Blackpool was home to punk rock as the annual Rebellion Festival took over the famous Winter Gardens for a weekend of music, art and comedy.
5th – 8th August 2010 – Winter Gardens, Blackpool
The northeast beach town of Blackpool with its pleasure beach, pier, tower and countless drinking holes; is usually the place where you’d find tacky stag and hen parties, geriatrics on weekend getaways and young families with kids too young to realise its actually rubbish. That is, for most weeks of the summer season. But for one weekend in August for the last few years, Blackpool’s Winter Gardens venue has been home to the world’s biggest independent punk rock festival; where punk rockers from all over the world flock to the Northern tourist trap to see many a band from their youth.
The organisers of Rebellion Festival have been around since 1995, putting on DIY gigs and festivals under various guises including Holidays in the Sun and Wasted. Rebellion is a bigger operation with events taking place world-wide; yet still remaining 100% independent and sponsor free. The line up always includes legendary artists and new comers alike from oi, anarcho, street, skate, hardcore and ska-core, glam, psychobilly and much more, as well as comedy and punk art. And very much beating what was usually taking place at the venue; which from the posters I could tell included Chico, Colin Fry and Darren Day!
The mohican and leather clad festival goers walking amongst startled grannies and drunken females in matching hen attire proved to be a comical and surreal sight all at the same time! The atmosphere was extremely light hearted and jovial as groups sat outside the venue merrily making friends and drinking cider whilst some posed for snaps with the police. The police presence seemed unnecessary (but understandable) as the misconstrued punk reputation was nowhere to be seen throughout the weekend.
Boston ska-core crew Big D and the Kids Table were my first stop of the weekend! I was eager to catch them as their energetic performances have always impressed me. The last time I saw the band was back in January when they were touring with Reel Big Fish. There they played with female backing vocalists and had more of a hip hop, roots ska and reggae approach. However, this was all forgotten as they exploded onto stage with the ferocity that I knew and loved them for. Vocalist David Mcwane jumped about all over the place as he spat out lines from the intense, chaotic and ska-fused hardcore mayhem that made up the likes of Those Kids Suck and LA X – from earlier less rude influenced releases Good Luck and Gypsy Hill EP. A cover of The Specials’ Little Bitch made sure they didn’t leave out some love for the old skool though!
The Fat Wreck signed Star Fucking Hipsters were equally as explosive as the New York band played fast as hell political punk rock; mixed with ska, new wave, melodic hardcore and crust. Made up of members of Leftover Crack, The Slackers and Choking Victim, this dream team five-piece proved to be one of the festival’s highlights with 3000 Miles and Until We’re Dead already sounding like classics!
Dublin band Paranoid Visions looked a little bit like a family with an ageing John Lydon type on lead vocals, guitarists who looked young enough to be his sons (at a push) and backing vocalists who looked young enough to be his grand-daughters! Sporting bright orange Paranoid Visions t-shirts furthered this family-esque coordinated look; but just made them look amusing. This was probably not the desired effect as it aired on cheesy, but they looked a bit too scary to tell! Playing a dark brand of anarcho punk mixed with oi and street, vocalist Deko had the old skool spirit; flipping the bird as an embrace to the crowd.
Rounding off the first part of my weekend were three big bands from the original punk rock era – Penetration, Vice Squad and UK Subs. Front-woman Pauline Murray, who was dressed in a pink shirt and tie and sporting black spikey hair; cut an awe inspiring shape on stage as she danced about whilst shaking her trademark tambourine. Her siren-like voice cut through the crowd who sung back her lyrics to her. Enjoying every second up there the band worked through their popular back catalogue including Life’s a Gamble, Nostalgia and anarchic anthem Don’t Dictate. Hard hitting and with a gothic edge about them, Penetration were a treat live.
Bristol punks Vice Squad followed and front-woman Beki Bondage clearly had not lost her pin-up status from the eighties! Dressed in a PVC mini dress and shaking her long blonde and pink hair, the singer oozed sex appeal yet proved she was a force to be reckoned with as she fired out her powerful vocal on newer tracks that took a more metal direction. Recent numbers Sniffin’ Glue, Punx United, Business as Usual and Old Skool stood well against classics Last Rockers, Out of Reach and Black Sheep.
Street punks UK Subs topped the day though as charismatic front-man Charlie Harper had the crowd up in the air as he rocketed through many an anthem from their heyday in the 70s and 80s. Combining pub rock, rock and roll and metal (on their 80s stuff) big favourites of the night were Warhead, Tomorrow’s Girls and stand out track Stranglehold. Sporting a Rancid t-shirt and white spikey hair, original member Charlie had his mic pointed into the crowd whilst punks in the front row sung back and clambered to shake hands with the legend!
Day two kicked off with English band Citizen Fish, side project to the magnificent anarcho crew The Subhumans. With their strong horn section, Citizen Fish bridged the ska punk gap to the more tradionalist sound of their counterpart. Though equalled them on integrity, politics and spirit as inspirational front-man Dick Lucas pogoed in true punk fashion!
Canadian hardcore and experimentalists Fucked Up were another of the weekend’s highlights. Their musical assault and riotous performance saw rotund front-man Damian Abraham thrashing in the circle pit for the duration of their performance, whilst managing not to miss a single lyric! As relative newcomers compared to the rest of the event’s line up, Damian and co opitimized the future of punk rock; igniting the whole event and keeping the scene thriving.
An honourable mention must also go out to the cheekily named Kunt and the Gang too. The Essex man’s offensive, vulgar and tongue in cheek sing alongs were one of the quirkiest things I’ve ever heard. Kunt most definitely flew the flag for non-political correctness! His song titles were so rude, I cannot repeat them, but they were hilarious nonetheless.
Two New York bands followed and proved to be just as popular as each other, though enticing very different crowd reactions. Agnostic Front formed one of the biggest pits of the weekend as they ran through their twenty year back catalogue of oi punk mixed with hardcore and metal. The Slackers on the other hand transformed the mosh pit back to a dance-floor with their charming mix of ska, soul, jazz and dub. And this was all done while missing several members who could not get to the venue in time!
Dwarves followed, undoing The Slackers work as Blag Dahlia and the boys turned it all the way back to eleven; forming similar receptions to those received from Agnostic Front and Fucked Up earlier that day. Famed for their hard living, on stage nudity, perverse lyrics and general controversy; they played quite a tame set for their standards. While they still managed to cause a riot in the mosh pit, this time they did it fully clothed! I was actually a little disappointed as I was expecting masks, jock straps, naked ladies and their usual infamy! When it came to the music though, they played a no nonsense set of their brand of thrashy hardcore punk metal. A no nonsense set for a no nonsense crowd I guess!
A no nonsense crowd brings me nicely onto the highly praised Gallows. The Watford five-piece have two amazing albums under their belts that perfectly blend punk rock and thrash metal, gaining them love from both scenes as well as the toast of the music press. And while they played with the ferocity they are renowned for, they appeared to have a great desire to be accepted by this old skool crowd. I suppose to be accepted by the original punk rockers would be a great compliment, but this crowd certainly weren’t ever going to be young starry-eyed sycophants that might make up some of Gallows’ fans at other shows. We already knew they were good, but there was a feeling of get on with it, you have nothing to prove as the band’s singer ranted at the crowd as the audience defiantly booed! Another reviewer likened front-man Frank Carter to Donny Tourette and I am sad to say he was actually on the money!
Ed Tudor Pole however brought me to a more genuine atmosphere as he performed merry sing a longs with a battered acoustic guitar. There were no heirs and graces with the ex front-man of Ten Pole Tudor, and he didn’t even seem to mind heckles regarding the Crystal Maze! While Gallows seemed to have been trying to emulate the spirit of punk rock, Ed Tudor Pole showed that it was still alive and well for his set.
Rebellion Festival was one of the best punk rock shows I have ever been to. The organisation of the line ups meant I rarely missed any of artists I had come to see. Many commercial festivals clash left right and centre with no thought to the festival goer. This usually leaves you seeing only a small proportion of bands you had initially come for that weekend. If only more events were like it. Great bands, great set up and great atmosphere!
Long live punk rock!