Rebellion Festival, Blackpool: what we learned and the best bands from the weekend

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Angelic Upstarts

Angelic Upstarts

Rebellion served up a weekend of punk brilliance and Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody felt the mayhem.

You can’t miss Tiffany’s Hotel on the front at Blackpool. It’s painted bright pink.

So, no real need for the satnav, then, but we’d switched it on to give us an idea of whether we were likely to arrive at Rebellion pre or post The Membranes on Friday afternoon.

It wasn’t a given, seeing as the M6 was pretty busy with people driving into each other rather than bothering to keep a safe distance behind the car in front. No matter, we had to quicken our step a touch once we’d checked into the hotel, but John Robb was only half a song in when we arrived.

He has a swagger and an air about him that just seems to own every gig we’ve seen him play. His, now pretty regular, choir who join the band at most of their local gigs just adds to the spectacle. It was a classy show and a taster for what was to come.

But first, well, second, after The Membranes, we needed to get some bearings. The Winter Gardens is a huge complex of performance spaces, bars, cafés and, well, space. There’s the massive Empress Ballroom, the fairly big Opera House and a few smaller rooms. All good gig spaces. New for this year was the Casbah Stage outside at the back of the building. It’s all self-contained and it’s all under a roof, except for the outside bit.

So no worries about the weather. Important for the punks keeping those mohicans looking just right.

And that is important. We’re not really sure the festival is correctly named. We didn’t really see any rebels, not obvious ones anyway. It’s more than 40 years since punk first appeared to an outraged tabloid press and while it still has it’s anger and shouty-ness, we wonder whether it still has the shock factor. In the open air and the pissing rain, this would have been a very different beast, but we don’t need to go there, because, for the most part, it wasn’t.

Some of the crowd are clearly diehard punks – one even had the tattoo across his forehead to reinforce the point, should it be needed. Others are punks for the weekend. We neither care nor judge and if Simon from accounts wants to sculpt his hair into a pointy spiky thing, then that’s his right. As is Jenny’s from HR.

This is a festival for all and anyone. If the hair dye has to get washed out on Sunday evening before work the next day, then fair play to them. This is a festival that brings thousands of people together with the love of a particular theme. In this case, it just happens to be punk rock.

Whether it be scooters, Elvis, Morris Dancing, gold panning or whatever floats your boat, we’re not really bothered because this is a place where people can escape and indulge their passion. In this case it’s punk, but somehow the theme seems to be secondary – it’s the bonding and togetherness that makes the whole thing work so well. And that generates a relaxed and safe atmosphere.

The Rebellion moniker struck us again as an oxymoron as we were having a bit of chill time in one of the upstairs bars on Friday evening with a quiet beer. Security came along to say this bar was now closed and would people please take their drinks downstairs.

Far from creating anarchy and rising up against the oppressor, the assembled spiky haired, tartan wearing bunch simply did as they were asked and filed out in an orderly fashion. They didn’t even need to be asked twice. This is the way of this festival – people work with each other. We chatted to one of the stewards while waiting to get into the pit to shoot one of the bands and she agreed: “One of the best events I’ve worked at“.

That isn’t to say Rebellion is like a picnic in Sefton Park. The crowd surfing for bands like UK Subs and Angelic Upstarts saw countless topless, tattooed bodies swiftly dragged into the pit and ejected stage left, one after the other. And again. And again. Frank Carter went walking on the shoulders of the Empress Ballroom crowd, presumably assuming he would be returned to the stage still upright. He was. The bands on the Introducing Stage gave it little respect as well and many of them went wandering in amongst the audience to add to the mayhem. But this is all received with good grace by the audience and security alike. When Uberyou went walkabout amongst the audience at the Introducing Stage we noticed the sound guy at the back just smile at their antics.

On Sunday afternoon Dirt Box Disco challenged the crowd to beat their previous stage diving record of 120 bodies pulled out of the pit in one gig. Security was ready and waiting for this and one of the guys later told us, with some satisfaction, the record was smashed at about 150 with one happy punter being pulled out 8 times.

It’s not exactly rebellion. But it isn’t conformity either.

Liverpool Arts Diary: August 2017

Another thing that impressed was the complete lack of anarchy and chaos in the organisation and delivery of the festival. We were following the sorry tale of Hope & Glory back in Liverpool on Facebook and Twitter and couldn’t help thinking we’d drawn a very very long straw in comparison.

Rebellion is a well-oiled machine. Every single band we saw was on stage at exactly the time advertised. There’s plenty of space to sit down and chill if required and there were easily manageable queues, if any at all, at the bars. None of the venues had over crowding issues. The stewards were helpful, courteous and well trained. The flow of people between stages, even after the big draw acts such as Anti Nowhere League and UK Subs, who both packed the Empress Ballroom, was never an issue. This was well thought out and well handled.

Following on from The Membranes on Friday we caught Berlin oddities Nobelschrott on the Introducing Stage, a female three piece who were striking in their gold satin togas and a well appreciated, if a bit shouty, set. Thereafter we hopped around the stages catching snippets of TV Smith and Protex before settling in to watch most of the set from Vice Squad outside on the Casbah Stage. These were one of our favourites from back in the day and Beki Bondage cut an impressive figure with her long blonde whispy hair blowing in the wind. Old school punk delivered in style.

A new discovery for us was Coventry’s dragSTER on the main stage in the Empress Ballroom roaring out tracks from their recent release, Dead Punk. An intense and addictive sound that had hints of Brody Dalle’s Distillers at times. Maybe that’s because both bands have a female lead, but both bands have a kind of fury and anger about them. There was attitude a plenty on show here and we were impressed.

The star of the show on Friday, however, was a no contest in the form of Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes. He just took our breath away. Tattoos everywhere and a voice that could sink a thousand ships. It was raucous, powerful, angry and, at times, melodic and melancholic. He strutted around the main stage as though it was his front room shouting and raging between songs. And that was when he was on the stage – we’ve already mentioned his audience shoulder walk above. This was a fiery display and it had us by the scruff of the neck. A definite highlight.

Saturday saw the hardcore quartet of Sham 69Anti Nowhere League, Angelic Upstarts and UK Subs dominating the Empress Ballroom main stage.  We were never massive fans of any of them, but UK Subs made us re-visit that view as they powered through a back catalogue with more diversity than we remembered.

More promising to our ears was the reggae / ska themed line up on the outside Casbah Stage. To see the whole audience bouncing to The Neville Staple Band doing Pressure Drop was a sheer joy and was certainly one of the moments of the weekend. Ruts DC are always a highlight and their crossover reggae infused punk is music made for sunny days like these.

A couple of bands on the Introducing Stage – Madrid-based Grippers and Swiss 5 piece Uberyou – caught our attention and we spent an enjoyable hour or so as they shouted and bounced around the room with the energy of a 4 year old.

We closed out the day in the presence of Misty In Roots. Pure class reggae and thumping bass in the outside space by the Casbah Stage was just the perfect soundtrack to the late evening.

Come Sunday and it was raining. This didn’t matter to most people but it did mean the outside Casbah Stage was under subscribed in terms of audience numbers. Shame because there were some class acts including the wicked Ramonas who whipped their – guess who – covers set with style. It’s a bit of a burning sore we never got to see the real thing when we were younger. This was a decent consolation.

Back at the Introducing stage The Siknotes were taking swigs from a bottle of Jägermeister before passing it around the audience. “We don’t want it back before it’s fucking gone“. This stage was becoming one of our favourite bits of Rebellion. Obviously, by definition, we’d never heard of any of the bands, but it was here where some of the most fun was to be had, with this stage just throwing up some of the best surprises.

Even in the rain outside at Casbah Chaos UK drew a big crowd, all seemingly enjoying being shouted at by a man in a red t-shirt with the word SALE on it. We’ve always looked at those in the window of Primark and thought how cool it would be if you could actually buy one. Well, it seems you can. But it was too wet to linger so we headed back to the Ballroom for Dirt Box Disco.

We have only the faintest understanding of what was going on, though. Ridiculous onesie costumes and painted faces. It’s all good fun and all but we didn’t really get it. We were the only one though. It was the biggest crowd in the Ballroom we’d seen so far, but it just struck us as Evil Blizzard style fancy dress without the material. 2,000 punks can’t be wrong, though.

We hit the rain again for another go at the Casbah stage because it was throwing up some crackers and when Abrasive Wheels kicked off we knew we’d found another belter. “No rules is the first rule” was the opening salvo of a proper rock set. Proper rock at the Casbah. We bought the CD at the merch store. And so should you.

So.To the main course and the main reason we signed up for this weekend. The Skids. We’d wondered about legging outside to get a snatch of one last band at Casbah, but the streams of people making their way into the Ballroom, even before Richie Ramone had finished his set made us change our mind. There was no way we were going to get shut out of this gig in a one out / one in kind of frustration.

We hadn’t seen that happen anywhere yet, but hey. Take no chances.

In the event it wasn’t quite as full as we’d expected. They’re a funny bunch these punks. Maybe the more hardcore feel to most of the rest of the weekend meant The Skids were the odd ones out. But we didn’t care. We make full disclosure. We’re massive fans and they can do little wrong in our eyes.

So Jobson bounds on stage like a fucking whirling dervish and belts out hit after hit. Kicking off with Animation and Of One Skin the band hardly pause to take breath. The grin on Jobson’s face is as wide as anything and we’d guess he’d have been just as happy playing the Introducing stage as he was headlining in the Empress Ballroom. It’s uplifting, energising music and it just works as a massive send off to the weekend.

Our three songs in the pit were over all too quickly. It was a privilege to see this band up close and we were singing set closer Into The Valley (to our mind, one of the best guitar riffs written) to ourselves all the way back to our pink hotel. In the rain. It didn’t really matter.

The Skids may not have fitted the Rebellion punk demographic perfectly, but from where we were standing there could have been no better headliner. We loved every minute.

This could, and some might say, probably should, have been a five word review. Thanks for getting this far.

Rebellion. You were a blast.

Getintothis’ top acts of the weekend as chosen by Peter Goodbody and Denise Hodgkinson

The Membranes

The Membranes

The Membranes – Casbah Stage

John Robb bossed it along with his choir. He has presence and swagger that just oozes class. It was the perfect start to our weekend. This one goes out to anyone who has ever been to outer space he bellowed before the glorious Space Junk. The addition of the choir sets this band apart and makes them an absolute pleasure to watch. PG

Evil Blizzard at Psych Fest 2015

Evil Blizzard at Psych Fest 2015

Evil Blizzard – Casbah Stage

Four bass players and a singing drummer from Preston – what’s not to like? The Blizzard liken themselves to a ‘Victorian freakshow’ and with their costumes, make-up and masks, they’re not holding back on the image front. The pig-headed keyboard player brandishing a meat cleaver and a massive knife at one point. The surprisingly catchy Are You Evil?, is an anthem and a highlight of their live set which doesn’t disappoint on this occasion, prompting much head banging amongst the faithful. DH

Nobelschrott

Nobelschrott

Nobelschrott – Introducing Stage

This female three piece from Berlin rattled through magnificent set of shouty punk and angry guitars. Nothing new there, then really but we were won over by their gold satin togas, Roman head dresses and the lead singer topping up her can of coke from a bottle of vodka. PG

Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes

Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes

Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes – Empress Ballroom

Absolutely batshit crazy.

He ran onto stage shouting “What the fuck is this?” and then jumped off the stage and over the pit barrier to walk on the shoulders of the audience in his first song.

And then went on to deliver the most high energy powerful set we’ve seen in a long time. “That last song was about having a baby. This next one’s about making them“.

The set had everything. Really strong tunes, heavy bass machine gun drums and Carter’s incredible voice. At times angry and shouty and at others surprisingly melodic. “Everybody get down. Everybody get the fuck down.” It was close to perfect, really. PG

Hands Off Gretel

Hands Off Gretel

Hands Off Gretel – Empress Ballroom

The gloriously-named Hands Off Gretel played an early set at the Empress Ballroom, the largest of the venues at the Winter Gardens. Multi-coloured dreadlocked leas singer Lauren Tate was worried no one would turn up due to the unenviable lunch time time-slot and they wouldn’t make much of an impression in the cavernous space.

She needn’t have worried. Smiling from ear-to-ear, she was thrilled to see such a good turn-out, “when you could have gone to see anyone else”. Her excitement manifested itself in gleeful jumps and kicks, a couple aimed playfully at guitar player Sean McAvinue. The Barnsley-based trio are completed by drummer Sam Hobbins but for this show they are joined by bassist Ben Savage.

A true DIY project, Lauren writes all the songs and does all the artwork herself. Influenced by Riot Grrl and other nineties bands, they showcased songs from their debut album Burn the Beauty Queen, with themes such as experiencing depression and the misery of growing up ‘different’. Lauren’s voice ranges from sweet and tuneful to a grungy howl and she and the band thrash the life out of their instruments. Exciting and fun with a strong visual presence, Hands Off Gretel deserve to go far. DH

Rebellion_Lene_Lovich_Goodbody-1

Lene Lovich – Opera House

Lene’s impressive band take to the stage first, building up the tension until the punk diva almost floats to stage front covered in a black veil.

The elder stateswoman of punk has a commanding presence, a strange combination of scary and fun. Her theatrical and dramatic act is full of familiar songs from her lengthy career, including inevitably Lucky Number, which turns into an enthusiastic sing-along. It’s rude to mention a lady’s age, but Lene has an enviable amount of energy, even including a mini-calisthenics work-out before launching into a frantic Say When. Sadly, she doesn’t get to play her sax tonight but the short set is still a delight. An inspiring performance. DH

Pete Bentham & the Dinner Ladies (credit - band's website)

Pete Bentham & the Dinner Ladies (credit – band’s website)

Pete Bentham & the Dinner Ladies – Opera House

My personal favourite of the whole festival was the wonderfully entertaining and theatrical Pete Bentham and the Dinner Ladies, ably assisted by the glamorous Dinnerettes. With an early set on Sunday, they achieved a decent-sized crowd and brought a smile to the faces of a lot of hung-over punters, no mean feat at this stage of the weekend.

Peter is an adopted Liverpudlian with near-legendary status. His songs cover a huge range of themes from Marcel Duchamp (the Dinnerettes dancing around with Marcel Duchamp masks for this one) and Queen Victoria’s Knob, about an unfortunate effect produced by a sword handle on the statue of the monarch in Liverpool.

The band are Rebellion favourites as attested to by the crowd knowing the words and singing along enthusiastically, which isn’t difficult as Peter’s own enthusiasm and energy are infectious. Peter is a true punk/DIYer and deserves much success. DH

The Poly-Esters (credit - band's Facebook page)

The Poly-Esters (credit – band’s Facebook page)

The Poly-Esters – Empress Ballroom

Local to Blackpool, The Poly-Esters are a female four piece. Vocals are shared by Lola Fenix also on guitar, Sophie-Liz on bass, Catlow, guitar and Elliska on drums. They have a solid rock sound with a grungy edge, reminiscent of such bands as Babes in Toyland and L7. Soon to release an album, their first release is an EP called, appropriately, First Cut. Their performance at the Empress Ballroom was loud and proud with passionate lyrics delivered in a forceful manner appropriate to the subject matter, which includes eating disorders and prostitution.

Their punchy songs are short and sweet, (well maybe not sweet), in true punk tradition. Most definitely a band to watch. DH

Uberyou

Uberyou

Uberyou – Introducing Stage

We can’t believe we’re here. So many bands. So many beautiful faces. What the fuck”. The Swiss 5 piece jumped around the stage and the floor area in front with an admirable enthusiasm and were clearly just happy to be here. That kind of sums up some of the ethos. For sure there are big names. But some of the treats are in the smaller rooms and this was one of them. PG

UK Subs

UK Subs

UK Subs – Empress Ballroom

Perhaps the surprise act of the weekend. That they have lots of fans is apparent from a casual t-shirt count around the Winter Gardens over the weekend. The Ballroom was packed for this one. We’d always thought they were a bit of a thrashy one trick pony. But there’s more than that and this was a set full of pace and energy with some well crafted songs and tight guitar playing. A really enjoyable set. PG

Misty In Roots

Misty In Roots

Misty in Roots – Casbah Stage

We decided to swerve Sham 69 for this one and we reckon we made the right choice. There was a reasonably thorough search policy in effect on the entrance to the Winter Gardens, but even so, the band’s arrival on stage is greeted with the smell of weed wafting over the evening air. They’re reggae royalty with an impeccable pedigree and those who were there to see this masterclass were bouncing along in agreement. It is hard to think of a finer band to close out the Saturday night proceedings on the Casbah stage. PG

The Skids

The Skids

The Skids – Empress Ballroom

A superb headliner and the set of the weekend. Richard Jobson still does that dancing thing and has lost none of his youthful energy. If anything, the songs sound stronger now than they did when they were first written. It maybe a comeback band but they don’t have that air about them. Powerful anthems belted out as if Jobson’s life depends on them.

Pictures by Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody

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