The Rebellion Festival
Winter Gardens Blackpool, August 2008

The Rebellion festival is a 4 day jamboree of punk
inspired bands held at the Winter Gardens complex in Blackpool every August.

The Gardens is a Victorian era building, which would not therefore immediately appear to be the perfect place to view Punk & Oi bands, however in reality it contains numerous self-contained venues ranging in capacity and, more importantly, has many well stocked bars.

I had travelled up for Saturday only when the headliners were Cock Sparrer, but additionally over 40 bands were also playing around the complex on that day only (e.g. Stiff Little Fingers, The Dickies, Sub Humans, ANL, 999, Rezillos, Vice Squad, Subhumans, The Vibrators etc etc). One of the festival's strengths is also its major weakness, that is to say the sheer number of bands playing means that you have to plan your day carefully, but inevitably will still be unable to see some 'big-hitters' as their stage times clash. However given the number of people who attend from all over the UK and Europe (especially Germany,
Italy and France) it remains extremely popular.

I started off in the Empress Ballroom, the biggest capacity venue (4,000), and frequented back in the day by The Clash and more recently Phil Taylor in the darts. I caught most of LOS FASTIDIOSLOS who I am reliably informed come from Italy and are vocally anti-fascist. I didn't previously know any of their material which is punk/ska based, and they appear to share at least one band member with Blaggers ITA, however I did feel that they over did the preaching a bit. Having said that, the sheer number of Italians going bonkers in the audience meant they went down very well.

Next up was GOLDBLADE who seem to make a habit of playing of any punk festival going, but John Robb is such a top man that you can't dislike them and they always ensure the crowd have a smile on their face. They ran through the usual set list mixing old favourites with tracks from the new CD 'Jukebox Generation', and as normal Mr Robb invited several glamorous female audience members onto the stage to act as backing dancers in several numbers. The finale saw him sharing vocals with a 10 year old boy, plucked from the crowd, on the intro to 'Do You Believe In The Power Of Rock'N'Roll' and climaxed with the mic being thrust into the front row of the crowd for a good old punk shoutalong. You just can't dislike this

Goldblade - pic from band's Myspace

They say that the best pleasures are the most unexpected and for me it turned out that way. CHELSEA have been around since the beginning of punk and seem always to be somewhere down the bill on any flyer you see for gigs at the Roxy/Vortex/100 Club from that era. Sadly the crowd thinned for their set and I can only think that the proto punks (who all want to be
'individuals' but dress exactly the same) had pissed off to the bar, but they missed a true punk legend in Gene October. He is still arrogant, flamboyant and quite honestly slightly barmy but this is a man who shared the stage in the early days with the likes of Rotten and Strummer and demands our respect. Tracks included 'Urban UK','Evacuate' and obviously 'Right to Work', and hey, any band that throws in blazing a cover of 'White Riot' is OK in my book. They have a new CD 'Faster, Cheaper & Better Looking' out now so give yourself a treat and go get it.

It was now time for me to traverse the labyrinth of corridors to locate the Acoustic Stage (300
capacity) for TV SMITH. For those who don't know he fronted the Adverts, one of the many original bands that seemed to have been air brushed out of punk history, but their original LP 'Crossing the Red Sea with the Adverts' remains a classic, and every true punk should own a copy of the single 'Gary Gilmore's Eyes'. I had seen him a couple of years ago supporting Dead Men Walking but was still shocked at how (a) thin he was (b) how white his hair is, but I guess age catches up with us all. He has turned into a bit of a Billy Bragg clone with each new song being proceeded by a lecture on global warming, the new world order, downtrodden masses etc etc. The later numbers like 'Bring the Bull Down', 'Together Alone' were a bit lost on me, but you can't fault his enthusiasm and when he gets going he spins round the stage like a whirling dervish. But for me I only wanted to hear the Adverts stuff and in fairness it was liberally sprinkled through the set list - 'Great British Mistake', 'On Wheels', 'Bored Teenagers', 'Bombsite Boys' 'Gary Gilmore's Eyes and 'One Chord Wonders' - so that the uninitiated like me didn't wander off. Whilst it's nice to see he's still going I'm not sure I'll be at the head of the queue to buy his next CD.

TV Smith - pic M Hindmarch

Right it was time for a change of venue, so I returned to the Empress Ballroom but via The Arena (1000 capacity) to check out JET BRONX & THE NEW FORBIDDEN. I had heard a rumour that their line up included a famous, if unexpected, television celebrity and lo and behold on lead guitar was one Mr Loyd Grossman of 'Through the Keyhole' fame. They have a sound rather reminiscent of Graham Parker and the Rumour, and in fairness, Mr Grossman turned out to be a more than competent axeman. Only time for two songs before I moved on, but they were not bad and their sound was rather refreshing from the plethora of Street Punk/Oi bands that were blasting out from every orifice of the Winter Gardens.

Anti Nowhere League (Pic MXV

It may have been that as an old codger I was getting tired and grouchy, or that the cider and vodka was starting to take its toll, but I was hugely disappointed with the next band THE ANTI NOWHERE LEAGUE. Animal comes across as some type of pantomime villain and he seem happy to just shout comedy obscenities at the crowd in-between the usual set list. Having first seen them in 1981 they seem not to have progressed an iota and keep churning out the same old stuff eternally. So we have 'Streets of London' 'So What' 'I Hate People' 'We are the League' 'Fucked Up and Wasted' 'Woman' 'My Gods Bigger Than Yours' etc and for me the set lacked any light or shade. Still I have enjoyed them previously, and the large crowd seemed happy enough, so perhaps I just needed my afternoon nap!

Off again at the end to The Olympia to catch THE REZILLOS. Originally they were to be playing
the Opera House, but at the last moment I guess the organisers decided that 3000 pissed punks were likely to try and demolish their esteemed establishment and the gig was bumped next door to what looked like a gigantic open air market covered by a tent to keep off the rain. I had been looking forward to this band all day, but the sound turned out to be terrible and after three songs I had to retreat from the front to save my
hearing. When Fay Fife screeched I am sure every window (and ear-drum) in Blackpool was in danger of shattering. Still when I had gained a better aural vantage point I could get on with appreciating the forgotten gems that they have in their back catalogue - 'Flying Saucer Attack', 'Top of the Pops', 'Someone's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight', 'My Baby Does Good Sculptures' 'Can't Stand My Baby' 'Glad All Over' - and also pleasingly the band seemed to have worn very well over the years (well at least better than TV Smith!) with all three front men/women looking good. Eugene Reynolds still had the wrap around shades, Fay Fife looked hot in her 1960's mini-dress and Jo Callis wore a rather fetching kilt.

The Rezillos - pic Gill Adamson

At the end it was a toss up to stay and see Stiff Little Fingers or head back to take in THE DICKIES. As I have seen the former countless times so decided to go and see Mr Leonard Graves Phillips and Mr Stan Lee from Los Angeles, California. What can I say? When a band walks on stage and the bass player is wearing a full romper suit (complete with pig years) you know you are in for a good time. OK, so they are a comedy band but who cares when they sound this good and deliver Ramones style slabs of blitzkrieg punk rock. Cover versions like 'Paranoid', 'Nights in White Satin' and obviously 'Banana Splits' were delivered at 100 mph, along with tracks like 'You Drive Me Ape', 'Give It Back', 'Waterslide' and 'Doggy Doo' from their 1979 debut 'The Incredible Shrinking Dickies'. They even had time to slip in a poignant dedication to original member Chuck Wagon (who committed suicide over 25 yeas ago) before blasting out their one and only Country and Western number. Quite what the
younger members of the audience made of it all I don't know, but even they would have smiled at the frankly surreal sight of Phillips singing 'You Drive Me Ape' with a gorilla head on and his later use of a hand puppet in the shape of a penis and scrotum. A truly original (in every sense of the word) band !!

The Dickies - pic Eldon Baldwin

Finally the shop stoppers COCK SPARRER arrived to the obvious delight to the masses squeezed into the main venue like sardines in a can. You couldn't move for the mohawks, studs, Dr Martins, combat trousers,
piercings, Ben Shermans and Fred Perry's, and if the number of T-shirts bearing their logo is anything to go by, Cock Sparrer can like off clothing royalties for the rest of their lives. Right I'll be honest here, having lived through the whole Punk/Oi era I am at a loss to say why this band of all from the same time (e.g. The Business, 4-Skins, Last Resort, Blitz etc) are held in such esteem, and have bands like Roger Miret & The Disasters and The Bouncing Souls queuing up to cover their songs, let alone having a member of Rancid producing their last release. But I can now say I am converted... they were fucking brilliant! OK at times they are more Chas and Dave than Clash, more soccer terrace than Sex Pistols, but they have a setlist of true singalong anthems that it appears everyone knows the words of. Fists pumped
all night to a set list culled from the old and the new - 'Suicide Girls', 'Spirit of '76', 'Chip On My Shoulder','Argy Bargy', 'Working ', 'Watch Your
Back ','Where Are They Now', 'Trouble On The Terraces', 'What's It Like To Be Old ' - and quite touchingly 'Because You're Young' which was dedicated
to bass player Steve Burgess who had recently lost his dad. Finally, after the encore to end them all that is 'England Belongs to Me', they finished with 'We're Coming Back'.

Listening to the final chords and viewing the pleasure they give to so many people, there is no where else I'd rather be than in a punk gig at one a.m. in Blackpool in August.