Rebellion Festival ”“ Saturday 3rd August ”“ Pt 2

You will recall that I concluded Pt1 as I began a search of Blackpool for a decent restaurant; in a previous guise I did earn my living as a chef, that however does not mean that I can only eat Michelin starred goodies, but I do draw the line at deep fried ”˜meat’ coated in flame hot chilli to disguise its true flavour ”“ my search was fruitless, in fact fruit would of been good…being fortunate enough to hold an AAA pass I ventured backstage and enjoyed a vegan chilli at the Beachcomber Cafe, which gave me the opportunity to gauge the vibe prior to the arrival of tonight’s headline Public Image Limited.

The rear area of the ballroom was littered with flight cases all neatly marked ”˜PIL’ ”“ staff, crew and other artists were noticeably excited; John Lydon ”“ the most (in)famous ”˜punk’ was set to step onto the Empress Ballroom stage in a few short hours; prior to the festival I had given some thought to PIL playing the event, I had seen PIL twice within the previous six months and on both occasions had been rewarded with two astonishing performances, however I was aware that Lydon in particular has been less than complimentary about festivals the style of which Rebellion is perceived to occupy ”“ he has criticised the Mohican plumed, bondage pants and cider ethic of some punks for being too regimented, for not developing etc so to play to a festival that attracts a section of its audience from this demographic threw up a few conundrums. Venue staff advised that prior to PIL’s arrival the backstage area was to be cleared of all by PIL crew and essential staff, this seemed to cause a few ripples of discontent with people quoting Lydon’s well trodden “working class boy” line ”“ myself, if I had been travelling all day and was expected to headline an event of this magnitude then I too might just want some space to prepare…I however in my roll as photographer was excluded from taking pictures by an eight page contract that drew parallels with Ian Brown’s stance regarding the recent Stone Roses Heaton Park gigs.

But back to the music; Liverpool’s Biteback appeared on the Olympia 2 stage and effortlessly demonstrated why there is such a fuss developing about them; vocalist Hocky previously fronted 82′ era punks Instant Agony who eventually seemed to implode when their own material sped up to the point of self immolation ”“ with Bite Back however the pace is slowed, the songs are more expressive, with easily recognisable choruses and at the same time retaining a raw aggressive energy that was clearly connecting with the assembled masses as they hammered their through their recently released “Bitten And Twisted” album (full review to follow)

TV Smith

I have previously mentioned TV Smith, his set for Friday was listed as including The Valentines, though due to flight problems had been forced to became an acoustic set, so the expected Saturday semi-acoustic TV Smith gig in turn became a full Valentines band set.

Having sung his praises yesterday I won’t labour the point, just be aware that when TV Smith stepped from the Empress Ballroom stage the best part of 1500 were bellowing for more; with a set list drawn from across his entire career and so featuring The Adverts, Lords Of The New Church, The Explorers, and his his own current solo material everyone was assured of leaving with huge smiles on their faces and that weird tingling feeling you get down your spine…Smith is passionate about his performance and has over 35yrs gained a wealth of followers who fully appreciate his honesty and openness – to witness this is genuinely exhilarating, and a reaffirmation of the punk ethic.

Just time to witness the warped genius of The Cravats who took to the Bizarre Bazaar stage, I doubt whether The Shend and Co could really have stepped onto any other stage, despite forming in 1978 The Cravats have not lost any of their other worldliness – they continue to bamboozle, to confuse and to challenge peoples perceptions of musical order and notation; check out their just re-released first album ‘The Cravats In Toytown’ (LTW review) to try and gain an understanding into this at times darkly brooding ensemble; The Cravats are Rebellion regulars, though no matter how many times I see them perform no two sets are the same, so I anticipate yet more puzzlement in 2013.

Without realising I wandered into the Olympia 2 to the sounds of The Vibrators “Automatic Lover” ”“ though this was played with more aggression my previous recollections; thinking I was watching a band cover The Vibrators classic I reached for my handy Rebellion timetable to be pleasantly informed that this was in fact The Vibrators; last time I saw them Knox was still with the band, and…well they just didn’t excite me ”“ tonight however as they closed their set it was apparent they have new members (apparently a son) and are playing with a new found level of vitality and urgency, and with 35+ years under their belts there can’t be many bands you can say that about.

Belgian hardcore act Funeral Dress marked their return to Rebellion after a four year absence and took no prisoners; they basically laid waste to all stood in front of them ”“ this is guttural hard edge, octane fuelled punk rock that was rewarded with a surging mosh-pit, clenched fists punching the air as the band pummelled you with riff driven three minute bursts of pent up fury and aggression, as they delivered material from thier recent “Global Warning” album (via SOS Records)

Funeral Dress

Another band, (is it correct to call Spizz a band?) with an extensive history are Spizz Energi, well that’s the moniker Spizz was appearing under tonight as he tried his hardest to ignite the expanse of the Opera Stage; decked out in black T-shirt and pants boldly declaring the various incarnations of the Spizz name; surely not all them, that would of involved the wearing of a Rick Wakeman type cape to accommodate every alias…Spizz himself was made up to look like, well that’s a very good question, he had blood style decoration stemming from ‘cuts’ upon either side of his head, he was wearing two LED scrolling belt buckles; one displaying the Spizz guises as a timeline, the other reading ”˜Pussy Riot’ who seemed to have rightly become ( LTW open letter to Mr Putin) the ”˜cause celebre’ of the entire festival.


My own knowledge of Spizz really stretches no further than his three biggest tracks, so I was delighted when that looping bass line began and he launched into “Soldier Soldier” which still retained an edge; no doubt like everyone else I expected him to close with “Where’s Captain Kirk?” ”“ Maybe Spizz is messing with our minds as he didn’t preferring to offer up a couple of new tacks. It was only when I reviewed the pictures that I realised he had kept held back a lingering surprise ”“ his various logos were reflective and came to highlight any photograph take; Spizz, he just keeps giving!! I just kept thinking that having Spizz play such a huge venue was hoping for too much – the Opera stage is topped out with a roof space that requires filling, with either backdrops, lighting and possibly Spinal Tap style pyrotechnics – Spizz could only muster a couple of LED’s strapped to his wrists, as such the expanse sucked atmosphere despite the bands best efforts which was a real shame.

I briefly abandoned my partner and ran to the Olympia stage to catch a few minutes of Resistance 77, who judging by the number of T-shirts bearing their name could put M&S to shame; I worked on the theory that they can’t all be wrong…if you enjoy gutsy hook laden street punk with rabble rousing choruses delivered with righteous intensity then Resistance 77 are for you…worth mentioning the patriotic theme to everything Resistance 77 are involved with; over the years they have been anecdotally linked to the far right political movement, though I would be amazed, if the Rebellion organisers were to book any band with such offensive political viwes of any persuasion. I noted that the bands front man was wearing a T-shirt declaring his patriotism whilst also denouncing fascism – surely if the bands views require such simplistic declarations then more thought is required on behalf of the lyric writer…

Resistance 77

And then we made our way to the Ballroom, PIL were due onstage at midnight but it was obvious the crowds were massing early to ensure entry ”“ this is perhaps the only failing of hosting such an event in the Winter Gardens; each venue has a legal capacity that the total number of festival attendees easily surpasses. We got into the Ballroom at 22.45hrs, it was rammed; we were forced to sit upstairs ”“ I just can’t deal with gigs of this nature whilst seated, though to say seated was a bit of a misnomer, as we managed to secure a section of floor space shoehorned against the balcony wall. On stage and clearly benefitting from the expanded audience were Slaughter & The Dogs ”“ nothing against the Dogs, but they just strike me as a band better connected than most and it was these connections that ensured their longevity rather than their musical output, certainly beyond the “Cranked Up Really High” and “Where Have All The Bootboys Gone” exceptions ”“ that said front man Wayne Barrett set about entertaining the throng, which is possibly more than PIL did a few minutes later.

Now, I understand that to proclaim anything other than devotion to Lydon is considered the behaviour of a heretic in many quarters…and whilst building the barricades for the undoubted abuse…I find myself asking, what was that all about? But instantly I know what it was about and respect Lydon for doing it. I have seen PIL many times at all stages of their long career, and like many others have read volumes of text analysing the birth, and effects of punk, in addition to reading Lydon’s own biography; Lydon is a mass of contradictions, a master at the art of self publicity, and also one of the most inventive musicians of our time, a man who has seized the zeitgeist and has been the public face of not one but two bands that have arguably altered music within their lifetime, with the repercussions still being feslt and there are are very few able to claim that plaudit.

PIL logo – We were not allowed to use live shots

I just found the set to be indulgent; pure and simple ”“ the current line-up of PIL consists of individually accomplished musicians, vocally Lydon’s voice has rarely been stronger so there is no criticism there, its just that for myself and many others it went on too long and after three days of a festival, rightly or wrongly, an audience are not particularly up for extended bouts of experimentation, but then Lydon would rebuke this by rightly informing me that I didn’t have to go and listen to him, and that by doing so I go to witness an artist and as such I cannot assume that the artist is there to live up to my expectations ”“ he’s right of course, had PIL played the ”˜hits’ then it would of been to obvious, Lydon would have provided exactly what many of us wanted, and history demonstrates that he is not in the habit of doing that, and for that reason we still proclaim his genius – either way after 40mins which featured ‘This Is Not A Love Song’ and ‘Deeper Water’ we like others left and headed to the Olympia Stage to perform further heresy by rejoicing in the glorious unbridled explosion that is King Kurt…for which I will submit a full review.

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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.

10 COMMENTS

  1. This is good reading these bits….but was TV Smith in Lords Of The New Church? Must have bypassed me that, I thought it was just Stiv Bators.

  2. You’re right BW- TV wasn’t in Lords of the New Church, but he did write a song for them. As for The Vibrators; good to see they got a good review. The current line up has been together for a couple of years. Eddie’s still there on drums from 76, Pete (bass) joined about 7 years ago and Nigel (ex Members) was with them before and has come back. Eddie’s son joined them for ‘Troops of Tomorrow.’ And Spizz did play ‘Captain Kirk’.

  3. Aye, I wondered what you were on about as well, there. The Adverts song “New Church” is the root of LOTNC’s name, but otherwise no connection.

  4. Re PiL …. Yes Lydon is – and always has been – a mass of contradictions … One of his most consistent lines however has always been that ‘Punk’ was about being original and doing something different … Although he’s not helped himself in that line by reforming the Pistols as often as he has done …. Whilst waiting for PiL to come on the people standing near me were seemingly expecting PiL to ‘play a few Pistols’ songs !!!! I was AMAZED when PiL were announced for Rebellion, although even that is typical Lydon in a way. PiL ARE now a Band again – the current line-up has been together for some time, and I think the new Album is EXCELLENT. For me PiL were BRILLIANT at Rebellion. Amazing versions of the songs. Depending on your point of view you could argue PIL were THE most ‘Punk’ Band at Rebellion ’12 ……………..

  5. Spizz was really good the other night as was TV Smith and The Vibrators were the best I have heard them in some time. Other notable mentions over the weekend were Slaughter and the Dogs, Last Resort, The Fits and the Test Tubes. Plenty of others I enjoyed too but the sound at the Empress was awful on the Thursday which spoilt the sets of The Business and Buzzcocks though the latter were certainly enjoying themselves onstage. Fortunately this was rectified by the next day. As for PIL, well I thought they were excellent. A longer set than the one I saw at Rochester the week before, it was pretty much along the same lines with extended versions of some songs blending into others. The music and Lydon sounded great in there, a mixture of old and new though no Public Image. As it was a punk festival I didn’t expect ‘the perfect set’ to please the crowd. Not really Lydon’s way as I’m sure most would agree. Don’t give ’em what they want. (well, maybe with the Pistols he does…) Anyway, some of the crowd got pissed off and John copped some flak but he just got on with it in the main. The place was heaving to start with but certainly thinned out towards the end. Maybe some didn’t get it but a good few did. Two examples who didn’t were from a drunken skin and an old studded leather jacketed punk who said at different points during the band’s set, ‘it’s a punk festival so fucking play some!’ and ‘I hope they do Anarchy, they did in the 80’s’. Ah well, can’t please everbody….

  6. Re Resistance 77, they do look a bit dodgy yes and the guitarist looks like he could play pervvy Uncle Ernie in Tommy but some of their female fans are right ravers!

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