King Kurt at Rebellion Festival – live review

King Kurt – Rebellion Festival, Blackpool
Saturday 4th August 2012

King Kurt made a welcome return to the 2012 Rebellion Festival, last appearing in 2010 on the much smaller Arena stage; fast forward to 2012 and they take to the Olympia stage at 0100hrs…I had intended to watch Public Image Limited who began their set at midnight and as such was prepared to miss King Kurt; after 35mins of PIL self indulgent noodling I had frankly had enough, perhaps it was the late hour ”“ we had now been traversing the vast Winter Gardens for approximately 12hours and I was feeling a tad jaded, like a tired child I need a sugar rush and previous experience tells me that King Kurt dole it out faster than Tate & Lyle can refine the stuff…

The Olympia stage is washed in dry ice, just visible in front of the stacked Marshall’s lay upon the floor is a double bass the rear of which is emblazoned with a mural and the words ”Ëœstewed, screwed and tattooed’ from the mist step King Kurt, albeit frontman Smeg is missing ”“ not in a Jaz Coleman style, just a not where he should be style which at this point in time should be fronting one of the finest psychobilly bands in Europe… the bass is lifted, spun around; the front is daubed ”Ëœbone shaker baby’ and its master; the short wearing tattooed behemoth Strangey (guesting from The Klingonz) barks into the mic “anyone seen Smeg?”

Bang on cue Smeg appears from stage right, seizes his mic and comments “I see we got the left over’s from PIL” – perhaps he couldn’t see for all the dry ice, but this was no ”Ëœleft over’s’ ”“ the Olympia was rammed, the crowd stretching way back to the magnificent stone staircase at the rear and as the first bass sounds spat forth from the ”Ëœboneshaker baby’ everyone was focussed on having a good time.

King Kurt at Rebellion Festival – live review

King Kurt did not disappoint; in the past they have been, like much of the psychobilly/rockabilly scene criticised for being some kind of novelty act, in King Kurt’s case it was the audience participation way back in the early days, gig goers getting free haircuts at gigs, the grass skirts ”“ the dirty gigs!!

What the critical few failed to recognise was that these rats can play and they sure know how to put on a show. Within moments the band are pin-balling around the stage, Strangey is literally dancing with the ”Ëœboneshaker baby’ lovingly dragging it across the stage whilst hammering out that distinctive slap bass sound, Smeg not to be out done is bounding around lovingly encouraging the faithful to “gather your limbs” ”“ stage left the guitarist is decked in a red lame drape jacket, one minute hunched over his Gretsch the next firing off across the stage in a multitude of directions as he releases those infectious hooks ”“ this is both a visual and aural delight as they draw from a back catalogue stretching back some 25yrs; we get the hits, the mighty “Destination Zululand” with the so wrong its right “Destination Zululand hum diddle dee dum, Hoo wah hey ho” chorus ”“ there now well over a thousand people surging forward hands in the air chanting along, inane grins on their mashed faces, everyone at this late hour looking for that “Zulu Beat” rush…the sight of the front dozen rows spontaneously choreographing themselves, hands clasped to the back of the head, hips thrust forward and bellowing “Ooh walla walla” ”“ this is exactly what was needed, by now I’ve made some space and am hopelessly trying to recall that bizarre chicken dance, fondly recalling those infamous gigs at the Klub Foot so many years ago.

No time for reflection as “Rockin Kurt” instantly snaps back my attention; Smeg now stripped to the waist, is still hurling himself across the stage, and at the same time delivering the lyrics, the chants, the lunacy with a strong voice ”“ that double bass looks possessed, and seems to have taken to performing its own demonic two step with Strangey desperately trying to shackle it when not gulping down cans of lager, before Smeg delivers his sermon, instructing the masses to “Gather Your Limbs”

King Kurt at Rebellion Festival – live review

Like zealous converts we respond, arms outstretched as King Kurt absolve us of our sins; this is glorious…we are in little more than an indoor car park in Blackpool, the floor above us John Lydon, a man revered for his influence on an entire generation, but we the gurnning masses don’t care, this moment is not about the de-construction of sound this was joyous celebration, people tuned to a primitive beat, glorying in the tales of the mythical King Rat.

After an hour King Kurt left the stage, the crowd made for the exits, both parties now conjoined in a sweat drenched partnership…

Brilliant; now I need to lay off that sugar for a while.

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Phil Newall is 47, from The Wirral - he earns his living not writing about music nor playing music...though sorely wishes he could. He was fortunate enough to see many of the first generation punk bands when they played the U18's matinee shows at Eric's, Liverpool. As an attendee at Eric's he was exposed to punk rock, dub reggae, art rock, and all manner of weirdness; as a customer at Probe Records he was variously served and scowled at by Pete Wylie and Pete Burns - he has written for Record Collector, Whisperin & Hollerin, and Spiral Scratch and wanted to write a book detailing the Liverpool punk scene; however with 'Head-On' Julian Cope beat him to it...and frankly did a much better job.


  1. Fed up of people slagging PiL, by the end of ther set they had the Empress dancing, the place was packed and I did not hear one heckle all night from where I stood so enough with your negative shit. I’VE HEARD ENOUGH!!

    • PIL had people grooving but gotta say the crowd did go from packed to rather thin and there was some heckling going on earlier. Didn’t bother me though, I was one who thought they were excellent.

  2. Great review – I was squished in the front rows and loved every minute of the gig, King Kurt were on fire, Smeg is a legend and I love him and his King Rat xx


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