and the Dead Kennedys.
A promise to play a 32-song set reminds the crowd that most of these songs are under a minute long, this is likely to be an intense and high octane 60 minutes. The energy in the delivery of the songs is somewhat contradicted by the calm and casual nature of front man Keith Morris as he tells stories and introduces songs.
This is a band that inspired the bands that inspired me. It’s hard music to engage with for the unfamiliar and harder still from the back of the venue, which is now at capacity, with people queuing, desperate to get in. Whilst I am keen to witness the event, there are others who will get more from this, so I make my excuses and leave.
Searching for a place to sit down and gather my thoughts, I head to the Almost Acoustic Stage. This is an unexpectedly large room with plenty of seating, however my focus is immediately drawn to the ridiculous decor. The walls are painted in the style of a classic mediaeval Spanish village. The stage Leads up to a balcony, that feels underused as a support for the backdrop rather than having a house band with lutes and harps on it. Around the edge of the room is a continuation of the Spanish village, a diorama of houses, castles and other buildings. Above this, painted clouds give way to the windows in the ceiling. This must be one of the strangest venues I have ever seen a gig in!
Ferocious Dog are an English folk punk band from Nottinghamshire. the blend of punk sensibilities, classic folk tunes and a mean fiddle brings an unexpected energy to what I wrongly thought might be a relaxed affair. The room full of leather, tattoos and brightly coloured mohawks feels hilariously out of place in the model Spanish village, but they seem to be really into it and the band are delivering their music aggressively but with an edge of fun.
The band plays into “Stay now” with a haunting violin, which does something to my tired brain and I come over all emotional, then, the lights dim and the little windows on the model houses all light up! Its beautifully brilliant and frankly ridiculous!
Staying at the Almost Acoustic Stage, next up is Billy liar, a folk punk solo artist from Edinburgh. Singing personal, angry, passionate songs, whilst apparently beating the shit out of his acoustic guitar. This is what I think of when people talk about folk punk. Not to detract from the addiction and homelessness celebrating American folk punk we are seeing so much of, but I certainly prefer this more accessible style. A sly cover of Joe strummer’s coma girl is interesting. The song about Glastonbury Festival reminds me of the roots of a lot of British punk music and how it found its home in the fields and forests of Great Britain as well as the Towns and cities.
Despite only seeing them on the main stage 2 1/2 hours ago, apparently, I’ve not had enough Anti-flag for one day, so I’ve stayed to see their acoustic set as well. I’ve seen several videos online of Anti-flag playing their songs acoustically, and they do it well, so I am keen to see this.
Justin Sane and Chris #2 take to the stage as the backing music fades out, the band then leave the stage and the backing music starts again. Not quite sure what happened there. The venue begins to fill up and people are sat on the floor like a beatnik coffee shop show. Obviously, I have a gold and velvet chair because I am the bourgeois or something.
The duo returns to the stage and set things off with a thumping version of “Turn coat”. The sound is perfect this time, and whilst it is more of what Anti-flag do it is done in a surprisingly excellent way. These are not just campfire versions of Anti-flag songs, The guys are actually very talented and it’s nice to be able to see and hear the complex baselines played on acoustic guitar as the songs take on a new personality. “Brandenburg gate” is pop perfection and the crowd sings along tunefully.
“This is the end (For you my friend)” Is preceded by a drawn-out story about Mr. Rogers and how Chris #1 worked on the set. The solo, played on acoustic guitar is pretty epic and it actually is the end this time. The band thank the crowd and leave the stage and I can’t help but notice how they do not appear to have aged in the last 30 years. Perhaps there is something to be said for the vegan lifestyle they follow?
Following anti-flag I tried to get into the Casbah to see the Bar stool preachers, unfortunately the venue was full and there were significant queues outside. Whilst I would love to see the band, I am sure to catch them at some point. After they are done supporting The Interrupters on their European tour they are touring around England in late summer, so catch them where you can!
My feet hurt and I’m a bit drunk, so I call it a night and head back to the sounds of the Bar Stool Preachers resonating through the walls.
Day two Friday 5th August.
I naively thought that I might get a good night’s sleep in a bed by myself away from the children, however apparently the seagulls had a different plan as one spent the night perched on my windowsill making crying baby noises all night. After a hearty breakfast of energy drink and a croissant, I head to the Winter Gardens to begin day two of rebellion festival.
Starting the day at the main stage, the Empress ballroom, and the day begins with Bolokos, an eerie Surf rock/ edge of psychobilly band from Guadeloupe. The smart uniform and skull face paint with joker-esque red smiles, add to the sense of unease. they are a strange act to open the main stage, it’s not that they’re not energetic and their music is certainly interesting, but perhaps more suited to a late-night set, with low lights and a few more drinks. With both male and female vocals and songs in both Creole and English this is certainly a band to give a bit of time to, and the number of people queuing up at the merchandise stand at the end of the set suggests a lot of people will be doing exactly this.
Tiger sex played my local venue the week before rebellion and sadly I missed this due to a family wedding. To make up for this I arrive early to the Casbah, to get a good position. Tiger sex come out to a mostly hungover crowd, however the band are 100% energy. Never stopping moving for more than a second, singer Kelly is a spinning, frenzied bundle of momentum. she’s all over the stage, rolling, doing the snake, at one point she’s in the crowd drinking beer from a shoe. Obviously. I’m impressed how clean her white trousers look from the crowd!
The trash punk/Garage rock/ Hardcore crossover, carries into song “Mr Mailman”, with lyrics adjusted for the British audience at times to Mr postman. A cover of Iggy and the stooges “I wanna be your dog”, fits perfectly and could have been an original by the band as they stay true to the original but make it very much their own. The three-piece made-up of singer Kelly, Kei on guitar and Troy on drums are visually lacking a bassist, however the quality guitar work more than fills this gap with palm muted rhythm and near constant lead lines, I can only assume the guitarist has a secret third hand.
The band are intense, authentic, raw and I’m gutted to have missed them last week but glad to have caught them today. They have several singles available to stream now and hopefully an album to follow soon.
Combining ska, punk, dub, Hip Hop, rock and more, London’s The Pope’s of Chillitown keep the party going on the Casbah stage. Last time I had tickets to see The Pope’s of Chillitown, I had to miss the set as my youngest son was being born. I did try to argue that the venue was only 10 minutes from the hospital, and I was just sat doing nothing anyway, but apparently that’s not in the spirit of the occasion?
A different slice of ska punk than normal, The Pope’s of Chillitown deliver a less poppy sound, instead bringing a sense of urgency to the music, with the singer often swapping between rapping and singing. Sure, it’s got the skank, and an excellent brass section but also a sense of unease that pushes the wacky fun ska stereotype firmly to the side. Almost “Ghost Town” by The Specials In feeling if not in sound.
A nice jazz interlude/ sax solo and some highly choreographed stage moves add to the sense performance and show this band really can deliver the goods.
Crown Court bring their rough, old school Oi vibe to the Pavilion stage. Tight delivery and growling vocals force their message home, but it’s a bit much for me this early, so I head off to check out what’s going on at the Introducing stage.
Bite me are an all-girl glam punk band. They’ve drawn a good crowd, but the band are not particularly animated, and the sound is oppressively loud at the balcony. There have been a few complaints about sound quality across the stages this weekend, and it seems they are going for volume over balance here. The room is probably quite difficult to mix, with crowds varying every half hour between 100-1000. The space has a high ceiling and with the bar at the side is quite wide, so perhaps this is the issue with the sound?
Bite me deliver competent punk rock, but I’m not overly inspired by them. Perhaps the sound on stage is as terrible as the sound in front?
L.O.A.D were a late addition to the bill, playing in place of another band who couldn’t make it. L.O.A.D we’re already in Blackpool having played a fringe event on Thursday evening. I’d hoped to make it to the Washington pub to see the event, by Punkboot productions, but unfortunately never got the chance, so I was glad to see they’d been added to the line-up.
Hailing from Lowestoft, the band must have one of the biggest fuel bills in the British punk scene, they seem to play everywhere, and they always put on a good show. Playing good, old-fashioned Oi! music with a light-hearted edge they’re the perfect antidote to the seriousness of some of the other bands. I just hope the sound isn’t terrible.
And it is. it’s so loud it’s oppressive, ear bleedingly so. I’m sure the guys sound great, but from where I’m stood it’s just noise and feedback. I’m kicking myself for leaving my ear plugs in my room, if I get a chance I’ll need to go and get them before seeing anymore bands on this stage.
I seek refuge at the pavilion stage just as The Take come on stage. Opener, “Dead to me” has that NY Hardcore feel, which is fitting as the members previous bands include Agnostic Front, Madball, Sick of it all and Biohazard. Delivering heavy Skinhead sound, I can hear elements of loads of bands from the last 30 years, and I like it. sometimes quality song writing is lost to speed and volume, but The Take manage to balance hardcore sounds with classic Oi! vocals and still deliver catchy songs.
This wasn’t meant to be the final show, but the cancellation of another festival later in the year means that Rebellion, the place it all began, is a fitting place for a final show from Spunk volcano and the Eruptions. The Dirt Box Disco front man had written some songs that didn’t quite fit the dirt box sound and having sent them to Rebellion festival founder Darren Russell-Smith For his opinion, he was told to get a band together as they will be playing the next festival. This he duly did, and Spunk volcano and the eruptions Was the result. However, as all good things must come to an end, the band are setting down their instruments for an undetermined period, presumably while the balaclava’d Spunk focuses on Dirt Box Disco?
light-hearted, accessible and just a little crass, it’s not quite pop punk but it certainly on the pop side of the genre. Blasting out hit after hit, the crowd are loving it and there is a real party feel in the Casbah this afternoon. Perhaps I’m prejudiced, but I’m surprised how well a man called Spunk Volcano can sing, and it’s a shame that we will not get the chance to see this band play again anytime soon.
Booze and Glory are a divisive band, with little reason. Some call them fakes, or that they cosplay as an Oi! band. Others say they are the real deal, and the band are a reflection of modern Britain. Either way, I like the music so let’s go!
The band take to the stage with an 80s synthpop tune guiding them on, but they quickly state their intentions with the West Ham football club anthem, “Local Skinhead crew”. The catchy, bouncy, at times anthemic music goes down well with the crowd and I am glad to have had the opportunity to see the band having missed them on a previous tour.
Back to the Casbah for the Russian men of the moment, Moscow death brigade. Balaclavas, thumping techno and Beastie Boys style rapping, reiterates my “punk isn’t about guitars anymore” theory. The crowd seems into it, but I’m not sure. Perhaps the language barrier makes it harder to engage with the music, but the pounding bass reminds me being at a fun fair with the spinney, sicky feeling I get from the waltzers. I’m going to see where this goes, because at the moment, I’ve no idea what’s going on! Can I call it techno Oi? As the band break into “Sound of Sirens” it has a similar feel to a lot of European Oi, but with a DJ instead of a band. I’m not completely sold on Moscow death brigade, but they are certainly an act that I will have to dig a little deeper with.
I head to the almost acoustic stage for a rest and to see Danbert Nobacon formerly of Leeds anarcho-punks Chumbawamba, but now living in the USA.
Unceremoniously he takes to the stage in green miniskirt and a black high neck T-shirt, I’m not sure what to expect. Chumbawamba, known by most for their surprise 90s hit “Tubthumping”, Were the centre of an anarcho-punk scene, based a 5-minute walk from my house. The anarcho-punk scene in Armley has sadly died, but everyone knows someone who was involved in some way if you scratch the surface. Singer Alice Nutter try to buy my wife’s childhood home, Boff Whalley came to my friend’s funeral. Danbert threw water over a politician on behalf of the striking Liverpool dock workers at the same show where Jarvis Cocker invaded Michael Jacksons stage show and mooned him.
Opener “Miss America” is perhaps too wordy for the sound quality as it is hard to pick out the vocals in what is clearly a very lyrically focused song. Sadly, this continues to be an issue, and the talking of the disengaged crowd isn’t helping matters.
I head back to the introducing stage, to see the most talked about band of the weekend. Indonesian hardcore band Turtles Jr, apparently arrived with just their guitars and the clothes on their back. Travelling the country by public transport, picking up gigs wherever they can. Fast and hard as hardcore should be, Turtles jr are really giving it their all and the crowd, bolstered by the back story, lap it up. They’ve got gigs lined up all over the UK, so check them out if they’re local.
Subhumans are a band on my list of names that I’m familiar with, but I’ve never taken the time to actually listen to. Often, when I see bands from this mental list, I find that I know more of their songs than I realised. The set begins with a strong statement against animal testing before launching into “Evolution”. This is anarcho-Hardcore at it’s melodically noisy best. A further speech about body image proceeds “Too fat too thin”.
I like my music with a message, but often wonder if these “preaching to the converted” speeches achieve anything? Maybe I’m just cynical? I guess a festival crowd is wider reaching and may reach bitter old cynics like me who are not familiar with the band? Certainly, the crowd are well engaged and “Subvert city” gets a great shout back from the huge crowd filling the Casbah.
Later, I’m drawn into the introducing stage by the noise of ARXX, who describe themselves as a “Queer alt-rock Gal Pal Duo”. They’re making an impressive amount of noise for a duo, sadly I arrive for what turns out to be their last track, but certainly I’ll be listening to more of them.
I head back to the Casbah and wonder if it Is wrong that I’m a little disappointed that was the whole band are dressed appropriately in black, while Steve ignorant of Crass fame is wearing casual jeans and a polo shirt? I know it’s about more than image, but I have expectations to be met!
Technical issues are plaguing the guitarist as he keeps losing sound but the band keep things going while the technical team try and resolve the issue. As with Danbert Nobacon earlier, the lyrical content of the songs is struggling to get through in this environment and the meaning is often lost to noise, that said this has always been the way with Crass for me. The band play all the essential hits and the crowd though calm seem to appreciate it. Songs where Carol Hodge comes forward to sing, often leave Steve standing awkwardly by the drum riser, However he soon finds his place again. I’ve never really got into the music of Crass, it feels very much of a time and a place where I never was. I’m glad to say that I have seen Steve Ignorant playing the songs of Crass now, but my feelings haven’t changed. I did however pick up a book of short stories about anarcho-punk and the scene that Crass inspired so heavily so perhaps I will come round to the band eventually?
Day 3 Saturday 6th August
With nothing better to do with my time I joined the queue early to access the Winter Gardens. I was keen to see one of the first artists on and so, apparently, was everybody else. Johnny Robson, singer and guitarist from Gimp fist, was playing a solo acoustic set on the almost acoustic stage, and having seen him play solo acoustic before, I was keen to do so again.
I head straight to the almost acoustic stage, and find it is already rammed and people are still pouring in. I think everyone who’s arrived as the doors opened is planning to be at this show. Although the songs are performed acoustically, they are played at the normal speed and with the level of intensity we are used to seeing with Gimp fist. Is it interesting to note the number of people in the crowd from other bands, showing the level of appreciation for this music. Johnny plays all the classics you would expect from a Gimp Fist set, with a dedication to striking railway workers between songs. Initial nerves give way as Johnny relaxes into the set, even stifling a laugh each time the crowd sings whoa oh oh at the wrong point in here I stand, fortunately the whole crowd comes in at full power at the correct time, making this a great start to the day.
Next stop, the Empress ballroom for Los Fastidious. The Italian ska, skinhead favourites hit the stage with no fanfare, initially as a four piece with singer Enrico taking the lead over earlier Oi! tinged songs. The infectious skinhead punk, complete with football terrace chants, big sing along choruses and an overt, positive, inclusive, anti-racist message is a crowd favourite and the band have played Rebellion many times now.
Midway through the set, former tour manager Elisa Dixan joins the band as a second singer complementing the sound and adding what is arguably the more popular sound of the band, certainly the crowd visibly starts to bounce more and sing along.
I have a terrible habit of discovering excellent bands either as they have just played locally or have just broken up. In the case of Arch Rivals, this is their last gig, so arguably I have caught them just in time!
with a banner stating, “Street punk, Skinhead, rock and roll.” They deliver exactly what they promise. Rough, fast, shouts of oi, shouts of hey and lots of fists in the air. It is everything it needs to be. I once read how skinheads hate chairs, as they always seem to want to stand; Either together, for something, against something or to be counted and this band falls firmly into that camp. Catchy, sing along anthems with a focus on pride, family and getting a good kicking.
As the band finish their set the singer thanks the promoters, his bandmates, crowd and with the final “stand together, strong and proud” the arch rivals journey is over.
Ashpipe on the almost acoustic stage is something a little different. Described as a ska punk and folk band from Italy, I thought I’d head up to check them out and get a much needed sit down. Two singers, a violin, guitar, bass and cajon, it is less acoustic and more “clean”, but still let’s see how this works out? Punk generally translates well to acoustic playing. Songs are often quite simple and whilst the music is traditionally fast, the vocals are often quite slow. Ashpipe deliver songs that fit with the folky, simplistic and catchy vibe, with the punk energy and an additional violin, which whilst this is an instrument that I’m a little suspicious of generally, they are really getting the most out of it here. The band are playing a full “Electric” set tomorrow on the introducing stage, so I’ll make sure I get to that.
Gimp Fist “Ne joy, ne hope, ne nought” states Jonny Robson, singer of Gimp Fist as they kick straight into crowd favourite “Place where I belong”. With no pretence. The band, who were moved up from the Pavilion stage to the Empress ballroom following Bishop’s green dropping. With the size of this crowd, it would have been carnage in the pavilion, but having played this stage several times in the past the band are more than comfortable on the main stage. New tracks from recent release “Isolation” and the follow up album, released for the weekend, “Unification” follow a familiar pattern of catchy Street punk with working class values. A massive sing along from the crowd to set closer “Here I stand”, as with the acoustic set earlier, the crowd, perhaps deliberately sings the “whoa oh oh” in the wrong place, but it all works, and no one is left unsatisfied by their performance.
Next up we have Skinhead legends, last resort. yes, it’s Lars Frederickson on guitar.But he’s just the guitarist in a band today. A band that existed before he played guitar with them, and for most of the crowd he is replacement for original guitarist Charlie Duggan, rather than any significant part of the band, and he plays this role well. Aside from some familiar backing vocals it is very much about the last resort rather than becoming the Lars show.
There’s a brief pause as the bass amp appears to have given up, but they pick things back up quickly with a fiery “Rebels with a cause”. I’ve never been a fan of Roi Pearce’s vocals, and that has always put me off The Last Resort a bit, but having finally seen them, and the quality of their show, I regret not investing more time into this band.
Isle of Wight’s Finest grade 2, deliver classic Skinhead punk, performed affectively, with lyrics reflecting being young, by guys actually are young. A novel thing here!
Opening with “judgement day”, which feels unusually heavier down their normal sound, straight into “murder town” which feels much more familiar. The band tear rapidly through all the hits and suddenly the short set is over. That was insane, I saw grade 2 back in January and whilst they were good it seems they have really turned it up a notch and I can’t wait to see them again on bigger stages.
For the Brits reading this, I shall now state “cheeky Nandos”, for everybody else I went and had dinner.
Returning to the Winter Gardens satiated by a plate full of chicken, I decide to head to the rebellion introducing stage to catch Midwich Cuckoo’s. A band that I know very little about. I have bought my ear plugs today, so hopefully I can enjoy the music, I’m all for loud music, but I’m just not punk enough to invite hearing damage.
After seeing a few duos on this stage, it’s a surprise to see three guitarists! The stage is crowded and I’m not sure if they’re really making much use of so many guitars? Maybe it’s the mix, but it’s all a bit too noisy to really hear the finer details of who’s playing what. Studio versions of their songs capture a variety of guitar tones which is sadly lost in this live show.
Right, Rum lad. “Fuck these fucking Tory bastards” is a fairly pointed way start your set, it is also a succinct way of saying “Rum lad is angry, does not support the current government, does not agree with how people are being treated and did I mention he’s angry?”.
There has been a lot of criticism fired at Rum Lad, saying whathe does isn’t real punk, as he performs to a backing track. Away from the aesthetic, is it any different, or less acceptable than hiring a group of session musicians to fulfil someone else’s idea of what a punk rock band should be?
Patrolling the stage like he’s the leading speaker at a political rally, songs are part shouted part sung to a thumping punk backdrop. Every song feels personal, and you can feel the passion, he’s clearly not just going through the motions here.
regardless of opinions on delivery, there’s no denying Rum lad is a force of nature and I for one love it.
As the Bridge city sinners begin, I am immediately and unexpectedly thinking of Django Reinhardt, which I guess isn’t what they go for, but it’s no criticism.
The band played a strange mix of energetic vocals over, perhaps not lazy, but resigned music. The band don’t really seem to be feeling it, and a lot of the crowd seemed to feel the same. There’s a lot of people sat down, playing on their phones and looking a bit tired. It’s been a long day with a lot of great bands and perhaps everyone, band included, just needs a rest.
Day 4 Sunday 7th August
A difficult day, as I decided that this was a good day to go home, collect my two eldest sons (10/8) and bring them back to Blackpool for their first taste of punk rock. My plans were immediately scuppered as my train home was cancelled, meaning that I didn’t get back until much later with the boys.
We made it back to the Winter Gardens just in time for Spunge, who I thought might provide an excellent taste of what was to come for the kids. Not too heavy, fun, good to dance to, Spunge were everywhere 20 years ago, but I’ve not seen them since. Bouncy, laddish ska punk, nothing has changed for better or worse, but the music is good and my eldest is enjoying it. His younger brother however unexpectedly wants something heavier, so we head over to the introducing stage to see Lumpen. I figure old school Italian punk should meet his needs nicely. The singer and the bassist, both shirtless, bald, covered in tattoos looking like Soviet prisoners, they make for a terrifying sight. The music is hard and fast, and my 8-year-old declares it to be “pretty good”, which I guess when the alternative is Minecraft themed parody songs, that’s pretty good feedback.
We have a walk around some of the stalls, and my boys settle on studded wristbands as the essential accessory. Newly accessorised, we head back to the introducing stage just as Punik are finishing their set. High energy, noisy, this is proper punk, the sort you can bounce off the walls too. It’s a shame I only caught the end of their set as I would have loved to have seen more. They leave the stage to screaming feedback.
Having seen them yesterday for the first time on the almost acoustic stage, Ashpipe are the only band on my really must-see list today. I thought they were great yesterday, I listened to their music all morning on my train ride home and I am now fully converted. Let’s see how they get on fully electric?
As before on the acoustic stage, with two singers and a violin on top of the usual band make up. The band play folk-Ska-punk. However, perhaps such a simplistic description does it a disservice? There’s a bit of everything going on here. The band are joined on stage by Enrico, singer from Los Fastidious, and creator of their label, Kob Records, I didn’t realise it, but Los Fastidious, Ashpipe and Lumpen are all signed to Kob Records, and there is a real sense of friendship between the bands.
The crowd is small but engaged, and given the set is clashing with UK Subs, It’s no surprise numbers are on the low side. Enrico stays on stage for the next song, with three vocalists’ things really step up to the next level.
Ashpipe have 4 albums since 2008, and they’re all worth checking out.
It was always a risk bringing the kids to a festival, but there was less bands that I wanted to see today, and I felt it was an essential experience for them, however it does inhibit my ability to move rapidly from stage to stage and their attention span isn’t always up to 30-minute sets. People in the crowd are friendly and often chatting with my kids who are wearing matching The Allergic’s t-shirts along with their studded wrist bands, but it’s not enough to keep them engaged so we head down to the front for fish and chips and to visit, the new for this year R Stage, an outdoor arena area, with separate tickets available for more accessible and popular acts. Tonight, Billy Bragg is playing, and we sit in the evening sunshine to take it in.
A few years ago, I went through a bleak phase. I lost faith in some of what I’d always believed, why fight against a system that I can never defeat and must always be a part of? I saw Billy Bragg and then during one of his famous between song rants, he said, “keep the faith and it will be its own reward”. later I heard the same message in a film, in a song and in a book and felt compelled to have “Faith will be rewarded” tattooed on my wrist in case I need a reminder that things can get better.
I’m not a religious man, but every few years I need a Billy Bragg session to reset my moral compass, remind me of what is important to me and stoke my fires against social injustice. It’s been a few years now, but in the summer evening sun, under the Blackpool Tower Billy does his thing. Discussing the relevance of his song sexuality, and how good it is that things have moved on, where a singer saying that he would go for a drink with a gay friend is no longer controversial, but that although new injustices needed to be addressed, he was scared to discuss trans rights, due to the complexity and fear of resistance. However, “if we never try, then will never change. Trans rights are human rights.”
“Levi Stubbs Tears” is superb, and one of my favourite trumpet solos, sadly lacking today, but still, the perfect way to draw my rebellion festival to a close. I have seen nearly 40 bands, discovered new artists and seen old favourites. Taken in ridiculous architecture and read a book about anarchist punks in the 1980s. I’m tired, I’m broke and my feet hurt, and even if my kids don’t seem particularly engaged with punk music, I hope I have started them on a journey of gigs, festivals and being whoever the fuck they want to be.