The Winter Gardens, Blackpool
Thursday 8th August 2013
The 2013 Rebellion Festival; the biggest punk festival in the world -the festival that sees attendees travel from across the globe to gather in Blackpool, the once grand Victorian seaside resort sadly now more known for a multitude of social issues many of which visually blight the town…but some of that Victorian era splendour remains, certainly in the towns architecture and The Winter Gardens is the gem within the battered crown. Future proof planning by the original designers has seen it become a multi-purpose centre offering a range of venues all under one roof.
Thursday at Rebellion sees only some of the venues in use, but there are still a bewildering number of bands on offer -as we arrive and begin to get our bearings Loaded 44 are playing to a near capacity Arena crowd despite the pre 2pm start, I was hoping to catch Liverpool based Biteback but best made plans and all that; I did catch Fire Exit in the Arena, now Rebellion regulars and watching their alcohol fuelled powerhouse performance its easy to see why -formed way back in late 77’ they retain a solid punk core but have added a level of brutality and energy that sees an energetic response from the faithful.
The aim was to catch a bit of ska infused punk courtesy of Pimps And Gimps on the new band stage, however a lot of people were talking about US based The Mezingers -both were new to me and at that point The Empress Ballroom was nearer… the Scranton, Pennsylvania based four piece rattle through their Clash inspired early punk vibe, full of anthems, neat bass runs and the occasional squall of feedback; a full on visual explosion as they pinball across the wide stage expanse -well worth further investigation, however Sick On The Bus were due on in the Arena which by now has reached the temperature of a blast furnace, ideal for their full on hardcore sourced mayhem built around some engaging bass lines and breaks; its dirty blazing rock n’ roll, a collision between Motorhead and the ingenuity of say The Damned.
A hurried dash to the New Band Stage ensured I caught a couple of tracks from The Cundeez, who by this point had the crowd in a frenzy with their bagpipe augmented thrash, front man Gary stripped to the waist stoking the fire with rabble rousing fist pumping as he bellows out a bizarre mix of Dundonian dialect Scots to great effect; over in the Empress Ballroom Slime are hammering out their politically charged barrage, opening with ‘A.C.A.B’ before the punisher ‘Deutschland Muss Sterben (…Damit Wir Leben Können)’ which translates as ‘(Germany must die (… so we can live))’ though nothing prepares for the full on assault that an Argy Bargy gig delivers, Watford Jon leading his well honed crew through the recently released ‘Hopes, Dreams, Lies And Schemes’ – I’d spoken to a couple of the security crew earlier in the day; apparently they keep an unofficial ‘over the barrier’ tally – Argy Bargy had been identified as the first band likely to keep them busy, Watford Jon ensured their expectations were correct, prowling the stage, circling predator like pausing to deliver barked gravel ripped vocals as Daryl rips out those guitar leads, even Dalb joins the party, maneuvering around the stage in a refined fashion – Argy Bargy are all about energy, vibrant street punk, they instantly connect with the huge audience and as predicted many of that throng head ‘over the barrier’ as they join the celebration; similar reaction to New York’s Leftover Crack with their squat based anti-authority signature style of vitriolic raging punk softened with some ska breaks; beneath the noise Leftover Crack have some well crafted songs, the lyrical themes (for myself) become tiresome, they appear to be angry with everything – that said the lyrics are based upon the bands own life experiences and therefore are riddled with passion and conviction.
I struggle to get into the Bizarre Bazaar venue, the first lock out of the festival perhaps? Hardly surprising as Abba are virtually part of the human DNA swirl, and tribute act Abba Sensation are just a few genes away from the Swedish favorites; how do review an ABBA tribute? They either sound like ABBA or not, and the Sensation do; the rammed crowd of mohawks, skinheads, and quiffs singing along to every song – it’s a complete contrast to the socio-political rages taking place in the surrounding venues, but it’s frankly a very welcome break.
Neville Staple slowly ascends the steps to the Ballroom Stage, he walks carefully with the aid of a chrome tipped stick, to be greeted by a wall of massed vocals…”rude boy, rude boy” – he breaks into a huge smile before delivering both his own and Specials tracks; after two songs he discards his jacket then explains that he has suffered a stroke, hence the reason he no longer clambers onto the speaker stacks – it matters not a jot, certainly to the crowd who respond with joyous delight – some 15 over the barrier apparently.
Sadly I only caught two tracks of Walter Lure’s set, having unwisely chosen to catch The Ramonas – maybe it was a lager fuelled decision, it was certainly one I regretted…four girls playing ‘da brudders’ most well known tracks, nothing wrong with their musicality its just that the ‘we are girls’ gimmick wears a tad thin by the end of the first track which when you cover The Ramones gives you about 90seconds!
New Model Army were making their first Rebellion appearance; rightly headlining the Empress Ballroom, and as with every NMA gig they bring the family; so the front rows are full of the craggy dreadlocked bean field soldiers, many of which have followed Justin Sullivan’s crew since their 194 inception, band and Audience are at one rejoicing in Sullivan’s folk tinged brooding and emotional anthems. NMA stand alone even within a festival that celebrates the outsider, though there is nothing exclusive about NMA and their family, all are welcome and soon people not only gather to spread arms wide soaking up and reflecting Sullivan’s impassioned lyrics, bodies clamber onto shoulders, the stacks are now three persons high; Sullivan wisely requesting that the security staff just ignore them – its that direct link with their audience, that care for them that elevates NMA, not to forget just how good their material is; lets hope they return to Rebellion sooner than the 17yrs it took them to arrive.