Rebellion Festival 2015: Blackpool Winter Gardens – live review
Rebellion Festival 2015
Blackpool Winter Gardens
4th – 7th August 2015
Martin Haslam reports back from the latest Rebellion punk rock festival up in Blackpool, the festival has become THE punk festival in the calendar with 2016 being the 20th anniversary alongside the 40th anniversary of Punk itself; but for now Martin casts his eye over the 2015 offering.
I am not a festival person. I’ve done them, in the 80s; sat in the damp / leaking tent in a muddy field which doubles as a toilet. Struggled to hear / see bands outdoors as the elements wreak their havoc. No thanks. I like a proper stage and proper toilets and an absence of mud.
So, with that in mind, and having decided that this year’s line up was worth a punt, I finally attended my first Rebellion Festival in Blackpool. While it’s a broad audience, they are predominantly, like me, middle aged and in search of some comfort to go with their choice of aural violence. I am summarising the events of my long weekend, as otherwise I doubt anyone would read several pages. Suffice to say, it’s been an interesting and surreal experience.
A brief aside / warning re: accommodation. I’d booked a room online via hotelsone.com some months in advance; Blackpool in August is heaving with people. When I arrived at said hotel, I found that it was derelict; the neighbours said it’d been shut for over a year. Do NOT book the Del Roseia Hotel on Central Drive; I am waiting for confirmation of a full refund. Luckily, with a little walking, I found a vacancy at the Lyndene Hotel at 106, Coronation Street (there are three Lyndene Hotels). Dee and Andy were very welcoming, the bed was comfy and the breakfast plentiful. AND the Winter Gardens are on Coronation Street. Result!
Highlights? Well, I’d travelled early to drive the 200 miles in order to catch Evil Blizzard‘s set at 4.10pm at the Ballroom. It was my first live experience of them, having watched the YouTube clips. They had a decent sized audience, whom they proceeded to win over with their ‘four bassists of the Apocalypse’ and singing drummer (plus Blizzpig and Mop Man; go and see them to find out). You could be forgiven for thinking the stage costumes are naff fancy dress, but it really adds to the creepy, Royston Vasey feeling that compliments their sound. New single ‘Are You Evil?’ is fast becoming an anthem and their second album, ‘Everybody Come To Church’ can be ordered now. A huge victory for the independent band. I will see them again at the Camden Barfly in November. You’re my band now, Dave.
I tried to get excited after this, but Thursday did drag a bit. The Business have the tunes, but I felt the metal guitar was out of place. Still very popular, mind. On the acoustic stage, Paul Carter had a good response to his brand of agit-folk punk tunes. You can’t help but warm to him, and he certainly gets around. Having tried all the venues in the hope of seeing a new band to blow me away, it was left to TV Smith And The Bored Teenagers to liven things up. I’m not well versed with The Adverts’ back catalogue, but I will be soon due to his energetic, committed performance. He and the band were very entertaining and an unexpected pleasure.
My evening ended with Neville Staple and his band of polished Ska funsters. Even with aching feet, you have to skank to ‘Monkey Man’. Though Neville appears to be unwell, it’s a testament to the high esteem that the audience hold him in; he dances as much as he can, though he has to be helped off the stage and back on. It’s a joyous singalong gig, but I only hope he puts his health first. Rude health for the No.1 Rude Boy would be ideal.
First surprise of the day goes to Dirtbox Disco (photo right, © Phil Newall). I’d never understood the appeal of the deliberately awful costumes and nursery-rhyme melodies. Live, however, it makes sense; this is FUN. In a Butlins way, but fun nonetheless. The Ballroom is full for them at 3.30pm, no mean feat, and at least a few hundred people know all the words. I see more of their t shirts than any other band during the four days here, which shows their growing popularity.
I made a point of seeing Peter And The Test Tube Babies, as my mate Matt insisted I should. I lasted two songs. Sorry, not for me. I’d also been told to check out Super Fast Girlie Show at the Casbah stage (essentially, the underground car park). Man, I am so glad that I did! Two bassists, one drummer and some awesome tune-filled noise. Bonus points for the free kazoos. I must search out their album ‘Don’t Go Down Gentle’ which they released at the festival.
Ruts DC were as awesome as expected. They know exactly what they’re doing, and sometimes, that’s what you need. Ah, The Rezillos! I’ve always had a soft spot for them, and it was a relief that they are playing well and having fun. Fay Fife looks better than she has a right to, but, even better, her voice is terrific. Eugene Reynolds is still her perfect foil and the new tunes sit well with the classics. Who doesn’t love ‘Top Of The Pops’?
The Damned have always been one of my favourite bands. I’ve seen them probably more than any other band, and they don’t disappoint tonight. Mr Vanian stalks the stage in black biker leather, the King of suave with the croon to match. Captain Sensible is really a guitar hero; underrated, he handles everything without overplaying. This is their longest-serving line up, and we get pretty much what we want to hear. An hour rushes by, and I’m feeling the strain of standing for several hours. I want to see Sham 69, especially this line up, but they are due onstage at 1am! My hotel bed is very comfy, so the Hersham Boys must wait for another night…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Rested, I’m up for the 12.30pm start in the Pavilion for The Featherz (photo, right). Bringing their brand of self-styled ‘Flock Rock’ to the masses, I’m pleased that the venue is filling up. Glam anthems (Glamthems?) get the crowd onside, ‘When Was The Last Time You Had Sex?’ and other ear worms. I’ve seen them before, but this line up has added Alice Atkinson, which is a very good thing; the three-piece with Danie Cox and Dazzle Monroe are now tighter and born to entertain. Championed by Boy George and dressed by Charles Of London, they deserve your attention. Now!
Ming City Rockers are next up and are also honing their sound and style. So far today, the younger bands are ahead. Coming across like a furious Libertines with extra rock. When bassist Jakki Walsh wanders through the crowd, it’s like an early Manics moment. Excellent.
I just caught the end of Louise Distras Band‘s Ballroom set, and wished there weren’t so many clashes between stages. Full-on performance, from what I saw. I’ve loved Goldblade for many years (it’s still a bit weird that he’s our boss here at Louder Than War), and the Ballroom is bouncing to their mighty tunes. Brother John is soon in the crowd, sweat-drenched and testifying the power of rock ‘n’ roll. Sweating somewhat myself, I have a rest after, missing The Kopek Millionaires. Stupid boy!
I also love the tunes of The Boys, but was disappointed by a perfunctory performance. Honest John’s missing due to injury, and after a few songs, I slink out in search of fresh kicks. Funnily enough, the next great show comes courtesy of The Adicts. Not exactly fresh, but, my word, they love what they do! This is a SHOW, with more glitter and ticker tape than anyone would want to sweep up afterwards. And they’re not short on tunes; ‘Joker In The Pack’ and ‘Bad Boy’ still sound great. We all sing along at the finale to ‘Bring Me Sunshine’, as you would. Lovely stuff, which leaves a warm glow.
The same can not be said for The Boomtown Rats‘ set tonight. To be fair, starting with ‘She’s So Modern’ and ‘Like Clockwork’ was good, but it soon lags. I’ve had time now to digest Sir Bob’s comment of “we’re mega, you’re all wearing black t shirts with shit bands on” and feel that, at best, it was off the cuff and intended to wind people up, which it did. (See video below.) Are punks getting thinner-skinned? Or, was it his insecurities? We know what he’s achieved outside of music and none of us will come close to that, but, judging music and performance, it was an own goal. If they’d been “mega” it would’ve stung less.
Punk as fuck? Over to Buzzcocks, who own the Ballroom tonight. Shelley and Diggle may be nearing bus pass age, but the flame is burning brightly tonight. I’d heard that recent gigs were lacklustre. Really? They were amazing tonight. So many great songs, including ‘People Are Strange Machines’ from their last album. You know all the others. They played ’em, we sang ’em. “The definitive fucking punk band”, spits Diggle at the end, presumably pointed at Geldof and Co. Hard to argue after that.
The Terraces (photo, right) are the first band to really play with passion today. With new album ‘Empire’ just released, they were just as great as when I saw them two years ago. Gary Buckley gives it his all, still looking like a nightmare version of Sean Lock. Maid Of Ace were, well, ace. Alison’s vocals are full of venom and the band are well-honed from regular touring. They deserve to be heard.
Sick On The Bus bring the ‘none more punk’ to the Casbah stage. Music to be played in a derelict car park. That’s a compliment! How to describe Glitter Trash? Detroit rockers, channelling Dolls and Stooges riffs at full speed, fronted by the force of nature that is Jenna Talia. People are confused and bemused. I’m one of them. Jenna is part Wendy O Williams, part Dee Snider and all woman. No, really. This is about as punk as it gets all weekend. Respect to you.
I wanted to like The Avengers; the tunes were good, as was the singing, but Penelope’s comments about the more rotund people of Blackpool were unnecessary. Isn’t America the obesity capital of the world?
The Sweet have all the tunes you know and love and play them with professionalism and style. However, I think there’s an argument for Andy Scott to hand the reins over to a young band who could give the performance that the songs deserve; 21st Century Sweet, if you will. Sacrilege! Why? It’d be great!
My Rebellion experience ends with The Membranes (whose John Robb can be seen above) at The Pavilion stage. John Robb, busy as ever, is soon in the crowd, waving his bass like a weapon. I’d be happy to hear the whole of new album ‘Dark Matter/Dark Energy’, but we must also have ‘Tatty Seaside Town’ to placate the faithful. This is o.k, but the new album is immense.
Friendly folk, well managed stages/sound/lighting and great chips. It’s great up north, and I’d happily come again.
Words by Martin Haslam
More photos below – or trigger the photo gallery by clicking on any pics on this page.
With thanks to Phil Newall and Martin Haslam for the photos.
All words by Martin Haslam. More writing by Martin on Louder Than War can be found at his Martin Haslam.