The Rebellion Festival
The Winter Gardens,
It’s only the second day of the four day Rebellion onslaught, and already it is possible to identify those present for Day 1; many have a battle worn look, the proverbial 1000yr stare; my own excuse being that I bore witness to the sonic blitzkrieg of One Way System, who headlined the Arena stage on Thursday night, a 40 minute brutal assault followed, so the opportunity to kick off Friday with something a tad more gentle was welcomed by many.
As such by the time Max Splodge fired up the Rebellion Bingo the Almost Acoustic bar was reaching capacity. Max’s Bingo has over the years become something of a Rebellion institution; it’s even spawned its own T-Shirt! As eager punters collect the prize giving numbers Max recounts tales from his own life; last year he spoke fondly of a homeless bloke who had recently died – Max gave his ‘death pillow’ as a prize; this year he began a story concerning ‘a friend’ who dated one half of a Siamese Twin, her conjoined other not being fully visible, though she reveals her presence by constantly playing a trumpet; between all this Splodge gives away “utter crap” he has borrowed from Blackpool guest houses…
I catch Barb Wire Dolls in the Empress ballroom, having both seen them live previously and seen, courtesy of YouTube their appearance on ‘Greece Has Got Talent’ it’s difficult to take them seriously, every rock cliché is evidenced from name checking the city you’re in to posturing power chords; it’s probably fair to say the crowd have turned up to watch front woman Isis Queen (Isis being the Greek name of the Egyptian Goddess Aset who was worshipped as a fetish object, picking this name alone should tell you all you need to know about Barb Wire Dolls) cavort both on and off the stage; by the third number she is lying across the crash barrier, providing full on close up eye candy for the battle weary…
Urban rail punks Eastfield take to the Arena stage back to their full complement, a welcome return for bass player Bambi sees their staunchly self-limited 3-chord thrash entertain a capacity crowd intent on condemning the national rail service with chants of “Were not getting there”…as I was also riding a Rebellion Photo pass I had to cut Eastfield short, scamper down to the Olympia Stage – a huge cavernous subterranean exhibition hall with two stages constructed at right angles; the sound down here is notoriously difficult, in previous years acres of dampening material was suspended from the ceiling.
Sadly this year the venue owners had removed it, the result being the intricate eastern and folk influences so evident on Bootscraper’s self-titled album were lost rattling around the building, despite this they performed a storming set and were an example of how the festival organisers widened the parameters of the punk genre the event caters to.
I caught so called punk legends Chelsea in the Empress Ballroom, despite them being around since 1977 I had managed to avoid them; I should have tried harder this weekend, though judging by the voids in the crowd many others had – frontman Gene October made disparaging remarks about the time of his bands performance, referring to it as the “breakfast slot” before bickering with the drummer and exiting the stage like a spoilt child; I’m sure that hissy fit will have lifted his position in the potential billing for another year…
Up in the central bar, referred to as the Almost Acoustic stage I catch The Crows, which feature various members of Biteback and the Screaming Abdabz, be good to see this lot again, especially in a venue that offers a bar more than 10ft from the stage; the clank of glasses and barked orders did them no favours at all…I had meant to catch all of Hazel O’Connor’s set, however the Bizarre Bazaar was closed as it had reached capacity way before I arrived, I did manage to squeeze in to catch a few moments and even in such a short space of time the power behind O’Connor’s voice clearly evident.
I hadn’t planned on watching Peter & The Test Tube Babies; I always shunned them for their ‘on the piss’ lads humour attitude; within three songs I realised this aversion had been to my loss – the time was just right for them as they enflamed the eager audience, Peter resplendent in a gaudy Hawaiian shirt, every inch the English yob terrorising the bars of Benidorm; within moments the crowd surfers were crashing over the barriers, the blunt in your face UK82 thrash hitting the sweet spot. The numbers coming over paled in comparison to the antics of the crowd facing New York’s finest, The Casualties;this band visually and sonically define what many non-attendees of the festival consider to be punk, the huge multi-coloured Mohawks, Medusa spikes and a battering ram wall of noise akin to a Wacker plate; not the best band I saw, but for energy and a sheer un-adulterated brutally crude life affirming noise The Casualties are near peerless.
Back down the Olympia to catch the first of Paranoid Visions weekend appearances, this time featuring Steve Ignorant as second male vocalist, they pull tracks from their recent and rather wonderful ‘Escape From The Austerity Complex’ album; the acoustics let them down, and let them down badly – there are so many subtle nuances on the album but in that in the slurry of bouncing noise these were sadly lost…
Caught brief moments of both Eddie & The Hot Rods, and The Business, neither of which convinced me to remain any longer, however The Restarts, they just left me gasping for breath, a pummelling assault that hit my chest like a steam-roller, and certainly prepared me for The Damned – a band notorious for going through fallow periods, however at this point in time and despite the well documented appalling sound The Damned are a revelation; most bands would trade their entire selves to gain a frontman like Dave Vanian…The Damned have the distinct celebration of also counting Capt. Sensible amongst their number, it’s difficult to know where to look as he and Vanian joust for the limelight, keyboard maestro Monty Oxymoron not content with adding luxurious depth to the band’s sound bounces around his keyboard rack like a kid having eaten the dreaded blue Smarties… ‘Neat Neat Neat’ expanded to encompass an extended prog infused bridge; Vanian’s voice has added depth, during ‘Love Song’ he near croons, though with a switchblade hidden up his sleeve… I was stood at the side of the stage and as they descend the ramp to exit the stage the Capt. Is literally bouncing before turning and commenting “I’ve still got it” – It was said in self-deprecating tones; but he’s right, after some 35yrs and counting The Damned, not just The Capt. have most certainly still got it.
The Adicts were headlining The Empress Ballroom, so I was forced to leave The Damned somewhat prematurely…festivals like Rebellion are the perfect environment for The Adicts, this is a band who define performance, they don’t play gigs, they engage you in a sensory spectacular, which by this time of night is just what the immense crowd wanted; Monkey catapulting across the stage, the pyrotechnics, a skip full of confetti, glitter and beach balls…all of which left me fired up for Space; yep, the Liverpool based late 90’s chart regulars; and another of those bands pushing the expected boundaries of the festival.
Since their chart days, the line-up has altered; the result being that whilst they play the hits, and I was amazed at just how many I recognised…’Neighbourhood’, ‘Avenging Angels’, ‘Ballard Of Tom Jones’ and the anticipated ‘Female Of The Species’ I was delighted by the twisted pop sensibility of Space, there are some seriously dark, brooding under currents in the mix, the keyboards taking their left of centre sound off at tangents; engagingly charismatic font-man Tommy Scott being the proverbial glue that brings it all together, after this set I am eagerly awaiting the release of their forthcoming ‘Attack Of The 50ft Kebab’ album.
Space pics courtesy of Liz Phillips Photography.
All other pics courtesy of Phil Newall
Click on the individual Gallery Picture to see full size hi-res version