Rebellion is the annual celebration of all things punk in Blackpool’s Winter Gardens and Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody couldn’t resist a return visit.
We’re back for a second year. So good was this festival last year, we didn’t feel like giving it a miss.
You’re wondering about that lead pic. Well read on, Grasshopper and it will all become clear.
For our 2018 version we decided on a slightly different approach and were determined to see as much new (to us) stuff as possible. Of course there were some old faces on our list and there was no way we were gonna swerve PIL or Evil Blizzard to name just two.
But we trust the judgement of Rebellion’s bookers and we were sure there would be gems to unearth.
However, having said that, rules are there to be broken, so we ignored our plan right from the off and we started off our Rebellion journey with Madrid’s Grippers in the Arena. This was one of the bands who impressed on the Introducing Stage last year and it was ace to see them back in a much bigger room. They’d got a decent crowd too. Their thrashy style is music to our ears and, if anything, they’re much better on a bigger stage. They certainly appreciated it, with big smiles from Mery and Felix as they stormed through their set. It was a belter to start with.
Having got ourselves fed and watered it was the Club Casbah for Maid of Ace, who were a new one on us and turned out to be a band who kind of typify Rebellion. Angry, shouty vocals and tight guitars. The back story is quite cool too. The four piece are all sisters, named Alison Cara, Anna Coral, Abby Charlotte, and Amy Catherine. And with the surname Elliott. It was a brave punt by their parents, but it worked. Good call.
Club Casbah was new for this year, being in the basement of the Winter Gardens. Last year the Casbah stage was outside at the back of the site and it really suffered from the rain on Sunday, with very few people sticking around to see quite a few acts as a result. This year, everything was inside, under a roof and, of course, it didn’t rain.
The Introducing Stage last year was one of our favourite places at Rebellion. It was usually the room with the fewest people and it offered somewhere to chill during band changeovers. It’s got a carpet as an added bonus while we sit on the floor writing notes on our phone.
So Knife 49, about whom we knew absolutely nothing until we Googled them, were doing their thing when we arrived. The singer in a gimp mask is their twist. Maybe there’s a price on his head. Google tells us they’re street punks from Milan. We can well believe it.
Evil Blizzard’s share value must be going up steadily. Casbah was packed for this as the band came on stage to the usual calls of “You’re shit” and “Where’s the band?” A 10 minute opener in the form of Sacrifice was the reward. “Can’t hear you”, taunted Mark Whiteside at the applause.
Here’s the thing about Blizz: the pig masks and the 4 bass line up were probably conceived after a lengthy session in the pub one Sunday afternoon. And it looks cool. It’s funny. But they are actually a damn fine band. Their material is top quality. Dunno if it’s punk though, and they are an uneasy fit at Rebellion, but perhaps that would be being picky. They went down a storm.
Back to the Arena. “Hello Rebellion. We are The Mis-Made all the way from fucking Australia. We hope you have a great night”. Best discovery of the day so far. Fast paced pop punk fusion from an all female three piece. This was the kind of new stuff we were hoping to find. It goes down well on our iPod and we were well taken by them. Bonza!
We were mostly staying away from the Empress Ballroom for now, but we were intrigued to see what GBH would be like. Absolutely breathtaking is what they delivered. They have stamina that’s for sure, but there’s little variety in the set. It was good for a while, but we felt we could do better over the course of the weekend.
We finished off Friday with some American hardcore from Modern Enemy in the Arena which was enjoyable enough. But it had been a long day and we decided to call it quits for the day.
Saturday’s line up looked more interesting.
Kicking off with Witch Fever at the Introducing Stage. This was a surprise. We’ve seen them before and we thought they deserved a better place on the bill. Given the number of people packed into the smallest room on site we weren’t alone in that view.
Witch Fever are a bright prospect and merit going far. 2pm was an early slot for the Manchester quartet, but they shot through their half an hour with passion and style. A great start to the day.
Continuing on our quest for new stuff we trotted over to the Arena for German three piece, Berlin Blackouts. This was another win as we were pleasantly assaulted with a post punk Stiff Little Fingers kind of thing. Happily, they had cds for sale.
Wandering around the merch area snapping some candid shots we had a chance to reflect on what we’d learned so far. Rebellion is a well greased engine. All the bands are on stage on time (with one exception, at least as far as we saw). Most of the smaller stages have a turnaround time of 15 or 20 minutes, but no one is late. Even the behemoth that is the Empress Ballroom doesn’t give any band more than half an hour to get their act together. There are something like 300 bands on the bill over the weekend – that takes some doing.
This is a festival run by a team that knows exactly what they are doing and how to do it.
We’ve also made the point before, but it seems appropriate to make it again. This is a safe space where enthusiasts gather to socialise, to dress up and enjoy their passion. Nobody is behaving like a dick.
We’ve seen this before at events like Comic Con and the Tattoo Convention. There’s a common bond here and the good nature on display is refreshing to see. They may be punks with mohicans and pierced noses and tattooed heads, but they also form an orderly queue at the bar. One trod on our foot by accident and like a good Brit there was a “Sorry, mate”.
Some of the dyed hair and mohicans will been gone by Monday as the punters file back into work. That’s no sneer. This is a place where people can come to escape, or express themselves.
It may help that the beer on tap is Fosters, which makes it pretty difficult to get wasted, but you get our point. No one is here to cause mayhem and there’s a common sense of respect around the Winter Gardens.
Back in the day Vice Squad weren’t a major player and the charts eluded them. You’d be surprised then 40 years on to see them pack out the Casbah. There’s a lot of love for Beki and co and deservedly so. Fast paced, tight, quality. Really enjoyable.
The Vapors on the other hand were a one hit wonder – Turning Japanese – and we were surprised to see they’d bagged a slot in the Empress Ballroom. There weren’t many there to watch the band work through a set of songs hardly anybody knew while waiting for the hit. It was an odd one and they’d have been better off on a different stage.
There was surely better elsewhere. Have we said that before?
One of the annoying things about the Rebellion app and even the website is there’s not a lot of background info about any of the bands. Unless it was a band we knew we were literally taking a punt based on band name alone. But that’s part of the fun. Isn’t it?
So we head to the Introducing Stage again. That’s usually a good bet and so it proved with Scotland’s Tripwire DC who gave us a kind of punk reggae fusion to a receptive audience. It was a good find.
UK Subs drew the biggest crowd we’d seen in the Ballroom, indeed by the time we left it was one out one in – the first time we’ve seen that policy enforced. We thought they were pretty good last year and they gave a repeat performance that was just as good. Solid stuff from a band who’s been around awhile.
Just as we were leaving the pit we got a tap on our shoulder. “Can you make a good picture of the drummer?” said a guy for whom English was clearly not his first language. Sure, we said. “Why?” “His t-shirt is of my band.” So, there you go Nasty Rumours, sorry we didn’t get to see your set, but we hope you like the pic.
Next up Manchester duo, Lovely Eggs. They were a revelation earlier in the year at John Robb’s mini fest at The O2 Ritz and they bossed it again at Rebellion. It’s glorious guitar riffs and manic drumming.
We catch Bristol’s Kiss Me, Killer on the Introducing Stage. The West Country take on the New York Dolls gave us a glam punk half an hour of real energy. “Beware Beware the Snakes in the grass” bellows glitter covered singer Holly. This was brilliant from yet another new discovery. And another cd added to the collection.
It’s been a long day. And if we’re honest by now we’re really waiting for it to be time for Peter Hook. So we check the schedule to see what might fill the time until then.
Club Casbah has Lower Class Brats. Yet another band we’ve never heard of. Seems like that goes for a fairly big chunk of Rebellion too as Casbah wasn’t exactly busting at the seams.
Pity, because we absolutely loved it. Pacy punchy Dead Kennedy’s style. “We flew over from America just for this. We are not on tour and we’re not doing any other shows in Europe”. Well Rebellion, you lucky bastard because despite their awful name and despite the relatively poor turnout in Casbah, you absolutely nailed it this time and you booked one of the standout performances of the weekend. Superb.
We finished off the day with Peter Hook and The Light. As with The Skids last year we were curious to see how this one would be received. Although there were a few Joy Division and New Order t-shirts kicking around Hooky isn’t an obvious draw for this demographic.
Nevertheless we figured he’d be popular and we weren’t getting shut out of the Ballroom in a repeat of the U.K. Subs one out, one in policy. As the Cockney Rejects fans filed out we made our way in against the tide to find the Ballroom was a hot sweaty inferno, even without 2,000 people bouncing up and down. That’s the legacy the Rejects left behind.
Peter Hook strolls on stage almost without being noticed. Announces “Without the Pistols and punk there would have been no Joy Division“ and kicks off with No Love Lost as if to prove the point. Indeed, this was a Joy Division heavy set, Hook having previously said part of the purpose for forming The Light was so these songs could continue to get an airing. He’s right.
Joy Division’s back catalogue is full of rich pickings and despite our caveat above, these songs feel right at home here in Blackpool. He may not have turned the Ballroom into the seething mess we image Cockney Rejects did, but by the time we’ve finished our three songs in the pit the Ballroom is decently busy all the way to the back.
He’s an arrogant bugger though. He’s not only wearing a Peter Hook and the Light t-shirt, but a Peter Hook and the Light at Rebellion 2018 t-shirt. But we’ll forgive him, just. Because the old Joy Division material really is so strong, even 30 plus years on. Isolation, She’s Lost Control, Ceremony, Transmission et al are all given a power and an edge that respects and honours the Curtis legacy.
Ceremony perhaps being one of the more powerful songs of the set, simply because it’s given a life and an energy played live that isn’t obvious from the record. It’s a simply magnificent set from a man who knows how to get the job done.
“Ok. This is it. I’m off home.” Love Will Tear Us Apart is the swansong. The crowd joins in for a glorious Rebellion sing along. We never thought we’d experience that. Well done Hooky. You nailed it.
Sunday. And the sun is out. Blackpool is in its element and the beach is filling up as we walk down to the Winter Gardens in time to see Hands Off Gretel. In our mind, today is mostly about PIL later tonight and we need to pace ourselves. There’s not a great deal on the bill that grabs us in the meantime, so an ideal day to explore and find some new stuff.
Actually, the whole weekend is about PIL. We’ve seen some great bands and we’ll see more great bands today. But we won’t see anything better than PIL. We knew that before we got in the car on Friday and nothing has changed so far.
Hands Off Gretel are familiar though and were one of our stand out acts from Sound City earlier in the year. Their enthusiasm is infectious and they always seem to be dead happy wherever they play. It’s terrific stuff and we can’t really understand why the band isn’t better known.
It was time for some lunch next. And the food offering is one area where Rebellion doesn’t really succeed. There’s a mashed potato bar (really) and a hot dog stand. But that’s about it. There’s the Empress Grill, but it’s under used, over priced and just not very good. But there are decent pickings nearby with a handful of Chinese and Indian restaurants as well as chains like Pizza Express and Las Iguanas. So we’ll let them off that one. Yesterday we had ace fish and chips from Trip Advisor’s #3 rated eaterie in Blackpool, The Yorkshire Fisheries (yes we know we’re in Lancashire) and it was fine fare.
One Thai red curry down and we were back in the fray. The temperature was rising outside and the glass panels in the roof of the Pavilion weren’t doing anyone any favours.
Better the dark of the underground Casbah where it was nice and cool as Culture Shock gave us a bouncy reggae / ska type of punk. A bit disposable, but that’s probably the point. Lead singer Dick Lucas doubles up between this and his much heavier, punkier Subhumans project, but to our tender ears Culture Shock is both the better band and not a shock at all.
We decided to stay in Casbah for US outfit MDC, otherwise know as Million Dead Cops. We saw them last year and they joked then about having issues at immigration getting in the country with a name like that. We have no idea, one year on, how they managed a repeat visit. Maybe it’s because they aren’t brown. Just a guess.
It’s a stream of invective at everything the band doesn’t like, racism, homophobia, sexism, Trumpism, guns – yano the usual stuff that ordinary people don’t like, but for some reason needs to be made clear. It’s shouted, screamed poetry rammed down your throat. They’ve been around a long time, since at least 1980, from Austin, Texas. We can easily see why they’re still here. The world needs bands like MDC, despite the name.
We said last year in our review that Rebellion isn’t really an appropriate name for this festival. It should really be called “Inclusive” or “All Welcome” or something along those lines. It was a bit of a throw away line then, but the point was absolutely hammered home this year with posters in the Pavilion urging support for the Sophie Lancaster Foundation and a stall selling wristbands to raise funds.
Sophie was murdered in 2007 for committing the crime of looking different. That is, she had dyed red hair and a pierced lip. That is it. That is the sum total of how different she looked. On the basis of that precedent there are thousands of people here who should be hung, drawn and quartered. And not necessarily in that order.
It is a sad state of affairs, to say the least, and we would doubt there are many reading this who dare to put forward a contrary view. That it needs to be said at all is depressing, but there we are. It does.
We bought a wristband. What else could we do? Save find a quiet corner, pause for a while and be thankful for what we have.
4 Past Midnight in the Arena were another new one. Any band fronted by a guy in a silver lamé suit and a bright red frilly shirt is worth a look. And so it proved with this kind of Undertones, but a bit heavier than the Undertones ever were, but probably should have been, vibe. If that makes any sense. Anyway, it was ace.
We wandered into the Introducing Stage for The Infirmities to be met by the youngest lead singer on the bill. By a very long way. We’d guess she was 6. And she was amazing. With her mic stand at half mast and just belting out the songs as though it was the most natural thing in the world. This LA band just killed it. We’ve no idea what her name is, but we’re also in little doubt she’s gonna go far. Awesome. [Edit – we do now – she’s Ezra Skye].
Michael Monroe was late. The first time we’ve experienced that at Rebellion. But he’s OK. The former Hanoi Rocks lead man is the stuff we grew up with. Oriental Beat, Bangkok Shocks and Self Destruction Blues were on heavy rotation in our student digs back, well, back when we were a student. So it was great to see him bouncing on stage looking on top form and rocking just as hard as he ever did.
Again, we’re not sure of punk as a definition or a genre of what he does, and if we’re being brutal, it’s relevance today is tricky to justify. But we’re a fanboy and there’s no way our Hanoi Rocks vinyl is going to the charity shop any time soon. Guilty pleasure? Probably. But that’s fine.
Right. It’s time. Let’s do this. After three days of waiting. It’s PIL time. We’re massive fans and always have been since their eponymous single hit the charts in 1978. But we’ve never seen them live and this is a huge deal even before Slaughter and the Dogs have vacated the Empress Ballroom Stage. So, there. Because in our head this was easily going to bust the capacity of the venue.
Then it happens. Lydon roars and screams and grimaces and gurns and whines and howls and shouts. He’s still got it. All that Sex Pistols “No Future” anger and fury is laid bare. It’s almost like therapy. For him, not us – we’re fine, we’re having a great time. The drums kick out for Flowers of Romance and we’re taken back to that first time we went to London on our own when we were about 16. It was magical then and it was no less so tonight.
Ok, we’ll admit to an elephant in the room because Lydon is an outspoken nutter at times and recent anti-Corbyn rants haven’t gone down too well in some places, such as here (and there was one tonight). But Lydon does things to get a reaction. He needs to be controversial. He always has been. It comes with the package. He didn’t need the money to advertise butter and nor did he need the fee from I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. It’s all part of the game. But unlike those wankers playing the Brexit Game, Lydon’s game is an altogether more benign thing. It’s only music after all. None of this really matters. Except it does. And, as it happens, PIL only managed to get the Empress Ballroom about three quarters full. UK Subs were the only ones to pack it out.
But PIL are the only band who can play The Public Image and Theme and Religion. Case rests.
Getintothis’ Top picks of the weekend
Grippers – Arena Stage
They didn’t make the cut last year, but they certainly do this time, no question. An angry, raw but measured set in the Arena may seem like an unlikely Friday 3 o’clock date, but it was just brilliant and a kind of welcome back to Rebellion, lest we had forgotten what it was like. Peter Goodbody
Pete Bentham and the Dinner Ladies – Casbah
Liverpool favourites and friends of Rebellion, Pete Bentham and the Dinner Ladies had the honour of being the opening act of the festival in the newly opened Club Casbah venue. Despite the early hour and the fact many punters were still arriving in Blackpool, they had a creditably large crowd which Pete held in the palm of his hand from the word go. A hilarious moment was when he managed to get the crowd to crouch down and then jump up during ‘Hip Potater’.
Many Rebellion regulars know the drill with Pete though. Despite the comedy element, Pete sings about serious issues such as drug addiction, ‘Dead’s Not Punk’ and the problems of going out on a Saturday night in Liverpool, ‘Concert Square’. The comedy element was heightened however by the addition of a stand-in male Dinner Lady, whose obvious lack of rehearsal added to the shenanigans. A lovely warm-hearted start to the weekend. Denise Hodgkinson
Maid of Ace – Arena Stage
The four sisters from Hastings make up the most unusual punk outfit. With the surname Elliott and all given names with the initials A. C., their parents must have known something was afoot from an early stage. They were right though, and this four piece is just a gem. Definitely one to watch. Peter Goodbody
The Lovely Eggs – Opera House
The Lovely Eggs, have never played at or even been to Rebellion before, which singer Holly Ross considers very remiss of them as she has decided that Rebellion is fantastic. Holly’s husband David Blackwell on drums, and Holly on guitar and vocals, they have a naïve quality with conversational lyrics and simple tunes.
Holly likes to connect with her audience and is distressed that they are so far away and her mike lead is too short for her to get any closer. She chats away happily to the audience, commenting on the fact that her mum is looking after their son so they get to have a night off. One stand out song is one of their newer ones, ‘Wiggy Giggy’ which is enjoyably bonkers. An absolute joy to behold. Denise Hodgkinson
Lower Class Brats – Casbah
A terrible name, but they delivered a storming set that had us hooked for longer than we’d planned. Their Dead Kennedy’s style riffs were a belter. Top class in a venue that was seriously under populated for a band who deserved much better. Facebook agreed as well, with lots of people calling for a return visit. Peter Goodbody
Michael Monroe – Opera House
The surprise package of the weekend and the former Hanoi Rocks lead singer left standing room only in the Opera House. It wasn’t really punk, though, but a classy rock and roll set had a fair few Rebellion fans digging out their old vinyl when they got home. He’s got all the moves and this was a brilliant walk back in time. Peter Goodbody
Public Image Limited – Empress Ballroom
It would be insane not to include PIL in this list. It was a stroke of genius to get the band to Rebellion and their set was close to perfect. Lydon’s a curmudgeonly old fucker though, but he gets away with it. To hear him belt out Public Image was a definite bucket list moment. Peter Goodbody
Poly-Esters – Club Casbah
Local to Blackpool, the Poly-Esters didn’t have far to come for their return to Rebellion. Taking inspiration from such bands as L7, Babes in Toyland and the Riot Grrrl movement, their motto is ‘start a riot, not a fucking war!’ Now down to a three-piece following the departure of guitarist Natty earlier this year, Kez, Catlow and Elliska have lost none of their raw power. Covering subjects from lying exes to eating disorders, they storm their way through their set, Elliska almost drumming her kit right off the riser, even though, as Kez comments, ‘she’s only about six stone wet through!’ ‘Fooling No One’ from their first EP is a stand-out song and their cover of Nirvana’s ‘Territorial Pissings’ is a welcome surprise with Catlow on vocals. A solid set from a band who will hopefully be around for a long time to come. Denise Hodgkinson
Those Naughty Lumps – Opera House
Liverpool legends Those Naughty Lumps made their debut at Rebellion to a bemused-looking crowd (including the UK Subs Charlie Harper) in the Opera House. Not just a nostalgia act, they have a recent album (their debut!) which captures their early punk sound. Peter Hart is an unlikely punk band front man but is hugely entertaining, bouncing (sometimes literally) off co-singer Bobby Carr, who is immortalised in the song, ‘Big Boy Bobby’. They have an abundance of catchy, amusing and irreverent songs, including the near-the-knuckle ‘Heart Attack’, ‘Back Door Banging’ and ‘Park My Bike’. Punk classic ‘Iggy Pop’s Jacket’ is a highlight with its’ iconic saxophone solo. The Lumps have the potential to become Rebellion favourites. Denise Hodgkinson
Spizzenergi – Arena
Another Rebellion favourite, Spizz, was given what is regarded as the graveyard slot, appearing at 1.15 am at the end of one of the hottest days of the year in Blackpool. Although many had melted at Stiff Little Fingers, Spizz still commanded an almost full house at the Arena stage, many of the audience resplendent in Spizz-designed t-shirts. As usual, the visuals were spectacular, with Spizz lit up like a Christmas tree and sporting lasers and a confetti gun. All the hits were there, ‘Amnesia’, ‘Soldier, Soldier’, ‘Where’s Captain Kirk?’ and the most recent single ‘City of Eyes’ which has become a new favourite with the Spizz crowd. No surprises, but a great show, including his inimitable covers of ‘Virginia Plain’ and ‘The Model’. Rebellion wouldn’t be Rebellion without Spizz. Denise Hodgkinson
GBH – Empress Ballroom
We weren’t really expecting them to impress, but they did. It’s an energetic fast paced hardcore punk. Exactly the fit for Rebellion and just what’s expected from a band who know how to do punk properly. Peter Goodbody
Images by Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody