07 August 2022 (gig)
11 August 2022
Rebellion festival is the largest independent punk festival in the UK, there's loads of stages set inside the impressively massive Winter Gardens complex in Blackpool. In fact it has to be seen to be believed. I've never been to another indoor festival ( or outdoor for that matter) where you can walk between 5 or 6 different, huge stages within a minute or two. The Victorians had some grand ideas, I'm sure if they knew what would be hosted here 150 years down the line they would have shelved the project, but, thanks Queen Vic!
As well as the indoor arenas, new for this year there's the interconnected R Fest. A huge 15,000 capacity outdoor stage just down the road on the seashore opposite the iconic Blackpool Tower. R fest is accessible under the Rebellion ticket or punters can get day tickets just for the R Fest stage which has a line up of slightly more mainstream appeal.
We start the day and the festival in the Empress Ballroom with Pizzatramp, and what a start.... The 3 piece from South Wales have attitude, a very witty front man and bags of heavy as hell thrash punk tunes. Guitarist and lead vocalist Jimmy has a funny story or bit of abuse/banter for a band mate after every 2 minutes of brilliance. Songs like Blowing Chunks and Millions of Dead Goths ( apparently the recent heatwave has made this situation worse...) and Photo Wanker really are much more than amusing titles. Unfortunately we had to leave before the end to see another band, so we missed Bono's a Cu#t.
We popped down to the After Dark stage to catch Haest. Some fierce hardcore from this powerful four piece was another early treat. Some very tight playing, powerful vocals and surely hardcore's nicest front man. Apparently 2 of the band are playing on this stage later in Knife Club, who we fully intend to come back and see. We don't because, well, this festival is a bit like that, there's so much going on, but I heard they were good!
No time for a breather, we head straight back up to the ballroom to witness surely one of the weekend's brightest new hopes. Riskee and the Ridicule have energy, passion and some fantastic tunes, including the best one we hear today - Young and Beautiful. Check these guys out.
Not much of a wait for Svetlanas, we think the only Russian thrashcore band playing this weekend. They entertain and Olga does angry screaming very well, but it does get a bit samey towards the end.
Straight down to Club Casbah (another huge venue) to catch a few head bangers from Knock off. Not a band I'm very familar with but I did recognise a couple. Loud tight and quality.
Time for some food so we take a stroll down to the main drag on the sea front. Luckily Music News likes chips, so we were quids in! We thought we would check the R Fest venue out, after a long walk around an empty and eternally long 'S' shaped barrier system we arrived at the seaside venue. We're greeted by a huge stage with Hawkwind playing some hypnotising space rock and a bar that serves decent IPA. This reviewer is happy. Not sure how long they played for but every song seemed to last at least 20 minutes, One of the guys bravely cites themselves as the forefathers and influencers of Punk. We can kind of see where he's coming from, and the band are still pure quality entertainment, and not an incense stick in sight!
Before the long drive up here, like a lot of people, the only Vapors song we had ever heard was of course the excellent Turning Japanese. We did a little research and discovered they did quite a few good ones. They proved it today when opening Saturday's R Fest. They chucked Japanese in half way through the set and hardly anyone left which is testament to the strength of both their performance and their back catalogue. I'd definitely watch them again.
Talking of one hit wonders, Jilted John is up next. Now I've long been a fan of Graham Fellowes latter day creation John Shuttleworth and his brilliant comic timing so I'm expecting to be entertained. We're not let down. John has us laughing from the off " 44 years on and I'm still Jilted John". A tour through John's almost loved and losts are catchy, entertaining and well, just funny. He goes down a storm and Gordon is a Moron is pure gold.
We're lined up to spend a lot of the day at R Fest today, after a bit of a soaking during the Vapors set, it seems we're all set for a day in the sunshine. There's a few bands without the original singers lined up, we're keeping our minds open and expectations guarded. From the Jam, to be taken seriously or tribute act? It could be argued that without Weller it would never work, but Buckler and Foxton decided to give it a go a few years ago, called themselves From the Jam and enlisted Russell Hastings on guitar and vocals. Buckler subsequently left, but Bruce Foxton stiill holds down the rhythm on bass guitar and we get a thoroughly enjoyable set of Jam classics. Hastings does a surprisingly good job of doing Weller. Bookended by Down in the Tube Station at Midnight and Going Underground we get a load of the hits. In all honesty it does feel a bit tributey but it's a good singalong.
The Undertones on the other hand, OK, Feargal left, and yes he has a distinctive voice, but the rest of the band are still there, and replacement vocalist (of over 20 years now) Paul Mcloone has a fantastic voice, not dissimilar to Sharkey's. This band are superb. The energy in their performance is contagious and they bang out classic after classic, Jimmy Jimmy, Here comes the Summer, When Saturday Comes, My Perfect Cousin, it's easy not to realise how many Undertones songs you know, and of course John Peel's favourite song, Teenage Kicks gets the biggest reaction of the night.
The Stranglers headline R Fest tonight, despite Jean Jacques Burnel being the only original member, they really seem to have retained their identity quite remarkably. Baz Warne on guitar/vocals is excellent, and Toby Hounsham has very big boots to fill on keyboards after Dave Greenfield's recent death, but keeps the Stranglers swirling keyboards going magically. It's the signature sound of Burnel's bass though, that deep chunky thud that holds this band together, and on songs like Grip, Nice N Sleazy and Something's Gotta Change is really something special. Peaches is tongue in cheek brilliance, Golden Brown is quite beautifully stunning and No More Heroes the perfect set closer. I've never seen this band before in any incarnation but feel blessed to have witnessed them now on their final tour.
Off to Club Casbah for some proper piss take punk with Hung Like Hanratty. With songs titles like You're Taking The Pistorius, Clean Up Your Dog Shit and Epstein' s Diary, you probably get the general idea. These guys are self effacing, loud and very funny. Just google em!
The night ends for us with a blast of pure intense noise from husband and wife two piece The Lovely Eggs. Short sharp tracks with bites of wit and sarcasm threaded in are a pure joy. Definitely one to watch.
With a 400 mile drive home on the Horizon, Saturday is the last day for us, and we can't wait to get stuck in. Los Fastidios fill the Empress Ballroom (which is no mean feat at about 3500 capacity) and wake us all up with some serious Italian social commentary soaked punk. They're great, but we preferred them yesterday on the almost acoustic stage where they really seemed to come to life.
We head back over to R Fest to catch the Primitives, mainly as we always used to like Crash. I'm not sure if it was a bit too early for them but they looked a little disinterested and sounded a bit flat, so unfortunately, they did indeed crash.
The Wedding Present however, are a different story. I am a little biased, I've always loved this band, but for me they didn't disappoint. They open up with the huge My Favourite Dress which was far better for the 2nd half of the song once the soundman plugged in Gedge's guitar to the mix. Gedge dryly exclaims " We are the semi-legendary Wedding Present" as he does at the start of every gig.
There's plenty of ageing indie kids here in the crowd to lap up a slew of classics including Corduroy, Suck, Brassneck, Dalliance and of course Kennedy, which gets the most movement of the day so far from this crowd. Gedge attacks his guitar with such force that he regularly has to swap it out just to remain in tune. His dry wit intersperses the set, in which they throw a few new ones for good measure. They end with 2 and a half minutes of pure indie heaven - Crawl.
There's been a bit of a T-Shirt off in the R Fest crowd today between Gary Numan and Joy Division, for the sake of argument we'll put it down as a draw, but it's clear there's a lot of people here to see Peter Hook and the Light. The Ex Joy Division and New Order man and his band regularly play sets featuring songs from both acts, but today it's a Joy Division Day. I've seen them before a few years ago, but I don't remember Hook's voice being this good, or so similar to Ian Curtis. Of Course, Love Will Tear us Apart gets the loudest cheer, but there's people all around us singing along every word to songs like Shadowplay, Isolation, She's Lost Control, Disorder and Transmission, And the list goes on. Every one a classic. The band are tight, the music is dark and immersive and Hook's bass sound is just perfect.
Gary Numan is tonight's headliner at R Fest. These days Gary relies mainly on his newer material, though we do expect a few classics to be thrown in. The music is dark and industrial, the performance is faultless and professional with more than a tinge of theatrics and the show itself is captivating. Gary's mutual admiration of Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails is evident and his material and performance is filled with energy, fresh ideas and passion, exemplified in songs like Love Hurt Bleed and Intruder. We're torn at having to leave early, but there's clashes, and we want to check a few other before the night is out.
We head back to the Winter Gardens, bump into John Robb of the Membranes ( we hear they were aesome on Sunday) for a quick chat on the way through, then head into the Ballroom to catch some of Cock Sparrer's set. They're not a band I'm overly familiar with but they have this venue filled to hilt and most of the 3000 or so seem to know all the words. For a band who've recently celebrated 50 years, they certainly play with the energy and passion of guys half their age. Too many clashes tonight, plus the sweat is dripping of the ballroom ceiling, so we head to the After dark stage and catch Bridge City Sinners. This female fronted 5 piece from Portland, Oregon are the perfect end to the festival for us. They're hard to label as they squeeze a lot of genres and influences into their high octane set, so I won't try, but quote them when they say they " span the continuum from prohibition era jazz to Appalachian death folk ". They merge Bluegrass into Punk into Folk with songs Song of the Siren. Double bass, guitar, banjo ,ukulele and fiddle are used furiously all complimented by Libby Lux's urgent vocals. They create a party end to the evening and even get people crowd surfing.
This festival (or pair of festivals) is as unique and fascinating as the town it's hosted in. There is a seemingly limitless choice of artists to watch from all of punks affiliated genres and sub-genres, and it was great to be able to meander between the truly amazing Winter Gardens complex and the R Fest stage on the sea front. You will never see so many mohicans in one place, and for that matter so many chip shops or amusement arcades either. It was well worth the trip, and just for the record, petrol is 10p cheaper a litre in Blackpool than it is in Cornwall so the trip home was a tiny bit cheaper.