REBELLION FESTIVAL – Blackpool August 4-7 2011

For 15 years Rebellion has been the festival to attend if you like punk or Oi! music. Whilst I am sure that not every resident of Blackpool is enamoured by day-glow Mohicans cluttering up their high street, it can’t be argued that with up to 5,000 people a day attending, it brings a lot of much needed revenue to the town.

Built in 1878, the Winter Gardens was literally decades ahead of its time. Whilst most people will know the Empress Ballroom, where they play the televised darts, the building actually contains many different self contained venues. Six stages are continuously in use for over 12 hours of each of the 4 days and the sheer number of bands available to see can get a bit mind boggling. Having previously attended, I came prepared with an itemised breakdown of who and where I should be for every hour of the day. Whilst inevitably there will be clashes of bands you want to see, it is still a great way to revisit old favourites and take in new bands.

And so, befitting a musical genre that is played at breakneck speed, here is my double quick review of my very own Holiday in the Sun:

Thursday 4 August:

MAX SPLODGE (Acoustic)
Whilst I think it is fair to say that he had imbibed more than a few ales, this was still a surprisingly entertaining set. Complete with two Splodgettes (i.e. grown men wearing tutus) he sings/slurs his way through a varied set list including firm favourites “Two Little Boys” and “Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps”.

The worlds only cricket fixated punk band arrive from deepest Yorkshire bedecked in full cricketing flannels. Mixing old with new, we have standard favourites like “Dawn of the Dickie Birds”, “LBW” (Lager Before Women) and “I was Monty’s Double”, as well as new numbers like “Kestrel For a Knave” and “Pictures of Lillee”. Howzat? A right Yorkshire Ripper of a band!

New York residents, their line up includes horns, piano and guitar. Apparently they are a musical collective that have over 30 members. The group is led by singer Jack Terricloth, who has been the most constant member throughout the group's history and is known for his pointed commentary during shows. Frankly not my cup of tea and I retire to the bar.

The second time in two weeks that I have seen Lars Frederiksen’s (of Rancid fame) new band. Visually they hark back to the late 70’s skinhead look with Ben Sherman shirts, Sta Prest trousers and Doc Martins. The sound is definitely Oi based and shout-along anthem flow readily from Lars pen. Set highlights are “Casual”, “Lone Wolf”, “The Old Firm” and rousing finale of Last Resorts “Violence In Our Minds”.

A new hardcore supergroup led by Keith Morris of Black Flag/Circle Jerks. Unbelievably he is 56 years old, although in fairness he has worn well and jumps about like someone half his age. A bit too repetitive for me, but well received by the capacity audience.

Of all the bands on the first day these were the ones I was looking forward to seeing most. Largely overlooked in the writing of punk history, they have been around since 1976 and were invariably featured on any line up from the Roxy or Vortex. They wrote many undiscovered gems in the early punk days, all of which got an airing tonight. So I get a chance to drunkenly bellow along to “Insane Society”, “Last Years Youth”, “Screwed Up”, “Punk Rocker”, “I Need Nothing” and especially “GLC”. It’s difficult to put into words the pleasure in being in a packed venue after midnight, with like minded middle aged blokes all of whom have had too much to drink, shouting out “GLC, GLC, you’re full of shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!”. Worth the ticket price alone.

Friday 5 August:

Saw them in Cardiff recently where the attendance disappointingly just about scraped into double figures. However today there is a very respectable turn out for this Street punk band from London. Nothing extraordinary in their sound, but rest assured if you like Cock Sparrer, The Business or Last Resort you will like them. They run through a varied setlist taking in numbers from throughout their career such as “SNAFU”, “Buddah of the Back Street”, “John Fila, Drug Dealer”, “Horrorshow”, “England” and their tribute to Joe Strummer “The Future is Unwritten”. Similar look and feel to Old Firm Casuals and bizarrely they also include the Last Resorts “Violence In Our Minds”.

Perennial favourites of the anarcho punk scene and a band that spawned a thousand t-shirts. I have never heard them before and in fact they turned out to be rather good. The only reservation is that each song is preceded by a lecture/explanation that gets rather tiresome after a while. For a musical genre that prides itself on not obeying orders it seems rather odd that certain bands seem intent on preaching what you can and cannot do/like/think. Still I’m sure they mean well.

Predating punk, this band played with the Sex Pistols at the 100 Club in 1976. I was disappointed to find that with singer/guitarist Knox no longer in the band they had only one original member in Eddie on drums. However, a sterling effort with all their well known tunes included such as “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”, “Whips and Furs”, “Baby, Baby” and of course “Automatic Lover”.

Saw these for the first time when last at Rebellion and was blown away. Whilst they are undoubtedly Oi/Street Punk, their lyrics are a cut above the normal boot boy anthems. Mickey Fitz is a great front man and they can mix undoubtedly humorous number like “Guinness Boys”, “Get Out of My House” and “Drinking and Driving” with more serious social commentary such as “National Insurance Blacklist”, “Harry May” and “Suburban Rebels”, the latter being one of my all time favourite punk songs. A great live band and definitely worth checking out if they visit your manor.

This was their first gig since their recent reformation after splitting in 1986, and they didn’t disappoint. Taking tracks mostly from their 1982 debut album “Still Out of Order”, they are surprisingly tight, given their lengthy hiatus. Revolving predominately around two brothers – Lee and Floyd Wilson – they were originally championed by Mensi from the Angelic Upstarts and made their recording debut by contributing a track to the infamous “Strength Thru Oi!” LP. Tonight they belted out “Five Minute Fashion”, “Catch 22”, “Catalogue Kids”, “In For A Riot” and “Still Out of Order” and sound-wise they don’t appeared to have aged one bit. A promising return to action and hopefully this won’t be their last gig for another 25 years.

This clashed with the Exploited, but for me there was only ever going to be one winner. Whilst I will forever name the Clash as my favourite band, it is true to say that the Damned are not far behind. Having first seen them in the late ‘70’s, and followed them religiously throughout the following decades, I can honestly say they rarely play a bad gig and tonight was no exception. With Sensible and Vanian resplendent in shades the band blasted off with a deafeningly loud version of “Melody Lee” and for the next hour and a half I was caught up in hugely enjoyable nostalgia trip. Excluding anything from their latest long player they took in numbers from all their other previous recordings and so a packed auditorium was treated to “New Rose”, “Neat, Neat, Neat”, “Love Song”, “Wait For The Blackout”, “Eloise”, “Anti-Pope”, “Smash It Up”, “Disco Man” etc etc. The Damned released the UK’s first punk single and for me remain the UK’s foremost punk band. They tour later in the year doing their first and third albums (“Damned, Damned, Damned” and “Machine Gun Etiquette”) in their entirety and in chronological order, so if you get the chance go and see what punk was like when it still retained a semblance of musicality.

The Damned - pic Sam V

Saturday 6 August:

It’s unusual to find one of the first wave of punk bands that retain so many original members.  Nick Cash on vocals and guitar; Guy Days on guitar/vocals and Pablo LaBritain on drums are still going strong. The only newcomer is Arturo Bassick (also of the Lurkers) who has only been in the band for 20 years! I think it fair to say that Nick Cash was once less wider of girth and less follically challenged, however time has not dampened his enthusiasm. Between 1978 and 1981, they had five Top 75 singles in the UK Singles Chart, and one Top 40 single. So whilst the set started slowly, it got into full stride when they dusted off “Emergency”, “I’m Alive”, “Me and My Desires”, “Emergency”, “Feeling Alright With The Crew”, “Homicide” and a cracking “Nasty, Nasty”.

999 - pic Shasa Hazza

Hailing from Boston, they formed in 2002 after lead singer Mike McColgan (who had left the Dropkick Murphys to pursue a life-long dream of becoming a firefighter for the Boston Fire Department) decided he couldn’t stay away from music. It appeared that a problem with the sound check meant they had a curtailed set, however that didn’t mean they were any less enjoyable and certainly the boisterous crowd joined in the spirit. A good proportion of tracks came from their latest eponymous long player, so we get “Formation”, “Rattle and Roll”, “Punk Rock and Roll” and the “Shape of Other Men”, plus perennial favourites “Tobe’s Got a Drinking Problem” and “In Defence of Dorchester”. ’However, the highlight was a cracking version of “The Fighter” that segwayed into The Clash’s “Guns of Brixton”. They finished with a rip roaring reworking of Sham 69’s Borstal Breakout (renamed Boston Breakout). A great live band and one I can hopefully see live again soon.

Very like the acoustic set, but with electric guitars and band. All the favourites played along with a smattering of songs regarding Max Splodges’ obsession with Genghis Khan!?! What can I say other than it was good drunken fun.

Another original 70’s band, and whilst they might not have reformed specifically for the festival, they still only play the occasional gig. Bizarrely in the late 1990s, Japanese band Thee Michelle Gun Elephant had a hit with a Boys cover. This prompted the re-release of several Boys albums with encouraging international sales (more than 30,000 albums being sold in Japan alone). Whilst they’re not a band I’m particularly familiar with, I did recognise “Cop Cars”, “I Don’t Care” and an anthemic “Brickfield Nights”. Also if you feel like some vulgar yuletide punk, check out their alter egos The Yobs and their disgracefully politically incorrect album “The Yobs Christmas Album”. Just don’t play it to the kids or your granny though!

The Boys - pic Shasa Hazza

I’ve seen them previously and quite frankly the joke is starting to wear a bit thin. Original members Leonard Graves Phillips and Stan Lee must fast be approaching the age to get free bus passes, so to see Graves Phillips singing a number whilst wearing a hand puppet of a cock and balls is somewhat demeaning. They do the usual covers of “Paranoia”, “Nights in White Satin” and of course” Banana Splits”, but maybe its time they thought of growing old gracefully.

Unfortunately due to being waylaid with the Dickies, I miss the start of the Neurotics. In truth this is not so much of a band, rather vocalist Steve Drewett performing his politically charged songs accompanied by some random musicians. If you ever wondered where Billy Bragg got his influences from look no further than here. Whilst most of these songs were written well over a quarter of a century ago rather earily they still resonate today, most obviously “Living With Unemployment” and “Kick Out The Tories”.

Yes, I know they have been a stalwart of the American punk scene for years but I thought they were awful. So much so that the highlight was their speeded up version of “Stand By Me” by Ben E King!

And so to the festival’s headliners with the Empress Ballroom full to its 3000 capacity. People from all over the UK, USA, Canada, Germany, Italy and Croatia (to name but a few countries) had made the pilgramage to hear them. Now if truth be told I’ve never really “got” Cock Sparrer. To me they sound like a punk version of Chas and Dave, all catchy tunes about East End Life and having a row down the Mile End. They headlined the first time I attended Rebellion and whilst I enjoyed them, I was still baffled by why they uniquely have sprung to international fame from all the early 80’s Oi bands. However even I have to say that tonight they were excellent. Everywhere around me people were word-perfect to every (and I mean every) song. So like hymns in a cathedral, the collective voice of Blackpool Winter Gardens roared out “Running Riot”, “Chip On My Shoulder”, “Argy Bargy”, “Working”, “Riot Squad”, “Where Are They Now?” and of course “England Belongs to Me”.

Sunday 7 August

The last day turned out to be homage to my bygone heroes and where better place to start than with the original bassist in the biggest band of them all, the Sex Pistols It’s often said that when Matlock left the band, the Pistols never again wrote a great song. Whilst I am not that keen on the mid-Atlantic drawl he now uses when singing, some of his new numbers are quite catchy and his band are more than competent. However, the undoubted highlights were hearing “God Save The Queen” and “Pretty Vacant” sung by the man who co wrote them. I can honestly say that when the intro for the latter started the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

Glen Matlock and the Philistines - pic Shasa Hazza

And so to the vocalist of the Adverts, a band who gained a certain amount of notoriety by releasing “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” in 1977”. This song concerned a blind hospital patient receiving the eyes of real life executed murderer Gary Gilmore. However, in retrospect I should have gone to see the Outcasts, a Belfast based band that was reforming especially for Rebellion. I somehow got the notion that the normally acoustic Smith would be doing the hughely underatted “Crossing the Red Sea with the Adverts” in its entirety with an electrified band. However on arrival there was no sign of a band and after opening numbers of “No Time to be 21” and “Safety in Numbers” he veered off into his later, rather soporific, agi-punk. Rather disappointing in truth.


Later in the night I see Captain Sensible and between songs he ventured the opinion that the real spirit of punk was not people like Johnny Rotten, but Charlie Harper. By my reckoning Charlie is now 67 and has fronted the Subs since 1976, but stiil retains all the enery and enthusiasm that brought him to the scene 35 years ago. There are rarely suprises in a UK Subs setlist, but do the heaving masses care, do they f*ck!. Smashing through “CID”, “Stranglehold”, “Tomorrows Girls”, “”Keep On Running”, “Teenage” and their show stopper “Warhead”, there is no sign that Charlie will ever slow down. And why should he when he is clearly idolised by everone in attendance. Genuine punk royalty.

The Lurkers had a brief a career that was notable for being the first group ever on Beggars Banquet Records. Of the original line up only Arturo Bassick remains, but he is such a big personality, both literally and metaphorically, that the bands popularity has never waned. They played initially in any venue that would have them and they retain a certain pub rock quality. Their set list is made up of catchy, guitar driven number such as “Shadow”, “Freak Show”, Ain’t Got a Clue”, “Just Thirteen”, plus a few covers like “Then I kissed (kicked) her” and “Pills”. To encapsulate their liking for alcohol they finish the set with Dean Martin’s “Little Old Wine Drinker me”.

Just time to nip in to see the ex lead singer of the Dead Kennedy, who takes to the stage wearing a blood splattered lab coat and hands covered in crimson. As neither of his first two songs are from “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables” I jump ship. In restrospect I am wise as apprently he spent a good proportion of the set ranting about corporate big businees in America. I’ve had enough of being preached at for the weekend thanks.

And finally after 4 days my weekend closes with the Captain. Joined on stage by Monty Oxymoron and Paul Grey (ex Eddie & the Hot Rods, The Damned) he plays the most eclectic set list of the whole weekend. OK his early 80 chart hits (“Glad It’s All Over”, “Wot”) maybe a bit cheesy, but he throws in a Pink Floyd cover (??!), a couple off the last Damned CD (“So, Who’s Paranoid”), the afore mentioned Eddie & the Hot Rod’s “Do Anything You Wanna Do” and Elton Motello’s controversial gay punk anthem “Jet Boy, Jet Girl”. And as the bouncers fought to enforce the venues curfew, Captain went out with a speeded up version of his No 1 single “Happy Talk”. A special mention should also go to Paul Grey as a bizarre gardening accident with secateurs had resulted in him losing the tip of one finger. He still managed to sound the consumate professional even with only 3 fingers on the frets!

So there youn have it, 4 days, 26 bands, many pints of Strongbow and a diet of chips. How do I feel? Old and knackered. Would I do it again? Damn right, roll on Rebellion 2012.

Grown men wear shades in the rain in Blackpool - Dorps, Bones, Geord.

Thanks go out to my two fellow travellers Dorps and Geord.