Winter Gardens, Blackpool, UK
Friday 5th August 2016
We couldn’t really call ourselves thepunksite.com without having someone at Rebellion Festival, well it’s a dirty job but someone’s got do it. I got late notice I’d be able to go this year, I managed to book a hotel, which suspiciously still had rooms left, and so it’s off to Blackpool. Due to the late notice, and other hindrances I won’t bore you with, I can’t be there until Friday so I’ve already missed the Descendents on their only UK appearance, things don’t get much better when I reach the hotel, appropriately enough it appears to last have been decorated in 1976. After all, this is the Rebellion Festival‘s 20th Anniversary, and obviously it’s the 40th Anniversary of punk, so it’s a double celebration this year. The sprawling setting and fading glamour of Blackpool’s Winter Gardens is a strangely appropriate setting for Rebellion Festival, which is Europe’s largest punk festival. It boasts hundreds of bands across seven stages over four days, In addition to this there are literary stages, a punk art exhibition, acoustic stages, poetry, vintage clothing, tattooists, films, interviews, record and clothing stalls and even a healing workshop.
My first ambition for the Friday was to be there in time for Loaded 44‘s appearance where they are launching their new EP, Get Ready! I made good time and managed to catch the band prior to them on the Pavillion Stage, Norwich’s Dogtown Rebels. They play a rousing set that makes a perfect start to the day, despite the early start and furnace like temperatures a good crowd has attended for their set of defiant street punk anthems. Loaded 44 deliver their high energy new wave influenced punk rock. Hyperactive singer Beki Straughan prowls every inch of the stage and their efforts pay off as the appreciative crowd swells significantly during their set. Parisian street punks Komintern Sect follow, they are making their UK debut and, despite one of their guitarists missing their flight, they play a solid and noisy set that makes me hope that their promise to return to our shores is one that they keep. Despite the temptations available on the other stages these three bands have set down an impressive marker for those that appear after them.
A change of venue is needed, as tempting as it is, and as consistent as the bands are, I need to investigate the other stages, Boston’s Big D And The Kids Table play an infectious ska infused set that has bought the impressive Empress Ballroom stage to life. Next up on this stage are Italy’s Guida, who sound like the UK bands that were one of the precursors to the punk explosion of the 1970’s. they play an anthemic mix of seventies glam rock and rhythm and blues combined with the delivery and attitude of punk. Despite never heaving heard of them before, let alone having heard them play a note, they are one of the most impressive bands I’ve seen over the weekend and if you get you get the chance to see them live then you should, as It’s not often I’m this impressed by a band. Penetration are next up, they are the first, but won’t be the last, of the class of ’77 to make an appearance at Rebellion Festival. They sound as good, if not better, as they did back in the day, Pauline Murray‘s distinctive vocal delivery still brings her breathless passion to their songs. Whilst it is no surprise that their classic Don’t Dictate is the best received number, that doesn’t detract from an accomplished set that blends material from their recent album along with their classic material
A quick visit to punk art exhibition reveals works by Charlie Harper, of the UK Subs, Knox, of The Vibrators and Beki Straughan‘s Racket Clothing, Loaded 44, as well as many other independent artists. After a break perusing the artwork on display it’s back to Empress Ballroom to catch The Dictators NYC who play an impressive set of proto punk and old school classics that goes down a storm, they are the oldest band at the festival having formed back in the early 1970’s. At this point I begin scrabbling between venues trying to catch a variety of the sights and sounds on offer.
Discharge are playing their intense full tilt punk assault at the open air Tower Street Stage, whilst Discharge are playing their set an unexpected sight occurs in one if the streets surrounding The Winter Gardens. An impromptu, and badly organised, game of football is taking place between some slightly inebriated punks and several Police officers, if you wanted a metaphor for how good natured the Rebellion Festival is then that surely is it. I wander back inside and accidentally catch Splodgenessabounds playing their novelty punk hit, Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps Please, which seems to have an enthusiastic chorus of literally everyone attending, everywhere you go at the Rebellion Festival something is happening or someone is playing and sometimes you just time it right. Further wandering means I catch Swill, of The Men They Couldn’t Hang playing to packed Almost Acoustic Stage.
My meanderings mean that I catch The Anti Nowhere League in full bombastic sweary form, despite this band courting controversy throughout their almost forty year existence they go down a storm, and the material from their debut album, We Are The League, is sung word for word by an enthusiastic and largely quite drunken crowd. Further wandering leads me to catching Brix Smith And The Extricate in The Opera House, they have gathered all the elements that made her former band, The Fall, so compelling, but with none of the negatives or the baggage that that band carries.
I make myself comfy in The Opera House in preparation for Peter Hook And The Light, whilst I’m taking the opportunity to take the weight off my aching feet I get to see an interview with Handsome Dick Manitoba, of The Dictators NYC, who regales the audience with a warts ‘n all discussion about his life and the origins of his band. Peter Hook And The Light take the stage in the impressive setting of The Opera House, former member of Warsaw, Joy Division and New Order, Peter Hook, opens their set by declaring “I’ve been a punk for forty fucking years” before launching into a set of Joy Division material that leans heavily on the material from their classic, and incredibly influential, debut album, Unknown Pleasures, but also features a hefty chunk of early material that dates back to 1977. They open with At A Later Date, which featured on the legendary Live At The Electric Circus compilation album, and you can’t help shake the feeling that Peter Hook relishes these appearances, the energy he puts into revisiting his punk roots indicates that he will always be an old punk at heart and tonight’s set is a triumphant return to the Rebellion Festival.
A final exploration of the sprawling Winter Gardens is in order before Friday draws to a close. I discover Naked Aggression who wake you back up like an intravenous shot of caffeine with their full tilt hardcore sonic assault. I round out the day with insanity of The Cravats, they play a mind expanding garage influenced variety of punk rock, the boast an demented saxophone and, equally unhinged lead singer, and at this time of the morning I can’t think of a better band to close out the first day at the Rebellion Festival and I hobble off into the night in the vague direction of my hotel.
A review of the Saturday at the 2016 Rebellion Festival will follow shortly
Photography by Dod Morrison
Big D and the Kids Table
, Brix Smith And The Extricate
, Komintern Sect
, Loaded 44
, Naked Aggression
, Peter Hook And The Light
, Rebellion Festival
, The Anti-Nowhere League
, The Cravats
, The Dictators NYC
, The Men They Couldn't Hang