Rebellion Xmas Bash
The Ballroom, Birmingham
Saturday 8th December 2012

Roughneck Riot were last minute additions to the Rebellion Xmas Bash, they were offered the slot after Booze And Glory dropped out.

I was delighted about this…until I realised that meant being in the Ballroom, Birmingham for at the latest 12.15, an ungodly hour for any band to be stepping out onto a stage.; as such we set off early for Britain’s second city via the road works that masquerade as the M6; thankfully the journey was uneventful and largely trouble free, at least until we hit Broad Street, Birmingham in search of the hotel car park.

The clock on the dash creeping ever closer to midday. Forgoing festive cheer we glared at other Saturday shoppers and bulldozered our way into the car park still two hours too early to check in, bags abandoned in the car we headed for The Ballroom which on an ordinary day would be a short 10 minute walk – however I hadn’t factored in the Frankfurt Market, I have no idea what makes it a Frankfurt Market and judging by the both the accents and skin tones of some of the stall holders neither had they – did no-one get the irony of a German Market featuring a pork scratching stall resplendent with a picture of Winston Churchill declaring the scratching to be the ‘Best In the World’

Either way judging by the wall of shuffling humanity in front of me it was apparent that all things Teutonic are likely to be in your Christmas sack if you live in the Birmingham area. We sashayed, we twisted, we elbowed – we auditioned for Strictly Come Dancing in our efforts to get to The Ballroom on time, and it wasn’t in vein as after going through the Ballroom’s own ‘wall of steel’ security the magical wristband was secured; quick dash downstairs the main room as we approach the door the sound of ‘Ignorance Is Easy’ is wringing out and Warrington’s Roughneck Riot are whipping up a fire storm to decent sized crowd despite the strange hour – at least at Rebellion Blackpool you can ease into the day with a bit of bingo courtesy of Max Splodge.

The Riot do not allow anyone to ease into anything, belting out the rabble rousing punch the air chorus of ‘Pissin In The Wind’ front-man Matty hollerin like his life depended upon it, he is flanked by Caitlin (Banjo) and Jade (Accordion) who’s sound defines Roughneck Riot, the crowd respond, but in a dignified manner – it is only an hour after elevenses after all!

Just enough time to grab the first refreshment of the day; thankfully Red Stripe was on draught – always preferable to the dishwater that trades under the name Carling before we head upstairs to the imaginatively named ‘Other Room’ were Liverpool’s Biteback delivered 30 mins of solid stripped down punk rock, pulling tracks from their recently released ‘Bitten & Twisted’ album – been a lot of decent press around Biteback and its clear why; front-man Hocky has spent his life on the road as a founder member of Instant Agony, guitarist Richie Rocker cutting his teeth with M.D.M and sessioning for an impressive list of bands on both sides of the Atlantic.

No time for further refreshment, the battle through the shoppers Pt 2 is about to begin as we need to check-in to the hotel; perhaps I have subconsciously listened to Anton du Beke from Strictly as this time we cut through the masses like scythes through grass, twisting, ducking and constantly moving – still took us near on 25min to get back to the hotel; the eighth floor offering such an alluring view point of the Broad Street bars air con systems strapped to their roofs..

There is no point in describing the return journey to The Ballroom – New Street was gridlocked, thousands of pained faces as wallets emptied all in the name of festive fun!! If you are reading this and your ribs are still aching from a neat elbow, I’m sorry – but here was punk rock to be witnessed!! Once more through the blue clad ‘security shield’ – what were they expecting? Rebellion is family; we don’t get trouble at Rebellion.

Anyway, it’s now 3.15 and Goldblade step out onto the Main Stage, at 3.30 Dirt Box Disco were due to step onto The Other Room stage; without a doubt clash of the weekend, though on this occasion Goldblade won out – the room is packed, clearly everyone else wanted to see John Robb and his band who have previously been described as ‘the stage equivalent of a beach assault’. Thing is how do you review your bosses band? The answer is with honesty…and in all honesty Goldblade were one of the highlights of the day; an explosion of energy, bar the drummer all four other members are pinballing across the stage, Robb leaps down from the crowd, he’s on the crash barriers taking his band to the people, arms outstretched punching the air as the crowd return the chorus to ‘Fighting In the Dancehall’, barely a pause and its back to ‘Strictly Hardcore’ and the more recent ‘Jukebox Generation’ then ‘The Shamen Are Coming’ from the soon to be released ‘Terror Of Modern Life’ album, the first mosh-pit of the day develops hastily followed by the first crowd surfers, Brother keef blows his bass amp mid set, but no-one misses a beat carried over by sheer adrenaline – the roadies hastily trying to replace the unit whilst dodging band members; Robb gets a few friends on stage, the blue clad security are twitchy…rabbits in the headlights not knowing what to do until one steps onto the stage forcing the bands friends off; the crowd out front are booing loudly – its 3.30 and this could go either way, Goldblade take the lead and announce that if we can’t have friends on stage we will come off the stage and into the friends and do exactly that – the band decamp on to the crash barriers and disperse the tension with ‘Riot!, Riot!’ and ‘Psycho’, only returning to the stage to conclude with ‘The Power Of Rock’N’Roll’ – a truly breathtaking set, the crowd are exhilarated, sweat sodden and most importantly firmly part of the punk rock community.

Back up the stairs to catch The Terraces, their name defines their sound – impassioned street punk, guttural chanting…maybe it was the time of the day but didn’t really do it for me. The Rebellion flyer boasted of an Acoustic Room though Marco Polo would of struggled to locate it, enquiries with the venue staff solicited a range of differing answers all delivered in Terraces style tones…we gave up looking and secured what turned out to be the last Red Stripe of the day, as the place sold out shortly after. Infa Riot were on the Main Stage and delivered a no nonsense energetic set, though whilst seeking a toilet I found signs to the Acoustic Room so head off as directed. Quite why we had to go outside, through the smoking area – ha-ha that’s a laugh, a section of Birmingham pavement fenced by a barrier is now a designated smoking zone – but I don’t smoke so why do I care, yet another security search to get into The End, an adjoining venue and the more relaxed atmosphere offered, was impressed with Perkie who perched somewhat timidly behind a keyboard, and Jim Sorrow who armed with the traditional acoustic guitar belted out his cries of injustice.

Was now beginning to feel in need of other than liquid sustenance, the venue failed us miserably – a limited selection of sandwiches sat upon an un-chilled shelf in a Birmingham basement venue does not a meal make!! As we headed out into Birmingham I was advised by them in blue that no re-entry would be allowed past 7pm – despite the best efforts of Red Stripe a glance at my watch informed me that I had exactly 29 minutes to locate a restaurant, order, eat my meal and make my return; granted I could of visited the fast food outlets next door for ‘meat kebab’ – no further description offered, or having seen it wanted! Thankfully we were in possession of AAA passes which made the 7pm no entry rule superfluous, so returning at 7.15 was not an issue – not so for others now arguing with staff who were refusing access despite being advised that the venue didn’t offer any food, you couldn’t secure a cup of coffee – clearly punk rockers drink cider and only cider, at least according to The Ballroom management. I would be interested to know quite how many fell afoul of this cock-up.

Vice Squad were already on the Main Stage when we returned, though I preferred them as The Dirty Folkers – more later!

The Anti-Nowhere League follow, Animal prowls the stage bellowing over their biker tinged take on punk rock, its full on, its energized as they belt out standards like I Hate People’ and ‘We Are The League’

Any criticism of the League is pointless, Animal has made a career out of not caring “You criticise us, you say we we’re shit / But we’re up here and we are doing it” and judging by the mayhem stage front the crowd are lapping it up; just isn’t for me – we head back to the Acoustic Room in time for The Dirty Folkers who looked rather like Vice Squad though Beki had changed her dress, I barely noticed a virginal white dress, thigh high patent white leather boots, neck chocker, silver wings and a tinsel halo, it was only when my partner pointed it out to me…

Wayne had stripped to just a pair of leopard print undies and Paul Rooney was now dressed like a Catholic priest and had taken to talking in a Irish lilt..clearly The Dirty Folkers are a fun, dare I say it a novelty act but that aside they were frankly brilliant; Beki’s voice is really strong but at the same time able to switch across her range, the sort of thing you don’t generally notice when Vice Squad deliver their metal based punk. Their set included Vice Squad classics ‘Last Rockers’ right through to a cover of Motorhead’s ‘Ace Of Spades’ – if they play Rebellion in 2013, don’t miss them.

Quick dash through the toxic fumes, and down the steps, the steps now washed in cider just to add that extra element of excitement as you negotiate your way…Charlie Harper is stood stage front, flanked by Jet and Alvin both of which careering around behind him as they thunder through their blues based pun – I saw the Subs only two weeks back in Buckley, tonight they are like a different band, Charlie has loosened up and is driving forward, Alvin in particular benefits the bigger stage as he contorts his way through the set…’Warhead’ not surprisingly has the near capacity crowd chanting along, same goes for ‘Tomorrows Girls’ and CID’ – the Subs have been on the road for 35years and frankly deserve this sort of adoration, but they are no throw-back act, they are still out there writing new material and connecting with people.

By now, the limited bars had taken to resembling scenes from the Siege Of Mafeking, the venue holds 3000 people, due to the no pass out ruling they are a captive audience and not surprisingly seeking a drink – with over two million unemployed would it be beyond reason to perhaps employ a few more people here, by the time I reached the bar the Red Stripe was a distant memory replaced by the chemical brew of Carling; hello headache!

Any headache however would be dealt a swift kick by the full frontal assault that is The Exploited, I hadn’t seen Wattie and his crew for many many years, I knew they had got a bit faster, had got a bit louder…to be honest I wasn’t ready for what arrived – sheer terrifying rage, the noise literally shreds skin from your face, it’s akin to standing back draft of an Airbus 380 as it reaches takeoff speed and over the top of it Wattie releases guttural wails. I have no idea what they played, I have even less idea of the song titles – when he does speak, his Scottish accent is so thick it’s indecipherable. This was one of the most aggressive performances I have seen in a long while, certainly from what is essentially a punk band; The Exploited left punk behind a long time ago and now forge a dark path somewhere between hardcore and industrial mayhem.

Just managed to catch a glimpse of TV Smith who was doing an acoustic set, though the room was so packed it was futile – fortunately he had already announced a gig in Liverpool the following night.

The night was rounded off by Rancid and Cock Sparrer; though John is handling these reviews.

So that was the Rebellion Xmas Bash 2012 – 14hrs of musical madness spread across three stages, there were loads of bands I would of liked to have seen; Street Dogs, Dirt Box Disco and The Crows top that list, but that is the joy of any festival – the darting between stages, the decisions. The day was a triumph for the Rebellion organizers, the venue, at least physically was fine, the only let down being The Ballroom staff who clearly had no understanding or desire to understand that the people who travel to Rebellion do so from across Europe and frankly deserve better than crap cider and petty rules.

See you all in Blackpool 8th – 11th August 2012 – Tickets are on sale now.

3 COMMENTS

  1. We came from Sweden to our first Rebellion and had a briliant time. Met loads of lovely people, saw some fantastic bands. Agree with Phil Goldblade were great, we were right on the crash barrier as they played, loved Street Dogs as well. We will be going to Blackpool so see you all then.

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