Rebellion 2018 Review

Rebellion-Festival-2017

Reminiscent of the exhausted marathon runners with legs barely taking their weight and trying to reach the finish line, lovers of Punk music from all around the world made their weary way home from their own marathon that is the 4-day musical highlight of the year, Rebellion Festival 2018. Nursing bumps, bruises, hangovers and cases filled with sweaty clothes they leave Blackpool for another year as they climbed aboard their chosen mode of transport charged with memories of the good, the bad and ugly that appeared on the 6 main stages. This independent festival has created a reputation throughout the world that cannot be matched in the experience it provides. The research, preparation and organisation of a festival this large is a major task and to deliver each and every year being a success is a testament to the people involved, who love the music they are involved in. From the first raging chords on the introducing stage on Thursday morning to the fading feedback on the Empress Stage on Sunday night, the bands appeared like clockwork for their slot before then appearing in the audience to savour the event for themselves. The ethos of Punk is very much alive here, in that bands playing the Introducing stage can look up and see a Charlie Harper, TV Smith or Alvin Gibbs enjoying a performance that’s barely away from the bedroom mirror before or after they appear themselves in front of thousands to play there own classics. In the words of Saturday’s headliners Stiff Little Fingers “Don’t wanna be nobody’s hero, I don’t wanna be nobody’s star, Don’t wanna be nobody’s hero, Get up, get out, be what you are”; there is no place for idols here, only mutual respect for the bands, music and the audience.

Rebellion 2018

On Thursday we all filter into the impressive features of the Winter Gardens Blackpool with 12 months of stored energy hoping it’s enough to see us through to the end, the beautiful vintage decor complimenting the painted jackets and stylish coloured hair of its visitors for the duration. We could start with the unique talents of Max Splodge and his questionable bingo game at the Acoustic Stage, but the preferred starting point is the Introducing stage, the smallest of the stages, but with the right band in place, it has a great atmosphere and there was plenty in place this year. This is where you look to see who is coming through, who will ignite you enough to search them out when you get home and who is making it impossible not to be asked back to a larger stage next year as those before have managed. Because of the clashes with larger bands playing at the same time it is not always bursting at the seams, but it is a stage with a revolving door as people try to catch as much as possible in between running up corridors while reading Coppo’s printed list in one hand and avoiding alcohol spillage in the other, swerving oncoming traffic on their own journey like some crazy Punk video game. Pardon Us opened the festival with the energy you would expect, leaving no pause for thought they took the opportunity to show what they were about and delivered with both barrels. Catching Black Market Beat, Call Me Malcolm and Suckerpunch I was not disappointed by what was heard in-between the larger stages bands. At one point I saw a look of apprehension on the faces of some of the crowd when two slightly built females took to the stage, expectations of more band members joining them were not fulfilled. Although slight in build and short on members The Vulpynes are a force to be reckoned with, they confirmed the reputation they are building as a band that are making a big noise outside their Dublin base, with a very impressive set of songs on the first night. This will be the first but not the last appearance for the band at Rebellion I’m sure.

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The first venture into the Pavilion stage is hot and sweaty, enough for the Blue Carpet Band to strip to the waist and blast out their rock n Roll punk collaboration. Frontman Djamel being the centre of attention both on and off the stage, holding notes as long as his mic cable when most of us would have passed out deaf. Splodgenousabounds always bring humour to any audience, with imaginative songwriting that’s captured in tunes like “Whiffy Smells”, and “Sock Slips Down Inside My Shoe” as well as ”Two Pints of Lager”. Catching the eye on the first night though were The Delinquents, Red Light Rebels, The Kut, Hospital Food and the great 77 sound of Cyanide Pills, all very different sounds but all delivering something well worth hearing.

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The Arena stage is more like a very large basement with ample room to swing a cat, or a partner who likes a dance for that matter. This is where The Eddies introduce us to their new EP and Vomit give us a history lesson with old and new songs from a new double album since forming in 1977. Revenge of the Psychotronic Man said their farewells to Rebellion leaving a big impression in their wake, with Fire Exit giving their all once again for those attending as they do every year. The seated Opera House is either a constraint to movement for boisterous bodies or an oasis in a desert of fatigue depending on your stamina levels and age. The Yalla Yallas injected the energy required with a lively performance that saw Lead singer Rob prowling the stage both with aggression and humour oozing from his pours sometimes simultaneously. Steve Ignorant brought his Slice of Life to the party with a sometimes emotional delivery of words and feelings, showing a softer side from his crass roots but still as hard hitting. Both Plugged or Unplugged The Boys are the real deal when it comes to quality tunes that stand the test of time with choruses that are for joining in, before Theatre of Hate does the same with their own discography pulling off an excellent first-days line up.

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Club Casbah is a rival for the Empress this year with a hall that also holds around 2000 it is a huge occasion, with System of Hate looking very much at home in that environment giving a perfect platform for their larger than life sound. The Scottish band The CundeeZ also made very good use of the open space covering every inch more than once going through and energetic entertaining set. The Svetlanas Olga seized the opportunity of space like a hunter sizing up her pray, wandering back and forth the huge stage, she embodies the song she is delivering, seething and spitting the lyrics at the audience that are nearly hypnotised by her aggressive stage presence. An American influence then came over the Empress Stage on the opening night, The Lillingtons, Bad Cop/Bad Cop and The Menzingers all brought a good size crowd in to the Ballroom all giving something different, before The Buzzcocks opened up their catalogue of classics that will always be a main attraction, ending the night with harmonies all round your head.

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The introductions are now over and Friday is upon us as soon as breakfasts over, Unfortunately, Mr. Splodges Bingo is again not attended, although I did hang around for his “Whiffy Smell” yesterday to make amends. The big news of the day is that The Exploited will not be appearing as intended as Wattie is again in the Hospital with health issues, hopefully, he has recovered well by the time of writing. Today’s introducing stage has a formidable look about it, with plans made to look in on more than one occasion. This turned out to be a valuable yet disappointing course of action, catching only fleeting sections of some of the sets was unavoidable before darting off in another direction and miss some quality bands, but was very impressed by Empty Bottles, Vertigo Violet, Raging Nathans, Knife 49andDead 77 from what I could hear. The stand out highlight was for me were a Brazilian band called Subalternos, who played like they had won the musical lottery and had the energy and tunes to back it all up. If there was a template on how to take the opportunity to show the world your music and enjoy every minute of it I just witnessed it in action.

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Surrounded by the Merch tables comes the sound from the Pavilion Stage again packed with talent tonight, not a hint of mediocrity the bands who draw influence from differing sources. The rockabilly edge of 13 Bats starts the day at this stage and ends with the Ska beats that make you dance from Esperanza. Sandwiched in between is the rockier sound of Turbulent Hearts and an Irish double bill not to be missed from The Lee Harveys and Paranoid Visions both coming close to removing the curtain covered roof. The Lee Harveys grand finale involved covering the Heavy Drapes track “Should I Suck or Should I Blow” in memory of Gary Borland who sadly past away earlier in the year, with Richie joining on guitar and Billy front and centre stage it was a fitting Rebellion tribute to someone who had made a huge impact at the festival in a short space of time, his presence and music will be sadly missed.

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Over on the Arena stage there was no let up either in the relentless musical juggernaut, Healthy Junkies, Dedo Podre, The Mis-Made and Angry Agenda were all on top form this evening. As was the Opera House Stage who had a slight Anarcho feel to it with Penny Rimbaud’s readings, Hagar The Womb and Rubella Ballet being the prelude to The Members set. They incidentally have 2 songs “Solitary Confinement” and “Sound of the Suburbs” that I would very happily pay for them to play on their own. The larger stages of the Casbah and Empress cannot be ignored tonight either, with old and new sharing the limelight over the course of the night. Templeton Pek put out a modern guitar-based sound in contrast to Maid of Ace hard rockin the Casbah before Evil Blizzard’s heavy troubled sounds flow through the corridors. The ongoing success of The Barstool Preachers has been rapid and consistent since they first appeared at Rebellion, now with a second album to show off they have taken up a headline spot with the big boys and gathered a considerable crowd to merit this and who are not let down by an excellent performance. The new blood of Millie Manders & the Shut Up fuse a new pop punk sound to great effect, while Spunk Volcano & the Eruptions fuse Sellotape to Platform 3 in their own set. A very underrated band with excellent early material were The Newtown Neurotics, welding left-wing politics to social observations that gave us “When the Oil Runs out” and “Living with Unemployment” (a reworking of a Members classic) to punch the air too. Controversy was never far away tonight either in the shape of The Anti Nowhere League and The Macc Lads, two bands who divide opinion throughout Punk music. Some may say their lyrics are offensive and they should not be given a platform to perform, others enjoy the dark humour of the lyrical content being offensive and at times abusive to sections of society and treat it as tongue in cheek observations of the world we live in. If Punk is about anything it’s about making choices and not having it made for you, kicking out at injustice and authority. Do we now censor bands because of the content of their lyrics, how do we gauge where the line is drawn and who makes this choice for us? Or do we have the freedom to sing about the society we live in warts and all, with bands facing the consequences of their own views or lyrics they put out, the debate will continue long after Animal hangs up his codpiece.

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Saturday is the main event for most people, with the corridors that little bit tighter to squeeze through and seats about as rare as a suit and tie around the venue. Unfortunately, the Introducing Stage was not attended as much as I would like tonight, because of the tight schedule around the other stages, where there was a “Must See” moment all round the building. The two bands who were observed though made a very big impact, Diablo Furs have an excellent set of tunes to bring a crowd alive, with Pretty Addicted putting on a show that definitely lived up to the big occasion. Another Irish band who I’m sure are already booked up for next year after their performance were The Gakk, they tore into the opening slot on the Pavillion stage like a like a rabid dog. Setting light to the audience with their street punk hard-edged tunes, before dousing the flames with a mix of ska/reggae beats to start the day off. Would it all be downhill from then on? Not a chance! We were on our way again with The Fuckin Glorious, Royal Oi!, Los Fastidos, The Attack and The Berlin Blackouts, an eclectic mix of music noise and styles that were fitting for the occasion. Gimp Fist as always created a stir with a classic experienced set, before The Vapors reminisced over old times. They may not be covered in Punk credentials but the great thing about Rebellion is it reaches to the peripherals to pull in some great bands over the years, The vapors were maybe nailed to their stage but have some great songs for those who looked beyond “Turning Japanese”. The Empress was the place to be for now as The Briefs threw out harmonies like confetti, with an energetic set that nearly set fire to fingers on the six strings.

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You may think a Punk festival is no place to be hanging about if you’re in your 70s, maybe you should be tucked up in bed with your jumper on waiting for your bed bath. This is when a Punk legend wanders on stage and pulls in the largest audience of the festival, with a set as brilliant as I’ve heard all weekend, I could describe the UK Subs in more detail giving my admiration for Charlie Harper and Alvin Gibb in print but I could not write anything that’s new they are the blueprint for any band here and always have been. The Casbah stage held a surprise for me in how good Lower Class Brats were tonight, despite only hearing very little of them previously and disliking their name they put on a quality set that I was not expecting. My taste may not be as fast as some, but taking in the Discharge performance did no harm at all, the passion and energy running through one of the most influential bands over the years must have been the highlight for those who have a need for speed, the band delivered an uncompromising sound that had everything.

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If Lower Class Brats were a surprise, then I was bowled over by a band who I was looking forward to hearing after getting their new album” Good Day For the Damned”, if you don’t dance to Jaya the Cat then there is a medical reason for this. Their mix of up-tempo Punk, Ska/Reggae tunes is like Viagra for the legs, reaching places you forgot existed and keeps you going the whole night long before laying back exhausted by the end. They should be another band that make their way back next year if the reaction of the crowd was anything to go by, not a body was still until the stage emptied. Regretfully next we had to miss Chron-Gen on a mission to create a good vantage point for another legendary outfit, Stiff Little Fingers were in the building tonight and with arguably the biggest following within the Punk community they are not to be missed. Despite annually attending the famous Barrowland gigs regularly this band has an armoury of music that is addictive and you need more, they, as usual, produced a performance that blew the building apart with old and new numbers. Now with sweat soaked shirts and aching limbs you would think enough is enough lets go, No! The Wildhearts are on in the Casbah, a short staggered walk like a desert trek for water sees Ginger squeeze the last ounce of energy out a fatigued audience. Unfortunately there may have been a little less enthusiasm from the bodies in the audience but The Wildhearts played the classic tunes like they were the only band on the bill, “TV Tan”, “Suckerpunch”, “Vanilla Radio” etc, etc, etc enabled the hoards to leave for their temporary abodes satisfied and tired in the extreme.

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For those of a religious persuasion Sunday might be a day of rest and worship, for those at Rebellion there is no time to rest but there will be worship of a musical nature. With a little more space to maneuver around the corridors once again we are looking in on the Introducing stage periodically throughout the day, with Crash Landings, The Liarbilitys and Fat Albert caught and didn’t let the standards slip. The Oi! Sound of Boilermaker gave the opportunity to stomp boots and chant for a Sunday session, this was a theme throughout the Pavillion with Takers & Users as well as B Squadron keeping up with the early pace. The loved or loathsome John (Rotten) Lydon created a scramble for seats on the Opera stage before his interview with Barry Cain, a more likable personality from his outspoken over the top character that is often seen on the TV. The Interview seemed to be tentative with eggshells being tiptoed on at times with very few probing questions asked, which was probably the right approach as he may have thrown the toys out the pram and disappeared before our eyes. His frank views and perceptions were honest and not far off the mark on some of the general subject matter, personal matters regarding the Punk scene in the 70s and the Pistols, in particular, were swatted away like an irritating fly before he made his early exit. The Arena stage rekindled the energy levels once again with Chaos 8 playing their brand of industrial Punk rock, Beki executing with high octane vocal with precision giving an individual sound. The DeRellas appeared on the seated Opera stage last year and once again this year, for a band who sweat dirty ‘Rock N Roll’ it seems to take the edge off the atmosphere a little. They have the energy and stage presence to go with the tunes that would be better served to an audience who can do more than slap their thigh although as usual, they hit every note with new Drummer Billy formally with Heavy Drapes making a seamless addition to a tight performance. The night continued with 4 Past Midnight and Monster Squad creating a very different atmosphere, one with a traditional punk sound the other with youthful pace in their music. The Sunday to see list had one band on top in bold, The Professionals who released one of the best albums in years with Paul cook keeping the beat “What in the World” was something I wanted to hear live, these guys were the real deal musically for me delivering a set that was fuelled with Steve Jones historic markers as well as new classics (if there is such a thing). Composed and comfortable in front of thousands the band got right into the heart of the action with “Good Man Down” & “Hats Off” as well as “Kick Down the Doors” & “123” to the delight of knowledgeable ears.

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Slaughter & The Dogs may be underrated in some quarters but not at Rebellion, they deliver a set that Wayne Barrett and Mick Rossi look like they can play blindfolded with songs that the audience has had in their collection since 1977. Experience and stage presence are obvious from a band who’s underground following would shock those who are unaware of their popularity. With the night air descending I had to make the difficult judgment call between Public Image Limited and the Adicts, on the strength of 3 songs never heard live before Johnny won but only just. His anti-Corbyn outburst was not something that was a surprise when he took the stage, there was always an expectation of a grand entrance and shock factor only the subject matter was unknown before he took the mic. Public Image Limited are an acquired taste, like stepping into a Jazz bar and seeing a door that says extreme this way, you walk through and you are greeted by all kinds of sounds. They don’t conform to any formula and just when you think they have stepped into line with songs such as “Rise” they step out the limelight once again. The band will always follow on the tails of John Lydon’s huge personality and the legacy from the Pistols, but for some PIL are a separate entity, a genre of there own and their music is a liberating experience from anything else around. The singing style of Lydon has developed with age over the years and his performance today created a warbling sound that seemed more pronounced than usual, but hearing “Rise”, Flowers Of Romance” and Public Image” were my own personal boxes ticked but given the choice again I’d be covered in streamers from Monkey’s antics.

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To say the Rebellion Festival has been a success each year is like saying the grass is green, it’s expected by everyone who saves their money each year that they will have the best musical time. If you asked the question what was your personal highlight then there would be thousands of differing opinions, all as enthusiastic as each other about what they have been through over the 4 days. Next year is already underway with Cock Sparrer the first name to be released to whet the appetite if you only go to one gig next year make it the one with more than 300 bands and enjoyment is guaranteed.

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Rebellion Festival

Rebellion 2019 Tickets

Photos courtesy of Dod Morrison, Ben Haugh, Duson Kilco Matejcek, joaquin, Karen Duckworth, Tim Carson, Rai Jayne Hearse, Jason Cook, Dick Slaughter, @benduh87