Rebellion Festival 1st – 4th August, Winter Gardens, Blackpool
It’s the 23rd year of this Iconic Punk festival which has seen it grow year on year since 1996. It has previously changed its name and location but is here to stay in the Winter Gardens in Blackpool. The location is perfect for the 5,000 punters who religiously make their punk pilgrimage there every year. The town itself welcomes every one who makes it to this old seaside resort and its much needed injection of income for the struggling businesses that benefit from the influx. It was another glorious weekend weather wise, which was great for the army of punks who sit outside and barely venture from the steps of the venue as they swap stories of their past year having not seen each other since the last Rebellion. There was a down side to the hot weather outside though as some of the temperatures inside the venue were extremely hot. This meant most of the rooms were vacated as soon as the bands finished but due to the nature of the location, it benefited the local bars and cafe’s as the punters could pop out for some fresh air and nourishment.
The whole Rebellion vibe is incredible and it truly is one big happy family as all genres descend upon the festival and share their love of music and art. The festival is of course about music and art but it is the people that make it. The organisers Darren Russell-Smith and Jennie Russell-Smith, along with their team which range from some phenomenal musicians who manage each of the stages, to the light/sound crew, all the backstage management and the photographers who are there to capture the action for posterity. There is so much going on behind the scenes and it’s run like a well oiled machine. The building itself is incredible, which houses seven music venues as well as an area for art and artist interviews. The bars cater for all tastes and there’s some good food options on site as well. The staff make sure everyone is refreshed and hydrated! The security staff do an incredible job making sure that there are no serious injuries for the exuberant fans who love to surf and come over the barrier. In fact, some bands actually encourage it and try to get the record for numbers over the barrier in one song. They actually keep count!!!! Last but not least, there are a great number of vendors selling T-shirts, records/CD’s and memorabilia. Some of the bands sell their merchandise on stalls and this gives the fans the chance to meet their favourite musicians.
With over 300 bands to see and varying styles of music, there’s something for everyone. Most people already know who they want to see before they get there but often stumble across some great bands they’ve never heard before. There was some careful planning needed before Rebellion but there’s always room for one more band on the must see list.
Thursday 1st August
If it wasn’t nerve wracking enough to play Rebellion itself, being the first band to open the weekend, Lead Shot Hazard were the ideal band to kick the festival off. Playing in the Rebellion Introducing Stage and with the visual aesthetic of a singer sporting a mohican backed up by a wicked brass section was brilliant. The punk/ska set went down well with the busy room. The R.I.S benefits from being the first live room you encounter as you enter the building so it does invariably get passers-by drawn in by the music.
Kickback Generation were the first band to play the ARENA stage which is down a couple flights of stairs and is a very dark venue. The lads hail from the North East of England and play some great gritty no nonsense energetic punk rock. I had seen them before and they were on form today, I’m sure they will be back to Rebellion based on this performance. My favourite song is “The Life I Used to Know”.
Over on the CASBAH stage, The Murderburgers walked out onto one of THE stages to play, only the EMPRESS has a bigger capacity. More used to sweaty dark venues, the diminutive figure of Fraser Murderburger looked almost lost on the stage but don’t be fooled by his stature as he’s larger than life and his infectious American pop punk music with a lyrical twist was very refreshing. Great to see this hard working musician in front of so many people.
Another quick visit into R.I.S and I caught street punk band Overload playing their frantic hardcore punk. Another busy room which was great to see.
Terminal Heads were next up in the ARENA, the guys from Kent played some good old punk rock and resplendant with the red t shirts, they were on fire!
System of Hate brought their Dark Punk to the CASBAH again this year. After the delayed launch of their much anticipated album “There is no madness here”, which was planned for Rebellion last year, the guys were keen to air it live on the big stage. With a tentative start, the band got their monitor mix sorted and they grew in confidence through out the set. They have huge expansive sound which was deserving of the big stage and System of Hate are very popular judging by the number of T shirts on display. One of my favourite albums from last year, it was great to hear some of the stand out tracks from the album.
My first visit to the PAVILION stage saw a Celtic infused hardcore punk band. The Babes, complete with bagpipes, they had the room bouncing. They had great energy and it spilled over into the crowd.
The EMPRESS Ballroom is the main stage of Rebellion. With a capacity of approx 4,000 it is a huge room to fill. All the way from Tokyo, Vibrate Two Fingers walked out onto the main stage like they already owned it. Think of what you’d get if you fused Generation X, The Clash, The Boys and had Malcolm McLaren as their manager and this is what you’d get. Luckily, they do have substance over style and what a great opener for this prestigious stage.
In complete contrast to the EMPRESS, the ALMOST ACOUSTICLounge saw Nathan Seaton (Hospital Food) play a stripped back show of some new songs and old standards. The lounge is a great bar for everyone to enjoy a break from the hectic performances and chill out having a drink and a catch up between songs.
The Cundeez were the second band today to feature bagpipes. This time, it was an actual scotsman playing them and on the CASBAH stage it’s an awesome sight. Resplendent in their trademark kilts, The Cundeez introduce their new drummer to Rebellion. Right from the off, there’s a harder edge to them this year and they mean business. It’s not long before Gary Robertson takes his T shirt off as the crowd shout “Taps Aff” and he continues to jump round the stage. The popular punks from Dundee rip through their set and bring a smile to the crowd with “Yir Talking Shite”. The punk/ska music seems to run right through Rebellion and always goes down well.
Back to the ARENA for Tokyo Rankers and some hard hitting punk/oi from the Peterborough Punks. The rooms packed and the band played a blinder. The title track “Don’t Get Me Started” from their latest album was the highlight of the set for me.
My schedule took a slight detour as one of my good friends recommended I head for the PAVILLION stage to catch the next band. This is the beauty of Rebellion, just when you think it couldn’t get any better you walk into a room and hear your new favourite band! I like to hear new music and as soon as I walk through the entrance I was literally blown away. Bandits hail from Newbury and bring their incredibly infectious energy to Blackpool for all to see and hear. With an eclectic mix of ska/punk/thrash and hip hop it’s impossible not to like. As well as the banging music and tripping lyrics, visually the band grab you as Skinny Pete (vocals) and Starby (Vocals and Hype!) dance and cause general chaos as the latter dives into the crowd to mosh. “Reppin Up The RG” had the crowd singing along and they went down a storm. I left the room buzzing and hungry for more punk/ska. Checking out Bandits facebook page their mandate is “Hoping to Educate and Medicate the Youth of today with their Good Time Vibes and Party agenda.The message is simple, the message is clear, Bandits are here to bring the party and you’re all invited!!”
I didn’t have to wait long for some punk/ska as Millie Manders and the Shutup were up on the CASBAH. Last year, the band played the EMPRESS but it’s no disgrace to move to the CASBAH and they got a fantastic reception as there’s a lot of love for Millieas the ever popular performer shows us why. Whether it’s purely singing or playing her instruments, she nails it. There’s a new look to the band since I saw them last and the musicianship is brilliant. The venue is bursting and “Right To Life” and “Brave” always go down well. I stayed for the entire set and glad I did as it was a memorable performance.
A quick sprint one to the ARENA to catch Delinquents. Another Dundee band to grace the Rebellion festival this year but fortunately no clash with The Cundeez this year. The band play their recent E.P. “Sober On Sunday” in between bantering with the crowd using some very colloquial slang that I’m sure only the scot’s could work out. The band are resplendent in their bright yellow “Average Joe” T shirts and contrary to the song, Dave Hennesey (Guitar/Vocals) is far from Sober and it’s only Thursday!
Spring Park, I had earmarked this band for sometime and finally got to see them on the ARENA stage. The energy in the room went up a notch as the band brought their brand of American infused power punk. Hard hitting drums with some great power chords backed up by a pounding bass is just what the crowd needed to push on through the day. It’s a big performance for this tight stage but the crowd benefited from being up close and personal. With a new album in the making and a busy gig schedule, expect Spring Park to rock out near you soon.
The Barstool Preachers played the EMPRESS, they are a big draw and the near capacity proves it. They played Rebellion as a warm up for their imminent Canadian/ North American tour and it’s not a bad venue to play for starters! Never being a band to rest on it’s laurels, they storm the EMPRESS much to the delight of the crowd. These fine exponents of ska/punk blend the music with some real meaty lyrics for the discerning listener. Their latest album “Grazie Governo” gets some some great coverage.
After a hot performance in the EMPRESS, the place to cool down is the OPERA stage.It’s a fabulous old theatre and what better band to play in there than The Zips. Regulars to Rebellion, the evervescent Scots punks are great way to just sit, chill and enjoy some good old fashioned punk. The Zips are steeped in ’77 with up to date lyrical content which keeps them fresh. Jon Zip is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet but he’s a formidable talent with a guitar in hand.
Back to theR.I.S. for one of the most anticipated bands of the day, if not the weekend. Dead Objectives have smashed their way through 2019 so far and touring endlessly throughout the UK and into Europe. It’s a well deserved slot at Rebellion for this Post-Punk/Anarcho band. The room is near capacity and the bands new album “Human Symptom” is the backbone of their performance. There’s a real intensity in the delivery of the bands politically driven anti-establishment songs. I’m sure this won’t be there last appearance at Rebellion.
Its a short walk back to the CASBAH for In Evil Hour. Another band who’s previously appeared on the EMPRESS and they suited the big stage. Their brand of hard core punk from the streets of Darlington is always in demand whether they are touring or playing the smaller festivals up and down the country. The CASBAH for me is the stage to be on this year. So many good bands with some great diversity but you have to spread yourself around the venue to vary your experience. It’s a manic/frantic performance at times but the band are incredibly tight and the melodic ferocity in Al’s voice is something to behold.
The Restarts follow on from In Evil Hour in the CASBAH. It was a highly charged performance from the masters of hard core, street anarcho punk with a flavour of ska. With a comprehensive back catalogue to choose from, the band delivered yet another blinding performance for Rebellion.
There’s time for a quick visit to see No Thrills in the ARENA and the boys just love to play Rebellion. I think they would probably win the prize for pushing their slot the most as I joked with Pez (Vocals) before they went on stage. If it wasn’t the flyers that did the trick then it’s down to merit as the room was full for their set.
Back to the EMPRESS for Queen Zee. Another hot band to see on my list and they did not disappoint. They might not visually fit the profile of what you’d expect but on attitude and delivery alone, they more than made up for it. The music was dynamic and exhilarating and had adrenaline pulsing through me as I stood and watched them command the stage. I wasn’t alone, judging by the crowd, it was a mix of mesmerisation and fascination for those unfamiliar with the band but ultimately the room was full of appreciation. Never judge a book by it’s cover and Queen Zee proved that. Their music is hard hitting, powerful and driven. It grabs you and won’t let you escape it’s grip. From the singalong track “Loner” to the darker tune “Sissy Fist” there’s an incredible dynamic in their music. Highlight for me was “Victim Age” but the entire set was brilliant. The EMPRESS was a great platform for them but I would recommend they would be best experienced at as small a venue as possible before they become huge! Imagine the rise of Frank Carter and you’ll understand, best felt up close! They have a multi-date tour coming up so catch them if you can.
The CASBAH see’s the legendary American punk band D.I. stop off on a 29 date tour of Europe. There’s a maturity and assuredness about D.I.’s performance. Don’t be fooled by the average age of the band, they hit harder than Mike Tyson when they’re on stage and can trade blows with the best of them. The deep gravel spoken delivery of Casey Royer is offset by the chaotic brilliance of the rest rest of the band. Clinton Calton’s guitar work is inspirational and the frenetic guitar solos show a man who’s on a mission. As the band leave behind the skeletons of their checkered past, they are on form tonight and there’s not many that can match their power. Highlight of the set for me was “Hypochristian” from the “United We Stand” E.P.
The PAVILLION is the central stage within the Winter Garden and was the location for Thursday’s performance of the day. After the “Fuck Cancer 2”gig in April gig where Goldblade played as an appreciation ofKathy Rocker, tonight see’s them celebrate the lives of Kathy, Simon Maraghand Norman Cooke who have all recently passed away. There’s a lot of love for those who have recently passed and this was an immensely cathartic performance from those who were their close friends. The Reverend David Grayaka The Punk Monk, took the stage just prior to the band coming on to energise the crowd with some inspirational words and relay the “Fuck Cancer” message. The band took there places on stage and John Robbjoined them and launched into “Fighting in the dancehall” the crowd errupted and it wasn’t not long before John was climbing the barrier and immersed in the mayhem. The anthemic chorus was the perfect start to any gig as the entire room join in singing “fighting in the dance hall, fucking in the streets”. Peterand Johny on guitars added to the frantic chaos as the demented licks drove the songs insanity. There was not relenting as “Strictly Hardcore” maintained the ferocity.“Jukebox Generation”, “Psycho”and “Riot Riot” kept the crowd moshing and they craved more from the band that rarely grace us with their presence. What an incredible performance and it will be remembered for many years to come, like those dedications at the start of the gig. “Be More Kathy”
Time to cool off in the chilled atmosphere of the OPERA HOUSE and it was a very cool performance from Spear of Destiny. Kirk Brandon seems ever present these days with his many musical guises. “Land of Shame” saw the crowd singalong as the popular hit struck a chord with most of the room.
The EMPRESS headline act were The Descendents. The room was absolutely packed and justifiably. It’s not often one of the major punk bands make it to these shores and the crowd took full advantage to see them. Another band with a massive history and a comprehensive back catalogue to pick from. It’s always going to be a greatest hits set at a festival and the irony of songs like “I don’t wanna grow up”wasn’t lost as they’re still out there playing gigs. “Silly Girl” another payfully titled song shows they defy the old punk guard with well crafted punk tunes. Playing songs back to back non stop, they ripped through their set very quickly and there were was a lot of love for the performance.
Thursday is traditionally the quietest of the four days but judging by the overall attendances in each venue, it looks like it was considerably busier than previous years.